Well here we go again, this time I’m in Hawaii for nearly two weeks. I flew out on Wednesday and had a 30 hour day as the time kept going backwards!
No mishaps along the way and I was surprised to get an Aloha welcome and a flower lei on arrival.
On Thursday we had breakfast at 7.30am and then went walking over to the main shopping area in Ala Moana which has 100’s of shops. We took a different route back to the hotel via the Pacific Beach right on the seafront of Waikiki.
Friday morning we had an early start as we were going to climb Diamond Head which is an extinct volcano crater, before the sunrise. We got a taxi at 5.35am to take us out there. It opened at 6am and we walked through a lit road tunnel before coming into the main park area to begin the walk up. It takes around 40 minutes, but there is no light, so you rely on torches to guide you. As you got near to the summit there was a series of steps – 176 in all and one part of it is very steep. I had to stop for a minute to get my breath back! We got to the top quicker than we thought we would – in 30 minutes! We went up like mountain goats!
It was still dark and we waited for the sunrise at 7am. It was a bit cloudy in places when the sun did come up but it was still a lovely view! The coming back down was very easy, but we couldn’t get over how bad the terrain was on the pathway because there were ruts everywhere. When we thought about it we were glad we did it in the dark. It would have put us off if we could have seen what was ahead of us going up!
In the afternoon we went across the road and went swimming/ sunbathing on Waikiki Beach for a couple of hours. Absolutely wonderful! In the evening we walked over to the other end of Waikiki Beach to watch a firework display which they do every Friday night. A spectacular display, on a barmy warm night.
Saturday got us up early again for breakfast at 6.30am as we were meeting up with the other people on the tour. The others on the tour appear so far as we can tell to be all Americans or Canadians. I’ve fooled them because I was wearing my Ottawa tee shirt and they couldn’t place my accent as Canadian! We had a Circle Island tour which left at 9am, and it took us by coach all around the island.
Basically Oahu island has two mountain ranges that go NW to SE across. Waianae on the west side and Koolau on the east. The island is shaped a bit like Cornwall but in reverse, and the mountains straddle the central area. The winds are mostly from the east (trade winds). Several times we’ve found ourselves being very gently showered like a fine spray with rain, even though the sun is out. On the west side where Honolulu is they get around 24 inches of rain a year, whereas on the more exposed eastern side they get about 66 inches a year.
What they fear most is a tsunami, as they, like NZ, are on the Pacific Plate and are subject to earthquakes. I believe the last one here was in 1982, so it’s not quite the same as NZ. When you drive through the mountains it is very much a rainforest, but changes quickly when you head towards the coast. We had an enjoyable day with a stop at Kaawa on the east coast for lunch. I had an ice cold coconut water. Very tasty, much like a coconut tastes, but it wasn’t milk. The water is found in baby coconuts whereas milk are in the more mature coconuts. we then stopped off at a Macadamia Nut farm to try a Kona coffee with this in.
We went along to a dinner and show in the evening. We had a lovely meal sitting, looking out on Waikiki Beach watching the sunset through the palm trees. A magical experience, with light Hawaiian music playing in the background. I had the Fresh Hawaiian Fish as the main course, followed by an ice cream sandwich, which was a big chocolate cake with an ice cream centre!
After this was a show by the Society of Seven which has run here for over 40 years. There are 7 singers (one a woman), who take off various artistes from the 60’s to now. They were quite good.
The Magic of Polynesia
The weather has been glorious so far. Up to around 80F in the day and 70F at night. Not too hot to be out in. We went over the road on to Waikiki Beach and swam and sunbathed for a couple of hours.
In the evening we went to another show and dinner. This time it was called “The Magic of Polynesia”. A good meal followed by an excellent show of illusion. The magician did all the tricks you might see on TV, but seeing them in real life was staggering. He brought a helicopter on stage and made a car disappear, as well as the usual girl in a box trick where the box vanishes and the girl walks down through the audience. A much much better show than I had seen on the Saturday night.
On Monday we went on a tour of Downtown Honolulu first before going to Pearl Harbor. For anyone who might follow the new series of Hawaii 5-0 we saw the building that doubles as the police headquarters. It is in fact the State Capitol building with a statue of King Kamehameha in gold outside .
There are two flags flying by the statue as well. The stars and stripes and the Hawaiian flag which has the union jack in the top left hand corner. This was given to the Hawaiian people by Captain George Vancouver after the death of Captain Cook. He believed that as the British ruled the seas at that time any people who came to the islands thinking of attacking the people and saw the Union Jack would be put off. It worked.
Immediately opposite is the Iolani Palace. The islands of Hawaii used to be a monarchy until 1893 when the sitting Queen was ousted. There had been 7 monarchs in all. King Kamehameha and his 2 sons and their 2 sons. Then the male line ceased and so the next 2 kings were elected by the people. The only Queen was from the line of Royalty.
Hawaii became an American protectorate in the early 1900’s and it wasn’t until 1959 that it was adopted as the 50th state.
We then went on to tour Pearl Harbor. I think everyone knows the details behind the Japanese invasion so I won’t bore you all by repeating it here. What I hadn’t really appreciated before though was just how huge the harbor is. They could have up to 70 battleships in the harbor at any one time. It did make you wonder why we still haven’t managed to find a way to live in harmony together after all this time though.
We got back to hotel at 4pm and went swimming on the beach again. It really was wonderful to walk out of the hotel, walk across the road and you were on the beach.
Tuesday we left the island of Oahu and flew over to Hawaii “The big island”. We landed at Hilo and started a tour round the island. With all the Hawaiian Islands – 8 in all, the topography is very much the same. The prevailing winds are NE trade winds. The nearest land from the islands is 2400 miles away, so the winds have plenty of time to pick the water up and when they arrive on the islands they deposit the rain on the eastern side of the islands. As the mountain ranges are 13000 ft high there isn’t much rain that manages to get over the top. Consequently you find generally that the east side of these islands can expect up to 400 inches of rain a year in places. Contrast that with west side which in places has as low as 3-4 inches a year. You go from rainforest to desert. As soon as we landed you could see the difference in the attire. They still had the shorts and tee shirts, but they wore wellington boots instead of sandals!
We made our way into the Hawaiian National Volcano Park to see the active Kilauea volcano. Part of the crater area was cordoned off because it was belching out too much in the way of sulphur fumes which can cause respiratory problems for people. Periodically molten rock or magma rises vertically from a reservoir deep below and erupts on the summit, which is considered traditionally to be the home of the Hawaiian fire goddess Pele. NO, NOT THE FOOTBALLER!
Magma can also move sideways underground triggering earthquakes and eruptions along the flanks of the volcano in regions called rift zones. Kilauea rift zones extend 35 miles east to the coast and a further 50 miles out into the sea. One of the largest volcanoes in the world is also on this island. It’s called Mauna Loa and stretches for 96 miles across the heart of the island.
Our next stop was to go for a walk in a rainforest and walk through a lava tube. We had walked about 10 yards from the coach when the heavens opened and we got absolutely drenched. I suppose we should have expected the rain being in a rainforest. We managed to get dried out as the afternoon went on, and by the time we got to go around a coffee plantation we had all dried out. This was in the famous Kona region on the west side of the island. Another entertaining talk, but by this time we were beginning to get a little tired. We eventually got to our hotel at 7.20pm just in time for dinner at 7.30pm!
Finished the day about 9pm and was glad to get to bed!
Hawaii “the big island” and beyond
Now we are on Hawaii “the big island”, for two days. Tuesday we arrived and had the tour of the island. Wednesday we left the hotel at 7.40am to be taken to Waikoloa up the coast to go on a two hour helicopter flight over the volcanoes. As we were travelling to the heliport we saw a lot of lava graffiti on the side of the road. Apparently it’s coral that people have got from the coast and then made names out of them. There are so many of them that the authorities will now fine anyone they catch doing it!
We took off at 9.40am. We travelled between the two main mountains of Mauna Kea 13796ft, and Mauna Loa 13679ft. There was snow on the top of both. We then headed towards Kilauea crater where we had been the previous day. You could still see sulphur and steam spouting up. It was accentuated because of the rain we had had the day before. It was at this point, 10 minutes into the flight that my battery went on my camera, and my spare one was at the hotel. Fortunately the whole trip was being recorded and at the end of the flight I bought a DVD of it all, which included any comments people made as well as the commentary from the pilot.
We had to stop at Hilo airport for refuelling after nearly an hour. Then we continued up the Hamakua coast on the east side above Hilo. This side is lush green. You can see the cliffs rise from 50ft to 1300ft in a very short distance. If you travel from Hilo NW you would go across all 8 islands of Hawaii according to the pilot. As you go round the north coast the amount of rainfall you can expect a year changes very quickly. In this area of Hawaii, for every mile you travel westwards the amount of rain a year decreases by 10 inches, so over 10 miles it has decreased by 100 inches! We came inland and past Waimea and you could see a very define line where the ground went from green to brown, emphasising what I’ve just said.
Back in Kona where we were staying we went for lunch and had a kalbi pupu with side salad. Basically it’s ribs of beef in a sauce. It was too grissly and difficult to chew, so most of it was left! We walked along the seafront in Kona during the afternoon, and again in the evening when we went looking for a light bite.
There are no sandy beaches on “the big island”. The whole of the island is made up of black lava rock. It’s amazing that anything grows in it. We spoke to a local tradesman who told us that when he wants to plant anything in his garden he has to hire a digger to make a hole in the ground.
On Thursday we flew over to Maui for the last island on our tour. The topography here was completely different to Hawaii, even though the islands are only 40 minutes flying time apart. After we had arrived at Kahului airport we visited a local organic urban farm. It took me back to rural science days! I didn’t find it that interesting in all honesty!
Afterwards we went to Lahaina on the west coast and had a superb lunch with wine overlooking the beach. We then made our way to our hotel which was on the Kaanapali beach. Just before we got there we saw the most vivid rainbow I’ve ever seen. The colours were so defined. Eventually arrived at hotel at 5.15pm.
Laurette and I decided to take the chance of going back into Lahaina in the evening. The main reason was to take some photos of coconuts, mangos and papayas before it got dark at around 6.30pm. We called for a taxi and the female driver took us towards Lahaina and we suddenly saw some coconuts and mangos on some trees just off the main road. She pulled off and we were taking photos in someone’s garden of mangos and the chap came out to see what we were doing. We apologised, but explained the reason for stopping and so he went and picked some mangos for us and the taxi driver. She had never had mangos before. We continued into town and knew where to find the papayas and managed to get photos of those just in time before the light faded.
We were dropped by a big Banyon tree in the main street of Lahaina. This is the second biggest Banyon tree in the world. It was 8ft high when it was planted and now covers half an acre or more. It grows roots on its branches that hang down and when they reach the ground they then grow another trunk and grow up and create more branches that grow roots and so the process continues. There was a cacophony of noise made by thousands of birds that congregate in the branches at dusk. We got a bus back to the hotel and called it a day.
Friday we were picked up at 8.20am to go hiking in the rainforests near Huelo on the east side of the island. It was a leisurely 3 mile trek. The highlights were swimming in a pool under a waterfall and jumping off from two different pools about 12ft or so up into water about 10ft deep. Laurette was a little hesitant at jumping off but with the help of Nicholas our guide she managed to do it – good for her! This time our visit to the rainforests had passed in beautiful weather. We got back to the hotel around 3pm and had an hour swimming and sunbathing on the beach next to the hotel. In the evening around 6pm we had a luau dinner to go to in the hotel grounds.
Talking of luaus, back in the early 1850’s the true Hawaiian people were reduced in numbers by 90% due to infections brought to the islands by the white man. The Hawaiians had no resistance in their make up, and in 1853 no babies who were born lived to be one year old. As a result in 1854 they decided that when a baby reached its first birthday it would be celebrated by holding a luau for it. That custom continues to this day for Hawaiian people, although the rules have had to be changed since its inception. Originally you had to be 100% Hawaiian, but as the years have gone by the 100% Hawaiian has gone, and now if you have only a loose connection to Hawaii in your family you can still hold a luau for your baby!
At the luau I had a blue cocktail with vodka in it, and the meal was pork, chicken and beef with a salad. I could have had a host of other things as well, but I can’t eat massive helpings of food at the best of times. To prepare for the luau feast they cooked a pig on a spit in a pit and then carried it on stage on the spit before cutting it up. After the meal we watched a show of Polynesian and Hawaiian dancing. Very entertaining!
Nearing the end
This is the last instalment you will be pleased to hear!
Saturday was the last full day of the holiday for us. Another quite early start when we were picked up at 7.15am to go on a round the island tour. Maui is shaped very much like a human head and torso, in fact it was described to us as ” turning the island 90 degrees you have the body of Dolly Parton!” We travelled across “the neck” of the island for our first stop at Baldwin Beach just past Pa’ia to have a continental breakfast – in fact a cup of coffee and a piece of cake! After this we headed towards the Hana highway which is notorious for its many twists and turns. It is a coastal road and over a 30 mile stretch you have 617 bends, quite a lot of them like hairpins, and 64 single file crossing bridges. Along the way we deviated to the Ke’anae Peninsula to look at a church that had survived a tsunami in 1946. The roof had been destroyed, but because the walls were made of lava rock they withstood it. They put a new roof on it and it is still an active church today. Looking in the churchyard though it was difficult to see how they managed to bury anyone there as the ground was rock hard, but they do.
We lunched in Hana, which is a very small town indeed. In fact the main street is the town and is only about 60 yards in length. We then travelled along the south coast along the main road to a place called Cheo Gulch, but it got a new name of Seven Pools, as there are seven waterfalls there where it flows into the ocean. Unfortunately for us it was too much in spate for us to swim in, which had been the plan before we set off. Carrying on we had to travel for about 4 miles along what can best be described as more than uneven. How the suspension held up heaven knows! After that it was a lovely smooth road and eventually took us to the Tedeschi Winery where we were able to partake in wine tasting. They have 23 acres of vineyard several miles away from the shop.
I’ve not mentioned whale watching before, but there are loads of them just off the coast near Lahaina. As we drove along the coast back to our hotel we had some lovely sightings of whales. It meant that we didn’t have to consider going on a whale watching tour, even if we could have fitted it in! We ended up going to bed around 8:30pm. The reason for such an early retirement was that our final day on Maui before we flew out at night started very early. I was up at 2am! All bags packed ready for the hotel staff to take down to reception later in the day for storage.
We were picked up by mini bus at 3.30am to go on our final tour – to see the sunrise over Haleakala, the extinct volcano on the south east of the island. We arrived at the tour company’s base at 4.15am and had an early breakfast of coffee and cake! We got kitted out with waterproofs and helmet as we were going to bike back down. The drive to the visitor centre was about 28 miles and took about 90 minutes up a very windy road that had some tight bends on it. We were able to catch up a little on sleep, but in all honesty it was more of a doze than sleep. When we arrived at the top there was a little light in the sky above the white clouds. gradually over about 25 minutes it got lighter and the sun broke through at 6.40am. What a glorious sight! The best sunrise I think I have ever seen. The local rangers said that it was the best sunrise for over 2 weeks. At this point you are at 9740ft so it was quite chilly. A cold wind was blowing so I was glad to have my scarf, gloves and beenie! At the very top of the volcano is the observation station at 10023ft. It was a wonderful sight to see and the ideal start to the day.
Unfortunately we had to go down to 6500ft before we transferred to bikes. Due to accidents in the past they have now stopped the bikes going from the very top. We then biked down 16 miles until we got close to the main traffic flow. All bar about 50yds was freewheeling so it wasn’t strenuous at all. A very enjoyable ride. By 1pm we were back at the hotel, and able to relax by the swimming pool for the afternoon before getting a transfer to the airport at 6.30pm. My flight was at 9.30pm.
How do I sum up this holiday? For my fourth trip in a row I had wonderful weather all the time, except for the one occasion in the rainforest in Hawaii. What else would you expect!
My lasting memories would be:
On Oahu, it would be swimming off Waikiki Beach looking back to shore and seeing the hotels and Diamond Head at the end.
Going round Pearl harbor which had been one of the attractions of the tour.
On Hawaii it would have to be flying over Kilauea and seeing lava flowing orange.
On Maui the hiking in the rainforest, swimming under the waterfall and jumping in the pools.
The icing on the cake has to be the sunrise over Haleakala on the last morning. A stunning finish to yet another great holiday.
Maui was my favourite island of the three we visited and I could easily go back there again.
So until the next time – Mahalo
Hugh & Laurette