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March 3, 2016 / cmfletcher

Home and back to reality


Trail near Kiluaea volcano, Big Island Hawaii

We’ve been home about four days, and have dug out from under the mail and caught up with shopping and the errands to get back to normal life.

Am I glad to be home? Less so than after any trip that I can remember. I usually have a day about 1/2 way through a trip when I think I would give anything to be able to go home tomorrow. This time, no … the trip was so great, and so interesting that I wanted to keep going.

Best times (some of, too numerous to name them all):

  • No news of the Presidential election except when we chose to look it up!!
  • Family visit in London, seeing the grand kids experience London, especially public transport that works; just being together with everyone.
  • The day in the Daintree Rain Forest- which I expected to hate!
  • Hiking along the caldera on the Big Island
  • Lord of the Rings tour in New Zealand

Worst times:

  • being stuck in Melbourne’s traffic when I needed to be at an event
  • stupidly trying to hike near Uluru without bug net or water
  • getting pounded by the shore break on Maui

Lessons learned:

  • travel midday – no 4 am wake up call makes life a lot pleasanter
  • sightseeing is fun, as long as we are walking; standing around no matter how erudite the guide is torture
  • less is more – I have been guilty of planning too much to do in a day; the more relaxed pace was much better
  • try to do more day hikes now that we are home

Now it is back to the book project, refreshed and renewed.


March 1, 2016 / cmfletcher


Cleverly, we planned the last stop of the trip to be a visit to our friends in Seattle. Good move, it isn’t hard to leave Hawaii when you are looking forward to seeing people you love.

We had a sunny day! And used it to see the Museum of Flight. How courageous or foolhardy the pioneers of flight must have been. We each enjoyed something, either seeing the fantastic wood planes, or enjoying the WWII exhibit, or the space exhibit. The museum gives you an experience of the full history of aviation.

I particularly enjoyed going through Air Force One from the days of Eisenhower and Kennedy. Modern, state of the art communications!

We ended the day in West Seattle, which has a wonderful beach and walkway along the Sound. Perfect end to an unbelievably wonderful trip. Back to reality.

February 24, 2016 / cmfletcher

Saints and sinners

Today we went to the Kalaupapa peninsula in search of Father, now Saint, Damien. It was an interesting day in many, many ways. First of all the choice of transport; we chose airplanes. The high wing took us from Maui to Molokai topside in 25 minutes, the second took us from Molokai topside to the peninsula in a 6 minute flight. The two other ways to get there are hike or ride a mule down a trail from 1600 feet above with 26 switchbacks. That’s why we chose the plane.

223Tour bus.jpg

Tour bus

Once in Kalaupapa we got on the tour bus, then collected the hikers and mule riders. Apparently one woman hiker fell several times and the rangers were working out what to do. Evidence suggests they got her back topside, she never appeared on the peninsula.

The peninsula was the site of the original leper colony on the east side, Kalawao, where Fr Damien arrived and started working to help the sufferers. St Philomena Church is  a monument to his efforts, and the only building of the original settlement that remains standing.

Around 1890 the colony moved to the west side, Kalaupapa, and Mother Marianne Cope from a community based in Syracuse NY, came to help Fr. Damien. In 6 months she had raised more money for the patients than he had managed in 6 years. I think one of the reasons I am devoted to Fr. Damien is because he could be hard to get along with (like St Jerome, famous for his temper). I like cranky saints; they give me hope.

Today 13 patients still live in the colony, they have  been cured of  the disease thanks to the sulfone drugs, but they have the right to live there. The rest of the small population are either state workers or employees of the National Park Service. There are three landowners: the Hawaiian natives, the state of Hawaii and the Park service. No one knows what will happen when the last patient dies. Lots of developers are looking at the site and itching to add more resorts to Hawaii. Guess who I think are the sinners!

February 23, 2016 / cmfletcher


222pineapple tourists2Enough with the resting, if you are a tourist you must tour! So we went on the Maui Pineapple Tour. We got there on Fletcher time, i.e. very early, so we had time to visit Makai Glass Maui and see them working. Beautiful, beautiful pieces. One sea turtle piece which I loved was $12,000 and they sell several each year. Good for them.

I love watching artists work. The glassblower was working on a glass conch shell. Amazing. What talent to understand the material, and work from idea to 3-dimensional object.

Then off on the bus to the pineapple fields. Maui Gold pineapples are sold in Hawaii and on the West Coast of America. If you live in Chicago, you have to order on line ad have them Fedexed to you. They stay on the plant longer so are sweeter than the Dole pineapples in our stores in the East and Midwest.

We saw baby pineapples with the individual flowers, medium sized pineapples and  precocious pineapples (they ripen extra early), and learned all kinds of tips for buying, storing and eating pineapple. We stood around in the field while Steve, the guide, chopped up various pineapples for us to taste.

We had booked lunch as well at the Hali’imaile General Store, which was across the street. The chef, a woman, has won all kinds of awards. After we tasted her recipes, we knew why.

We had plenty of time to admire Maui’s scenery on our way home. Traffic is very heavy and the roads are small.

The surf has been very heavy all day. I woke up to the thunder of the waves- the planet isn’t breathing, it is roaring today. The hotel put up a chain saying the beach is closed because of dangerous shore-break waves. Did that stop people from going in? Of course not. I was amazed no one broke their necks the way the waves picked them up and threw them on the sand.  Respect the ocean!

February 22, 2016 / cmfletcher


221beachSunday, Sabbath, day of rest. This is easy to do in Hawaii. This morning’s sermon at Maria Lanakila (Our Lady of Victory) began, “Believe it or not, there is someplace better than Hawaii.” Great line to begin a sermon on the Transfiguration.

I have trouble with rest. I like activity; it makes me seem important and of use. Rest is hard because it is a letting go or stepping aside and admitting that the whole world will go on spinning with out me.

Distinguishing good rest from time wasting is hard too. Rest, I think, means laying aside the agenda and tuning in to what is around me, nature, people, whatever.  One of the important things I have learned this sabbatical is the truth of the Benedictine Hallmark about living a life in  balance.

Wasting time . . .  well, how many games of Spider Solitaire before I cross the line from rest into time wasting?

Today has been a day of sunshine and showers here. During the sunny periods we went out to sit and watch the ocean. I love the sound of the surf, it is like listening to the planet breathe.

Now that’s rest.

February 21, 2016 / cmfletcher

Volcanoes to Maui

The morning of the 19th we woke up to a beautiful sunny day! We could clearly see the crater from our room, and decided t0 get moving and hike to the Jagger museum. It changed my mind about the out of doors. Given enough bug repellent and proper clothing, the outdoors can be magical.

We were some of the first on the trail, and enjoyed seeing the rain forest, and getting pictures of the things we had seen on our wet walk.

We also traveled t0 Maui, and arrived in the dark. We have a room with a lanai that I am currently sitting on, listening to the 0cean, Great! I am sitting here because there isn’t a desk and chair in the room. BAD!

Never mind. Today was whale watching with the Pacific Whale Foundation and then a luau at the Old Lahaina luau which the guidebooks call the most authentic. Great day ! We went out on a catamaran, and within 20 minutes spotted a group of whales – the guide  said they were competing for a female’s affections; whatever, it was spectacular. Very hard to ph0t0graph.

We saw whales slapping their flippers, whales breaching, slapping their tales, literally everything anyone c0uld ask f0r. At the end Captain John said let’s go look for baby whales and we saw one with its mother. Magical!

Tonight at the Old Lahaina Luau we were welcomed with leis and Mai Tais, and displays of traditional Hawaiian crafts. I got to try hula dancing.

The show traced the hula from the Polynesian invaders through the missionaries  trying to suppress it, to the 1960s versions, and finished with the Tahitian dancing. Great night, really special.

We saw the pit that cooked the pig, and watched them uncover it. I think several people turned vegetarian on the spot.

The dancing was amazing, both men and women. The entire show was really based in Hawaiian culture, great to see it preserved.


February 19, 2016 / cmfletcher

Volcano views?

218Publiciry viewWhat did Peter want to see when we went to Hawaii?? Volcanoes.We arrived at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park about 2:30 pm and immediately went into the snack bar for some lunch. We could see the gray landscape and the smoking crater but didn’t bother to get a photo. We had booked a Crater View room, what could go wrong? A cloud descended and this is is what we see. . .

If you are old enough, you can remember one Sunday in the nineties when Buddy Ryan took the Philadelphia Eagles to play at Soldier Field in a playoff game. And for three hours, all we could see on our TV screens was white fog.

Luckily, the hotel offered a guided walk which we decided to do. It was great. A local guide showed us the paths of the lava flows, the steam vents, the sulfur deposits and the local plants — all in the drizzle. Very informative though very dampening to the clothing, so damp that we didn’t bring a camera. It seems as if a cloud has enveloped the mountain.

Tonight as we were eating dinner, the cloud partially lifted, and so the manager announced they were going to turn off the lights so we could see it. After dinner, Peter and I went out on the patio to see if we could catch an image, and here it is.

I know it is a poor relation of the image at the t0p of the blog, but I was amazed at how fast the cloud descended again and completely wiped out any glow from the crater.

We kept checking and at 10 pm noticed that we could see it better. The appearance constantly changes, fascinating.

I hope our luck is in tomorrow and the weather cooperates to let us see lots more of this place.

February 18, 2016 / cmfletcher

Pearl Harbor

Seeing Pearl Harbor was one of the main reasons we came to Honolulu. We were so disappointed, then, to discover that we were too late to book a tour of the USS Arizona Memorial (the white building above) which is erected above the still sunken ship. To see it you need to get a ticket. We certainly weren’t going to get up at 5 am to be out at the national park to try to get day tickets when the window opens at 6 am, and the commercial operators’ day tours were sold out. So, we decided that seeing the harbor itself and the visitors center was still worth a trip.

Not for us the air-conditioned tour bus, no sir! We are on THEBUS -that’s what the Honolulu buses are called. So off we go, packed like sardines, but we finally, 1 hr and 20 minutes later, get to the memorial park; and along the way we see lots of Honolulu and lots of residents who are riding the bus. (It costs $2.50 a ticket).

No entry with a bag or back pack, so off to that building before we enter. We get in and the first sight we see is a big sign saying that all trips out to the USS Arizona memorial are cancelled due to high wind. Irony.

217Tree of life

Tree of Life sculpture

The park itself is very well laid out and free. There are lots of explanatory signs, videos from Americans and Japanese with their memories of the day. The internment of the Japanese in the US was covered. The only quibble I had was that there was NO mention of British war efforts in the Pacific. Really?? We can’t mention our allies?? Ah well.

It will be the 75th anniversary this December 7th. Hard to believe.

217Spot Princess yacht

Princess yachts have dark blue hulls.

On our way home we walked around Waikiki and looked at the boats in the harbor — we play spot the Princess yacht — we found one!

Here’s why people come here — the beautiful sunsets and general wonderfulness of Hawaii! We loved our time here in Honolulu and are looking forward to the other places we will be visiting. Also getting sad to realize that the trip is almost over!

February 17, 2016 / cmfletcher

Kia Ora / Aloha

We are very confused; crossing the International Date Line is like being in the movie Groundhog Day. It’s déjà vu all over again. We left Auckland at 11 am Tuesday Feb 16th, and arrived in Hon0lulu at 9:30 pm on Monday February 15. So today was Feb. 16 all over again. We left the Maori (kia ora) and landed with the Hawaiians (aloha).

After a big flight, we try to have a relaxed day. We only saw a bit of the hotel grounds when we arrived from the airport around 11 pm, so we had a bit of trouble finding the breakfast place in our hotel tower (there seem to be at least 5 towers in the resort, Hilton Hawaiian Village, it’s huge). We decided to travel to downtown Honolulu today and Pearl Harbor tomorrow; leaving plenty of time for the beach or just relaxing.

The Iolani palace had electric light before the White House in Washington did! The Hawaiian kings, like King Kamehameha I and Lunalilo for example, sound like a very good thing; they supported the Christian missionaries, but that didn’t prevent takeovers by the colonizers. The flag is the only state  flag which incorporates the Union Jack, recognizing Hawaii’s time as a part of the British Empire.

Kawaiahao Church and the Mission house museum are close by and celebrate the coming of Christianity to the islands.

216waikiki beachWe had time in the afternoon to try out the beach, it is lovely. Very shallow, here which makes it very good for families. There is also a lagoon, which means no worries about waves knocking over little ones.

Downtown, we got caught in a tropical rain shower — 15 minutes of rain followed by bright sun. Lesson learned, always carry an umbrella. Did I remember when we went to dinner? No, of course not. Luckily the rain had stopped when we had to walk back to our room.



February 14, 2016 / cmfletcher

Day of wine and roses

Today was our last wine tour in New Zealand, and for this trip. This area is called the Central Otago region and is famous for Pinot Noir. We had a good group, couples form England, Canada, California and ourselves. Our guide’s full time job is selling for the wineries, so he really knew his stuff.

We started at the Peregrine Winery, the winery was an old sheep station and the buildings have been transformed. The cellar door (tasting room) has a roof that is reminscent of the flight of the Peregrine Falcon, a native NZ bird. The vineyard owner is active in charities protecting NZ wildlife.

We went up to the Carrick Winery for lunch and a glass of their wine which was excellent and then on to the Domain Road winery, a very small family operation. The tasting guide told us that the roses are planted at the end of the rows to alert the keepers of the vineyard of any plant diseases that might affect the vines. The roses will show the signs first, to give warning.

We finished the day at the Waitiri Creek winery which has its tasting room in a repurposed Presbyterian church. The owner asked us to toast news that her first grandchild was on the way! Hooray!

214Roaring Meg.jpg

Roaring Meg –  Korotio

On our way back to town we stopped at the Kawarau River Gorge where there is a hydroelectric plant named Roaring Meg — in Maori Korotio So Fletcher got me back for Grumpy Old Man (Korotiotio)! The dead trees you see in the background were purposely killed as they are not a native species and disrupt the ecosystem for the native plants.

Great way to celebrate Valentine’s Day.