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Sunday, December 06, 2009


It's great being back in a first world country! There's so much to marvel over and the variety of foods and products to choose from is breathtaking. We've been taking the free local bus every day to places like the shopping mall, the downtown Hilo area, Wal-Mart, and Home Depot. The bus doesn't run on Sundays but a cruise ship came in this morning and we'll probably hop on their Roberts Hawaii shuttle bus to take closer looks at Wal-Mart, Ross, and Office Max.

John already mentioned that we had too much motor sailing during our passage. A lot of it was spent getting through the area surrounding the ITCZ which seemed to go on forever instead of just a couple of days like our past crossings of it. The wind dropped significantly for the final two days of the trip and it was like a lake motoring into Hilo. The last several nights at sea were in the chilly mid-70s (Brrrr, break out the fleece!) and I had to put a bedspread back on the bed when we got here. The overcast cooler weather makes for a nice change but we're not looking forward to snorkeling in 76 degree water temps.

We had an easy entry into the small boat basin at Radio Bay where a Matson security guard was ready to catch our stern line after we set our bow anchor and backed to the concrete wall. We are actually located in the Matson port area and Homeland Security is very strict about access. So we are restricted to the area of the wall immediately behind the boat up to the restroom building. To walk out to the front gate we call security and wait for a guard to escort us, and they bring us back to the boat when we return. We know we are an added burden to their already busy days, and we really appreciate having the harbor kept open for transient boats like us. There's a water faucet and a coin operated electricity outlet if we need it, and the restroom with shower is basic but clean.

After tying up on Thursday we launched the dinghy and climbed a big ladder up the wall to go ashore. We checked in first with the port office (our first sight of Christmas decorations!) and then walked to Customs just outside the gate to fill out the usual things-to-declare form. No one came to the boat, and we were only asked to keep our left-over onions on board. We caught the hourly bus and rode it past the downtown terminal out to the Prince Kuhio Plaza shopping mall. The bus is great except that the last one back to the Port from the terminal is at 4 PM, and there's a big gap without service from the terminal between 10:30 and 1 PM. There are several other island buses that we'll check out later for sightseeing.

Our primary reason for visiting the mall was to get a SIM chip for our cell phone in order to make local calls. After inquiring at all the mall phone shops we ended up at T-Mobile in the nearby Wal-Mart shopping complex where we got a $10 chip with 140 minutes on it to start out with. I was impressed with how service oriented everyone we spoke to was. When shops couldn't help us with what we wanted we were twice nicely directed to a different business that might have it. After buying the chip we returned to the mall where we had enough time before catching the bus to eat DQ Blizzards - our first Stateside food treat!

We had pre-arranged to have a local vet visit us first thing Friday morning to issue Ziggy with a Health Certificate for Animal Quarantine. We chose Skip Pease of All Pets Mobile Veterinary Clinic because he advertised house calls and was listed as an approved vet with Hawaii Agriculture in case Ziggy had to go into quarantine for some reason. This was the first time we'd spoken with a U.S. vet since adopting Ziggy in Mexico so we had lots of questions about diet, shots, and medications. Skip spent an hour and a half with us and we even got off topic to talk about his experiences flying his RV-4 kit plane. Once we had the Health Certificate in hand we called Animal Quarantine to have an officer come out. He looked Ziggy over, used a wand to read the microchip number, filled out a form, and Ziggy is now free to stay in Hawaii if he wants!

With all our entry formalities completed we took the bus to downtown Hilo and explored that area a bit. We quickly found the library where for $10/pp you can get a visitor's card good in the entire state for three months. Our first priority there was internet, but I also found that you can check-out DVDs for $1 each! It's a lovely facility with an open air, central courtyard. You know you're in Hawaii when you're standing at one of the card catalog computer terminals and a bright green little lizard goes strolling by in the courtyard! We also visited a couple of grocery stores where we were shocked at $5.50 wheat bread, 14 lbs of cat litter for $14 (in Panama it was 28 lb for $14; now we're glad we over stocked), and higher prices for cat food, just for starters. We'll wait to visit the Costco in Kona to see what's available there before we finish out our pre-passage shopping here in March.

Oh, and we have TV again! Granted we can only tune into the Weather Channel, the Church Channel, and CBS but hey, it was our first chance to see Katie Couric anchor the news; we now get our fill of Tiger-all-the-time; who couldn't love a local news show with a shaky camera trying to find the anchor (and surf reports!); and best of all - we get to watch Survivor and Amazing Race. Woo hoo!

At 3 PM most days you'll find us at the local bar, Margarita Village, across from the gate next to a small local corner market. Yes, they have an especially good beer ($3.50) on tap there, but they also let us use their really fast wifi (24 podcasts downloaded in 15 minutes!). I uploaded some new pictures to our Picasa web albums last night. There are a few new ones of Ziggy in his album and here's a direct link to the first batch of Marquesas pictures (or you can use the normal link on our blog page):


The blog will probably be quiet for the next few months unless we do any special sightseeing or boat projects. We're also both on Facebook now so you might catch us online for a chat at the bar!

Linda and John