Hawaii Trip, Day 8: Hilo Wanderings

Our flight home wasn’t until 9PM, so we had quite a bit of time to wander around before heading to the airport. First thing in the morning we checked out the local farmer’s market again, but since it was a Saturday they had the larger farmer’s market – it filled a few square blocks, and there was an amazing assortment of just about any fruit that could be grown in the area, as well as many Asian-style prepared foods, jams and honey, flowers, plants (amazing orchids), gifts, and more. (photos from today are on Day 8 of the Hawaii Trip Gallery)

Andrew had to get us a fresh, young coconut and stick a straw in it to drink the sweet coconut juice. We also had another, life-altering mango fruit, and ate it while walking around a banyan-filled park by the ocean. (No sandy beach here, and seemingly impossible beach access – probably because it was mostly rocky cliffs.)

After sating our fruity appetites, we headed down the highway (about 20 minutes) to the Mauna Macadamia Nut factory/orchard. Driving to the factory you get to drive through a couple miles of Macadamia Nut orchard, which was pretty neat – we had no idea what a macadamia nut tree looked like. And in this orchard there are an astonishing 250,000 trees! Unfortunately, the factory wasn’t running (because it was a Saturday?) but we still walked around it and peeked in the windows (the tour is self-guided). We then got some relatively cheap gifts (mostly plain or chocolate-covered macadamia nuts) at the gift shop (and Teisha couldn’t resist buying a Macadamia Nut tree for fun – she’d already bought several other tropical plants from gift shops on the trip).

Since that didn’t take long, we then visited the Panaewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens (just 5 minutes from the factory). It’s actually a free zoo, although donations are encouraged. It wasn’t a super impressive zoo or anything, but we had a fun time checking it out and seeing some of the native animals (many endangered). It was also interesting to see a wild boar in person – they’re really big and intimidating! There was a beautiful pheasant, called a Golden Pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus), from the mountain forests of western China. They also had a little butterfly house (for Monarch butterflies). There were also some wild chickens wandering around the premises, and loose peacocks. It was overall a very enjoyable zoo visit.

Leaving the zoo, we still had time to kill before heading to the airport, so we decided to wander around Hilo some more. We checked out the Waiakea Pond and general park are – there were spots around the pond that had been allowed to remain jungle, and it was neat to explore them. At one point there was heavy rain for a few minutes and we were grateful to have found shelter in one of the islands of big jungle trees. We also saw a huge white and black-spotted puffer fish in the pond, which must be saltwater (or brackish) – it has a big inlet from the ocean. The puffer fish looked about as big our 30 pound dog! It was content with slowly swimming along the shore, and didn’t really care about us being there. We also saw a lot of interesting-looking ducks. But what was even more interesting was all the frogs on the ground we noticed at one point – looking down in one area, Teisha thought there were a lot of big flies hovering around the ground, but after a moment we realized they were tiny frogs. It looked like there were a couple different type, but they’re probably mostly the infamous Coqui frogs (see http://hamakuatimes.com/coqui-frogs-invade-ahualoa-p356.htm) – they were introduced to the Hawaiian islands about a decade ago (from Puerto Rico) and have became a serious nuisance and threat to native life. And they’re hard to miss at night – they have a very loud, two-note croak that can be deafening it several individuals are around. It’s such a problem that hotels leave earplugs for their guests. We came to be so used to them that we would mimic their croaking sounds. We then got an early dinner of swordfish and fried calamari – delicious! – and headed to the airport, returned the Hertz minivan that had served us well, and flew back to Colorado (4.75 hours to Los Angeles and then 2 hours to Denver). We had a great adventure in Hawaii, but were happy to be home! And, amazingly, the iPad Teisha had won was waiting in a package for us – made coming home even happier. Teisha also assembled quite the collection of tropical plants/seeds (including some banyan tree root cuttings) that she’s going to try to turn into a miniature rainforest jungle so she can experience some of the Hawaiian rainforest at home.

Thanks for reading!

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