TREK AMERICA - THE BIG ISLAND, HAWAII. DAY ONE.

Monday, 22 August 2016
After having such an amazing time on my first trek america doing the southern sun tour last year, when the option to do one in Hawaii came up I jumped at the chance, going to Hawaii has always been a dream. You can find out more about the tour here. Since this is a pretty new tour the itinerary may change to make the tour even better. If you have any questions leave them in the comments and I will do an FAQ at the end, whether it is about the trek or San Francisco. 

Another early morning started my first day on trek, all tours start at 7:30am hence why it is always best to be booked into the trek hotel. I wasn't as nervous as last time since I had already met most of the people on tour the night before but I was still full of anticipation! In the lobby we met our tour leader (Chad) and we all huddled together in the bar filling out paperwork, if you ever book on a trek remember emergency contact numbers, insurance details, passport numbers etc. Our tour group was full with 13 of us booked on so filling the trailer up with our belongings was hard work, the van this time around also seemed less spacious to the ones used on mainland. 

I am not a big drinker of coffee being typically English I am a tea lover, coffee for me always leaves a bad taste in my mouth and I never really find it pleasant to drink but I have always drank instant coffee not coffee from the bean. America is known for being a nation of coffee drinkers and Hawaii grows a lot of coffee. Kona is famous for its coffee, originally brought to the district in 1828 by Samuel Ruggles, English merchant Henry Nicholas Greenwell moved to the area and establish Kona coffee which became a recognised brand in the 19th century. On arrival to the coffee farm we were given a little cup to sample one of many flavoured coffee, I opted for one that had a chocolate flavour to it and to my surprise I enjoyed it without milk and sugar, this is what real coffee should taste like. 

The tour was really informative discussing the history of Greenwell and of course the whole process of making coffee, I am pretty sure I could write a blog post on this alone because it is really quite interesting but I will keep it simple. One of the first steps when it comes to coffee plantation is of course the planting of coffee trees with lots of 'love and support' they become successful trees that provide coffee beans, during the rainy season  and when the the coffee trees are ripe they will bloom with white flowers which gets called 'Kona snow.' Unlike a lot of other plants coffee is self-pollinating and the flowers create a beautiful scent.
Each of these flowers will produce one coffee cherry and each cherry will have two beans each of these cherries are picked by hand by coffee farmers! The next stage begins the processing of the coffee cherry, the cherry goes to a pulping mill where any under/over ripened cherries are discarded and the rest have the pulp from each remaining coffee cherry is removed, which is like a sticky mucus. Once pulped the beans are known as wet parchment and under go fermentation for up to 14 hours where they then become known as dry parchment, here the bean is rested for 30 days to provide an equal roast. To make sure the coffee plants are kept healthy they prune the trees, pruning is the removal of dead branches after the third year the trees are 'stumped' helping the trees stay healthy, throughout the farm you could see many trees are different stages of this. Who knew the whole process of coffee farming was this complicated?

Once the tour was over we were once more allowed to have more coffee samples and sample some chocolate coated coffee beans which were delicious, I ended up buying a bag which by the end of the day had turned into a huge lump of chocolate from the heat (I did not think that one through.) One of the guys on the plantation also showed us this Jackson chameleon (I do believe) which are native to East Africa and introduced to Hawaii.

DONKEY BALLS and LUNCH
A bit of a fun stop, Chad took us to a shop called Donkey balls that specialises in homemade chocolate with lots being given names of animal body parts. Once more there was a few samples to try and they were yum, the chocolate here is GOOD! Although this time I didn't buy anything due to the very fast melting of my chocolate coated beans. Lunch was in the perfect setting with a great view of the beach and sea, lunch is pretty basic with typical picnic food but I had the yummiest sandwich whilst sat on a very appropriate american flag mat (the tour started on July 4th.)  

I love snorkeling so I was really looking forward to this tour, after putting on our costumes and smoothering ourselves in sun lotion we were ready to go. Our guides/caption were Caitlin and a guy called J.C. (I believe) after going through safety precautions we all boarded on to a rigid hull inflatable raft boat, sat on the outer ridge we powered off to our destination the Kealakekua bay. Trust me trying to look ahead whilst the boat was going at full speed without sunglasses was hard. Kealakekua bay is famous for Captain Cook with a monument sited here, Captain Cook was a famous English explorer who first established contact with the Hawaiian Islands in the 1770's, Cook and his crew entered the bay during a religious time called Makahiki and at the time the Hawaiian's believed him to be the god Lona and was treated as such, after staying for a month the crew returned to the sea only to return due to suffering damage to their ship in a storm, on return tensions between the Hawaiians and Cooks crew were high and a failed attempt to kidnap the king for ransom failed and Cook was killed. 

Snorkeling was amazing, taking that first plunge was a little bit nerve-wrecking and it was deep in one part you couldn't even see the floor! The ocean is a crazy, mysterious place with so many things still left to discover and that's why I love it so much and why we need to protect it. Did you know walking on coral can kill of a whole colony? Coral is so important to the ecosystem and the animals that live in the ocean! I wasn't expecting to see so many fish but the reef was full of them bright yellow ones (Lau-Ipala Yellow Tanged) vibrant blue ones that almost glowed, black ones covered in orange patterns, so many species I wish I knew the names of them all such as nunu a trumpetfish and even an eel, something that scares me a lot but I braved it and took a photo! I stayed on the water for the whole duration which was an hour, I could have stayed there all day but it was amazing seeing all the fishes swim around although my back paid the price of getting burnt! 

Back on board the boat we were given snacks and drinks we then headed of to explore different coves and rock formations around the island, my favourite being the rock formation of the goddess Pele the fire goddess, the rock looked like a woman lying down which was quite interesting, we also saw the Parrot cove and lots of wild goats. 


Our last stop of the day was a national park on the southern Kona coast, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau preserves aspects of traditional Hawaiian life. This settlement in particular was perfect for canoe landing and the supply of fresh drinking water. The royal grounds was home to the ali'i the royal residence consisted of thatched buildings, a royal fish pond and more. Separated form the royal grounds by a wall was the pu'uhonua a place of refuge for defeated warriors or for those who had violated kapu (sacred laws) they would come here to be forgiven so they wouldn't be killed. There were so many strange laws, for example if the shadow of the ali'i fell onto you, you could be killed. 

It was really interesting learning about a different culture and their way of life and how things have changed over centuries. We also spotted lots of black crabs scuttling over rocks near the fish pond, when they all start to move it makes such a loud noise! 

Once the days activities were over we headed to Punalu'u to set up camp next to the ocean, these tents were slightly harder to put up compared to the green tents used on the Southern Sun tour last year but it felt so good to be back camping again and is such a beautiful location. After being split into groups for chores it was my groups turn to cook the first diner. Being the fourth of July we were pretty isolated here so there was no fireworks for us, Chad did however buy sparklers so we spent the night dancing around and attempting to spell our names with the sparks.

It was a perfect way to end our first day on trek. Hope I haven't bored you too much with historical details etc. but one thing I loved about this tour was how much I learnt about Hawaii!






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