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February 2013

Hawaii February 25, 2013

Mauna Kea, Sunset At 13000 Ft

Mauna Kea, Big Island

Our destination is the peak of Mauna Kea, 13000 ft above sea level. The drive from sea level to 13000 ft takes about 3 hours. During the drive up, I could feel the change in air pressure. I kept moving my jaw to get that satisfying ‘pop’ in my ears.

Passing the clouds on the way up Mauna Kea

Passing the clouds on the way up Mauna Kea

We were climbing so high soon we were above the cloud cover. It was grey and overcast in Kona when we left. Up here it’s like a perfect winter day in San Francisco. And just as windy and cold.

Cinder cones on the flank of Mauna Kea

Cinder cones on the flank of Mauna Kea

The summit of Mauna Kea is one of the best spots on the world for astronomical observations: the air is dry and there’s little disturbance in the atmosphere. There are currently 13 observatories, a cluster of helmet-clad sentinels guarding the summit of the sacred mountain.

During sunsets, their silhouettes stand out against the brightly painted sky.

Mauna Kea sunset, Big Island, Hawaii

Mauna Kea sunset, Big Island, Hawaii

Mauna Kea observatory, Big Island, Hawaii

Mauna Kea observatory, Big Island, Hawaii

Jack and I made a run up the actual peak of Mauna Kea, pausing often for breaths. The air is much thinner and colder here. As we reached the peak, we wrapped our parkas just a little bit tighter around us.

We got up there just in time to see the sun set for the day.

It’s beautiful up here above the cloud covers with puffy clouds stretching in front of us as far as the eyes can see. It’s the kind of view one usually sees from inside an airplane.

10 years ago, catching sunset at Mauna Kea was one of the highlights of my visit to Big Island.
(MORE: Chasing Lava)

I’m glad that despite the changes the island has gone through, some things remain the same.

The shadow of Mauna Kea peak on the clouds down below

The shadow of Mauna Kea peak on the clouds down below

Info Box


You can drive all the way up to the peak of Mauna Kea. 4 wheel vehicles recommended. As an alternative, Hawaii Forest and Trail runs tours up the peak which includes a stop at the Visitor Center to stargaze with their 11 in telescope.
Sokcho February 13, 2013

Fishy Scenes in Sokcho

Sokcho, South Korea

I just read a post about cities in Korea having an identity problem: in that they tend to look the same. Sokcho’s main drag suffers the same problem. This street below can belong to any city in Korea.

(MORE: Seoul, A Brain Dump)

Downtown Sokcho

Downtown Sokcho

Wandering down the main shopping area after a particularly hard hike in nearby Seoraksan National Park, I took a turn towards the water.

Here by the waterfront the sights are a little different.

Sokcho is still mainly a fishing village. In case you can’t figure it out from the slightly fishy smell in the air, there’s this fishy statue in the center of town.

Fisherman status in the center of Sokcho, Korea

Fisherman status in the center of Sokcho, Korea

Down this street by the water, seafood restaurants line the street. I got dragged into one of these restaurants. Quite literally. I took a second too long to decide, the next thing you know my shoes are off and I’m sitting cross legged next to a low table and they’re putting fish on the grill.

Grilled fish in Sokcho

Grilled fish in Sokcho

In most other countries, I’d have freaked out and demanded to see a menu, or a price list, for fear to be presented with an exorbitant bill in the end. But I’ve been in Korea for a while now and my sense was telling me that even though the whole thing seems fishy (haha, get it?), I had nothing to worry about.

Grilled fish in Sokcho, Hawaii

See the bit of fish that looks a bit like cheese? It was only the best fish ever. It melted in my mouth. Later on I learned that it was Patagonian Toothfish, commonly known by its more marketable name, Chilean Sea Basshigh on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s list of seafood to avoid due to an abundance of illegal fishing that has depleted its stock in the wild. Not to mention that the method used to catch these fish drown thousands of birds every year.

I try to be really careful about the seafood that I eat, so I felt a little guilty. But at the same time, I’m glad I learned what a Chilean Sea Bass tastes like. If I had known what it was, I wouldn’t have eaten it and then I wouldn’t have understood why it’s so overfished. (Or the meaning of oral euphoria).

There were many aquariums outside these restaurants containing fish waiting to be served to diners. I tried not to stare as a woman scooped up a dozen wriggling squids or so and headed to the kitchen. They were most likely destined to end up as ‘ojingo-sundae’ or stuffed squid, Sokcho’s local delicacy.

Swimming calamaris

Swimming calamaris

I love calamari, and I was going to seek out some ojingo-sundae to try. But honestly, after passing tanks after tanks of live squid bobbing up and down, staring at me with those googly eyes – I sort of lost the appetite for it.

I have enough guilt to last me for the day. Can you blame me?