Friday, August 13, 2010

Your Weekly Travelogue for Friday the 13th

Been a week, better post some Big Island pix...  (All are clickenbiggen.)

The summit of Mauna Kea as seen from Volcanoes National Park visitor's center.  They tell us it's pretty rare for the vog to clear to the point you can see it this clearly.  Note that you can see the various observatories up there pretty well. 

Mauna Kea is Hawai'ian for "White Mountain"; it does, indeed, snow in Hawai'i, and it is, indeed, possible to go snow skiing there. Not a skier myself, so it no significance to me at all, but apparently they get a particular form of powder that's called "pineapple."

This painting of Pele is in the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park Visitor's Center.

As is this sample of her hair...

...and her tears.

Back in 2008, on our first trip, we took a sunset stargazing tour up to the summit of Mauna Kea.  I was surprised that was allowed, I didn't think it was open.  Well, when the sun goes down they chase you off the summit, but you can go up there.  (Most rental car contracts on the island prohibit travel over Saddle Road, which is pretty rough.  It also goes through an Army impact area...)

A roadside shrine where we stopped on the way up.  Good chance to ditch the cheap shell leas from the luau the night before.

Aside from the quick lesson on Native Spirituality and culture, it was an opportunity to (surreptitiously) let us acclimate to the altitude--we were at over 6000' at this point.

Most of the tour group was Japanese--the guide spoke the language fluently--so I don't know how much they appreciated the whole "Native Spirituality" thing.  I know they didn't seem impressed by the fact that I (claimed to) speak Korean...

Did I mention that it gets cold enough to snow up there?  The parkas (and hats and gloves, not worn yet) are supplied by the tour company.  (After all, who packs for Alaska when they go to Hawai'i in September?)

Don't ask me which observatory was which, I haven't a clue.  It was cold.  And the air is pretty thin up at 13,000 feet!

The actual summit of Mauna Kea.  It was too late, too dark, and too cold to actually go over there.  I was also remembering a little episode of Mountain Sickness about 25 years before...

"Okay, sun's down, let's go..."

Seriously, you have something like 20 minutes to Get off my mountain! after the sun goes down.   (This is to get any and all extraneous light away from the telescopes.)  Most of the groups then retreat to the visitor's center and set up telescopes, and give a talk about the Solar System and astronomy.  (A computer-controlled telescope makes that very easy; you punch in the command to "Find Saturn" and the next thing you know, you're amazing the tourists with a view of Saturn's Rings!)

Richard, our guide, related a very odd thing to us--the Japanese tourists (his specialty) almost never know that we are in the Milky Way galaxy.  Not even in Japanese.  Seems odd: Wouldn't they have a name for it in Japanese?

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