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hawaii flag Hawaii: The attractions of the Hawaiin Islands are well described in this journal. A great holiday experience.(Illustrated).

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Written by Alan Hart, Canada.

Diamond Head photo

View of Diamond Head from Waikiki.

Oahu map

We arrived in Honolulu on the island of Oahu at around 10PM. local time. We took a taxi to our hotel in Waikiki, just a few blocks from Waikiki beach. The hotel was a 42-story edifice and our first surprise was that the reception area was all-open. There was a roof but no doors and even in the late evening the temp was around 30C. Our room however had air-conditioning so that was cool.

The first thing you notice when waking up in Hawaii is the sun. The sun in Hawaii is obviously a star of a different magnitude to the feeble orb that we experience in these latitudes. It doesn't shine it blazes. A fair skinned Anglo-Saxon like me can get burned right through their clothes in a matter of minutes.

Day one, we visited the beach, shops and restaurants. Our room had a nice kitchen area with stove, sink, microwave, etc. so we were able to save money by buying food and eating it in our rooms. Prices weren't outrageously high in Waikiki but when your dollar is only worth 60% of its US counterpart, it pays to save a buck where you can. The Hawaiians were anxious to help us it seemed. We were presented with wads of free coupons everywhere we turned. The hotel handed out booklets full of them and people would thrust them into your hands as you walked down the street. On closer examination the coupons were nearly always of the buy-one-get-one-free variety and there was always some reason why they weren't a very good deal. And really, when you're on holiday there is a limit to how much farting around you want to do with coupons. That is just way too much like everyday life.

Day two, I began to realize just how brown everyone is and just how red we were all getting. On the beach I made the discovery that sunscreen is just a joke. All it does is make embarrassing patterns in the flaming crimson one's skin. Before long I achieved that puffy red purulent flesh peculiar to Brits in hot climates, complete with strange markings and striations courtesy of the sunscreen. Needless to say we carried on regardless. Most Hawaiians are dark skinned and can take any amount of solar radiation. Sometimes, it just don't pay to be white.

Day three, Roz and I got up early to hike up Diamond Head. Actually it seemed we got up too early, as we had to wait almost an hour to get a bus out there. You see a lot of the life of a city when you get up early and try to take a bus somewhere. Hawaii is a natural paradise; every shrub, bush or tree is laden with blossoms. The breezes are full of fragrances, jasmine and spices. Palm trees line the streets. But at 6AM you got workaday people trying to get to their jobs, and the odd drunk who still feels like shouting, and the guy in the Seven Eleven who starts to look downright dangerous when the coffee runs out on him, and groups of little Asian women chattering about who-knows-what. The streets are also filled with turtle doves (they look like miniature pigeons) and, it seems, they would rather walk than fly. I can never understand why some birds just seem to give up flight. These doves just wander in and out of traffic around pecking at things too small to see.

flower-1

flower-2

We finally get out of town and begin our hike to the extinct volcano. At 7AM it is already brutally hot and we are glad we brought water. Going through a cool rock tunnel we enter the crater of the volcano. Then we pass through the park gates and get started on the trail proper. The frustrations of public transit dissolve in the heat. The trail is just a couple of miles across the floor of the crater and up the other side, which is much higher...close to 1,000 feet. Trudging through the barren dust and scrub we rejoice that the kids refused to come with us as we would surely have gone crazy from all the whining that this trek would have produced. The last part of the hike actually goes through the volcanic rock. Ninety-nine steep steps lead to a spiral staircase and some concrete tunnels. Eventually we emerge back into light through what used to be a gun port. The sun and the exertion has turned our faces beet red, but the view makes it all worthwhile At the top we are surrounded by old concrete the gun emplacements. This point used to guard Oahu against enemy shipping in the war. It had an impressive battery of huge guns plus a primitive radar system. The panorama of Honolulu and the Pacific is stunning. On the walk back a taxi driver with a beat-up VW bus offered to take us back to town for only $2 each so we jumped in.

Day Four is actually the 4th of July...American Independence Day. Jamie and I decided to stay with the military theme and visit the US Military Museum. Admission is free and we learn a lot more about the history of the islands and the US military presence there. Jamie loved all the weapons and was full of questions about WW2. The peacefulness and the beauty of the islands make a strange contrast to the mayhem of war. But even before the US presence there were wars between the different islands, until the Hawaiian king Kamehameha finally united them after a bloody campaign. The museum had two movie presentations: one about the history of the US military in Hawaii and the other about the battle of Midway. I think Roz and Marianne spent the day shopping. Later that day we all went to a big 4th of July fireworks display. Everything was going great but came to a sudden halt when one of the bigger rockets exploded at ground level. That was really spectacular and we thought it was all part of the show. I guess the arrival of emergency vehicles and the cessation of pyrotechnics should have tipped us off. Anyway, no one was badly hurt and as we were walking away the display started up again, so we stayed for a little longer.

Day Five, we boarded a minivan and were driven out to Huanama Bay and given snorkels, etc.

fish-1

fish-2

turtle

Soon we were exploring the coral reefs and abundant sea life. It was most excellent. I wore a white tee shirt in the water to minimise the sun damage to my back. Later I made another amazing discovery. You might think that being underwater would protect you against ultra violet radiation, well forget it! My back did okay, thanks to the tee shirt, but the backs of my legs, which were underwater 99% of the time, were totally fried. However the experience was worth the painful aftermath.

Day Six, we rented a car and drove around the island of Oahu: first stop, Pearl Harbour. After a 2 hour wait, during which we explored the museum. We took our seats in the auditorium and watched a movie about the events of December 7th 1941. It was really well done and contained a lot of original footage of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. Then we boarded a launch and were taken out to the Arizona Memorial. This where the USS Arizona was sunk with great loss of life and the remains of the ship can still be seen, only the forward gun turret breaks the surface but the rest of the ship can easily be seen in the clear water.

Arizona-1

Arizona-2

Arizona-3

Nearly all the ships that were sunk at Pearl Harbour were recovered and restored. Some of them actually saw action against the Japanese. Only the USS Arizona was left as a memorial to those who died.

After visiting the Pearl we continued to drive right around the island of Oahu. The next stop was the Dole Pineapple Plantation where we enjoyed some ice cream. The birds enjoyed pieces of my ice cream cone. They are so tame they will eat right out of your hand. We took a look around the gardens and the world's biggest maze (in the shape of a pineapple, naturally). Next we drove to the North Shore of the island, which is reputed to be a surfer's paradise. But the surf just didn't seem to happening so we drove on in search of the elusive blowhole. It was on the map but somehow we missed it. Pity, it is supposed to be quite a sight when a big wave hits and it drives a plume of water out the blowhole.

blowhole

Can you see the Blowhole?

Day seven, Maui is much greener that Oahu and has a lot of farmland. There are no big cities like Honolulu, it is all small towns. We picked up a rental car from the airport (brand new Ford Escort) and drove off in search of our Condo, located somewhere around Kihei and Wailea. After the usual wrong turnings, illegal U-turns and recriminations, we found our way to it and were pleasantly surprised to find it spacious and air-conditioned with 2 good sized bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, kitchen with all appliances, 2 TV's, a VCR, several radios, washer and dryer, balcony with patio furniture and close up view of the ocean. It also came with cookware, cutlery, towels, overhead fans, etc. We quickly made ourselves at home and soon we were out exploring the beaches.

Maui map

condo

We stayed here in the end unit near the ocean.

It's easy to lose track of time in Maui and I'm not sure now what things we did on what particular day. Our first major outing was to the town Lahaina. On the way there we stopped to see the lobby of the Hyatt hotel, which is famous for itsScrimshaw picture penguins. The lobby is enormous with all kinds of trees and flowers, plus a grotto with real, live penguins. The town of Lahaina was the centre for whaling in the old days and has an interesting little museum devoted to relics of the whaling business. It also featured a movie presentation, which gave some insight into the life of a whaler. Whaling was a stinking business in every sense but the spirit of the average person under those difficult conditions makes it interesting. The way the bored sailors would turn whale's teeth and bits of bone into miniature works of art was rather inspiring, too. They call this artwork Scrimshaw.

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Stones

Later we had a good look around the old town, which is home to many art galleries, a historic prison for out-of-control whalers, not to mention the famous Cheese-Burger in Paradise café, immortalized by Jimmy Buffet in his song of the same name. One of the art galleries was particularly fascinating as it featured just about every famous rock band. All of whom, it seems, have visited Lahaina and had the picture taken with the proprietor. Either that or he has real talent for photo editing. The Voodoo lounge section had many pictures painted by Ronnie Woods of the Rolling Stones and they were just brilliant. It seems that many pop stars went to art-college in their early days and we saw many examples of their work.

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The next trip we made was to the town of Hana. A lot of people start out on this drive but do not complete it: partly because of the narrow, winding highway, and partly because all the interesting stops along the way take up so much time. We had an audio- tape that informed us of all the roadside attraction as we went along so we only missed a few of them. We promised ourselves to get 'em on the way back, but we still missed some.

tall plants-1

tall plants-2

Jamie & me with giant bamboo.

Roz, Jamie and me with giant flowers.

This Hana side of Maui is tropical rain forest. That is why everything is so big. On the way back from Hana we stopped at a beach (name forgotten), which is famous for its black sand. The sand is composed of very coarse granules of volcanic rock, guaranteed to get the dead skin off your feet in two seconds. The waves funnel into the bay and get quite large. Jamie instantly recovered from his car sickness and jumped right in. A huge wave engulfed him. Anxious moments elapsed as we waited and hoped for him to reappear. It didn't help our state of mind to note that the beach was cluttered with warning signs about riptide and dangerous shore-breaks and no lifeguard, etc. Much to our relief Jamie bobbed up and seemed to be enjoying it. I decided to join him. I got pounded by the waves and swallowed a pint or more of seawater. That was enough fun for me but Jamie stayed in a while longer. He said it was the best part of the whole vacation.

fun in the waves

A day later he had to revise his opinion as some really big waves started coming ashore right on our doorstep. He spent many happy hours on our rented boogie board (its like a surfboard for beginners). We also rented snorkels and masks but we never did see any amazing marine life on Maui. We kept hearing about the sea turtles but they never materialized -- on the upside, nor did the sharks.

He's in there somewhere.

We made one more trip while on Maui. This one required a really early start, so once again, no kids. We left around 3AM to drive to Haleakala National Park. This is the site of another volcano and it is much higher than Diamond Head. Haleakala (house of the sun) has not erupted for 200 years but is not considered extinct. The summit is over 10,000ft. Driving up there in the wee small hours we went through several layers of cloud and rain and experienced a big drop in temperature. It can snow up there in the winter months. The road seems to wind onward and upward forever but finally we arrived at the top and saw the stars as you never see them in the city. The sky was jet black and the stars were diamond bright.

We were not alone however in our contemplation of the heavens. At about 4.45AM the car park is darn near full. Watching the sunrise from Haleakala is very big on the tourist to-do list. Did I mention it was about one degree above freezing up there? All the well-prepared tourists huddled shivering in their parkas with the hoods up, trying to adjust their cameras on tripods aimed at the eastern sky. I don't like crowds and I don't like abrupt temperature drops of over 28C. I shivered in my jeans jacket and twice returned to the car to warm up. When the sun finally showed up it was spectacular, though. Roz got some nice pictures of it.

sunset

family-1

family-2

That was our last trip. After that we stayed close to our condo and just enjoyed the beach, etc. All too soon we were sitting aboard a crowded plane winging our way back to Vancouver.

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