Hello everyone, apologies for being away so long but it’s been increasingly difficult to find the time or a place to use the internet. However, we have now purchased a tiny Acer laptop so that we can write blogs as we do things and use the internet each night in our motels. We reckon we’ll save so much money and time this way – let’s hope so!
So right now we are in Lone Star State, Texas – in a motel in Austin and I’m going to attempt to write my latest blog. So let me back up a few weeks to when we landed in Honolulu from Fiji and start from there.
Our flight from Nadi to Honolulu was 6 hours long and we arrived in Honolulu 6 hours later at 3am our time. I must point out at this time that we left Fiji on Friday April 24th at 9 o’clock in the evening and landed in Honolulu on Friday April 24th at 5 o’clock in the morning! Don’t get it? Well, we crossed the International Timeline and therefore gained a whole day which completely worked to our advantage as it meant we got an extra day to spend on the mainland and in Honolulu.
Hawaii (actually spelt Hawai’i and pronounced Hawai’e with a break between the i’s and the end ‘i’ sounding an ‘e’ ) is stunning, although I must admit whatever you think it would look like, it doesn’t, trust me. I was imagining all beaches, palm trees, bright blue sea, people in Hawaiian shirts and bikinis all day. The islands off O’ahu (the mainland) are but O’ahu is a real mix of all that plus high class, exclusive parts with posh and famous residents and lots and lots of tourists!
After landing, we took a very expensive taxi to our very cheap hotel we found on lastminute.com and were told we couldn’t check in until 2pm. It was 6am, so we wearily walked to the nearest bus stop and caught a bus to Pearl Harbor to see the USS Arizona Memorial. I had no idea what to expect and was pleasantly surprised. The whole experience is free but they happily take donations to help fund the site and various charities helping the armed forces and their families. First you watch a 10 minute video on the events leading up to the attack on the harbor explaining how and why the USA got involved in WWII and then you are taken on a boat across to the actual memorial site which is a type of bridge like platform that sits directly over the USS Arizona, entombing 400+ US Navy and other forces personnel. This part is incredibly humbling and somber, with many of the (American) visitors taking off their caps, walking in silence and remembering family members, friends or fellow Americans who were aboard during the attack or who died during the war. The memorial also houses a wall remembering all the men who died during the attack on the harbor. Looking down into the water you can see the ship in quite scary detail, and oil that still escapes from the ship sits on the water’s surface making it seem still alive inside.
After returning to the main building we walked around the small museum that holds replicas of the ships that were sunk, items that were recovered from the wreckages and personal belongings and letters from servicemen. They also show letters that families received telling them that their loved ones had been killed. Outside the museum were 4 retired servicemen who survived the attack and are there to sign books and share stories with visitors and people paying their respects. All in all it was quite an emotional couple of hours really.
That afternoon, in the beautiful sunshine, we took a walk down Waikiki ‘high street’. Waikiki is the incredibly up market part of Hawaii with shops such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Tiffany, etc etc. Although they also have Gap, American Apparel and such, the area is mainly for the rich and famous. They also have a fabulous market set among beautiful trees just off this road , with stalls selling beautiful jewelry, clothing and souvenirs. Further down is Waikiki beach which is home to many surfers and sun worshipers in Prada wetsuits and Ralph Lauren bikinis!! Suddenly my cheap H&M swimming trunks didn’t seem like a great idea!!!
After lots of window shopping and purchasing, well nothing, we finally checked into our room and found possibly the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. The remote control for our TV was the size of an A4 pad! I actually needed two hands to hold it. This kept us entertained for a while!!!
The next day we got the bus back to Honolulu airport to catch our flight to Maui. It was a tiny plane which only held 40 people. It was so small our ‘stewardess’ was only 5 foot tall. Honestly, anyone taller would have a serious back problem after their first day! We thundered down the runway and took off like an albatross off to find his dinner. It was very quick and smooth, until we got to 12 thousand feet (the highest we would go) and the wind picked up. It was like being on a channel ferry crossing. The plane was tipping side to side, you felt every bump and when the wheels came down for landing some 12 minutes later(!) it felt like the bottom of the plane was going to fall off. But we landed safely and Sally began starting her plan on how she would swim back to Honolulu to avoid having to endure that flight for a second time (she is slightly frightened of flying).
After landing on the island of Maui , we found a cheap shuttle bus to take us to our hotel which again we found on lastminute.com for a wonderfully cheap price. Larry, our incredibly loud and talkative but very nice driver, gave us a guided tour of the island on the way. The island is fascinating and has the second wettest area (uninhabited) in the world which helps keep the island so lush and fruitful. There is also an active volcano in the middle of the island which is so high most of the time you can’t see the top because of the clouds, and there are only 2 highways on the island. The speed limit is 40MPH everywhere and so even getting to the next town takes half an hour, but the people and scenery are amazing and their crime rate is amongst the lowest in the world. Then again, if you live in such beauty and wear shorts every day, why would you want to commit crimes?!
Our hotel was amazing. On lastminute it said it was a 2* hotel, but when we got there, it had recently gone through a multi-million dollar refurbishment and every room was brand new, there was a huge pool with a bar, free internet and the biggest, most comfy bed I ever slept in in my life! We were quite literally in heaven. After spending a month in a caravan and then 5 weeks in hostels I could have quite happily stayed there forever. We also had a fridge In our room, so still being ‘travellers’ and all that we made sandwiches for lunch and only went out for dinner a few nights.
We did find a great cheap Mexican place that served amazing tacos, burritos and such, and even more amazing frozen fishbowl Margaritas and ‘shots’ of Tequila that actually should have been called ‘tumblers’. I think we went there twice, or was it three times? I can’t remember. I wonder why??
Most of the time we were on the beach or by and in the pool, but a couple of days we ventured out to see the rest of the island. One day we rented a car and did the famous Road to Hana drive which was the worst drive we’ve ever seen or done and so disappointing that I won’t bore you with the details. One night we went to a Lu’au but don’t get excited thinking I’m going to tell you about debauched partying, cocktails and limboing! Lu’au’s in Hawaii aren’t like Lu’au’s in the rest of the world. They are a celebration of Hawaiian culture with Hula dancing and feasting on pig cooked in a pit similar to how the Fijians and Mauri’s do it. When we arrived, with 2 thousand other people(!) we received a Lai (the flower garlands they wear around their necks) made with real purple flowers and were showed to our table which we were to share with 6 other people for dinner and the show. I wasn’t too pleased we had to share a table, but the cooky couple from California and the quite boring family from Vancouver were surprisingly good company and fascinated by our trip so we got to do a lot of talking that night to people other than each other – always a bonus!
Dinner was a buffet, so I was my usual camel self storing food for the winter, the ‘show’ was a bunch of hula dancing stick girls and a relentless whining ‘chief’ – maybe that’s doing it an injustice, it actually was worth going.
The day before we left we went hump-back whale watching which was just spectacular. After seeing dolphins, mantas and other sea life creatures in Australia and New Zealand we only had whales left (and sharks, but no one wants to see them too close in the wild!). We were only on the boat for 5 minutes before the guide saw our first whale of the morning. Now I must point out that as we boarded it was announced that this was the last day they were taking people out for the season as the whales start migrating back to Alaska so we may not see anything but we saw quite a few and even the staff aboard were stunned. The first whale we saw was coming up for air and so we were told that it may not surface again for around 20 minutes, so the captain lowered a sonar microphone into the water so that we could hear the whale singing. It was just one of the most fantastic things I’ve ever heard. Knowing that a huge hump whale is so near you singing away in his own environment and you are privileged enough to hear it was amazing. Seconds later we turned to see, in the distance, a whale breaching. This is when they jump out of the water and to this day marine biologists and such have no idea why they do it. Some think it’s for fun, others think it’s to break barnacles off their skin. Whatever it’s for, it’s truly amazing to see in the flesh.
After seeing this breach we were even luckier to see a female whale and her baby swimming right next to our boat. What makes this even better is the fact that the baby cannot hold its breath as long as it’s mother so both of them come to the surface every couple of minutes so you get to see them more than adults on their own. Adult whales by nature are loners and travel on their own so seeing 2 at a time is so lovely to see. We managed to get great photos and video footage, but I’m sure we won t need them as all those images will be forever in my memory. It was a great end to a great week.
That’s all for now folks but right after this I’m starting my USA blog… the story so far, so don’t forget to come back in a bit to read about our American escapades.
Bye for now.