Tag Archives: Upolu

Better Days: Stuffed toy

better days-stuffed toy

On one of my walks, I noticed this stuffed toy lying on a dirt road. So I dusted it off, set it off to the side, and took this photo. I was happy to see that the toy still looked cheerful despite its ordeal.

The next time I walked that route, the toy was gone, so hopefully someone had retrieved it.

I told you so

Mud covered car

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘On the road’ (more responses here), and I thought of this image.

One of my regular walks is a loop around Upolu Airport, at the northern tip of the Big Island. It’s a dirt road and rough in places, but excellent for walking, especially along the coast. There’s a spot where this loop reaches the coast where visitors, en route to Mo’okini Heiau and King Kamehameha’s Birthplace, pause to view the coast and get their bearings.

On this day, I ran into two older men in the car in the photo and they asked me about driving to the heiaus. I said it was possible (I’ve seen a Smart Car out there before), but there were two things to watch out for. The first was clearance. As you can see, their car didn’t have a lot of that and the dirt road is studded with rocks, some of them capable of disemboweling a vehicle. The second thing I mentioned was that the road could have significant mud puddles. I hadn’t been down that way in a while and so didn’t know the state of the large puddles that form when there’s rain. But I said they could drive down past the house and they’d see the first one. I cautioned that if there’s mud I wouldn’t recommend them driving through it. A Jeep would be OK, but not that car. The mud can be quite deep, which is bad enough for a low-clearance car, but that mud can also conceal those disemboweling rocks.

The two men thanked me for the information and drove off. I carried on with my walk.

About 45 minutes later I neared the parking lot and saw their car pulled over on the side of the road. My first thought was that the car looked as if it had been coated with chocolate. The brown layer across the front, top, and back, was perfectly smooth. The sides were more splattered, but it was clear that an impressive amount of mud had somehow been made to coat most of the car.

I had a momentary panic. Had I somehow forgotten to mention the rough road and the mud? Had I said, ‘Don’t worry about the conditions. Just go for it.’ One of the men I’d seen earlier was talking on a phone next to another car. The other was standing besides the muddied car. I walked up to him and before I could say a word he said, “Do you know what the four most satisfying words in the English language are?” I looked blank. “I told you so,” he said. I told him that wasn’t what I was thinking and that was true. I was more curious about what the heck had happened.

He said they’d come to the first mud puddle and his friend, who was driving, said the thing to do was to go through at speed. He’d urged caution, but they zoomed into the mud, disappeared from view, and emerged in a different color car. Oh, and then the car died. They got it going again and somehow coaxed it back to the paved road near where I found them. Quite how they managed this, I don’t know. It meant driving back through the mud and then easing along for another mile to the paved road. They did this very slowly. Once they reached this road, they sped up and the car promptly died again.

I looked into the engine compartment and it was as liberally coated with mud as the exterior. They’d removed the air filter because that was full of mud. Chances were that several other significant engine cavities were similarly choked.

I waited with them until a tow truck arrived and then left. I never learned how bad the car was damaged or how they explained it away. I didn’t really want to know. Instead, I preferred to remember the image of that chocolate-coated car and my image of the magnificent ride that made it that way.

It’s bright, it’s white

Cow and calf

I always look for new calves when I go past the dairy farm at Upolu, and most days I’m rewarded by seeing at least one.

This calf is black and white, like its mom, but where mom looks distinctly off-white, the calf is still whiter than white. Whenever I see this, I can’t help but think of ads for laundry soap.

Better Days: Abandoned car

Better Days-Abandoned car on coast

Better Days-Abandoned carOne of the Big Island’s scenic attractions is its sprinkling of abandoned vehicles. One doesn’t have to drive too far to spot a car being swallowed by weeds or a wreck languishing just off the highway. Usually the person dumping the vehicle has stripped it of all the identifying information or never registered it and so can’t be traced.

I did a double take when I saw this car on one of my regular walks. Was this something new or something I’d simply failed to register for days/weeks/months? The latter is entirely possible, but I think this was a recent arrival that someone was not content to just abandon, but also felt it necessary to push it into the ocean. Perhaps it was stolen, perhaps used in a crime. Either way, it didn’t make it to its planned watery grave, at least not yet. Next winter’s storms might yet snatch it away. I doubt it will be retrieved before then.

Your tax dollars at rest

Sikorsky CH 53E Super Stallion helicopter at Upolu Airport

I was out on one of my usual coast walks when I heard the thrumming of engines. I looked up to see a pair of military helicopters heading west. I see a lot of helicopters on my walks, sometimes military ones, but more often those on tours.

I kept walking but, as they sometimes do, the helicopters turned and came in to land at Upolu Airport. This wasn’t unusual. Military aircraft often land at the lightly used airstrip. I’d have carried on, but the two aircraft had come to rest a little way above where I was walking. All I could see of them was their rotors turning, though I could hear plenty; helicopters are loud.

Anyway, I thought the situation had some photographic potential so I edged toward the airport fence and took some shots – not too interesting as it turned out. Still, I knew that when military craft touch down here, they only tend to stick around for a few minutes before taking off again. I thought these large helicopters rising above the vegetation might be interesting, so I waited, punishing my ears in the process.

Five minutes passed, then 10. I started to get antsy. What were they up to? I waited another five minutes or so and then I saw one of the crewmen through a gap in the vegetation, walking on the runway from the second helicopter to the first. Now it was possible he was returning to his aircraft prior to takeoff and I just hadn’t noticed him going the other way, but I figured if the crew were wandering around on foot, chances were that nothing was going to happen any time soon. I put away my camera and started walking again.

At this point in the story, one might expect that both helicopters to take of and collide in a flash of flame, or a UFO comes down and lands between them, but no. I walked a bit and turned around in time to see the rotors on the second helicopter turning slower and slower on their way to stopping. Something was wrong.

I kept going and several minutes later there was a surge in noise and the first helicopter rose up, made a sharp curve through the air, and headed off toward Oahu. I didn’t get a photo of this in part because I was looking directly into the sun and in part because it was halfway to Honolulu before I reacted.

Instead, I finished my walk and saw that the second helicopter was still sitting forlornly at the far end of the runway (something of a hazard for anyone else wanting to land there). So I drove my truck down the road and parked opposite the helicopter. I didn’t see anyone in it, but the doors were open and I didn’t think it had been abandoned. I was tempted to yell across asking if they needed a gallon of gas, but restrained myself, aware that such a craft was probably bristling with machine guns. Instead, I took these photos and left.

Later that evening, not long after dark, I heard that thrumming again and next day the runway was empty so I assume that whatever had gone wrong had been fixed.

The helicopter is a Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion operated by the U.S. Marine Corps who have a base at Kaneohe Bay on Oahu. It’s used for heavy-lift transport and I think it was a couple of these craft that were stationed in Hilo recently in case people needed to be evacuated from the region threatened by the current lava flow in Puna.

Sikorsky CH 53E Super Stallion helicopter


Northern pintails

A pair of northern pintails take a dip in a puddle at Upolu Airport. Northern pintails migrate to Hawaii in the winter, in large numbers in former times, but fewer these days.

These are both drakes just starting to molt out of eclipse or juvenile plumage. Alas, they didn’t stick around the area long enough for me to see them in their splendid adult plumage.

Thanks to posters on birdforum.net for the identification and information.

Posted in response to this week’s Sunday Stills challenge on the theme of ‘Tourist.’ See more responses here.

V-22 Ospreys at Upolu

V-22 Ospreys landing at Upolu

Upolu is a favorite spot where I walk most often. The coast below the airport is wild with crashing surf and strong winds. There’s a wealth of ocean life to be seen from turtles to humpback whales, though this year the whale numbers have been down, at least from my observations. There’s also a good variety of birds and other wildlife.

Also on this coast are Mo’okini Heiau and King Kamehameha’s Birthplace and, in a more modern vein, there’s the airport. I’m posting these photos, not because this is the most notable feature of the area, but because I just took them.

Last May, the Marine Corps got some flack for the amount of operations taking place at Upolu, so they stopped using it for the rest of the year. This is the first time I’ve seen the planes back since then, but it has been two days in a row that I know of.

In the top photo, the planes kick up the dirt as they come in to land. Below, they sit on the tarmac, dwarfing the little plane used by a local skydiving operation.

Posted in response to the WordPress photo challenge, ‘Favorite place’.

V-22 Ospreys at Upolu