We left Abbotsford BC on a day when it was raining with snow flurries as we drove to the airport, and which later turned to actual snowflakes by the time my dad got home from dropping us off. So, in my opinion, we left just in the nick of time. We’ve been trying to chase the good weather since getting to North America and have made our escape to the balmy Hawaiian islands. This is a special stop for me as I spent three months in Hawaii (on the Big Island) 11 years ago. I have always remembered this time of my life with a huge amount of fondness. Callum, being Australian, has never once considered coming to Hawaii as we already live in a place with amazing beaches. He’s asked me before what I like about Hawaii. It is just really special. The scenery, the flora and fauna, the fact that it’s so well set up for tourists, and in general, the vibe of it. Callum now agrees with me after falling for the place now as I did over a decade ago.
We are planning to see 4 islands while here and Oahu, the one with Honolulu, Waikiki and Pearl Harbour, is our first stop. We landed at night and had to sort out our rental car late at night after a full day of anticipating a flight, driving to the airport, being on said flight (6 hours) and then carrying once again the large backpacks which we’ve sort of been ignoring for the past 4.5 months. It was pretty tough for me to go back to using the pack. You see, we’ve been in Canada or the US since June, with a car, so…all the things could just sort of fit in the packs and whatever didn’t well, who cares. Now I had to downsize, roll each and every garment of clothing, downsize again, and stuff everything in there like a sack of rice. Not to mention carrying the thing again. Jeepers. There may have a very small melt down the night before our flight when I was trying to incorporate my myriad of toiletries items as well. Just a minor one though.
We eventually got our car and while there heard from the car rental people that our visit coincided with Donald Trump and the First Lady’s visit to Honolulu as well. Joy! Hurrah! Not. It meant that certain highways would be barricaded for several hours. Thankfully, the Donald’s visit did not ruin our plans of seeing sites and his stay was only one night. We located our hostel in Waikiki and found out that the information online was correct—there was no parking available anywhere near the actual hostel. We had to park far away and the only consolation was it was free until 7am. We hefted all of our bags and got to the hostel to find out that our private room was not very private. We were in a room with a door, true, but it was within a larger room with four bunks and only one tiny toilet/shower room to share with 8 other people. Not great. And it was expensive! And it was loud! And kind of scungy. It was a miracle I got in to use the shower after such a long and now sticky day. Does anyone else get sticky after flying? Or is that just me?
The next morning we woke very early (for us—about 6am) and had an early breakfast in the hostel kitchen where they had a plethora of plates and forks but only three bowls. Limited choice of spoons. Thankfully, since we were the first ones up to enjoy the amenities, we did technically have a choice of which bowl and which spoon. I can’t complain really but it is kind of a pet peeve of mine when hostels, which service millions of people, do not have the appropriate amount of kitchen necessities. We ate our cereal, we packed our day bag and off we went to find Pearl Harbor.
Signage is not great in Hawaii, but that might be because everyone is so laid back. We did find it with the help of our offline maps app and a bit of treasure hunting. Callum saw a tiny sign that said “Pearl Harbor Historic Site” and hung a left even though the app told us to go straight. We got there, not even certain as we found a parking spot that we were in the right spot. We were and got ready to carry absolutely nothing but our camera, our water and hats and sunglasses. They are pretty picky there. Don’t you dare try to bring a purse, ladies. The only known woman to get away with bringing in her handbag is my mother, but she is a force to be reckoned with and even she had a bit of trouble at first. That’s a story for another time.
We got in to see the USS Arizona Memorial tour just in time. For those of you who don’t know anything about history, this Pearl Harbor place is kind of a big deal for Americans. It’s the place that the USA has last been invaded. In 1941 the Japanese conducted a surprise attack, bombing a bunch of boats and planes at Pearl Harbor. The attack marked the beginning of the States’ involvement in World War II. The site has a great audio guide walking tour and museums and so for someone like me who knows the basics but nothing else, it was a great way to learn about the ins and outs of the whens whys and hows. It was quite solemn on the memorial of the USS Arizona. Other ships were sunk with 100s of casualties but the Arizona was the worst hit with nearly 1200 soldiers being killed by the bomb which hit their ship. We also toured the USS Missouri Memorial which was interesting because it’s where the Japanese were forced to sign a surrender which marked the end of World War II. It was neat to see all of these things in detail and I’m glad we took the time to do it. I had been to the site 11 years before but must have missed basically well sort of EVERYTHING because I did not remember anything from my previous visit.
One funny thing that happened was when we were viewing one of the museums, there was a model of a Japanese plane hanging from the ceiling. It was probably a third or maybe even only a quarter the size of an actual plane. I overheard two old women talking about it and saw them take pictures of it. “Now that is small! How did they fit in there???!” said one. Her companion tilted her head knowingly and said matter-of-factly: “Well, the Japanese were notoriously small people.”
I swear to you that these ladies were in earnest. I searched their faces for some sort of indication that they were joking—it would have been a funny joke indeed. But no, the first woman nodded her head in understanding and they walked on into the museum. I tried to catch Callum’s eye but he turned his head. Probably didn’t hear them. Probably best we didn’t make eye contact as we would have burst out laughing. Later, we realized we had both overheard and both thought it was ridiculous and hilarious, which is the best sort of inside joke.
After our history lesson, we went on to the western sort of side of O’ahu, making a decision to just avoid the whole Waikiki area altogether because of a certain presidential visit. We hung out at beaches, went for a swim and fell asleep in the sun. It was glorious.
Our second day we strolled along Waikiki Beach in the morning and got some coffees before heading up to Diamond Head. Diamond Head is a US National Monument and a key feature to visiting O’ahu. It sits on the edge of a 300,000 year old crater and a huge draw for tourists as the hike up is not that long and the payoff is great. The views are spectacular because the summit is straddling two coastlines. You can see down to Waikiki on one side and when you walk a few steps further you can see the Pacific Ocean. It was a very good hike and made me sweat. The end of it is a bit brutal as there are 100 steps leading to an open air cave thing that you slither out of to see the spectacular view. Also the cockroaches were out in full form (not actual cockroaches, I’m talking about the hordes of tourists). It was kind of like Disneyland, waiting in line to see the view. It was worth it though.
After our hike we spent the rest of our day driving around, trying to locate certain beaches I only had in my memory of when I visited O’ahu for a weekend all those years before. I was very excited to locate one of the ones I did a painting of but couldn’t remember the name of. It is Kualoa park and I recognized the trees, the breakwater cement blocks in the water and the hat-shaped island in the near distance. So cool to see it again and finally learn its name!
We drove back to the car rental place and caught our 20 minute flight to our next island: Kauai.