Adventures on a
Tropical Island

Even before landing, we could see the airport surrounded by - what else? - palm trees. Yes! This was it, tropical paradise here I come! It only needed the addition of Hawaiian slide guitar music and a grass-skirted damsel to complete the picture.

I love Kona airport! After the giant town-sized versions at Heathrow, Dulles and LA, it looked more like somebody's back garden than an international airport (this is intended to be a compliment, by the way!) The photo here is one of the few I could find on the web. As you can see, it's open-air. None of this acres of concrete and glass stuff - we are in the tropics now, and it hardly ever rains on this side of the island, anyway. It was about 1 p.m. local time with a blazing, zenithal Sun and felt as though it had never rained here.

Now, of course, as I was a day late the AAVSO transport was not here, so I had to catch a taxi. From the airport to the Hotel at Waikoloa it is about 20 miles, and the taxi fare was $40 - more expensive than the free AAVSO transport, but not bad considering the distance! The first thing that hit me once I'd left the airport was the seemingly endless tracts of black lava flows lining both sides of the road, decorated by the roadside with messages laid out in white stones and shells. Yep, this was a volcanic island alright! Off in the distance there loomed a mighty mountain. (I am from Norfolk, don't forget, where the highest point is a whopping 360 feet above sea-level!) I turned to the taxi driver and asked him if it was Mauna Loa. This must have been like some quintessential tourist in London spotting Big Ben and asking if it was Buckingham Palace. But the driver didn't laugh at all, pointing out its actual identity. It wasn't Mauna anything in the event, but something else with a beautiful Hawaiian name that I forgot at the time, but now realise is Hualalai, a near-extinct volcano. There, I told you it was a beautiful name!

At the hotel, I eventually ran into my roommate-to-be, Noel Peattie, an AAVSO member that I had corresponded with for a couple of years. I walked in on the workshop in the middle of a particularly interesting talk about cataclysmic variables. Eventually during the afternoon, I actually got to point something out about SS Aurigae having been observed to have undergone a Z Cam phase some time back, and Janet (the boss! The head honcho!) thanked me. Wow, recognition.

After a meal al fresco with Noel, we were looking forward to the Star Party near the beach. I'd already managed to catch Lupus! Centaurus! All of Scorpius! Telescopium! Corona Australis... from the South-facing balcony of our room. Several instruments were set up, but I seem to remember that every object we saw was in Sagittarius. The archer was well-placed and the site was as dark as it could be not far from two large hotel complexes. Omega Centauri was cunningly occulted by palm trees, and I still haven't seen it to this day.

The following day the first thing that astounded me was breakfast. Lots of it, and eat what you like; croissants, pastries, fruit, fruit and more fruit, to say nothing of fruit juice. And of course Kona coffee! I got talking with Mike Gardner and his wife Linda (I think!) who, it turned out, was also a caffeine addict; throughout the week we had a kind of "I can drink more of this stuff than you and still be compos mentis" competition.

But to discover what happened on each of the other events (the astronomy stuff can be found using the buttons down the left-hand side) I've devoted a separate page to each of them: