Tag Archives: Upolu

Sheep on the run

On my drives to and from Upolu Airport, it’s not uncommon to encounter groups of sheep on the road. Some of the field fencing is not in the greatest shape and, in any case, it’s primarily there to corral cattle, not that it always works for that either.

When I do encounter sheep, their typical response is to run ahead of me. At some point though, they usually veer off to the side and I can get by. Sometimes they turn and run back towards me. The last group I saw ran off, with several of the leaping into the air, twirling as they did so. I don’t think it was because they were so excited to see me.

A mantis buffet

At Upolu Airport, where I go walking a lot, there’s a mock orange hedge with a passion vine running through it. I check this hedge to see what’s happening on it and lately, it’s been overrun by flies. I don’t know why this is, but I wasn’t surprised when I noticed two praying mantises stationed in the hedge. They were having a field day.

The flies would flit around as flies do, but when one settled, a mantis would strike. Their success rate was quite high, but the flies were easy targets. The safest place to be was on one of the mantises, but that wasn’t a long term solution.

The scene remained the same over three or four days, and then, though the flies were still around, the mantises disappeared. I guess that’s understandable. I mean, how many flies do you think you could eat before you’d start looking for something different?

Upolu Airport bombed

Planes gathered at Upolu Airport, on the northern tip of the Big Island, for a fly-in.

Why would anyone want to bomb Upolu Airport, a lightly used airstrip at the northern tip of the island, which is where I go walking because of the peace and quiet? That’s what I wondered when I went down there on Saturday and found 20-plus aircraft, cars parked alongside the road, and a lot of people milling around. Turns out, a group of aviation enthusiasts had organized a fly-in and I’d stumbled on it en route to my walk.

There were planes parked, planes circling above, planes zipping by a whisker above the ground. Apart from the general milling around, a couple of events were scheduled. The first was a touch and go challenge where the goal was to touch as close as possible in front of a line across the runway. Touch down after the line and it counted for nought.

The other event was the bombing run. By the time that rolled around, I’d walked around to the other side of the runway and was leaning on a fence chatting to a couple of airport maintenance workers. The target circle for the bombing challenge, which involved bags of flour rather than high explosives, was not far from where I was so I decided to wait for it to play out, which took rather longer than I anticipated.

What I was hoping for was large bags of flour being dropped from a decent height and exploding in a large white cloud. Instead the bags were small and dropped from just a few feet above the ground as the planes flew by very low indeed. I don’t think the exercise even broke a bag, let alone throwing up a cloud of flour.

Still, it appeared that a good time was had by all, and while my walk got a zero on the peace and quiet scale, it got high marks for being, as they used to say on Monty Python, something completely different.

One of the planes makes a low pass over the airport.
A plane makes a touch-and-go landing, attempting to get as close to the line across the runway as possible.
One of the planes making a low pass for a bombing run. The bomb, a small bag of flour, can be seen just behind the rearmost wheel.
Another plane on a bombing run. The ‘flour bomb’ can be seen behind the plane.

Molted monk seal

A couple of days ago, I saw this monk seal resting on the shore below Upolu Airport. It turned out to be RA20, the same seal I saw there back in May (bottom photo). In the interim, she had obviously molted and looked very shiny and clean. Pre-molt monks seals look quite ratty and green, particularly around the flippers and head. After a molt, they look sleek and silvery as this one does.

Monk seals molt about once a year and it is a process that can take 10 days or so. During this time the seal will generally remain on the beach or rocks where it has hauled out.

Cliff ladder

My regular walk around Upolu Airport almost always occurs in the afternoon when I walk along the coast towards the east. This usually puts the sun at my back and the wind in my face. Last Friday, I went out in the morning and so walked in the other direction with both the sun and wind at my back. I was surprised by how strange it felt to do this. Approaching spots where I tend to stop and look for things in the water felt weird. I guess it shows what a creature of habit I’ve become.

One other oddity was this ladder propped halfway down the cliff face. I’d never noticed it before. Now, it might be a recent addition, but it’s also possible it’s been there for years because it is somewhat hidden when walking in the opposite direction.

The ladder was probably put there by someone who goes down onto the rocks to harvest opihi. The opihi is an edible limpet that is something of a delicacy in Hawaii. It can be eaten raw or cooked. Some people eat them right after they pry them from a rock. It’s a dangerous business though. They’re found on rocks right at the water’s edge and an opihi picker can easily slip or be swept into the ocean by big, breaking waves.

When I got home, I noticed the figure at the top of the photo. I hadn’t seen him at the time, but he’s an opihi picker who I ran into a little later on my walk.

Posted in response to Bushboy’s Last on the Card challenge. See more responses here.

Signs: No people

Three of these signs appeared at Upolu Airport recently. I think we can all agree that in these troubling times it’s important for people to stay safe by following such protocols.

The plane in the photo is owned by the skydiving company that used to fly out of the airport back in pre-pandemic days. It’s fairly safe to say that they’ll be one of the last businesses allowed to reopen. It’s hard to maintain social distancing on a plane that size, especially when most clients are going to be strapped to someone who knows how to operate a parachute.

In the meantime, in the last four months, the number of times I’ve seen more than one person inside the fence is exactly equal to the number of times I’ve seen that one person wearing a mask. I won’t say how many times that is, but it’s a very round number.

Posted in response to Becky’s July Squares challenge theme of ‘Perspective.’ See more responses here.