Hawaii (14 December 1998 - 9 February 1999)

Oahu

Flew from Los Angeles to Hawaii, the flight then continued on to some South Pacific Islands, a place of obvious plenty. I was relieved when we were actually airborne, I have never before been on a flight where the passengers had so much weighty luggage, and where the passengers were themselves so weighty! This led to a slight delay on take-off as the cabin crew ran out of the special extension straps needed for the seat belts! It also led for a somewhat uncomfortable flight for me, since I was left with about 2/3 of my allocated seat space, and was concerned that if I moved I might lose more precious inches of space.

I checked in to the Polynesian Hostel Beach Club in Waikiki, about two blocks from the south end of the beach, a place that was to become home to me for a few weeks. The temperatures were in the high 80's.

I spent the first few days simply walking around Waikiki, and catching the bus into Honolulu. The World Triple Crown of Surfing was being held at the North Shore during the first week I was in Oahu, and I went up there two days running to see the Pipeline Contest. Although I know nothing about surfing I could appreciate the skill of those involved. There was an amazing finish to the contest. The local boy had just surfed a great wave, just enough to put him in first place, and he had returned to the beach because there was only a few seconds of the competition left. People were running down to the beach to congratulate him when, with literally seconds to spare, an Australian picked up a wave a rode it to win!

Around the 20th December the hostel organised a Luau. A whole pig was wrapped in leaves and cooked over hot stones in a pit dug in the sand on the beach. This was the first time the hostel had done this, and it was I believe a success. It certainly beat BBQ's on the beach back in the UK.

I have taken a few hikes into the hills above Honolulu. On one day a group of us ended up at a place where there was a 40 foot drop into a pool of water. It looked great fun, and I would like to report that I walked to the edge and jumped in. Sadly I am afraid of heights, I walked close to the edge, trembled a bit, spent a couple of minutes moving between thoughts of "yes I can do it" and "no I can't", and in the end did not do it.

On Christmas Day I took an early swim in Waikiki Bay, and then went on a hike. We were supposed to be heading for some pools where we could swim. After about 30 minutes of walking the trail narrowed to a foot wide and got too near the edge of very steep drops for my liking (as I say I am afraid of heights). Therefore I reluctantly told the others to go on without me, and I would wait for their return. An hour later I heard their voices, and was prepared to be recounted with stories of large pools of clear, deep water, and fantastic views. However apparently they didn't find the pools and the only view they had was of a picnic table. I was so glad not to have continued on just to see that!

Maui

On 28 December 1998, I checked into the Northshore Inn Hostel, in Wailuku. It's rather a laid back place, and not in one of the main tourist locations. There is no bus system on Maui, and therefore on the first day I could not do much. The following morning I hired a car from Word of Mouth Rentals, its a bit of a wreck, but reasonably cheap for the week so I can't really complain. I took the popular drive to Hana, this is rather a scenic route, with many tight bends, unfortunately it was raining for most of the day. The following day I drove up the north coast of the Island, the road was even poorer than that to Hana. In fact it was not really mentioned in the guide books and this is probably due to the poor state of the road.

New Years Eve was spent at the hostel, I guess there were about twenty of us celebrating the evening. All in all not a bad evening.

On new years day I drove up to Haleakala crater, supposedly the largest dormant crater in the world. Sadly there were a few too many clouds around to fully appreciate the views, although the sunset was nice I am sure it would have been better with less clouds.

Over the next two days I drove around a little more of the Island, paying a few hours visit to Lahaina, and old whaling town, but now in the center of the tourist industry.

On 3 January a couple of Dutch guys from the hostel, Otto & Matjias, got up early to view the sunset from Haleakala Crater, I decided to go as well. I'm really glad that I did, since the sunrise was spectacular . The weather was much better than on my visit of two days ago, and the colours of the sky as the sun rose were amazing. A few hours later I was able to see much more of the inside of the crater as the sun was higher.

Later on the same day I took a trip out from Lahaina on a yacht to go whale watching. We saw a group of 4 humpback whales about 200m from the boat for about 15 minutes. There were other groups of whales about 0.75km and 3.0km away as well. With the sunrise in the morning and the whales in the afternoon it was a good day.

I spend a few more days lazing around on the beach and doing some snorkeling before leaving for The Big Island.

The Big Island

I'm staying near the Volcano National Park, at Pineapple Park Hostel, about 15 miles out of Hilo, and a quiet place, a car is recommended if you are staying here. On the first two consecutive days I take a trip into the park (having already hired a car). Whilst the main crater was quite spectacular, with steam vents, old lava fields, and sulphur cones, the highlight was the active lava fields. To reach these it is a 20 mile drive from the crater, and then a 3 mile hike over recent lava to where the lava is now entering the sea. The second day was a more spectacular day, the wind was in a better direction, and there was more lava flowing anyway. I stayed until after dark so as to get the best view, but this obviously meant a more difficult walk back to the car.

On the next day I drove around the southern tip of the Island , snorkeling at one beach with 10 green sea turtles, I also visited one of the few remaining historic temple sites on the Island. It was good to actually see some of old Hawaii for a change.

The next day I drove up the east side of the Island, I had intended to stop and hike in the Waipio Valley, but it was raining so I drove on past. As I crossed into the West side of the Island the weather changed to a lovely sunny day, and the landscape became more arid. I stopped off at a temple site, before continuing on to Kona to stay at Patey's Place Hostel. After my week in Maui and the few days in the south of the Big  Island it was strange to be back in an area which was more used to tourists. I snorkelled on a couple of beaches, Kahulu beach in particular had a lot of sea life .

I also drove back up to the Waipio valley. The weather was better, it was a relatively easy walk down to the valley floor 800ft below. I then walked along the valley a short distance to see the waterfalls which were 1,200ft high. The walk back up the valley was more strenuous, I had to admire the two people I passed who were doing it with a full back on their backs.

For my last night I checked back in to the Pineapple Park hostel, the next day I traveled round the SW part of the island, I went to the Lava Tree State Park, which contained some raised pillars of lava where the lava had flowed around some trees. I then went on to a beach where there were some thermal springs, the water was extremely clear and amazingly warm.

Oahu Again

I came back to Oahu mainly to sort out my ticket through Micronesia. I had planned to stay one week, the length of notice required on the Continental Micronesia's ticket.

However once again it was easy to get stuck in to the life at the Polynesian Hostel Beach Club . There are some really great people here, although sadly by 28 January a number have moved on. Special mention must go to Rob (from Liverpool) who was here back in December when I first came and who left a few days ago, Jonny (from everywhere) who has only been here a couple of weeks but has left a great impression on many people, Bruce (from the US) who left us a few weeks ago, and was a great pizza cook, Suzanne (from New Zealand) currently the cook responsible for twice weekly meals at the hostel, and to others not mentioned by name but who have provided great company during my stay. Also to Ben and Amber for managing the hostel.

Whilst on this visit to Oahu I have walked up to the top of Diamond Head, visited the Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbour, and a few days ago went diving in Maunalua Bay. The diving was not particularly spectacular, but there was a good group on the boat and the dive guide was good. It was also nice for me to dive again as it has been about three years since my last dive.