|October 15, 2011
Today we were heading to Oahu and back to Waikiki. We originally had a flight for about 8pm but we decided that as we didn’t have much we wanted to do today that we would try and change our flights. We had some laundry to do so after I got that going I checked the airline and managed to get us onto a flight around lunchtime. We still weren’t in too much of a rush so we lazed around, watched some TV, finished the laundry and packed before leaving for the airport. The morning was brightened up though by finding a dead, squashed centipede in my suitcase as I packed!
We dropped off the hire car and there were no problems, despite the “scary” lack of insurance! We had left quite a bit of fuel in the car too so Elizabeth decided to complain as they had charged us extra on fuel just because they hadn’t had a compact car when we wanted to collect our car. Elizabeth eventually got about $15 back so that was better than nothing! We got checked in and finished the last of our bagels (thankfully!) and went through to the gate. The TSA agents were really rude and in the way and made no effort to get out of the way and help people get through. Nobody likes going through security and the amount of security guards around made you think Obama was on his way in, but instead they were just standing around gossiping. Made me feel really safe. The flight to Honolulu was very hot and uncomfortable and we were both glad it was a short trip.
After retrieving our luggage we took the shuttle bus to our hotel and arrived to find it full of Japanese tourists. The hotel was part of the same group as before but nowhere near as nice and even the bedding was torn.
Given we didn’t really know what to do, we went shopping to buy up the souvenirs we wanted and to get some gifts for other people, too. We got some macadamia nuts to eat as we walked although my honey roasted ones were quite disgusting and we visited plenty of shops. We stopped in Crazy Shirts and got a t-shirt each and some shorts, the t-shirts having Kona Brewing logos on them and in ABC I bought a couple more cheap t-shirts. We stopped in at the dive shop and booked our diving trip for Tuesday before deciding that we’d need more energy to shop more so needed some food. We stopped at a placed called Cheeseburgers In Paradise and although we were early it was filling up quite quickly. The girl who showed us to our table was wearing a hilarious hula skirt which had not been visible until she came out from behind the desk. Some of the waitresses were also wearing these and some of the, er, larger ones probably shouldn’t have been! I shouldn’t comment too much on “larger” given the weight I’ve gained and the big fat cheeseburgers we each had along with a massive serving of chilli cheese fries. The burgers came with pineapple coleslaw, too, which was really good. The food was really great and the restaurant was really cool with funky Hawaiian-themed décor and Hawaiian and Waikiki memorabilia all over the place. Even the columns in the restaurant were like palm trees! There were even surfboards hanging from the ceiling, a mural of Diamond Head near the toilets and cool mosaics on the floors. It was obviously popular, too, as there was a massive queue waiting for tables as we left!
After dinner we carried on shopping. And we stopped in a touristy shop to but a cool wooden surfboard and another bag for all our souvenirs! We’d popped in here when we were in Waikiki about 10 days ago and the guy there remembered us and was really chatty and friendly. We made a brief visit to the Honolulu Cookie Company for some sweet goodness and found great humour in the Japanese girl checking out at the same time as us who was buying as much stuff as she could to get the free gifts on the little reward card. She had already bought hundreds of dollars of stuff and was stacking up on more just so she could get… some more free cookies! The final stop was Food Pantry where we picked up some drinks and lunch stuff and endured the heavy bags on the long walk back!
October 16, 2011
After having some Hawaiian granola for breakfast, I watched the NFL match on TV. The advantage of being so far west is that you get to watch a game before 10am! Elizabeth decided to call reception and complain that bath wouldn’t empty properly and the bed cover was ripped. We were paying a lot for this hotel and the least we expected was an unblocked bath and a decent set of bedding.
The day turned out to be really frustrating when we finally left the room. We headed out just after 10am and the plan was to hire a car for the next couple of days. We walked to a nearby local rental agency as they had cheap prices advertisted but when we actually inquired it worked out to be over $40 per day plus insurance. The woman said we needed our own US based insurance and when we said we didn’t own a car in the US she said that was an extra $15 a day. This seemed like a lot so we decided to walk to the nearest regular rental agency but the address no longer existed. We stopped at Ruffage to buy sandwiches and smoothies to have for lunch and after walking around the streets unsuccessfully for almost 2 hours we headed back to the hotel to try and book a car on the internet. We asked the hotel for the best rate they could do and it turned out to be $50 a day so I decided to try myself to get a better deal. After eating a really nice tuna sandwich in the room I went down to reception to use the Wifi and book a car. However, the hotel Wifi was not working and, on top of that, our room was not cleaned and the new blanket had been dumped on our bed with the old one just thrown on the floor!
I was so frustrated and annoyed and eventually I just gave in and had a sleep. When I woke up we decided to try and find the nearest Starbucks or McDonalds to use the free internet and we soon found a McDonalds. We forewent getting crap food for dinner but we grabbed a drink while we used the internet. I managed to get a car for about $20 a day and although I knew there would be taxes and insurance on top it was still a lot less than the others so I booked it for later in the week.
We took the laptop back to the hotel and decided where to go for dinner. I suggested a bit of a treat and we went to PF Changs just around the corner. We had a really nice meal, sharing a few dishes and it made a change from the rest of the day. We shared some spicy green beans, wok-grilled beef in soy and chilli sauce and “Chang” chicken with a sweet chilli sauce all topped off with a large portion of brown rice. We even found a voucher in one of the brochures Elizabeth found and these got us a free mini-cheesecake each. We didn’t really need anything else as we were stuffed but it was a nice way to finish. We’d had a great waitress, really good food and it was a welcome relief from today!
We decided to have a walk around some of the shops nearby which include a few art galleries. We went into the Wyland gallery which had some awful, gaudy pictures, and the Peter Lik photography gallery. Elizabeth bought a Rainbow Drive-in t-shirt and we enjoyed looking at the cool memorabilia and surfboards in t-shirt shop. Even though we hadn’t done much today, we were both tired and we soon headed back to the hotel and to bed.
October 17, 2011
Today we headed out to the Bishop Museum, one of the largest museums in Hawai’i. After breakfast we went out and waited for a bus into the city. We waited for quite a while and when the bus turned up it was fairly busy so we weren’t able to sit straight away. The journey went right through the centre of Honolulu and it was really funny going through Chinatown. The area was jam packed with people going every which way and the shops and marketplaces were really buzzing. Even when the bus stopped it seemed like hundreds of elderly Chinese people got on the bus so the seats we’d finally found by then we gave up for others. It took about an hour to get out to the museum and even when the bus stopped we had a 10 minute walk to reach the ticket office.
We arrived just in time for an exhibit at the planetarium which talked about Mars and the views of the night sky from this part of the world. We missed the first part of the talk about Mars but the rest of it discussed the recent exploration of the nearby planet and whether it could ever be inhabitable. The rest of the exhibit, displaying the night sky, was quite corny but linked a lot of the stars in to the tales about the astrological and mythical creatures. The planetarium dome wasn’t particularly well set out and I’m pretty sure the guy at the end of our row was snoring!
We’d briefly started looking around some of the Hawaiian galleries before this show started and after it was done we headed back to finish looking at these. One room was full of tribal staffs made of long pieces of wood with extravagant feather designs at the top. These are called kāhili and were really impressive, each one of them having previously been used by a chief as part of some ceremony or other, from weddings to funerals to local festivals. The main gallery in this area, called the Hawaiian Hall Gallery had three floors about the history of Hawai’i and was split into the three main areas that the locals considered sacred, that of the sea, land and “above-land”. The displays were really interesting but a bit too much in depth for me. There was a section about Father Damien and the kings which ruled the islands prior to the American annexation in the early 20th century.
The next stop after a quick lunch at the museum café was the Science Center and here we saw some real lava flowing. They have a volcano set up here and beneath it there was a talk about Hawai’i’s volcanoes and the different types of rocks and formations which result from eruptions. The highlight though was the burning furnace in the corner which was opened at the end of the show to reveal a red, glowing flow of molten lava. The talk was done twice today but our talk was the bilingual one and it was funny hearing the Japanese translator trying to translate some of the jokes.
After that we went to another temporary exhibit and this one continued on the Mars theme. This one was about the potential of human manned missions to Mars and whether you would be able to cope with a journey that could take upwards of three years to complete, cooped up in a small, confined shuttle with repetitive tasks to complete and dealing with the same small group of people on a daily basis. There were many things around the exhibit to test your skills and whether you feel like you could cope with the demands of this trip. At the beginning you voted on whether you would want to go to Mars. I voted “yes” and Elizabeth voted “no”. After doing various things including spending two minutes tucked in a small box, trying to piece together some puzzles “in space” and thinking about all the awful food you have to eat and dealing with all different personalities, Elizabeth definitely still didn’t want to go but I still fancied the chance. I mean, who wouldn’t want to go into space, right?
I stopped briefly in the Hawai’i Sports Hall of Fame to see if there were any names I recognized (none!) before finishing up in the Hawaiian Hall and looking at some of the old pictures and paintings and rare books collected and made by Hawaiians before heading back to the entrance to meet Elizabeth.
We only finished just as the museum was closing so we’d had quite a long day out and I was really tired. We still had the bus ride to go! Thankfully, the Express bus turned up the same time as the regular bus and we were at least able to get back to Waikiki a bit quicker! When we got back to the hotel room I was just tired and I wasn’t hungry at all but we stopped in the hotel bar for a couple of drinks before heading up to the room. I still wasn’t hungry so I lazed around and Elizabeth went out to get herself some dinner, bringing back some bottles of water to take diving tomorrow and Skittles!
October 18, 2011
Today was our day diving so it meant we had a really early start. We were due at the dive shop a little after 7 so we took a stroll down to the shop and got all our gear ready to go. The other divers hadn’t arrived so I went and got a coffee at Starbucks to wake me up a bit. I haven’t drunk much coffee as we’ve travelled so when I do it really seems to pep me up! We had a 15-20 minute drive to the dive sites and we were soon boarding the boat. It wasn’t a very big boat and our group seemed almost too big to fit onboard but we all wedged ourselves in.
The first dive was a wreck dive and it was around the remains of an old plane which had been shot down over Hawaiian waters and crashed at this spot. You could clearly see the entire fuselage and tail of the plane as well the front propeller. The wings had fallen off and the cockpit door was smashed but you could clearly see inside. The fish thought this was a good hiding place, too, as there was lots of life inside the pilot’s area, including a long, yellow pipefish and some squirrelfish. There was lots of coral growing on the wreck and quite a lot of life swimming around it, despite the mostly sandy ocean floor. This sandy ocean floor though was good for one thing – as we left the wreck and started to ascend the entire floor was teeming with garden eels. I hadn’t noticed them as we descended but they were certainly evident now!
Back on the boat, we crammed back in and got our equipment changed over before having a fairly short surface interval. Although the first dive was quite deep with a short bottom time, the second dive was to be really shallow. The current and surf were pretty calm but it still made one of the girls on the boat really ill and she was white as a sheet. Although she didn’t look happy, we managed to persuade her that diving was a better option than sitting on the boat rocking around for 45 minutes waiting for us to dive!
The girl and her husband had trouble descending on the second dive but Elizabeth and I got down fine. At the bottom of the mooring line we were greeted by a sleeping turtle which we were able to watch while we waited for the others. We saw plenty of turtles during this dive and it never tires me to see them lazing or gliding around. They are such elegant, if a little ugly, creatures and they seem to have not a problem as they swim around. The turtles come here as a sort of cleaning station and as a result there are lots of smaller fish around, many of them attached to the turtle as it swims. The Sargent Majors are quite bold here and some were swimming right into my lens and baring their teeth – maybe they wanted to clean me, too! There were a couple of stone statues that had been sunk around this area and these were interesting as well but it was the turtles and fish which were the highlight here. As well as the afore-mentioned, we saw boxfish, a highly poisonous rockfish, equally poisonous sea urchins and a couple of octopus. The second of these was really amazing as our guide managed to “catch” it and as a result it was spitting ink everywhere and really flapping its tentacles to escape. It was so amazing to see and I was so close that I was even getting ink all over me!
Back on the boat we were soon heading for the bay and our pickup and this time we got dropped at our hotel rather than walking and we were soon heading out for some food. We went to one of the local food courts and got some really nice, fresh sandwiches before heading back for showers and a nap. It seems like we’d been on the go for quite a while, even though we’d had some breaks, but we had a nice relaxing afternoon. We stopped at the supermarket to get lunch stuff for the next couple of days and I picked up some Hawaiian coffee to take back with me.
After our naps we both felt a bit more full of life but having had a smaller lunch we found ourselves hungry again. We tried to avoid eating too early by going to the hotel bar for some cocktails but it appeared to be drug addicts and stripper specials night and the atmosphere in the bar was quite weird. For a hotel where rooms can cost upwards of $200, having a skanky whore serving behind the bar and abusing customers seems quite inappropriate. I had ordered a couple of drinks and paid with a $5 bill and just left the change as a tip (drinks were $3.50, tip $1.50). The girl behind the bar made some comment about the small tip I had given so the next time I ordered drinks I gave her the exact change and walked away without giving her any tip and she decided to point at me and loudly shout “no tip, no tip”. Obviously, that is her usual tactic of getting tips but having already heard her complain about her first tip, which is in excess of 40% of the ‘bill’, there was no way she was getting another penny out of me. We decided to try a different bar and found our way around the corner to Moose McGillycuddy’s. The bar had a special on tacos tonight but we decided to fight our way through a couple of beers and make the most of happy hour before we ate. When we finally gave in, the tacos were really good and we worked our way through three each and had a good laugh with the girls behind the bar as well as an Australian guy called Chris. We found out that there was an upstairs area which cost $10 to get in but all drinks were $1 and even though we weren’t planning a big night out, that was hard to resist! The rest of the night is a bit of a blur but we had a lot of fun and chatted to lots of different people and drank way too much. Picking up the hire car tomorrow, too…
October 19, 2011
Today we finally got our hire car and were able to drive around. The car rental agency was at the airport so we used our shuttle bus tickets to take us out there and we collected the car without a hitch. By the time we’d paid the insurance and stuff it wasn’t much cheaper than the other quotes from earlier in the week but by this point we didn’t care. We were leaving Hawai’i tomorrow and we still had lots to see and do! We were feeling a little hungover so we stopped at McDonald’s for a quick top up. Elizabeth was glad to finally find sausage biscuits rather than the muffins we have in Europe (I think the muffins are better).
We were planning on heading to the Dole Plantation first but along the way we found the Wahiawa Botanical Gardens. These gardens had a loop walk which had some great signs and explanations about the different plants here, the most interesting being the Rainbow Eucalyptus which had a brilliant, colourful trunk of greens and maroons and many other colours of the spectrum in between.
After our short and sweet stop at the gardens, our next location was the Dole Plantation. Whilst Dole is a massive multi-national company, it was here it first started with the growth of pineapples and we decided we should visit. Actually, they wasn’t the reason we wanted to visit – Elizabeth found out they had the world’s biggest maze and she wanted to see if she could find her way around it. Of course, that meant I had to guide her around it, too, and we were soon entrapped in a load of bushes and hedgerows with a tiny map and a card which we had to stamp at 8 various places around the maze. The record for finding all 8 stamps is only about 5 minutes but we took a gentler pace. The weather was gorgeous and the sun was beating down. This meant a ton of sweat and a bit of sunburn and the combination of the two, particularly the latter, meant I was keen to get this maze finished with as quickly as possible. We didn’t start in much of a hurry but once it became evident that everyone was taking shortcuts we followed suit! There were obvious holes in some bushes where people had pushed through and on a couple of occasions we cheated! Even so, our time around the maze was a rubbish 40-something minutes but we were both just relieved to get out of there and into the café for a cold drink. We’d not imagined it would take so long otherwise we’d have brought water (and sunscreen) with us.
In the café we were considering some of the pineapple ice cream but when we saw the price we settled on a cold drink with free refills. I don’t think the refills were supposed to be free but as nobody saw us or stopped us they were for us! We looked around the gift shop after that and the place was huge and a massive rip off and full of Asian tourists buying over-priced pineapple-shaped gifts, pineapple-flavoured gifts and, well, pineapples. Even these pineapples were crazily expensive despite being grown on site and were more than local grocery stores. With zero shipping cost, how do you work that out? I’ll give you a clue: homegrown product + Asian tourist = $$$. We did get to see some pineapples actually growing and it was interesting to see them as they ranged in colours and sizes amongst the various plots on show.
After Dole we went searching for the Royal Birthstones. These were well tucked away back from the main road and only a small sign gave them away. These stones were supposedly where the important women in the tribes came to give birth and the site is considered very sacred to Hawaiians. I suppose this is why the signage is so discreet to keep too many tourists from finding them and trampling across them.
From there we headed to the north coast and some of the stunning beaches. These beaches included Waimea Bay and Sunset Beach and here we saw loads of people lazing around on the sand and plenty on the water surfing. The waves here didn’t seem that big but the surfers were making a lot out of them and it was so awesome to see them actually surfing, unlike the Japanese tourists in Waikiki who spend most of their time lying down or falling off!
Just before sunset we drove up to the hills surrounding the beaches and to the Pu’uo Mahuka Heiau State Monument. We arrived about half an hour before sunset which meant we had time to wander around the site and look at the remains of the heiau, or temple. The sky was pretty clear but there were some low lying clouds so the sunset was a bit interrupted. However, the colours in the sky were so striking and the pinks and oranges were really vibrant. The best part about sunset is not having to try and drive with the low-lying sun shining in your eyes!
We continued to head around the north shore to complete our loop of the island and along the way we passed the massive Mormon Church in La’ie which is a replica of their main temple in Salt Lake City. It was a really weird sight set along the coast and looked even more grandiose in the dark, all lit up. Our way back was delayed by a few wrong turns here and there and Elizabeth was getting particularly annoyed as she was intent on eating at Rainbow Drive-in tonight. It was already nearing 8pm and we were still on the north coast and we knew Rainbow closed at 9pm. I was as relieved as anyone that we finally arrived there, trusting the GPS to guide us straight there rather than going via the hotel. We were both hungry by this point and really enjoyed our cheap and cheerful chilli plate dinners. Whilst there we got chatting to a couple of local guys and it was interesting to hear them talk about the islands. One of the funny things was that we keep hearing radio commercials for holidays to Las Vegas, seeing TV commercials for the same, reading about competitions for holidays there and even the couple on our dive boat had said that many Hawaiians visit there but we couldn’t believe so many would go there and on such a regular basis. One of the guys we were talking to, though, said that he was getting ready for his annual holiday – two weeks in Vegas! He said he goes every year and obviously loves it enough to keep going back. We’re going there soon, too, but having been there before I think our four nights will be plenty to fill us full of Vegas!
Back at the room we got packed up having been pleased with ourselves at finding free parking rather than paying $18 for the hotel parking garage. We were packing up a bit now as we were leaving tomorrow to fly back to the mainland US but we had an early hike to deal with first!
October 20, 2011
This morning we were up early. Really early. In fact, it was still dark when we left the hotel and sleepily climbed into the car. Throughout each of our visits here Elizabeth has said she wanted to climb Diamond Head, a large volcanic crater rim visible from just about everywhere, and so today we decided to get up early and do it. The park was open from 6am and we arrived a little after that and were amazed how busy it already was. Unsurprisingly, it was busy with Japanese tour buses who had obviously sold the tour to unsuspecting tourists as a “sunrise at Diamond Head” tour. As a result, the trail to the top was packed full of stupidly and inappropriately dressed Asians rushing to the top as fast as they could to see sunrise. Not wanting to rain on their parade but they’d missed the boat a fair bit as the sun already appeared to be up to me! We carried on up at our own speed and stopped a couple of times at viewpoints to get some pictures. At one point three-quarters of the way up we had to go through a tunnel and part way through Elizabeth got really nervous and claustrophobic and so I stopped here to help her catch her breath and made her turn around to look at the light at the entrance we’d just come through. Ever since we went into the tiny tunnels in Vietnam she has been a bit nervous around tight spaces and this was no exception, despite the tunnel being quite short and the exit being just around a short bend. Once at the top we got some lovely views and were in the minority of westerners as the Asian tour bus tourists hustled and bustled around looking for the best view to take a stupid photo. Thankfully they were all on a tight schedule so they weren’t at the top for long and we soon had some more calm and the walk down was a lot more tranquil. At the bottom we were really amused by the long queue of Japanese waiting to be photographed by the state monument sign – they usually push to the front but this queue was actually orderly!
We had a bit of a drive around after that but we were conscious of getting back to the hotel to shower, finish packing and get on the road. Our flight wasn’t until 9pm but we had to be out of the hotel by midday anyway and so we thought we’d drive around and see a few more things. For lunch we stopped at Sam Choy’s Big Aloha Brewery where we were able to sample their beers. I was driving so could only have one but Elizabeth tried the sample tray of all five! They were all pretty good and the food we had with it was decent, too. The restaurant was really big and although there was evidence of beer being brewed there it was much more like a converted warehouse and felt a lot different to some of the micro-breweries we’ve been to.
After lunch we did a couple more things including visiting the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific which is based near the Punchbowl Crater just outside Honolulu city. The drive to get to the cemetery is mostly through the city but the views as you climb up are stunning. The setting for the memorial site overlooks the crater and the small headstones which stretch across the lawns are very poignant, even surrounded by such beauty. The small headstones remember those who have died and who could be named but there are many memorials here for victims whose bodies were never found and who went missing in action whilst fighting in the Pacific region, either during WWII or later conflicts. We also took a scenic drive around a road called Tantalus Drive, which made a large loop around the area and came complete with some lovely views of the crater one way and of the ocean, harbour, airport and city to the other. The views were really contrasting but both as interesting. We also managed to see a tiny Jackson’s Chameleon as we drove. I almost ran it over and had to stop quickly to go back and look at it. We only knew what it was as a passing cyclist stopped to let us know!
From there we decided to head to the airport as the car had to be back by 4pm and even though this meant we had a long wait it would be good to get rid of our big bags and relax. At the airport we got rid of the car, drank the remaining drinks we had and checked in ready to fly to LA. As we went through security Elizabeth was stopped and was told she couldn’t take bananas on the flight with her. Apparently any fresh fruit or vegetables are not allowed to fly. Heaven forbid that an American could eat something healthy for dinner. We’d brought food with us as we were flying with American Airlines who do not serve food on their internal flights and on the last occasion only served ONE drink in the five hours we were onboard. We’d tried to come prepared but that wasn’t much use. They didn’t fins our bagels with cheese and salami though! We didn’t actually want our bagels by the time we got hungry and so we went to the bar at the airport. If they wouldn’t let us have the bananas and our healthy dinner then we might as well go the whole hog and pig out!