On our last full day in Hawai’i, it was time for some beer. Sure, we’d had beer on other occasions during the trip, and we’d even learned some Hawai’ian words in the process, but it was time for even more education! We headed to the Kona Brewing Company to take a tour, learn more about the beer-making process, and sample some tasty beverages.
After the tour and tasting, we ate lunch at the pub, and, of course, tried more beer. By far my favorite was the Lemongrass Luau, a light, refreshing brew with notes of lemon and ginger. Unfortunately, it’s not available on the mainland, but Ian promised me he would try to produce something similar in his home brewing efforts.
If you know me or read my travel posts regularly, you may remember that I’m a souvenir junkie. Even if I have purchased a few trinkets beforehand, as the end of any vacation draws near, I start to feel a sort of panic, and my thoughts begin to race. Have I purchased enough items to properly commemorate this trip? One can never have enough novelty socks, right? I don’t care if I need to buy another fridge to put it on, I need this magnet. I must get presents for everyone! BUY ALL THE THINGS! It’s really for the best that I’m limited by what can fit in my luggage. But anyhow, I got my souvenir shopping fix at the Kona International Market as well as some other shops in Kailua Kona.
As we wrapped up our shopping, it occurred to us that we’d managed to spend almost a week in Hawai’i without having an umbrella drink. To correct this grievous wrong, we enjoyed Mai Tais (as well as a few other tropical drinks) while taking in the ocean view at Don the Beachcomber. Rachel collected the drink umbrellas and crafted a makeshift tiara, which attracted the attention of a complete stranger who asked to take her picture. We predicted she’d be going viral before the week was through.
After briefly returning to the condo to grab some warmer clothes, we began the trek out the the Mauna Kea Observatory visitor’s center. During the drive, road signs repeatedly promised (or warned I suppose) that there would be sheep crossing, but, to my disappointment, we spotted no ovines. On the bright side, we did not run into any sheep, as I’m sure was appreciated by the sheep themselves as well as our rental car, which was already unhappy enough with the ascent to 9200 feet. Once we arrived at the visitor’s center, the guide, Pablo, laser pointer in hand, took us on a star tour, pointing out plants, star clusters, and constellations and regaling us with some of the mythological tales that surround them. I have never seen, and perhaps never again will see, the sky like I saw it at Mauna Kea. Its elevation, isolation, and geographic position make it pretty much idea for stargazing. Scattered about the visitor’s area were telescopes fixed on the moon, the Orion nebula, and Jupiter, the views through which I can only describe as really freakin’ awesome. Also, there was this.
It made me wonder if we actually did encounter sheep on the way there, just invisible ones. On the way back down the mountain after our visit, we caught glimpses of a far-off fireworks display, which marks my first time viewing fireworks from above.
The next morning, it was time to finish packing up and head out. To our slight embarrassment, we discovered that we had not finished our giant bottle of rum and had an unopened bottle of wine remaining. Not wanting this to go to waste, Rachel wandered about the condo complex and secured loving homes for our leftover alcohol.
Getting home proved slightly more adventurous than we had anticipated. The plane that was to be ours was delayed in leaving San Francisco, so by the time it arrived in Kona, the crew could not fly back to San Francisco without being over their allowed work time. Instead, we were flown to Honolulu (during which Rachel and Matthew enjoyed a brief but luxurious upgrade in first class). Once in Honolulu, we went through agricultural inspection for the second time that day (just in case fruit had somehow materialized in our luggage during the flight from Kona, which seems unlikely to me, but you really never know what might happen in a place that has invisible cows) and received new itineraries. During the layover in Honolulu, we decided there was time for a bite to eat and one last beer in Hawai’i. However, when attempting to pay for our meal, our credit card was denied (although I still feel secure in the knowledge that I am a valued customer). Ian offered me up to our waitress as collateral and ran out to get some cash. Smartass.
Ian and I parted ways with Rachel and Matthew, who had different flights back home, and flew to San Francisco then home to Chicago. It was a long, wearying day of travel, but we scored exit row seats on both flights. So yay for that, and yay for the safe conclusion to a wonderful trip.