Life’s a Beach

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South Padre Island.  About as far south as we can get and still be in the US right now.  Still about 15° colder than normal and drizzly grey…but warmer than anywhere we are headed at the moment (leaving here invariably involves travel northward).

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This is our first visit to the island.

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The beach that runs along the gulf side of the island has beckoned to me each morning and presented a pristine surface of freshly washed sand sprinkled with shells, an occasional patch of seaweed and intriguing critters…jellyfish and starfish among the gulls, pelicans and even a heron or two.  Glorious way to start the day!

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Today we drove toward the north side of the island along the beach where people fished and combed the area for even larger shell deposits.  Pelicans glided across the surface of the waves and I decided that this is a pretty nice place to wait out the cold snap.

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Yesterday we ventured back to the mainland to visit Atascosa Wildlife Refuge where we saw a unique collection of birds including green jays, chachalaka, and kiskidee.  We also hunted for resident gator and… unexpectedly,  saw a bobcat! (Wish I had managed to get a picture of that!)

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Tomorrow we will take a guided bird tour and hopefully see some new water fowl on the bay side of the island.

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We are keeping an eye on the weather and leaving our options open for just when it will be warm enough to head north… another week here wouldn’t be so bad.

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Walk on the beach?  Sure…Let’s go!

Aloha Adventures

When I first went to Hawaii, on a Spring Break vacation in 2002, I didn’t expect to fall in love with this place. I’m really not fond of crowds and sitting on a beach is not my idea of a holiday… I like variety, activity… and I prefer escaping into nature I expected to get a taste of the tropics and move on to new adventures elsewhere… but, froliking in the magic of these tropical islands  has become an annual longing… especially when the days grow short and frigid at home.  This past year our pleasure was three weeks of autumn enchantment on the big island. Several “firsts” peppered this vacation… Our first ever autumnal visit to the island, our first time selecting from “VBRO (vacation rentals by owner)” listings to supplement our timeshare lodgings, our first time driving to a distant airport to secure cheaper transpacific airfare, and our first time traveling with Heidi and Michael… friends who share our love of Hawaii.

We had spent a good portion of our first two visits to the Hawaiian islands here on the big island of Hawaii.  In 2004 we hiked to see lava flowing into the ocean, camped on the black sand beach and memorable snorkeling with sea turtles.

We loved the diversity of environments on this island and were anxious to share it with our friends who had only experienced the garden isle of Kauai.

 

We weathered a stormy few days on the rainy coast north of Hilo. Rivers raging, falls roaring, ocean crashing…. coupled with tropical flowers and fruit just outside the door and the singing of frogs through the night.

In transition to the desert we circled the island to get a taste of the diversity… Lunch on the rim of the active caldera, turtles, coffee plantations and historic sites crammed into a day.

ripe coffee cherry and bean from inside

I would actually recommend a circle tour of the island to anyone visiting for the first time… Let someone else drive while you hit the highlights so you know where you want to return in the days ahead.

Fumes from the volcano vents

While the guys golfed, Heidi and I enjoyed days of snorkeling… and shaved ice on the beach!

The final week of our stay fell during the Hawaiian Makahiki Festival… a celebration of the transition into a new year… from the months of warlike frenzy to a time of focusing on creativity and celebration.  History and lessons of the ages are told through music and hula dance…a beautiful and sacred form of storytelling.

Local flavors, local instruments and local crafts mingled under the  enormous banyan trees.

Festival Marketplace

This trip marked a new year of transition for us, as well… a shift from frugal caution to an examination of our priorities as we chase our dreams into our golden years of retirement.   I received my first pension check just before we left home… after more than a year of a single small income… we are looking forward to choosing from a wider menu of  retirement adventures than we had previously been able to consider.

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I think Hawaii will always be a favorite.