In a short space of 36 hours, we experienced the best and worst of Sea Turtles, Cheeseburgers, and Car Alarms.
This post was originally published in 2007. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
Having completed the lion’s share of the Open Water Scuba Diver’s course in Edmonton (thanks to a terrific birthday present from Kelly), I had a nagging need to finish my certification by doing the required four Open Water dives. We had specifically engineered the course such that I could do the open water dives here in the warm waters of Hawaii instead of in the frigid waters of Alberta or Ontario.
So we decided to make a trip of it and go to Hilo for two days to complete my dives.
Our first stroke of luck was when we were actually able to hitch a ride all the way into Hilo, instead of hitching to Pahoa and waiting for the bus which takes about 1.5 hours to complete the 20 minute drive.
And things only got better when I went underwater for the first of my four open-water dives. Puhi bay (where I did my first two dives) is an outlet for some of the numerous fresh water rivers into the bay, so the top layer of water was really cold. I mean – cold! But once we were more than two feet under, the water got warmer and the scenery lovelier.
This area of the island is known for an abundance of sea turtles, and now I know why. Over the four dives, I saw dozens of sea turtles, large and small. The largest I was sure was the size of a car, but everything underwater looks bigger than it is, and I’m sure it was only about 6 feet long. (still…)
The highlight of the dive was when we were diving underneath a coral archway and ducked our heads into a dark enclave. Inside it was a giant turtle, on its way out. I was right in its path, and when I looked at my instructor she indicated that I just stay still and calm, and I watched in awe as this goliath gracefully swept by me and floated away. We could not have been closer – it literally brushed me as it swam by.
On our second dive of the day, an even bigger highlight showed itself: an eagle ray! They are apparently quite uncommon, and this giant ray was flying along (get it? Flying – like an eagle!) the perimeter of our vision about 25 feet away from us.
That was it for the day’s diving, so Kelly & I went out for a well-deserved dinner. When we asked for the place to go in town, we were directed to a pub known for its cheeseburgers (which is coincidentally Kelly’s favourite food). So there was no debating where we would go for dinner – cheeseburgers it was!
This was the first piece of red meat either of us had since we arrived, and prior to our outing we were both craving it. We gobbled up the burgers and yummy fries like there was no tomorrow.
As we rolled out of the joint, our bellyaches were top of mind. We remember feeling full like this….a sort of bloated groaning belching sort of full…and hadn’t experienced it since we arrived in Hawaii and started changing our diets drastically. And it’s not like we starve ourselves here – but we never feel full like this!
After a night of horrid indigestion and uncomfortable bloating, with two days following of intestinal torture, Kelly is wondering if cheeseburgers are still his favourite food. We plan to try red meat again (an irrefutably good cut of meat this time) to see if it’s the meat, or just that meal.
So as we rolled into bed that night, we were very aware that our room in Hilo was on the second floor near a busy intersection. We were amazed at how loud it was! Donning earplugs, we observed how spoiled we already are in spending our nights listening to crickets and frogs and not cars and drunk people. Needless to say, it was a rough night of tossing and turning to the sound of seemingly constant car alarms. And here we were looking forward to a night in (what we thought would be) a better bed with no worries of centipedes!
The next day saw my two final dives and paperwork to finalize my full certification as a scuba diver! I am pretty proud of this accomplishment, as I have something of an ocean phobia, and now I am much more comfortable in the water and eager to see what the Hawaiian islands have to offer – both above the water and below.
The rest of the day was filled with errands taking advantage of being in a larger urban centre than we had visited in many weeks, and then boarding the bus for the two hour journey home (again: a half hour direct drive at most, but that’s what you get with free public transportation)!
The two mile walk home at night from the bus stop was magical. As we looked off into the distance about 40 miles away, we could see the red sky from erupting Mt Kilauea glowing ferociously. It made us all the more eager to visit this, the world’s most active volcano. That will be our next trip!
Although we were eager to get away from the remote place where we are living and volunteering, we were just as eager to return home after only a few days. We slept better that night than any night spent in a city, realizing that our beds here are way better than many, and resting soundly to the chorus of crickets, frogs, and ocean waves. Even the constant thought of stinging centipedes in the back of our heads didn’t impede on this wonderful night of sleep!
So until our next excursion, we are learning to appreciate our surroundings more and more out here in Popai.