A day on the mountain, with pueos... We had a leisurely day today ... we slept in until about 6 am, then took our time getting ready for the day we'd planned up on Mauna Kea's northern flanks. That's the last half or so of the big circum-Mauna Kea drive we made last week.
We started by driving down to Hilo and stopping at Cafe 100 for breakfast. We both had “ahi locos” – rice topped with brown gravy, a slab of grilled fresh ahi, and a fried egg; we washed it down with guava juice. That's a variant of the “moco loco” that they're famous for. For a fast food restaurant, the food they serve is of amazingly high quality. For example, in our breakfast the rice was cooked absolutely perfectly, the brown gravy was meaty and not greasy, the ahi was delicious and cooked perfectly, and the fried egg was almost oil-less and done exactly as we'd ordered. Not bad for an inexpensive food item cooked while we waited perhaps five minutes!
After that we headed for Waimea, which is where the road up Mauna Kea starts from. Before heading up the road, we stopped in an art gallery that was hosting a wood show. In there we saw stunning examples of the woodworker's art: turnings, carvings, and furniture. Perhaps even more stunning: the price tags on some of these. :) There was some truly beautiful stuff there, though, and made by awesomely skilled craftsmen and artists.
Then we headed up the four-wheel drive road toward Mauna Kea. Our main goal was to look for pueos (Hawai'ian owls) and enjoy the scenery. We succeeded on both counts. Some photos from the day:
pueo perched on a fence post just 15' or so off the road. I took the photo at right from the driver's seat (furthest away from the pueo) using my iPhone – that should tell you how close it was too us! When I got the binoculars on it, I had to run the focus to it's closest setting. If that pueo was even a few inches closer, I couldn't have used the binoculars at all. We got to watch him for several minutes, both on this fence post and on another a short distance away that it flew to. It was simply fantastic pueo-viewing, by far the best we've ever had on all our trips here. We saw pueos two other times on this drive, including one that swooped right by the truck, but ... this guy on the fence post make those sightings look silly.
In addition to the pueos, we also saw lots of Eurasian skylarks and Pacific golden plovers. Debbie also spotted a wild pig, wandering around in the range land. It disappeared from view before I could get my eyeballs on it.
Just before we got back to Waimea, we passed through a pasture with several horses, and they happened to be standing next to the road. We drove slowly up to them, and then offered them some honey & oat granola bars. That was a big hit! Some scenes from that incident:
That was a lot of fun for the two of us!
Then it was time for the important stuff: food. We at at the Red Water Cafe in Waimea, mostly on the recommendation of Michael, our host at Hale Ohia. Our meal was outstanding, from the food to the service. We still can't believe how well we're eating this time on the Big Island – on our previous trips the food was much sketchier, and in particular good seafood was hard to come by. Not any more! The first photo below is our appetizer, a dish they call “dragon scales”. It was thin slices of ahi, surrounded by a green leaf, cooked tempura style. It was very good, but (amazingly!) my least favorite course in our meal. I had a bowl of cream of potato and vegetable soup, and that was make-your-brains-fall-out good. The second photo is Debbie's entree: the special sushi roll. It had spicy crab, ahi, and salmon, with cucumber, avocado, and several different spicy sauces. It was also huge – about two and a half times as large as a roll normally is. Debbie shoveled that thing in at high speed, a happy look on her face, and she ate the whole darned thing. I didn't even get a taste! The last photo is my entree: seared ahi over a collection of local vegetables (beets, tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers) with a delicious sauce. The ahi was as good as any seared ahi I've ever had, and the vegetables were simply wonderful – I ate them all, even the raw onions (something I normally avoid). Then we had Tropical Dreams for dessert: a liliko'i (passion fruit) sorbet for me, chocolate ice cream for Debbie. What a meal!
Then we drove back toward home, passing through Hilo. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to get one of Cafe 100's grilled mahi mahi sandwiches, so we stopped in. How I managed to stuff that down my throat I'll never know, but oh, man was it good!
Tomorrow we're headed down to the Hawai'i Tropical Botanical Gardens for a repeat visit. We're planning to have breakfast at Cafe 100, and poke from Suisan for our dinner. Today was the first day of repeats of favorite days before we leave on Monday night; tomorrow is another. Sunday we're headed down to Pahala and Na'alehu for a repeat of those drives and walks, and Monday we're going back up Mauna Kea for a third time. Our plane leaves around 10 pm on Monday night, so effectively we've got all day on Monday, too. We hate to see this vacation end, but ... we're also looking forward to being home again, with our friends and animals...