Archives for posts with tag: Hawaii

On our third stop of our recent trip to Hawaii, we visited the island of Maui for a week. Like all the islands in the Hawaiian chain, Maui had plenty of different things to offer. The large slopes of the dormant and imposing volcano of Haleakala in particular offer you many places to explore and experience. We decided one day to visit one of the many botanical gardens on the slopes and the one we chose was the Enchanting Floral Gardens of Kula. It is located about a quarter of the way up to the summit of the volcano, and covers 8 acres. It was quite a change in scenery once you start to climb Haleakala, and the change in altitude brings a change in the climate to one of being more temperate. That shouldn’t have surprised me because we did climb to just over 2,500 feet, but it did and what was the most noticeable change was the amount of greenery in abundance. As the name of the title says this garden was very much focused on flowers. So while my wife, aunt, and son enjoyed (my boy thought that the best part of the trip was jumping on the directional arrows painted on the ground, and then instructing commanding the rest of us which ones were “our” arrows to jump on) the stroll through garden I delighted in the opportunity to capture the natural colour of the blooming flowers and flora. Here are my favourite photos from our walk through the gardens. As usual, all the images will link through to the larger photos on my Flickr site.

This flower is known as a ‘Red Jade’.

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And this next one is the blue version of the same type of flower – the ‘Blue Jade’

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Don’t know the name of this flower. I would love it if someone could tell me its name. Google searching “pink flower” gives me the phone book – it is tough reading phone books.

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This tree was awesome, and I had never seen anything like it. It is known as a ‘Silk Floss Tree’ which is native to South America. It’s spiky trunk reminded me of a rose stem, but this was a full size tree trunk and each of these spikes were the size of a small rose flower.

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This flower was my favourite of all the flowers in the garden – a ‘Red Ginger Lily’

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The purple petals contrasted beautifully against the yellow pistils. Again, my gardening ignorance left me wanting for its name.

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Took me a while to find out the name of this shrub, it is a ‘Coleus’

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The succulent garden had some pretty big plants on display, but I liked the detail of  the leaves and how they created a cage of green on this plant.

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There were many different types and colours of ‘Protea’ on display, and they were the hosts of many small insects. Maybe next time a bit of macro photography might be in order.

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I would recommend a visit to these gardens as we got to see hundreds of different flowers and trees in a brief hour long stroll through the garden. The views over the island of Maui are also a highlight. And from where we were staying in Kihei it was just over 30 minutes of driving to get to.

The best thing that we did on our recent visit to the Big Island of Hawai’i would have to be the dive that my brother organised with Manta Rays. He had chartered a boat for our group specifically which consisted of two of my three brothers, my wife, my brother’s future wife, and a host of their friends. We had got in a bout of sightseeing earlier in the morning and my brother who is based in Melbourne had only flown in the day before and was shattered through minimal sleep on the flight over. But we were all keen, especially my wife who loves getting in the water. We came equipped too, having brought over with us our own snorkels and masks. Furthermore, I had picked up an underwater case for my Canon Powershot G15. I had owned one of these before for a previous model Canon Ixus 430, which was a good little camera that I still have up my sleeve. It will probably end up being one of the Pok’s first cameras to play around with. Off we trekked in the Chevy Suburban hire car to the dive shop.

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The guys and girls from Big Island Divers were very professional from the start and this reassured us that we were going to be in good hands for the boat ride and subsequent dive. The plan was to go to a spot where they knew the Manta Rays were regular visitors, then we were to embark on two dives – one in the afternoon and then one at night. This was going to be cool! We got fitted with wetsuits and flippers in addition to our own kit. My brother and his future wife were going to do a full SCUBA dive, so they got kitted up for that too. After the mandatory waivers (i.e. you are about to do something that is potentially threatening to your health – got it!) we headed off to the marina to meet up with our boat and her crew. Quite a few of us were starving, so I picked up a snack – this would later prove to be an error of judgement on my part. Unfortunately for me I get sea-sick easily, and I had forgotten to take motion sickness tablets early enough for them to kick in. I don’t get motion sickness when I am at the helm of whatever vehicle, but a bobbing boat definitely throws me. I also challenge one of my comfort zones when I go diving, because I do get anxious every time when I go underwater and especially in the open ocean. But all of that was not going to stop us.

To the Ocean

The dive site was not too far away from the Marina, at about 5 nautical miles distance. Where we were stopping was pretty much just off the coast of the Kona Airport runway – the Southern end. It was strange seeing the solidified lava field flows where they met the ocean, and the resulting sharp coastal rock formations. Our boat trip out to the dive spot was escorted by several pods of dolphins which came quite close to the sides of your boat, and no doubt underneath our boat. The only shot I managed to get of them was when we pulled up to the dive spot.

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These dolphins would later on end up jolting a manta ray out of the ocean, with the ray shooting up a couple of feet above the sea like a flying bat out of hell.

Our boat crew proceeded to tell us about what we would experience as we suited up. This was where my dive experience would start to take a turn for the worse. As I zipped up my wetsuit my body temperature soared. I was starting to get hot before I had even jumped into the water. In hindsight, I should have just dived into the water in my board shorts. It took a while to see any fish, and the ocean bed was about 5-6m below the water surface. When they finally did come out and play from their coral hideaways they certainly put on quite a show. It was difficult with the underwater camera bobbing up and down on the surface get them in focus. The afternoon was overcast, so even though the visibility was good, the light could have been brighter. My favourite fishes were the ones that I captured in the photos below. The black one was cool, because what doesn’t come out in the photo is that he swims flat with the fins on either side of the silver lines flapping like wings.

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After about 15 minutes in the water, somebody spotted our first ray and off we all went to hover above them. This was an awesome experience, a combination of excitement and a little bit of fear. Even though the guys from Big Island Divers told us that they weren’t dangerous, seeing a ray for the first time in the water is pretty awe inspiring. The first one we saw was huge, at least 4 metres in diameter with its wings graciously moving through the ocean. I had given the camera to my wife to get some shots and missed what was the highlight of my outing when the ray turned up and headed directly for me with its mouth gaping open widely. It was feeding on the plankton between me on the surface and it on the ocean floor. The colours of its skin were beautifully shaded in dark hues of deep blue and grey.

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My wife was giddy as a school kid in the water, which is how she is whenever we go snorkeling or diving. She would swim up behind me a pull on my flipper to excitedly point out another fish as if she was the only one in the water and I couldn’t see. I managed to get a good shot of her in the water reveling in the bubbles from my brother who was SCUBA diving below.

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By this stage, I was going down for the count. I had unzipped the back of my wetsuit just so I could get cool water flowing through to my body. I pulled the pin and headed back to the boat, having succumbed to sea-sickness from all the bobbing on the surface. Unfortunately I would not get back in the water again, spending the rest of the night trying not to worship the porcelain god.

The Night Dive

This is where the rest of the night would be the experience of my wife and brother Marc. There were six of us struggling with sea sickness, including the soon to be married couple. In fact, my brother Daniel threw up in his SCUBA mouth breathing apparatus – poor bugger. The guys on the boat proceed to explain to us a bit about the manta ray and what we as humans knew about them. They told us how for the night dive they would be shining torches down into the water from the surface. This was to attract the plankton which in turn would attract the rays to feed. They would also come very close to the people in the water, but largely ignore them. So with camera in hand, my wife returned for the second leg, and managed to get some amazing photos. Both my wife and the rest of our crew all came out of the water with grins from ear-to-ear. My wife proceeded to explain to me who close they had come to her, sometimes within a foot and then turning away. They would perform loop after loop through the water constantly scooping in plankton. Here was the best shot, though in the dark light the camera was really struggling for focus.

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The unique markings of manta rays are denoted by not only their skin colouration but also their birth marks on the underside of their torsos. This is how the marine biologists keep track of the populations.

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The best part about the dive was the video my wife took. Here is her attempt at a bit of movie production. Not bad for a first go, and I wish I had the stomach to get back in the water.

This had to be one of the highlights of all of my travels – it was an awesome dive. Thank to the guys at Big Island Divers, who really took care of us throughout the whole night and made the experience even better dealing with a professional and knowledgeable crew. If you ever get the change to go diving with manta rays in Hawai’i, I definitely recommend going with these guys.

Our second stop on our Hawaii island hopping trip was the Big Island of Hawaii. The guidebook (yes I still do pick them up to get a point of reference) told me that Big Island’s area covers the area of all the other islands combined. So we were going to be in for a bit of driving. I did not know what to expect, as all I really knew about the island was a few things; it had cool volcanoes and one that was still active, it had Mauna Kea which is technically the tallest mountain in the world if measured from it’s base on the ocean floor (at over 40,000 feet it is taller than Mount Everest), there are the Koch observatories at top of Mauna Kea, and they do the Hawaiian Ironman triathlon there too.

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All cool things things to set the scene. I didn’t realise that it was from the Big Island that King Kamehameha I was born and set out to unite all the islands into the Kingdom of Hawaii. We did have a lot of fun trying to learn the pronunciation of his name.

Flying into the Big Island airport of Kona is one cool experience! They have carved the runways and airport complex out on a lava field on the Western side of the island. It is kinda spooky and otherworldly being on such a barren rocky landscape. My boy, The Pok, was a little awestruck at the sight – taking it all in. After picking up our bags, we went to get the rental car that we would be needing for the stay. At this point I tried to convinced my wife to revel in the fact that we were in the USA and upgrade our ride to a Chevy Suburban! My Father had no idea what I was referring to until he was shown the big black beast in the car park. I even tried the argument that we could drive over lava in it. What won the day was the luggage capacity – the Suburban was mine… well at least for 3 days.

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I wonder if this thing could drive over lava, definitely over small children.

As soon as we got out of the airport I realised why cyclists love the Big Island so much. The main roads had massively wide shoulders that were super-smooth like glass for miles and miles on end. The kind of stuff that us cyclists have dreams about (sad – I know). Driving along you get a sense of the scale of the island. Big Island as the name says is big. The western side of the island is also quite dry, as a result of the weather break caused by the two massive peaks of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. We stayed at the resort village of Waikoloa, which is pleasant but could be anywhere – except for golf courses which have lava fields for the rough. Waikoloa proved to be a good base to explore many of the sites on the Western side of the island. We pretty much relaxed for the first day and night allowing me to indulge in a bit of photography and tasting what would become my favourite Hawaiian dish – kalua pork loco moco. I don’t do photos of food, but here is the my attempt at a bit of photography art at dusk. The first night we were there was also when my brother and all his mates arrived from Canada for his wedding, and we did savour a few cocktails at the Marriott Hotel at Waikoloa.

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The North of Big Island

The second day we had planned two stops for our travels. First stop was Pololu Valley up North which was used as one of the locations for shooting Jurassic Park. The second stop would be night diving with manta rays (my next Hawaii post). The drive up to Pololu Valley took us through the town of Kapa’au This is where they have one of the three statues of King Kamehameha I who was the one who united (probably through lots of bloodshed) all the islands into a single kingdom.

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Pololu Valley itself is stunning, and it is one that I would like to come back to with hiking boots on. You are greeted with rock cliffs dropping into the ocean from the Kohala Mountains. I don’t think that any photo that I could take would do these cliffs justice. The valley is surreal, and lush, and inviting, with cloud resting on the shoulders of the valley. I can see why Spielberg and his crew would have chosen this location.

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Driving back along the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway made me jealous as I wanted to be out on the road on two wheels. Did I say that the highway is a cyclist’s paradise, with a massively wide road shoulder and super smooth tarmac for miles, and miles, and miles. This was probably one of the worst sections of road. I am definitely going back to spin some wheels!

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To the Volcanoes We Go!

The third day we took off to check out Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. From Waikoloa there is no direct route down to the South-West of the island where the park is located. So we knew were going to be in for a bit of a road trip – translation a few hundred kilometres of driving. We had a convoy of 5 cars with my brother, his fiance, and their mates along with one of my other brothers and my whole family (old people included). Heading South along the Western coast of the island the route took us through the Kailua-Kona region of the island. This is the world famous coffee growing belt of Hawaii. But it was not coffee that stopped us on the way – it was one of our crew’s yearning for Donkey Balls. That’s right, chocolate Donkey Balls – which are made there right in the store. There is every kind of tasty chocolate that you could imagine, and the packaging is a bit cheeky too. They also sell coffee – but we ALL stocked up on chocolate to fuel us for the trip. If you are driving through Kailua Kona, then I highly recommend anyone to pullover and taste.

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We continued driving along the Kona Coast for at least 100km constantly crossing old lava fields that had descended down from Mauna Loa and the Southwest Rift Zone to ocean. This part of the island is very green and the views from the highway down to the coast line are uninterrupted. Passing the town of Ocean View, we drove another 50km or so until we reached Punalu’u Beach. Our GPS unit told us to stop here and see the black volcanic sand beach, and if we were lucky some Green Sea Turtles. We were in luck, and the beach was beautiful – if not strange for its black sand. The sand is actually ground down volcanic rock that over the millenia has been eroded down to fine crystals. There were quite a few turtles swimming off the shoreline and a few up on the beach. Fortunately there were conservationists there as well to protect the turtles, who didn’t move as slowly as everyone makes them out to do.

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The National Park was only another 50km east of the beach and we set off again. Entry to the Park is cheap at $10 a car, which lasts for seven days. The Park includes the currently active Kilauea Caldera, where you can get close enough but at a safe distance from the open crater. Apparently at night there is an orange glow into the sky emitting from the caldera. Seeing an active volcano for the first time made me feel… small. It puts you in your place seeing the immense size of the caldera and what must have been an even larger active crater which it sits in. And it looked like the surface of the moon.

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You can see in the photo above the people walking on the crater bed, dwarfed by the immense landscape.

Further along within the park there are many hiking trails where you can walk through an old lava tunnel – minus the lava, and green forest trails. The Pok was having fun being in “the jungle” again, and this time he got to share it with his grandpare (my father). Even the fern fronds were massive, the one below in the photo was the size of my head.

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We hopped back in the cars to travel a bit further and see if we could see the lava fields at Kalapana which are dropping into the ocean. To get there we had to drive up to just South of Hilo and then drive back down to the coast. As we got close to the fields, the road turned into a jumbled mess of asphalt and lava – which was as close as I was going to get to driving on lava. Again I was left in awe of the size of the flows down the mountain side from the Kilauea Caldera. What shocked me were all the houses where the flow had just avoided the properties, but found a way around or across the roads that lead up to them. It was bizarre, but I guess if you made your home there then why move – this was their reality. By the way, did I say that lava looks cool?

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We waited until night fell to see if we could get some lava glowing on the river of rock – but it was a bit disappointing. All the tourist videos showing you the rivers of molten magma are epic, but you have to pay a lot of money and be fortunate enough to be there when the volcanic activity is roaring.

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I did try my hand at a HDR photo using my Canon Powershot G15, it works well for an in-camera driven setting.

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I think that next time we go to the Big Island, and there will definitely be a next time, we will take one of the ocean boat cruises that takes you to the ocean side of where the lava drops into the ocean. The tourism videos are the very best of the volcanoes that you could possibly see, but you are unlikely to experience this stuff unless you are a volcanologist or pro-photographer.

The drive back to Waikoloa was at night and the quickest route back was via Hilo and via the Saddle Road. Contrary to what the guide book says, they have just finished paving the Eastern side up Mauna Kea to almost freeway quality tarmac. The road takes you up to over 8,000 feet of elevation and that night took us up over the cloud line. As we reached the summit of the road just South of the Mauna Kea peak, we pulled over to get a glimpse of the heavens. One word – STUNNING. I have never seen so many stars in the night sky so clearly. My wife absolutely loved it too, but for all of us who hopped out of the car we just about nearly froze. The temperature difference between the coast and the Mauna Kea mountain side is close to 25 degrees Celsius. It was a long day in the car, but definitely worth it.

There are so many other things that we now want to do having seen what was on offer. The Big Island is one cool place which we can’t wait to go back to explore further.

Since coming back from Hawaii I have started a new job and been pretty time poor with normal life. So now I am settled it to the new role, I can get back to posting again and get some more kilometres down on two wheels. Back to the real world.

 

Going to Pearl Harbor is a strange experience. There have been so many books, documentaries, and movies about this place and the surprise Japanese attack in 1941 that dragged the United States formally into World War II that it should not be a tourist destination of surprises. But for all I knew about it my travel companions; my wife (not so much) and son, my parents, and my grandmother were not so informed. For them (my wife excluded) the place was a journey of discovery.

Getting there from Waikiki Beach without a hire car proved to be very easy. We simply jumped on the number 42 bus and 40 minutes later were delivered to the Naval Base. It should be noted, Pearl Harbor is still an active Naval Base with the associated restrictions that go with it. My mother was shocked that we were not allowed to take our bags into the site. She even wanted to argue with someone about it (at which point I thought that throwing her into the brig for a few hours of solitary confinement may teach her some sense – then again no chance). After her initial call to arms, we eventually headed into the memorial site.

Another tip for the uneducated traveller, if you want to visit the USS Arizona memorial then you have to get there early and book your place. There are only a limited number of places each day, so if you get there after 10am there is a good chance that you have missed out. To be honest I am glad that we did miss out. I know I would have felt that hollow feeling of walking on a grave site, a place where over 1,000 soldiers perished in the sinking of the battleship. So seeing in person the white memorial from a distance was good enough for me. We ended up buying tickets to see the USS Bowfin submarine, USS Missouri battleship, and the Pacific Aviation Museum. This would turn out to be a very interesting and surprising trip.

The USS Bowfin

The World War II US Navy submarine the USS Bowfin is a museum that is maintained to the same condition as its time period. The tickets allowed us to descend into the very bowels of the ship to briefly experience life as a submariner (minus enemy torpedos, depth charges, and other smelly submariners). After boarding on the deck, you are quickly into the forward torpedo tubes. The light and the different coloured metals was surreal, and with the only natural light coming from the open hatches. As you walk back through the ship, the officer’s quarters, mess hall, crew quarters, bridge, and engine room are all preserved and laid out like they would have been during the ship’s service. Swinging a cat is definitely off the agenda here, and even walking through the bulk heads is an adventure in contortion – camera bag banging as I walked through. All the machinery and controls from the era are all in place too. Walking through here was… fun. I was like a little kid on a boat, and in some rooms I had it all to myself. Climbing back onto the deck via the aft torpedo tubes, just to remind you that this boat had a deadly intent, you arrive back again to daylight and the conning tower. The USS Arizona and the USS Missouri are across the water from the deck guns that watch protectively over the harbor. I had to wait for my wife and father to tour the submarine as we had to take turns taking care of the Pok – who loved all the “rockets” (translation missiles) that were on display. A couple of hot dogs in the belly and then it was off by bus to the USS Missouri

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The USS Missouri

This was not the first time that I had been on the Mighty Mo, I had been on her decks before in Sydney Harbour for the Royal Australian Navy’s 75th birthday celebrations. Back then she was still an active ship, but was not long for decommissioning. But even as we approached the ship, I was still awestruck by her size. She is one big, mean, bad-ass boat. With those nine massive 16″ cannons bristling on her deck you can’t help but feel in awe of her capacity to deal out some punishment. The Pok was able to board this ship with us, though climbing up the ramp with him on my shoulders was not what I was expecting. He did want to salute the captain when he boarded the ship, which amused the tour guides. Our tour guide was a young woman who was still at university and she was great. She was full of enthusiasm, and very knowledgeable about the ship and its history. The Mighty Mo had a very different feel from the Bowfin in that it had been retrofitted with modern weapons systems for when it went back into service for the second time. There were launch tubes for Tomahawk cruise missiles, Vulcan Phalanx anti-air turrets, and the main tower was bristling with modern tracking systems. But the real prize to visit when on the Missouri is the spot where the Japanese Imperial military forces signed the treaty to end the war. The story about this moment in history is quite interesting, particularly the bit about how they could not find a table suitable for the day of the signing. Did I say before that this ship was big? Our group was getting tired and we still had one more site to visit.

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The Pacific Aviation Museum

Another quick bus trip to a couple of hangars at the back of the base and you reach the Pacific Aviation Museum. As a lover of all things that fly, I dragged my family to this site. It was definitely less crowded here and for those who skip this destination you really miss out. After all, the naval war in the pacific was fought in large part by the aviation arms of the respective navies. In the first hangar, you are greeted by the sight of a Japanese Mitsubishi Zero fighter bomber plane. Almost in response to the Japanese plane hanging from the ceiling is a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk. Further inside is one of the few surviving Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers which were famous for their role in the battle of Midway. Yes, I was nerding out a bit seeing all these beautiful old flying machines but my son was enjoying it too. The second hangar, which I think even a few of the visitors to the first missed out on was for me the highlight of the trip. This is where all the fighter jets and helicopters were and this collection was even better. Greeting you on entrance to this hangar is a Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 opposed by the North American F-86 Sabre from the Korean War, when jets were deadly simple. As I turned to look at the rest of the hangar, I was surprised to see an uber fast Lockheed F-104 Starfighter sitting on the deck with its wings detached, which was famous to me from when Chuck Yeager tried to set the world record for altitude but exceeded its limits and narrowly avoided death in the ensuing crash. The highlight of my whole trip was talking to one of the museum attendants about the the “Starfighter”. As it turned out, it had just arrived that morning and all the attendants were swarming over it. All the attendants are retired ex-USAF engineers who maintained planes throughout their careers. They continue their labour of love into retirement, and I think they have got it worked out. Why go to a retirement village when you can hang out with other blokes and have fun fixing planes. I was pleasantly surprised to see a Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 on the deck, the first that I had ever seen in the flesh, and then a flight capable McDonnell-Douglas F15A and Grumman F14 parked further down. I could go on, but all I can say is go visit this small museum and you will be well surprised at the quality of the displays on exhibition.

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Our first stop on our trip to Hawaii was the island of Oahu. For us Australians, we don’t have many flight choices other than to land at Honolulu. This island was also to be our final destination as well. The flight from Sydney to Honolulu was a 10 hour red-eye, and thank goodness that the Pok (AKA my son) slept for a good portion of the trip. This also meant that he got into the Hawaiian islands timezone straight away. My parents were travelling with us as the raison d’être  for the trip was my youngest brother’s wedding. They sat in the row behind us on the flight and it was great having another set of “babysitters”. I didn’t realise that this was also the first time that my father had been to the United States, so it was all going to be new for him. As we came into land, I was surprised at how high the lush green mountain ridge line looming on the Northern end of Honolulu was. We arrived at Hawaii!

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Oahu is probably the island I knew the most about, having seen many photos, TV shows, and movies all based around Honolulu and Waikiki. But my strangest familiarity was from the taxi ride to our hotel at the Western end of Waikiki. I was familiar with the roads, from a computer game of all things. Back in 2007 there was a game released for the original Playstation Portable called “Test Drive Unlimited”, which was set on the island of Oahu. Not only was this game set on the island, but it was accurate with the road layout gained from satellite map data coupled with the lane widths and intersections. It was a very weird sense of deja vu. We arrived early to our hotel on the first day and that gave us the opportunity to ease into Waikiki. Lunch at a bar on Waikiki which had all of its doors and windows gloriously open to the outdoors would set the tone for the next two and a half weeks. And there were gardens EVERYWHERE, with flowers of all kinds in bloom. This got my son quite excited as he had been looking forward to seeing a “hula hibiscus” that Minnie Mouse searches for in an episode of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (if you are a parent of a two year old you will understand).

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The first place that we stayed at was the Ilikai Hotel and Suites, which is where the opening scenes to the original Hawaii Five-O were filmed – you know the one where the camera zooms into Jack Lord standing on the balcony. You can hire that suite if you want, but it will cost you. Unfortunately Jack Lord was nowhere to be seen.

 

It is an old hotel by the rest of the Waikiki residential standards, but a good portion of the suites have been updated to modern standards so we were quite happy with where we stayed. It is located on the Western side of the Waikiki beach strip, but a great location for anyone with families as there is a very large lagoon within a quick walk out the back of the hotel that is safe for children to safely swim in without any fear of being wiped out by a wave. From here you are also within walking distance to many of the shops and restaurants including the Ala Moana shopping mall. Below was the view from our balcony at around half an hour after sunset.

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A night with Friends in Oahu

Our first night in Oahu was to be spent with an old work colleague Shannon from Sydney (well originally she is from New Zealand), who met the man of her dreams Dave who is in the US Army and has been posted in Hawaii for a few years now. They were set to depart on return to the mainland in a couple of days for Dave’s next posting. Shannon and Dave to my wife and I on a drive to the South Western side of the island near Ko Olina to watch the sun set over the ocean and grab a great bite to eat. We had a fun night telling stories and talking about old adventures. Dave gave us plenty of tips for our trip, and provided me with more items to add to the travel bucket list – more for next time. For Shannon, the move was going to be a big change but she was looking forward to it with optimism and happiness. Thanks guys for the wonderful night out and hopefully we will catch up with you again in the future on the mainland.

Surfing Longboard on Waikiki

While at Waikiki, I told my wife that I had to try my hand at a long board and hit the surf. I woke up early one of the morning and headed out to the beach. There were already a load of surfers out past the break. This was to be the second time I had tried my hand at surfing, but I have had years of experience on a body board in the Sydney surf. But I didn’t realise how out of practice my paddling muscles were. I picked up a 10 foot board and paddled out through the break. A big board is a big piece to get moving, and I underestimated how much energy I would need to catch the waves. 30 minutes into my 1 hour hire I was totally shattered. I had caught onto three waves by that stage, but hadn’t stood up. The first time I stood up, I wobbled and then proceeded to fall backwards into the water. The second time I stood up I was too far back and lasted maybe 5 seconds before falling off the back of the board, while it continued in the broken surf for another 25m or so. The third time I nailed it! I got up and was planted and it was AWESOME! I rode the wave for maybe 15 seconds before the wave petered out and I dived off the board. I managed to catch one more wave but my energy was totally sapped. Seven waves in all in a 1 – 2 foot swell. I was chuffed but totally exhausted. When a couple of the locals saw me walking back in my board shorts they nodded the greetings of the morning, all I could return back was the shaka sign and a big grin.

Waikiki Beach

It may not be the best beach in the world, but it is certainly one of the most famous. And it has got a lot going for it with surf, snorkeling, dining, and shops all nearby. We spent a few days laid out on the beach soaking up the sun and a couple of nights eating by beach side. The second place we stayed at was the Outrigger Reef Hotel and it has a great restaurant, the Shore Bird Restaurant & Beach Bar, located right on the beach with views to Diamond Head. You get to cook your own steak and feast on an assortment of buffet goodies. I had an interesting experience where a couple of drunk (more like hammered) freeloading girls tried to waltz up to the grill and steal my steak and ribs – to which the restaurant staff quickly evicted them.

Very weird.

With the Diamond Head volcano in the distance and great sunset views, it is hard not to like Waikiki. It is easy to be a holiday maker here.

Oahu Honolulu - #1

Oahu Honolulu - #6

Oahu Honolulu - #7

Oahu Honolulu - #3

And our boy loved digging up big holes in the beach for him to jump into and request to be buried. This resulted in sand getting into him everywhere, which is an interesting experience when cleaning up your child. He discovered a discarded yellow spade that would end up coming with us on the rest of the trip. When I explained to him that Diamond Head was a volcano, he was a bit confused. This would come in handy later in the trip for when he played up and I would threaten to throw him into the volcano. This is still working for the moment.

Oahu Honolulu - #5

If you are lucky, you might chance an impromptu hula show encouraging you to attend the many Luaus that are present at the hotels and resorts. My son was giddy with excitement when he saw the performers dancing and proceeded to shake his hips. He was having a good time already, and nothing makes me happier than seeing him happy.

Oahu Honolulu - #4

Even the evenings on Waikiki are special

Oahu Honolulu - #8

Honolulu was the base for us to journey to Pearl Harbor, but that is for the following post. For now, I am going to keep unpacking the bags and get settled back into normal life. Missing Hawaii already, but in Honolulu I got the chance to knock off two of my travel bucket list items for the trip.

It has been a few weeks now disconnected and on vacation in Hawaii. What a trip it was! We saw and did some amazing things while there, and got to enjoy my brother and now sister-in-law’s wedding. I arrived back in Sydney yesterday afternoon to dreary weather and now rain soaked streets – so I am already in the throngs of travel withdrawal. My wife has said that I turned to being grumpy on the plane, she noticed the withdrawal in action.

The Pok (AKA my son) had a great time, and even the turbulent landing into Sydney airport cheered him up. While he slept for a good portion of the 10+ hour trip, he was wide awake and itching in his chair for the last 2 hours of the trip. When we hit our holding pattern over Sydney and were getting jolted around, the Pok started squealing giddily like a 2 year old does in excitement. Every time the jolting eased up, he would yell “can we do it again?” After about the 10th time, I told him he had to ask the captain of the plane – to which he responded at the top of his voice “Captain, can we do it again?” At least it calmed the nerves of all the passengers within 20 rows of us who don’t like turbulence.

Pok Flying Sleeping

 

BTW – if any parent is wondering what that special seatbelt thing is around him, it is a CARES harness and it was awesome. My wife bought it from a mother in Honolulu who children had outgrown it and it fits over the seat , but within the space of the tray on the back of the seat. It is FAA approved and he seemed reasonably content with it. There were only two catches to it; it doesn’t provide much head support when your little one drops off to sleep, and we were lucky that I had my parents behind us (otherwise it would have taken some negotiation with the air crew and the passengers immediately behind your child to install it). And yes, he stole my wife’s noise cancelling headphones.

We are definitely going back to Hawaii. I didn’t knock off everything on the travel bucket list, and discovered a whole lot more. Sure Honolulu is a tourist kitsch destination, but if all your holiday is to stay in a hotel and roast on Waikiki beach then you have fallen into the trap. There was so much to do just in Honolulu, but the best was getting away from the city and Oahu island.

For today, while I download all my photos and video this post is going to finish off with this sunset (to remember the many others that I will miss over the ocean). Well worth the 20 hours of flying.

Oahu Sunset

My trip to Hawaii is less than a week away now, and I am pumped. My brother’s future brother in-law has spurred me on and hired a road bike for the week in Maui. I have done the same, and now I am looking forward to doing some cool riding on the island. I am going to have to bring my pedals from my road bike along with my riding kit. As this is my first time to Hawaii, I have been doing some reading up on other blogger experiences of riding in Maui. It is some very interesting reading, particularly reading people’s accounts of climbing the Haleakala volcano – the longest climb in the world. At over 3000m, I don’t have the legs at the moment to attempt this ride, nor probably the time. Ryder Hesjedal, the Canadian pro-peloton rider and current Giro d’Italia champion holds the record at some 2 hr 32 min. But that was a ridiculous ride, where he pumped out over 350W of power for the whole climb. Most of the other cyclists that I am reading about are doing it somewhere between 4-6 hours. Below is the video of the Ryder’s assault on the Volcano in an attempt to beat his boss Jonathan Vaughters then record.

But I am getting the kms in the legs. I have racked up a couple of 60km rides and regularly now churning out a couple of quick 40km spins during the week too. I love this time of year riding in Sydney, perfect weather and fewer riders, walkers, and runners out on my routes. If I ever decide to go for a night spin now there are few people around the traps.

But back to my Maui riding coming up. The big gotcha that a lot of the cyclists talk about is the huge tradewinds that blow across the island pretty consistently. What they most talk about is planning the rides so that the routes are mostly in the shadow of the two volcanoes. It might take a bit of driving to get to the start of some of the rides, but it beats riding into the ridiculous headwinds that these tradewinds produce on a return leg. There are some fairly good roads, and a few that follow the coastline too. I am looking to get in quite a few long rides and hopefully a bit of climbing too. While Haleakala might be out of the question, there may be hope to ride some of the valleys up Puu Kukui. Here is hoping for 7 days of sunshine, cool weather and glass smooth roads (though I will settle for 7 days of good riding).

Maui tradewinds

One other thing that I am pumped for is my favourite organised ride of the year (even if it is the shortest), the Ride around the Lake down at Lake Illawarra. At only 40km long I am going to try and smash it, and believe I have the legs for it this year to have a bit of fun. I got a 42km ride in this morning with one of my riding buddies MG and felt some good power in the legs. I just need to shake off my annoying congested lungs.

I can’t wait to fly out next week!

So we are counting down the days to our first trip to Hawaii! My brother who lives in Toronto, Canada with his Fiance are getting married halfway between Canada and Australia. We are so pumped as we are looking forward to not only the wedding but a trip to what looks like an awesome place.

The Pok (aka our son) is also pumped for the trip. He has been running around asking us whether today we are going to “Hawawi”. Yes he has difficulty pronouncing it. But he knows that we have to fly on a plane to get there. It will be funny to see him at the airport towing his carry-on bag to go to the gate.

To the Islands We Go!

What do we have planned? Well we are going to see three of the islands. O’ahu, Maui, and Hawai’i islands and it is going to be a blast. The main part of our trip will be in Maui where we will be staying for a week, but we are spending a sufficient amount of time on the other two islands. I have been zooming in and out of the islands on Google Earth to check out what the landscape looks like from satellite.

Hawaii - Google Earth

In the last couple of months now I have seen two documentaries on National Geographic channel about the Big Island of Hawai’i. Bob Ballard did an undersea documentary about the burgeoning volcanic island off the cost of the Big Island. He also recounted an interesting fact that I was unaware of, that the volcano on Big Island measured from the base of the sea floor is the tallest mountain in the world – surpassing Everest by a significant amount.

What is on the ‘Bucket List’

When we knew we were going to Hawaii, my wife asked me “what do you want to do when we go?” The first thing and only thing that I responded with was “mountain bike down a volcano!” Of course, my travelling desires have expanded since that conversation and we are planning to do a number of things rain, hail, or shine. So here is the list (in no particular order):

1. Mountain bike down a volcano (on Maui)

2. Photograph lava flowing into the ocean (on Big Island)

3. Go deep sea fishing off the coast (at Maui or Big Island)

4. Visit the memorial of the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor (in Honolulu)

5. Go snorkeling off the coast (at Maui)

6. Attend a Luau with my family (on Maui)

7. See the natural tropical forests on the islands (Maui or Big Island)

8. Surf longboard at Waikiki Beach (on Honolulu)

9. Catch up with an old work colleague who married her Army beau before they both leave Honolulu

10. Visit the observatory at the top of the volcano on Big Island.

There are probably a few other things I will add to the list, but for now, these are the must dos. I did forget one though – relax and enjoy the company of my family.

Misconceptions of Hawaii

This is where I my expectations are likely to be significantly shattered. One of the few TV shows I try to watch every week is Hawaii Five-O. I know it is corny, and most of the story lines are far fetched – but have you seen the location of the show! Plus if fellow Aussie Alex O’Loughlin thinks it is a good idea to run around the islands then it has gotta be good. But I reckon there is absolutely no chance of significant crime going down – with McGarret and Danno to the rescue – while we are there (at least I hope not).

Hawaii Five-O wallpaper

What is probably more plausible is family shenanigans going down like in ‘The Descendants’. Although you will not find me running around like George Clooney in the movie.

The Descendants - George Clooney

What I do hope is that we have some moments like this from the film, taking in the stunning scenery of the islands – even if we are not going to Kauai.

The Descendants - valley at Kauai

My One Fear

I only have one fear about this trip… that I will want to stay. Aloha Hawaii, we are coming to visit you!

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