Campground Life

Trip Start Oct 22, 2012
Trip End Nov 23, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Hawaii
Sunday, November 4, 2012

The day after our incredible kayak/snorkel trip saw us pack the car and head east.  We hit the road after emptying the Manago Hotel's ice machine (the toughest part of camping in Hawaii was keeping the cooler full of food cold).

We had something of a plan, but were not quite sure where we would end up.  Mariajose and I had read up on a few different campgrounds, and we figured we would simply drive until we found one that we liked.

Shortly after rounding the southern tip of the island, we came upon Whittington Beach Park.  We'd heard positive things from friends who had camped here in years gone by, but it appears that times have changed.  This beach park was officially closed, according to the county parks website, and after closer inspection, it definitely was not a place worth hanging around.  While the scenery was decent, the park itself was rather isolated from any nearby communities.  We parked our Chevrolet Aveo and took a quick tour of the park: there were no other campers; there was no potable water; showers were nonexistent; and the restroom facilities featured local graffiti in exclusively brown colors...

Without further ado, we jumped back in the car and continued to Punalu'u Beach Park.  This was a beautiful, coarse-grained black sand beach not more than a few miles up the road, which regularly played host to both hawksbill and green sea turtles (and tour buses that stopped regularly, if only for a short period of time).  A pretty place to spend an afternoon, the campground itself was barren of shelter and comfortable ground, and and we decided to continue our search...

But not before taking the time to simply sit on the beach, listen to the waves crash and the palm fronds rattle in the wind.  Suddenly, a lone turtle came surfing in on a wave, and crashed up on the beach, where he (she?) slowly began to crawl a total of about 8 feet up the beach.  The turtle would move in about 1-2 foot spurts that usually involved waiting for a wave to help push it further out of the water, accompanied by about a dozen solid breast strokes.  After this sudden 30-60 second front-flipper outburst, the turtle would rest for a few moments and then repeat.

Eventually we ended up at Isaac Hale Beach Park, along the eastern tip of the Big Island.  In order to get to Isaac Hale (pronounced "Ha-lay"), we had to leave the highway just past the town of Pahoa, and follow a 1-lane road for about 35 minutes.  We soon learned that it was best to simply pull over, yield to on-coming (and tail-gating) traffic, give a shakka (Hawaiian hang loose sign) and then slowly continue on.  

While we had read good things about this park, we were somewhat shocked upon arrival.  The park itself appeared to be a locals-only affair, and our arrival to the park coincided with the local weekend crowd wrapping up their typical days-off.  

By the time we had set up our tent on the huge, well-manicured camping-only lawn, the local crowd had begun to pack up their tents, bbq's, and surfboards and head home.  That night we enjoyed a peaceful, semi-quiet night.  While few campers were around, an invasive species of frog, the Coqui, made a habit of chirrup-ing all night long.

A typical night on the eastern tip of the Big Island meant watching the sun set over the trees; a brilliant display of stars that showcased the milky way; the moon rising over the ocean-side horizon; and eventually around midnight, clouds rolling overhead, accompanied by incredible rains.  These sometimes torrential downpours often would wake us completely in the middle of the night, as the fat, heavy rain drops would create a steady, rhythmic pounding against the waterproof rain-fly.  Fortunately, by morning, the rains would abate, the skies would clear,and we would start the day around 06:00 am, just in time to watch the sun rise over the ocean-front horizon.  

By the time we were up, there were always a number of surfers already out riding the waves.  I think many of these people would get up well before sunrise, drive to the park, catch a few waves and then head off to work, because many a vehicle would blast out of the park, pass us, and head towards the city, as we often left camp between 8 and 9 am.

After nearly a week at Isaac Hale, we eventually became used to the frogs, as well as the nightly torrential downpours of rain, and the very laid back lifestyle.
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