South Point, Wind Farm, and Mauna Loa, Hawaii, November 29, 2106

South Point, Wind Farm, and Mauna Loa, Hawaii, November 29, 2106
South Point, Wind Farm, and Mauna Loa, Hawaii, November 29, 2106

Monday, December 5, 2016

Rain, Cattle Ranching and Snow - Thurs., Dec. 1, 2016, Part 2

With the seahorse farm in the rear-view mirror, we headed north on The Big Island, past Kona International Airport and the big resorts of Waikoloa Beach Resort, Mauna Lani Resort, The Fairmont Orchid, and Mauna Kea Beach Resort. It was pouring rain on most of the rest of the island, but we thought if we headed north, we would be in the drier area of Kohala. 

If it wasn't raining, our plan would be to see Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site at Kawaihae. If it was raining, we would head upcountry to Parker Ranch. 

Well, it was windy and rainy when we arrived in Kawaihae. Hunger dictated lunchtime. We thought we remembered a good restaurant in a small shopping mall. When we got to the mall, the whole lower level was closed. We drove to the upper level and found one restaurant, Cafe Pesto, out of business. In the middle of the strip mall was a hole-in-the-wall place with very limited seating called Kohala Burgers and Tacos. The line was long inside with almost nowhere left to sit. This looked like the place to be.

Decor at Kohala Burgers and Tacos
Kohala Burgers and Tacos
Both of us ordered yellowfin tuna fish sandwiches, root beer, and a small order of fries to share. We took the last table for two and in a few minutes our order was out. Both of us bit into our fish sandwiches and the "yums" kept coming out of our mouths. Best. Fish. Sandwiches. Ever. The fish was baked or grilled, not deep fried, and was moist and flaky. As we say in Hawaii, the sandwiches were "ono" (the best).

As we were leaving, the couple from the table next to us told us they drove all the way from Kona (an hour south) to have the burgers and they loved them. The couple was visiting Hawaii from Australia.

From Kawaihae, we drove up country to Parker Ranch. Rain poured on us and the wind was fierce. 

Parker Ranch is a very interesting place. At one time the ranch was the largest single-owned ranch in the United States. Today, it is the fifth largest in the U.S. 

How did Hawaii, out in the middle of the ocean, come to have the largest cattle ranch in the U.S., you might ask? Here's the story from the "Parker Ranch Self-Guided Tour" brochure:
"In 1809, an enterprising young ship's clerk, John Palmer Parker, arrived on the shores of the Big Island. At that time, Hawai'i had few foreign settlers, but Parker had had enough of the open seas. He hid in a thicket, and watched as his ship sailed away without him. He was 19 years old.
"Befriended by Kamehameha I, who was impressed with his energy and vision, he set out to make the most of his remarkable new home. He learned the Hawaiian language and adopted many of the Hawaiian ways, continuing to look for opportunities along the way.
"In 1815 he found his first opportunity. Maverick cattle roamed the cool upper plains of Waimea. These were the descendants of the five head given to Kamehameha by Captain George Vancouver more than 20 years before. After showing Kamehameha his American musket, he was granted the right to hunt the herds which had always been kapu [forbidden]. The beef, tallow and hides, along with the taro and fresh vegetables grown on his small parcel of land in Hamakua, became sought-after commodities to both visiting ships and locals.
"In 1816 he married Kipikane, granddaughter of Kamehameha, and together they founded the Parker Ranch dynasty."
While at the ranch, we toured two historic homes, Puuopelu and Mana Hale, part of the estate of the legendary Parker family of Hawai'i. Puuopelu is the larger home which houses the collection of Richard Palmer Parker Smart, 6th generation Parker. Richard Smart traveled the world and had items shipped to Hawai'i to be installed at Puuopelu. Puuopelu has a great room with fireplace, living room, dining room, and bathroom. No photos are allowed in the big house.
Mana Hale is the smaller home where they lived. The interior of the home is native koa wood. The first floor of the home consisted of a main room, bedroom and side room; the upstairs had a second bedroom and two sitting rooms. In keeping with the old ways, all cooking and toiletries were done outside the house. 
Mana Hale Main Room
First floor bedroom

Second floor sitting room
Upstairs bedroom

Second sitting room
The whole time we were in Mana Hale, the wind was howling outside. By the time we went back out it had stopped raining so we walked around the grounds.

The sky had cleared enough to see Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa which were now capped in snow!
Mauna Kea with snow
The snow-covered top of Mauna Loa

Richard Smart's mausoleum
This 150-ft. tall Cook Pine was
planted in 1862

Water lilies in bloom
Another shot of Mauna Kea's snow

Love the stormy cloud formation above Mana Hale

The lush green hills around Parker Ranch
Parker Ranch is now about 130,000 acres, down from its all-time high of 500,000 acres. The ranch owns about 150,000 head of cattle, made up of Angus and Charolais. There is also a commercial (cross-bred) herd of approximately 9,000 breeding cows.

Most of the 125 horses on the ranch are Quarter horses. They are all bred and raised on the ranch and selected for good temperament, cow sense, and ranch usability. The 12 paniolo (cowboys) each have eight horses assigned to them, and each individual must shoe and care for his animals. 

Tunnel of trees to get to Parker Ranch HQ

Verdant hills of up country Big Island
Part of Parker Ranch's paddocks

 Historic markers about Parker Ranch and Camp Tarawa are below.

After touring Parker Ranch, we went to the grocery store in Waimea to buy snacks for the ride home. Inside the common area at the strip mall we found interesting things...
Stained glass

Paniolo sculpture
In the small stream behind the strip mall, we could see how much rain had fallen by how swollen the creek had become.

Below is a commemorative boot celebrating the centennial of four Waimea paniolo who reigned as World Champion Steer Ropers in 1908 at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo in Wyoming.

This concluded our visit to Parker Ranch and Waimea. It took us almost two hours to drive back to Kailua-Kona. When we returned, we stopped to have dinner at Royal Thai Cafe, just up the hill from the Kona Coast Resort. 

After dinner, we headed to the timeshare. From 7-9 pm, I watched Project Runway. It was nice to relax after a long day!

Good night.



Sunday, December 4, 2016

Seahorses and Liquid Sunshine - Thurs., Dec. 1, 2016

"Rain, rain go away, come again another day." 
(I'm sure our San Antonio friends can relate to this right now!)

Our morning view - lots of rain
Mother Nature had other plans. Not only didn't the rain go away, it definitely will be coming another day here in Hawaii. The Big Island is under flash flood warnings until 5 pm tomorrow. All I can say is, it's a good thing we went to the volcano on Monday! The Hilo/Volcano side of the island is getting the brunt of the rain.

What has the head of a horse, a prehensile tail like a monkey, a kangaroo-like pouch and eyes like a chameleon? You can probably guess from the title of my blog (and it's not the liquid sunshine!).

The Big Island has an area I've been wanting to visit, but in 25 years of traveling to Hawaii Island, we never made it to the aquaculture area near the Kona International Airport. At the entrance to the aquaculture farms is the National Energy Lab, which is involved with some of the research. 

The National Energy Lab studies making electricity using cold water from the deep ocean (3,000 ft down). The cold water is pumped to the Energy Lab and energy is generated by mixing the cold water with warmer shallow water. The mixing of the different temperatures creates electricity. This is called Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC).

Businesses benefiting from pumping cold deep water to the business park are many aquaculture farms who are trying to farm endangered sea creatures: seahorses, sea dragons, lobsters, octopi, and abalone to name a few. These species on the edge of extinction got that way because of habitat destruction, pollution, and over-fishing to provide animals for the pet and medicine trades. 

At 10 am this morning, we had a reservation to tour Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm. It was sprinkling when we arrived at 9:30 am. By 10 am, the sun was blazing hot and we were standing under it to listen to our tour guide. 

The first thing she taught us is that seahorses eat brine shrimp, lots of them. So they grow their own brine shrimp at the farm in a turbid pool of salt water. A little later in the tour, we would get to feed the seahorses. She set about using a dip net to collect brine shrimp for us to see.

Looking out at the Pacific

Our guide netting brine shrimp
Here are the brine shrimp

Quite a few people were on the tour
Our first stop inside the building was to look at baby seahorses. No photography was allowed there. 

Did you know seahorses are the only animals in which the there is a true male pregnancy, impregnated by the female? The seahorse pregnancy lasts 30 days. The seahorse has between 500-700,000 baby seahorses. You have to realize in the wild there are many predators. Even though seahorses are quite prolific, only 0.01% survive in the wild, that's one out of every 10,000. In captivity at the Seahorse Farm, they are getting a 50% survival rate and are able to supply most of the world's aquarium supply demand. This has cut down on the number of seahorses taken from the oceans by collectors who sell to the aquarium trade.

From the baby seahorses, we went outside to a covered area where larger seahorses were in blue plastic tanks. We learned that seahorses do not last long in captivity. 

We were able to feed the seahorses brine shrimp
It's fun to watch the seahorses eat. Seahorses do not have mouths that open and close with teeth. When we dropped the brine shrimp in the tanks, the seahorses hoovered them up just like a vacuum cleaner. 

Seahorses are monogamous and mate for life. When seahorses are separated from their mates they become depressed and die sooner. Seahorse Farms is raising seahorses in big social groups in tanks. If a seahorse pair becomes separated, the remaining seahorse realizes there are other fish in the sea, so to speak. 
Social seahorses like to hang onto each other
A pair of seahorses
At the end of our tour, we were able to put our hands in a tank of seahorses and have them hang onto us, as if we were a reef. One of the people who worked at the farm would assist us individually. That was so cool!

One of the owners showing me how to hold
my hands to make them look like coral.
Here I am with "my" seahorse. 
How cool is this?
Bob's turn...
Bob now has a seahorse
Bob with "his" seahorse


When the tour ended, we were taken into a small sea horse and sea dragon museum. There are 20 different endangered seahorse species at the seahorse farm. Here are a few of my better photos. (It's hard to photograph these critters in their aquariums!)

Weedy sea dragons
Weedy sea dragons

We thought this tour was highly educational, not to mention fun and interesting. If you ever go to the Big Island, we recommend you visit the Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm. 

I will continue this blog in Part 2.