Monday, January 25, 2010

Mauna Kea -

The Mauna Kea observatories are located at an elevation of 13,800 feet. Robin got it into his head that we should go pay them a visit.

"But, but, but..." I said. "Don't you remember when my sister took us up Sandia Mountain in New Mexico, and we felt really sick, and that was only 10,000 feet, and it was about ten years ago?"

We went anyway. We got into our little red PT Cruiser and we drove to Mauna Kea. Along the way, we said hello to the wild turkeys, of which there are many on the island. I photographed a pair of them, but we've encountered flocks of a dozen or more along the road. We meant to ask whether they are indigenous (probably not), but when we talked to the ranger at the observatory visitor's centre, we forgot. We did ask about the mongoose. We kept seeing them, and we wondered where they came from. It seems that the mongoose were imported to deal with the rat problem. The only problem with that is, the rats are nocturnal and the mongoose are diurnal, so they never encounter each other. "So now," said the ranger, "we have rats AND mongoose."

Speaking of things encountered along the road, I keep meaning to mention the peculiar graffiti here. A good bit of the island is covered with black lava, and in many places we have found messages spelled out in white rocks on the black lava. It took a while for us to figure out where the white rocks came from, but we have seen them now, on some of the beaches.

Anyway, we went to Mauna Kea yesterday. We drove along the belt road, which is truly awful in places, pot-holed and falling apart at the edges. Up and up and up we went, and the upper we went, the unhappier little PT became. By the time we got to the visitor centre at 9,000 feet, we were toddling along at 18 miles an hour. We went into the centre, watched a video about the observatories, read the warnings about the terrible things that can happen to people who attempt to go up to 13,800 feet, heard about the 20% grade we were about to encounter on the road, looked at PT, and decided that really, 9,000 feet was high enough. By the time we got up that high, though, we had come out of the perpetual haze and found clear air. I can see why that mountain is a perfect place for an observatory or two or three or four or...Oh, look. I just found a link to webcams up there.

I'm a little giddy, what with finally having a decent internet connection. When I get home, I'm going to have a lot of catching up to do, a lot of visits to your blogs. We only found Starbucks yesterday. And this morning, I made another discovery. I went to the tower next to ours (part of the same hotel) to do our laundry, and discovered a beautiful pond with peculiar fish in it. There are huge goldfish - but also some smaller, white-ish fish with enormous lips. I swear that is the silliest looking fish I've ever seen.

Meanwhile, Robin wandered a little farther and found the salt water lagoon I had seen advertised in the brochure. I think we'll take our snorkel gear over there, later today. There were some lovely fish in there - lipless ones.


Reya Mellicker said...

On my honeymoon we took a helicopter ride above Mauna Kea. Did I spell that right?

It was so magnificent!! Hawaii is definitely magical. Glad you're enjoying yourself.

Too bad about the graffiti, though.

John Hayes said...

Neither cars nor people work well with little oxygen! Love reading your adventures.

Karen said...

Thanks for the pictures and updates - as I said, I'm enjoying the vicarious vacation from this cold and snowy land.

Mindy said...

Aunt Sandra - I thought the white lipped fish was your finger at first... :)

Have fun in Hawaii! Aloha.

Love ya.

Kathryn Magendie said...

oh 9,000 feet! haven't been that high - can't remember how high I have been - we live at near 3500 -- the hightest pt I've been here is just under 7,000 --

When we went to this lodge to eat in Oregon, that was pretty high up, but can't remember how high, though I doubt it was over 7 or 8 thousand....

So, what happens after 13,000? I need to look it up!

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