After getting off the ice, I was cruelly stranded for 5 days on the island of O’ahu, which is part of Hawaii. The flight in from Sydney was great–I was seated next to a flight attendant who was going on vacation (and who knew all the crew) so I was treated to half a (full-size) bottle of fancy wine from business class and great service the entire flight. When I got to Honolulu at 9am I met up with Andy, another guy who was coming off the ice on my flight who was staying over in Honolulu for just one night. We worked out a deal–I would drive him to the airport in the morning in my rental car, and he would let me crash in his hotel room in the Sheraton Waikiki (fancy-pants place) for the night. Waikiki was interesting–it’s very touristy, but since I was staying in one of the nicer resorts, I actually had a lot of fun. I rented a surfboard the afternoon we got there and surfed for an hour or so, and then we acquired a picnic and went for a hike on the ridgeline above Honolulu. All in all, it was a pretty good day given that we’d been on a 10-hour red-eye flight the night before.
After I dropped Andy off at the airport on Monday morning, I drove to near-by Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, which has some amazing snorkeling. I spent a few hours swimming around the bay (outside the reef) with a snorkel and mask, and saw green sea turtles, tons of reef fish, coral, and a group of 4 cuttlefish, which were awesome. Cuttlefish are so amazing because they rapidly change their skin color, like chameleons, both to hide from predators and also to communicate with each other. I swam into a group of 4 of them, which began circling around me and flashing bright orange and red patterns to each other while swimming. It was really cool. When I finally swam back to shore I tried to stand up and almost fell over. I had been swimming for many hours, and realized that I’d probably swum a few miles by that point, and I was TIRED. This was by far the coolest thing I did while in O’ahu, and I recommend that anyone who travels there should go snorkeling in this bay.
I ended up “camping” for the night at Kahana Bay beach park, but it was threatening to rain, full of mosquitoes, and right next to the road, so I decided to sleep in my car instead. The next morning, it was raining, so instead of heading to the beach I went to Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens (on O’ahu’s windward coast) and wandered around on their grassy paths for a few hours. I was amazed at the number of heliconia plants they had. Did you know there are over 250 kinds of Heliconia plants? It was very relaxing, and eventually the sun came out and I headed for the beach.
My next encounter with a campground was much better–I stayed at Malaekahana State Recreation Area, which was really nice. I didn’t actually bring a tent with me though, so my campsite consisted of a hammock and my down blanket that I’d brought to pole with me. It was actually quite cozy, falling asleep listening to the wind rustle the trees and the waves crashing on the sand. The next morning I hiked around the bay before heading to the North Shore (yes, that North Shore, the one of surfing infamy).
The waves were really big when I showed up at Sunset beach, so big that all the mediocre surfers stayed out of the water. However, they were also really choppy from the wind, so all the good surfers also stayed out of the water. I only saw one guy out in the waves, and he was getting pummeled pretty well. So instead of surfing, I went hiking. I went to a botanical garden (Waimea Valley) where there were peacocks running around, and I hiked around Pu’u O Mahuka Heiau State Monument (it’s a temple ruin), which gave me great views of the north shore. Afterward I checked out the Banzai Pipeline (not to surf, but to watch people surf), but despite the huge waves there wasn’t a single person surfing.
I ended up staying at a Backpackers/hostel on the north shore, and met travelers from Sweden, Australia, England, and Brazil. We had a big barbecue dinner that night, to which I brought a 12-pack of apricot beer and made some fast friends. At one point a fairly inebriated Swedish dude said, “Okay, there are three things to remember to stay safe: One! All the cars are for real. Two! You can’t fly. Three! Wait, I don’t remember three. What’s three?” At which point I shouted down the table: “rm is forever!” Then everyone went silent and stared at me. “What the hell is rm?” one of them asked. I mumbled something about unix and went back to drinking my beer.
The next morning the waves were even bigger, but this time they were clean, so I figured I’d go rent a surfboard and try to find someplace sheltered with slightly smaller waves to play in. Unfortunately, the two places I stopped to try to rent a board had signs out that said “No rentals today due to BIG SURF.” So once again, I decided to go hiking. On my way to the leeward coast, I stopped at the Wahiawa Botanical Gardens. This one was smaller than the last, but it had some HUGE trees that were covered in all sorts of vines and hanging plants that were pretty sweet.
I drove as far as I could up the Wai’anae coast, which was arid and rugged. When I got to the end of the road, I was in Ka’ane point state park, where monster waves were crashing over lava that had cooled millions of years ago. I decided to hike out to the point, which is the most remote corner of O’ahu, and a nesting/resting place for seabirds such as albatrosses (I saw a bunch!) and the critically endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal (which I also saw!). The hike is pretty exposed the whole way, and I was hot and tired when I got to the point. I decided to lay down in the shade for a nap, only to wake up 30 minutes later to find that my shade had moved and I was getting fried. On my way back down the coast, I finally saw some surfers and hung out on the beach for awhile to watch. They looked like they were having fun, but every time they wiped out they got really thrashed by the big waves.
I finished my drive all the way around the island, and now I’m chilling at a hostel by the university in Honolulu, checking some e-mail and packing my bags. It’s quiet and calm, exactly what I need after all that traveling. I just saw on the news that there was a high surf advisory for the last few days (which would explain why I saw so many “no swimming” signs on the north shore), and they showed some videos of surfers hitting the big waves, and some wiping out hard.
Hawaii has been awesome! I hope I get to come back next year. Perhaps to the big island next time?