Statue at Waikiki

A diverse visit to Oahu

View of Honolulu from Diamond Head
View of Honolulu from Diamond Head

My Airbnb hostess kindly picked up me up from Honolulu airport . It quickly became clear that she was unwell and had emotional and family problems. Over the weekend there were a few tears along with the chat. She was obviously going through a difficult time and I felt very sorry for her. Hopefully she can get the help she needs. I spent most of my time out and about.

The first afternoon I climbed to the top of Diamond Head where I enjoyed a 360view over the crater, Waikiki, Downtown and the suburbs in the opposite direction. It was not an easy walk up on a very hot afternoon and there were many steps towards the top but it was worth it.

The following day began with a walking tour of Chinatown. This left from the Hawaii Heritage Centre. They run on Wednesdays and Fridays and, fortunately, for once, I had done my research the previous evening. There was only one couple on the tour apart from me so it was very exclusive. Julia led us and pointed out not only historic buildings but also popular restaurants. Along the way, she bought samples of delicacies for us to try. On the menu that morning was manapua, a Hawaiian Chinese pork bun which is steamed or fried, peanut and sesame cracker, fried banana, which was like a toffee apple except banana, and pork filled noodle from the noodle factory. I didn’t need lunch! We also visited a lei shop, which was doing a roaring trade because of Mother’s Day, a fascinating Chinese grocery store and a busy food hall. A peek into a Chinese herb shop and Shinto and Dao temples completed the morning.

Most of the buildings in Chinatown were constructed after 1900. In that year a big fire, which had been deliberately lit in an attempt to rid the area of bubonic plague, burned out of control and destroyed the district. Japanese and Chinese immigrants and, to my surprise, the Portuguese influenced architectural styles. Verandas and shop signs had to be wooden and many still are today.

Next on the agenda for that day was a visit to the Iolani Palace, home of the deposed Kings and Queen of Hawaii. Here, Queen Liliuokalani was imprisoned following the overthrow of the monarchy. The number of visitors permitted entry at any one time are limited so I had to wait for the next available slot. I was then given slippers to cover my shoes and a headset and audio machine and allowed to wander at my leisure. It is a small palace that has been beautifully restored and is well worth visiting.

My last stop of the day was the Museum of Art where there was a triennial botanical competition in progress. The floral displays were magnificent and I wondered how anybody could create such arrangements. I read the judges’ comments and agreed with some of them (not knowing anything at all about flower arranging)! I also fitted in a limited viewing of the museum itself but by that time it was late in the afternoon and my feet were telling me it was time for a rest.

Courtyard in the Museum of Art
Courtyard in the Museum of Art
Part of a floral display in the Museum of Art
Part of a floral display in the Museum of Art

I had booked a tour online to Pearl Harbour for the following day as I could not go to Honolulu without visiting it. I didn’t enjoy it. The guide was excellent but the atmosphere made me uncomfortable. On the way, we drove through the Punchbowl Military Cemetery but didn’t stop. At Pearl Harbour Centre, we relinquished any bag big enough to conceal a weapon as Pearl Harbour is still an active military base. They charged us $5 for the privilege. We couldn’t leave anything on the bus as it was searched prior to going to Ford Island and the USS Missouri. Consequently, any food, snacks or drinks other than water had to be purchased from the on-site vendors.

On board the USS Missouri, a member of the Military gave an informative tour after which wandered on our own. This was the ship, now out of commission, on which the Japanese signed the Surrender document in September 1945 in Tokyo Bay. Following our visit, we returned by bus to the main centre and waited for our time allocation for the audio visual viewing. Next was a short boat trip to see the USS Arizona Memorial. Normally, visitors can disembark here but this had stopped the previous day as it required maintenance. The Arizona was one of the ships destroyed in the bombing with over 1,000 lives lost. It is still submerged at the bottom of the sea below the Memorial.

At the Pearl Harbour centre, it is possible to visit a submarine and two large rooms of historical displays. We had time for further exploring before re-boarding the bus for our trip back to town. I was glad to leave.

Arizona Memorial
Arizona Memorial
Outriggers at Lanakai
Outriggers at Lanakai
Epitome of a tropical beach
Epitome of a tropical beach

My next day was much more enjoyable. I headed out of the city and intended to spend the day on the beach at Lanakai. It was Mother’s Day so a bit of R & R was allowed! The trip required two buses if I went the long way round, which, of course, I did. The buses on Oahu are reasonable and I purchased a day pass for $5.50. We drove through the suburbs and along the coast, past Sea World, and I alighted near Kailua. The walk from there to Lanakai beach took half an hour. I stopped for coffee on the way and the cafe was so appealing I resolved to return for lunch. Alas, I left it too late. They had stopped serving. It was too full even to sit for a snack and a much-needed beer.

The beach was everything I expect from a tropical beach; blue, warm water and fine white sand. It was also full! It was, of course, Sunday, Mother’s Day and perfect beach weather. However, I espied a ridge upon which people were walking. I hadn’t planned a hike, but it tempted me. Should I? I hadn’t got my boots and wondered if my sandals could cope. They could. The trail was called Pill Box for obvious reasons and it wasn’t as difficult as it looked from below. The view from the top was magnificent. I was glad I had made the effort and the swim, when I descended once again to the beach, was extra rewarding.

After being thwarted by the cafe, I walked the mile into Kailua town where I found a restaurant that offered the requisite beer and was also prepared to serve me food at that odd hour of the day, which is neither lunch nor dinner time. I devoured a delicious warm beetroot, kale and blue cheese salad. It should also have contained walnuts, but they had run out and someone had gone to buy them. Maybe they went to Honolulu as they hadn’t returned by the time I had finished! I paid up and caught the bus with perfect timing just as it started to rain. The direct bus returned me to the city in half the time of the outward journey.

On my last day, I visited Waikiki, it being another ‘must do’ sight of Honolulu. I walked from my accommodation, past Diamond Head, missed the Zoo which should have been there according to my map, and then all the way along the waterfront as far as the Hilton’s swimming pool/lagoon. I stopped twice to read my book for a while and finished my walk in the Ala Moana food court. Here I had my last Ahi Poki for lunch. This is a Hawaiian specialty of raw fish prepared with a variety of other ingredients. My preference is with sesame.

Back at the house and ready to leave for the airport, my anticipated ride did not eventuate. My hostess frantically phoned round her friends for help. A taxi appeared and I almost had enough change to pay the fare. So ended my trip to Hawaii!

Wailua river mouth far below

Hiking in the heat

Collapsed houses on Hanalei Beach
Collapsed houses on Hanalei Beach

The road round Kauai only covers three quarters of the island. The remaining quarter is the Napali coast which is only accessible by boat or on foot. During my four days, I drove as far as I could in each direction. Kapa’a is centrally located so it was easy to go either way. Speed limits on the roads are variable and are rarely above 50kph so progress was slow, which suited me.

When I visited, the road in the north was blocked at Hanalei Beach. Recent flooding severely affected the area and the road beyond was under repair. There were obvious signs of damage on the beachfront where houses had collapsed. It is a wide sweeping sandy beach and is beautiful even when mist shrouds the mountains and it is drizzling with rain. It also has a well-known surf break.

Hanalei beach
Hanalei beach
Breakfast food truck
Breakfast food truck

I started each morning with a visit to the breakfast truck across the road from the hostel. The granola with papaya was excellent as was the coffee. The locals congregated on one side of the bus and the visitors on the roadside. I infiltrated the ‘locals area’ on my second morning. On the third day, they included me in the conversation! I also met two young ladies, one from Philadelphia and the other from Nova Scotia. They were both solo travellers and also a little bemused by the hostel. We enjoyed exchanging travel stories whilst imbibing our coffee.

Waimea Canyon was my principal reason for visiting Kauai and it did not disappoint. A comparison with the Grand Canyon is often made and, whilst not as extensive, it is nevertheless impressive. The road up to it is long and windy with beautiful views over the inland area and to the coast. I drove to the last viewpoint where I was rewarded with a wonderful outlook of the rocky coastline of the Napali Coast.

Napali coast
Napali coast

Colourful Waimea canyon
Colourful Waimea canyon

There are many hiking trails in the canyon area and I had spent some time studying which one to do. There were dire warnings about those tracks which only experienced hikers should tackle and I played it safe; too safe. I chose the Canyon trail, which seemed to be the most popular, judging by the number of people on it. It didn’t take me as long as the suggested time and the track was not as difficult as anticipated. From the ridge, it was possible to see down and across the canyon where a sightseeing helicopter hovered. I went to the end and hung over the top of the waterfall, holding on to a tree branch for safety. I needed the challenge!

Afterwards, I continued on to the western end of the road hoping to access the beach. However it was closed (or I was in the wrong place). I found a large and intimidating missile base instead! I returned to Waimea town for a wander and a late lunch of shrimp tacos. This used to be an important trading post and the wharf still stands intact. In the past, there had been many Chinese and Japanese immigrants, who played an important part in the trading history of the area. They also influenced the styles of the buildings, some of which remain today. There is still a strong Japanese influence in local businesses.

On the way back, an impromptu diversion took me to Salt Pond Park, where many families were enjoying the late afternoon sun. The salt ponds next to the beach are maintained by specific families. The quantity of salt produced depends on the amount of rainfall and the degree to which the water dries out. This year’s harvest could be in jeopardy because of the large quantity of rainfall that has fallen so far and the salt may not have time to dry out. You have to ‘be in the know’ to gt some salt!

Sunset over the salt ponds
Sunset over the salt ponds

On my last day, I climbed up the Sleeping Giant or, to give it its proper name, Nounu. The hike was steep in places and required some rock scrambling at the end. At the top, it is possible to climb onto the rock, which represents the Giant’s chin. It is not for the faint-hearted and I wasn’t one of the brave souls who did it! However, below is a cave-like hole that locals refer to as the Giant’s eye. It is possible to walk through this, perch on a ledge and admire the view over the sheer drop. This I could manage! From the top of the ridge, the views were magnificent in all directions. Inland from Kapa’a is a volcanic crater with several peaks surrounding it. I had chosen a hot sunny day to do the hike, so all was visible.

Four days passed very quickly and I would have liked to have had more time to explore the beaches. It seemed no time at all before I was packing up and heading for the airport and my return trip to Honolulu. I am pleased to report that the car hire lady was very understanding about the big dent!

Getting there:
Hawaiian Airlines run several services a day from Honolulu. Flight time is approximately 40 minutes. Prices on their website are for a return ticket.

Getting Around:
There is a local bus but you really need to hire a car.

Accommodation:
Accommodation is expensive. I paid $150 US per night for a private room and shared bathroom in the hostel. There are many condominiums, hotels, resorts and some Airbnbs and a wide range of prices. The hostel was one of the cheapest places I could find at the time of booking.

Beds on the veranda

First stop Kauai

I have been on the road again after a long hiatus. This trip was to western Canada to visit my daughter with a stopover in Hawaii. I had booked four days on Kauai and another four in Honolulu. It was just as well I hadn’t opted for Big Island, given the erupting volcano!

The trip began inauspiciously. I wasn’t allowed to board in Auckland unless I had an onward ticket from Hawaii. My flight to Vancouver was not acceptable as U.S. Immigration do not deem Canada (and Mexico) as ‘onward’. Frantic booking of a return flight ensued! U.S. immigration is also now so complicated that separate check-in and boarding areas are necessary at the airport. Clutching my newly issued boarding pass, I was ‘interviewed’ before I could drop my bag. On the other side of security, I realised my flight was half an hour earlier than I thought and the gate was at the furthermost point of the airport. Of course, I hadn’t allowed enough time. I was out of practice and a bit too casual!

The flight was overnight and easy. Immigration in Honolulu entailed being fingerprinted and photographed twice. Otherwise it was very smooth. It didn’t take as long as I had allowed so I had plenty of time before my next flight to wander the airport, have breakfast and chat to other Kauai bound passengers. Sitting on a bench outside the terminal, the air was warm and balmy so I wasn’t complaining!

My room is in the bottom left hand corner

I had booked the Kauai Beach House Hostel in Kapa’a so this is where I headed once I had picked up the rental car. I was shown to a cave like private room with a view of the sea through the glass vents. There were no actual windows. The walls were wooden framework with plaster board on one side. The shared deck outside my door had three beds on it. The mattresses of the double bunk beds had plastic covers. It wasn’t quite as I envisaged! Over the next few days, bodies came and went but not in my room. It was a busy hostel and, on some nights, people were sleeping on the settees in the office and the sofa beds in the common areas. I didn’t offer to share. As one local said “staying at the hostel is an experience in itself”!

On the first day out I put a dent in the rental car. Something in the car was beeping at me and I lost concentration for a second. (The hand brake was still partially on.) Luckily, I was in a car park and not going fast although hitting parked cars seems to be becoming my specialty. It was raining and not living up to my expectation of blue skies and sunny days. Things could only improve!

Sun, snow and saunas

This week has continued in much the same vein as the previous ones, although a minor miracle occurred on Saturday when the sun appeared along with a beautiful blue sky, which certainly lifted the spirits. Who cares if the temperature remains at -10 degrees all day when it is sunny?! I took advantage of the change in weather and went for a drive up the road to Newport Center, itself, where there was a lovely view of the mountains and the houses benefited from a lot more sun during the day. I then drove in a loop and back to Newport town to do some shopping.

Road into Newport Center
Road into Newport Center
View of the mountains
View of the mountains

I finally took delivery of the sauna on Wednesday. Apparently, the crate was too heavy for the tail gate on the truck but the carriers had neglected to tell me that last week when I rang to rearrange the delivery that didn’t happen. As it was, the driver had to break the crate apart and each piece had to be off loaded individually. Fortunately, Mike, the contractor next door, was available to help the driver as he couldn’t have managed it on his own. The heavy solid cedar wood wall panels are now stacked in the garage and the bits I could carry, I have taken to the basement. All I have to do now is chase up a contractor to come and fit it all together. The duties of a housesitter know no bounds!

The finished sweater
The finished sweater

On Friday evening, I had a very pleasant evening with the neighbours and Mike, who is staying in the house. The food was good and the conversation, as usual, very varied. Fortunately, the snow plough had cleared the driveway in the morning and I could drive the car out as I had decided that trying to wade through the snow on the bank might prove a little too difficult in the dark.

The sweater is now complete and, surprisingly, wearable, with enough wool left over to knit some gloves and a hat, which is also a new experience for me. Knitting with 4 straight needles in rounds proved a bit of a challenge at the start but, luckily, I realised I was going round the wrong way before I started on the thumb shaping. It could have produced some interesting shaped gloves otherwise!

I now have a relatively snow cleared path, having done a considerable amount of shovelling, although I was beginning to wonder at the futility of it all when the snow seemed to cover it again almost as fast as I could clear it. However, it has lasted a couple of days so I live in hope that is might remain!