Monday, November 08, 2004

hawaii recap

I culled a small handful of the many, many, many photos we took during our trip to Hawaii to create some sort of a vacation narrative. The pictures have deliberately been loaded kind of small and crappy so that the collective weight of them wouldn't kill your computer. However, if you want to see any of the photos big-like, just click on them and they will magically enlarge by the magic of internet techmology (tm Ali G). Also, if you want to see any of the less snap-shotty, more scenic pictures, check out the photo project for pictures of Oahu and Kauai (parts 1, 2 and 3).

Saturday night, we flew into Honololu on the island of Oahu. Honestly, I don't know if we would have stopped in Oahu at all if it weren't for the fact that it's the only place that ATA flew. Honolulu is very huge and touristy, overrun with t-shirt shops and the like, but for one day, I can handle it. Here's Joe on Waikiki Beach, right in front of our hotel. We stayed at the Sheraton Moana Surfrider, which was at the top limit of our hotel budget, but so worth it after 18 hours of travelling. The best part was their breakfast buffet, which served miso and all manner of Japanese fare in deference to the huge number of Japanese tourists that flock to Hawaii for vacation. (It actually probably took less time for them to fly there than it took for us from New York.)

There's me in the water on Waikiki Beach Sunday morning. I have this thing about swimming in the ocean--namely, that I don't really like it. Big waves freak me out. I don't like unpredicable depths. I'm not really into the thought of fish brushing up against me or seaweed wrapping itself around my appendages. And that's why I look like such a spazmoid in the picture. Notice also the two tiny children playing happily in the ocean about ten times farther out than I am.

There was only one thing I could really think of to do with our day in Honolulu, and that was to go visit the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor. See, there's a battleship--one of the non-sunken ones.

There's Joe looking over the edge at the top of the U.S.S. Arizona, which sank upright. There's only that little part of it poking up above water, I guess that's one of the smoke stacks or something.

In front of the museum, there were a bunch of mushrooms growing in the grass. Probably because there had been so much rain in recent days, but I don't know exactly. What do I look like, a mushroomologist? I told Joe to take a picture of me pretending I had been poisoned.

The next day, we hopped on one of the interisland planes to Kaua'i. The actual flight time itself was only 20 minutes, so I was surprised that they even tried to serve drinks while we were up there. You barely have time to slug it down before they're racing back to tear the cup out of your hands and slam your seat back into it's upright and locked position. And then I remembered that the round-trip tickets cost more than $200 per person. So I realized I was entitled to drinks. Drinks of molten gold with diamonds embedded in each ice cube.

We stayed at a bed and breakfast on Kaua'i right near Poipu Beach. I inexplicably had a hard time pronouncing the name of the beach (I kept saying "Poo-poo") but it's pronounced exactly like it looks: Poy-poo. Right after we checked in, we walked along the shore until sunset. There were sandy parts of the beach too, but there was some interesting wildlife in the rocky tidepools. People kept telling us to look out for sea turtles, but we never saw any.

Tuesday morning, we woke up really early (thanks to jet lag, which turns night people into morning people) and hiked up to the limestone cliffs a short drive from our B&B. We were very agenda-driven on this vacation, which may have been a good or a bad thing, but almost definitely a holdover from work. It was actually our intention to hike along the limestone cliffs the day before, but weren't able to find the trail before it got dark and started to rain. So I insisted that we head back there the next day. It rained a lot in Hawaii, by the way. Probably half the time we were there it was either raining or overcast.

After breakfast, we took a two-hour drive to the north side of the island to take a hike on the Kalalau trail along the famed Napali coast. I don't think it was actually all that far from where we were staying, but there's only one major highway in all of Kaua'i, and the speed limit is only between 20-30 mph along some of the smaller roads. There's Joe pointing to the sign at the trailhead. The sign says 11 miles, but I have to admit, we only hiked four. (I actually don't think you're allowed to do the full 11 mile hike unless you have overnight equipment and get some sort of special permit from the Parks Department.)

There's me at the start of the hike. You can tell it's the beginning because I'm not all muddy yet. Four miles sounds short, but it was actually a really hard hike. Not for the uphill portions, which were actually reasonable, but more for the downhill parts. It had rained the day before and everything was really slippery. If I could have changed one thing about the hike, it would have been that I would have brought a walking stick. Well, I guess Joe could have used one too. So two walking sticks.

The rewarding thing about the hike is that you can really tell that you're making progress. Here we reached the point where we could overlook the beach where the trail started. You can see my ugly-ass Tevas in the picture. I'm glad I bought them though, because any other pair of shoes I would have gotten more upset about raking through the mud.

Finally, we reached the downhill portion of the hike, towards Hanakapiai Beach. Son of a beach! Joe's trying to look all Man of the Mountain, but really, it's hot and tired and more than a little grumpy that he has to carry all the water and food on his back. (I was in charge of the camera.)

There was this little rocky stream that you had to cross before reaching the beach. Some park rangers had helpfully strung a rope across the stream to help with the crossing. At this point, we were really hot and sweaty and looking forward to jumping in the water.

Except that ocean access was strictly forbidden. Apparently the surf is notoriously rough on Hanakapiai, especially in the winter, and there were signs nailed all over the place that we were not even allowed to go near the water. See on that sign, there's that little tally of people who drowned in the past. Apparently, one of the drownees was an Olympic swimmer, but I don't know if that's real or a story that people just tell to keep us away from the surf.

The most perfect think about this beach was that while we couldn't go into the ocean, there was this fairly huge freshwater pool right there on the sand, filled with this beautiful clear mountain runoff. (I assumed it was freshwater because I saw all these tadpoles swimming in it, but I didn't taste it or anything to confirm because I was paranoid about Giardia. You know, those Hawaiian beavers are rampant in the mountains.) So we got to cool off in the end after all, and wash off our feet and shoes. The water only came up to my waist, but I loved it. No waves or seaweed whatsoever.

There's Joe looking at the ocean, keeping a respectful distance. That's a small wave in the picture, but trust me, you'd have to be a lunatic to plunge into that surf, even without all the signs telling you that YOU COULD DIE. It was the most violently churning shore I'd ever seen, and there were huge pointy rocks everywhere.

The next day, we took a kayak trip up the Wailua river. The full original plan was to kayak up the Wailua and take a hike up to the base of the falls, where we could swim and have lunch. Only it didn't quite work out, because (as you may be able to tell from the picture), it was raining fairly hard that day, and the trail was flooded out.

So we kayaked up to the trail head, and then had to turn around and kayak right back. One way was tiring enough. Having to go all the way back without a break was kind of rough. I don't care what people say, that kayaking on a river is easy. It was hard, and I was tired. Luckily, we had tucked some Red Vines in the camera bag for some quick energy. Also luckily, the candy matched my paddle.

Since we couldn't hike to the falls, after we packed up the kayaks we drove to the top of the falls and looked at them from above. But I was peeved that the rain had ruined our plans. Then, after I got over being peeved, we went back to the B&B and napped for 2 hours.

Thursday morning, we did some downhill bike riding along Waimea Canyon . There's me behind the lookout sign, looking out.

There's Joe looking cosmically insignificant next to the mouth of the canyon. Waimea Canyon is billed as the Grand Canyon of Hawaii. And it is kind of like the Grand Canyon. Only smaller. And greener. And with fewer shops selling dreamcatchers and "authentic" silver and turquoise bolo ties.

There's me on the path lower down alongside the canyon. All the dirt on kauai is really red due to the high concentration of ferrous sulfate. One guide tried to tell us that the color was actually due to the high levels of "magnesium" in the soil, but I'm not sure why that would make it look red. Also, he some 18 year-old surfer/stoner-type, so I didn't really trust most of what he was saying anyway.

We finished our Waimea Canyon excursion before noon, so we had time to do some snorkeling along the south shore of the island. This might seem like something I wouldn't be that into doing, what with my general skittishness around the ocean and fish, but I was trying to be adventurous, god dammit. I almost packed it in after I cut my foot on some big pointy piece of coral, but snorkeling was actually surprisingly relaxing.

Fish! We bought one of those disposable waterproof cameras at Snorkel Bob's, where we also rented our snorkel equipment. Unfortunately, most of the shot were wasted on blurry small fish or on pictures of each other's butts. Because we are five years old.

We tried to get in one more snorkle the morning of our departure, but of course, it was raining again. We were about to get in the water anyway, figuring that the cloudy conditions and fewer beachgoers might bring the fish closer to the surface. And then we saw lightening. After running back to the B&B and gloomily watching CNN's post-election coverage for a hour, we checked out and gradually made our way to the airport for our four-part flight back to New York. Here's a picture out the window about 10 minutes prior to landing in Laguardia. And that's the great thing about New York. No matter where you go, and how much fun you have, it's always nice to come back home.

(Of course, I still have a week of vacation left. Joe, who has to return to work today, and is on call tonight, might have different feelings on the matter.)

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