In the summer of 2004, K and I took a trip from Maui down to the "Big Island" of Hawaii to see lava pouring into the ocean. I wrote about the lava in Red Hot Real Estate! last May. The island is nick named "Big Island for a reason. It is larger than all the other islands of Hawaii put together and at 4028 square miles, is about the same size as Fiji's main island of Viti Levu (3972 sq. miles). This post will focus our flight. As they say, "getting there is half the fun".

To get in the mood, you can listen to the theme from the popular detective television series "Hawaii Five-O" which aired from 1968 to 1980. If you are Japanese and unfamiliar with Hawaii Five-O, it is sort of like "Hagure Keiji".

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Use this map for the Hawaii place names I mention.

Slow connection? Try the midi version at the end of the post.

We took a small airline, Pacific Wings. Their ten passenger turo-prop Cessna Caravans offer comfortable seats, big windows, lower altitudes for better views, and convenient scheduling into Hilo. Boarding and deplaning a ten passenger plane is also a whole lot quicker than a 150 passenger jet. No waiting for bags either. When you arrive, the pilot just opens the baggage compartments and hands you your bags. A ticket price almost half that of the majors was just icing on the cake.

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A Pacific Wings Cessna Caravan

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Leather seats, plenty of room, and a great view. The only way to fly.

I've flown my Cessna 172 "Manu-mele" to Hilo many times. If you ever take this trip, I'll have to confess that you are not likely to find such clear weather. The windward coast of the Island of Hawaii is usually cloudy - plenty of rain once watered Hawaii's early sugar plantations there. Hilo gets 128 inches (325 cm) of rainfall per year! The only other time I can remember such a clear day was when I flew my mother down to Hilo to see my youngest daughter compete in a state swim meet. But don't let a little rain stop you.

After leaving Kahului, Maui we climbed out and followed the northeast coast of Maui. This area is very lush with tropical vegetation, much like Taveuni, Fiji. After a few minutes we are over Keanae Peninsula, one of the few truly Hawaiian communities left in the state, where people still fish and farm taro and on Sundays attend the beautiful Congregational Church, which was built from stones and coral in 1860.

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Keanae Penninsula

From Maui, we crossed the Alenuihaha Channel, where the water reaches a depth of 6100 feet (1859 meters) and the sea and air on the leeward end can get very rough as the tradewinds get squeezed between the Kohala Mountains of Hawaii and Mt. Haleakala on Maui. A small fishing boat went missing here in 1979 and was found ten years later in the Marshall Islands. A friend of mine had to ditch his single engine plane in this channel in 1996 and spent a scary 25 hours in the water with just a life vest to keep him afloat. Happily he was picked up by a Coast Guard helicopter and suffered only minor injuries from some fish that had nibbled on his feet. But it is not wise to think about such things while crossing it as a passenger.

We passed Waipio Valley near the north end of Hawaii, where two millenia ago the first settlers from the Marquesas Islands started what was to become the Hawaiian culture. The view from Honokaa toward majestic Mauna Kea was breathtaking. Rising to 4200 meters (13796 feet), the summit is home to some 13 observatories. The air was smooth - not unusual for the windward side as the air is flowing over thousands of miles of uninterupted ocean. For the same reason, the air reaching Hawaii is the cleanest in the world.

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Hamakua Coast of Hawaii and Mt. Mauna Kea

We then flew over Laupahoehoe, another low point of lava jutting into the sea much like Keanae. It was here, on April 1, 1946 that a tsunami caused by an underwater slide in the Aleutian Islands, swept away a school and teachers' residences killing 20 children and 4 teachers.

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Hamakua Coast and Laupahoehoe

Approaching Hilo, we turned inland a bit to line up with Hilo Airport's shorter runway. This took us up the mountain slope over verdent jungle and a remote twin waterfall.

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Twin waterfall, somewhere near Hilo

We flew over downtown Hilo to the airport. I tried to get the view forward, but the contrast between the interior and outside was too great. You can see how roomy the cabin of this plane is however. [Is Pacific Wings paying me to advertise? No. I just love airplanes.] The one hour flight had been a memorable one.

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Are we there yet?

Speaking of waterfalls, our lodgings were in a bed and breakfast outside of Hilo on the edge of a macadamia nut farm. In the "backyard" was a 120 foot (36 meter) waterfall. The sound helped me to sleep like a log, but kept K awake. Framed by palms, gingers, ferns, and kukui nut trees, it was quite a backdrop for breakfast on the lanai (patio) in the morning.

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The Inn At Kulaniapia Falls

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Kulaniapia Falls

Hawaii Five-O midi


Sharon said...

Well, the music certainly brings you back..... It is still a very beautiful place.

agus said...

That's the beauty of flying in a small aircraft. They fly low and there's so much you can see. I'd choose a sunny day to fly though, and stay home during the stormy season. In your case, it was an excellent flight! Love the views!

Pandabonium said...

Yes it is Sharon. Thanks for visiting.

Agus - thanks. I know you ride in helicopters frequently. Any pics?

Robin said...

wah.. so nice, so nice, so so nice.

nzm said...

Great images, Pandabonium, and as Sharon said, the music does take me back - book 'em, Danno! :-)

13th Panda said...

I want to go Hawaii too!!i always wanted to go..HMM~save money 1st

The Moody Minstrel said...

I've never flown in an aircraft that small. I really feel deprived.

Pandabonium said...

Robin - yes it was.

NZM - thanks. Book 'em indeed.

13th Panda - hey, a distant cousin Panda from Sarawak. Hawaii is a great place to vacation.

Moody - I'd have been happy to take you for a flight in Manu Mele around Maui and show you what real flying is like. So different from being crammed into a big aluminum tube with hundreds of other people and flying so high all you see is clouds through a small, scratched up window. I hope you get the chance some day.

Frankie said...

Hi, I'm reading this post in 2010 (found it in your archives) and yes, the music brings me back to my own experience of life in Polynesia... I'm putting this post in my 'google buzz'. Cheers from France!

Pandabonium said...

Hi Frankie. Sorry it took so long to approve your comment, but we've been on a little vacation. Thanks for visiting again!