June 26th:

Yesterday I was awakened at 6:30 am or so by someone calling about my Circle Island tour that day. I said that someone had it wrong, that I wasn't going on my Circle Island tour until the next day.

Today, I was planning on getting up at 8 am for my 9:20 pick up. Then I was awakened again at 6:30 again, with someone who was expecting me to be getting on a bus. Since the phone call had gotten me up, I wasn't getting on any bus any time soon. I hung up, then got up, pissed as hell.

I called my confirmation numbers, but it was too early. So I did my morning business, actually went downstairs for the complimentary continental breakfast (danish, donuts, toast, juice) before returning to the room and calling Alohatopten again. I told the guy with the Australian accent my story, and he said he'd check into it, but their system had my pickup confirmed at 9:20 am.

He called back pretty quickly, and he confirmed my reservation with the tour operator at 9:20 for the pickup. I don't know who thought I was going on what tour both yesterday and today, but at least they won't be able to wake me up tomorrow at 6:30, 'cause I'll already be on a plane for the Big Island tour.

I headed on out to the pickup point, and got on a bus at 9:17 am, no problems at all. Let me tell you, that really made my day (especially after the window seat snafu last night).

The tour was nice. Our bus driver/tour guide, Cousin Duke, kept up the patter for the whole trip, giving us all kinds of information. Some of the things I learned are: the apostrophe in Hawai'ian words (like that one there) is called an okina, and it serves to separate the vowels into two sounds. He also told us that there are only 7 consonants and 5 vowels in the Hawai'ian language (which is why there's no Hawai'ian version of Wheel of Fortune). At our first stop, he went into details about the hala tree, which grows on a palm-looking thing and looks like a pineapple (sort of). It supposedly tastes horrible. Natives used to eat it only in times of famine. They also used the segments of it as ornamentation, and as a paint brush. He also let us know that Hawai'ian doesn't have plurals, but sometimes they will double a word for emphasis: wiki means hurry, wiki wiki means hurry a lot.

He also gave us information about housing prices, about movie locations, about Hawai'ian legends, about his surfing, and lots of other interesting stuff. Once again, the pictures will do better than a moment-by-moment description of the tour. We stopped 7 times, two of which were stores (must be part of the funding, besides our admission prices). We had lunch at the Dole Plantation (there were several options - I took the buffet option, which was okay), and then did the Pineapple Express (a little train that tours part of the plantation, with narration about how pineapples are grown, what Dole's role was in bringing pineapples to Hawai'i, and other nice facts. The other stops were scenic in nature, and I took lots of photos (over 70).

On our trip to the Dole plantation, we encountered a grass fire a short ways from the side of the H-1 interstate - it was large and evident, and I only wish I had managed to get a photo. Cousin Duke told us after the plantation visit that the fire reached the highway, shutting it down. Fortunately, that didn't delay us any.

The bus dropped me off where it picked me up at about 6pm. I went to La Cucaracha (on the other side of the Ohana West) for dinner, then back to the room to download photos and write this. I need to get to bed (it's only 8:33pm) right about now (really an hour ago), because my pickup time is 3:50 am (which was confirmed by the tour operator on my room's voice mail when I got back). So, good night!

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