As the song says "Begin at the Beginning, a very good place to start..." so I shall. Leaving aside, however, the initial amazement that resulted from hearing that my grant application to NASA had been successful and all the last-minute hurrying and scurrying that ensued (i.e., 'I don't need immunisation for the USA, but do I need it for Hawaii?..., mislaying my wallet on the morning of the day I was due to leave... ah, you don't want to know this stuff!)
So, starting at the start! The whole departure day was absolutely magical, including the drive through the wee hours from Norwich to Heathrow. My ex, I knew, would be green with envy! She is a mad keen geologist type with a special fascination with volcanoes, though she had never been to one. And here I was going to an island with the world's most active volcano!
At this point, a quick plug for the carriers. It's alright, they're not paying me anything for this; it's a sincere expression of thanks to United Airways, with whom I travelled all the way, there and back. Thanks, UA, for a trouble-free, friendly, and pleasant time - with decent food too! Even when something unforeseen happened in Washington DC and the Hawaii-bound flight had to wait till tomorrow, they installed us in a luxury hotel with a meal voucher and flew us out first-class the following day. The view between Washington and LA was absolutely breathtaking, for the day was warm and clear and every detail of the extensive mountain ranges east of Los Angeles could be seen in brilliant panoramic views. Everything seemed to be getting better!
The last leg of the journey, from LA to Kona (Hawaii) involved a little wait, but we were entertained by some young American ladies playing "keepy-uppy". For those brits who don't know, women's football is much bigger in the USA than here - and there were three girls' teams flying out to Hawaii for a tournament with the local lasses (sorry, Vahine!). I felt quite at home now - and I was wearing my special England T-shirt from the recent victorious game against Argentina with a mohican-styled Mr.Beckham and a "Look, no hands" slogan on it!
As we approached Hawaii ever closer, heads began peering out of windows to try and catch a glimpse of land in the seemingly endless Pacific Ocean amidst notices from the staff that we would be landing in a few minutes. The temperature at Kona was 90° Fahrenheit. Perfect. But - if you want to know what happened next, you'll have to go to part two!