Sunday, 20 January 2013

Why Can't Everywhere Just Be Hawaii?

I was in Hawaii for ten days, way too long to document in its glorious entirety through the give-it-to-me-quick medium of the blog. So here are the highlights, best bits and weirdest things that happened during my short but sweet time in paradise.

North Shore 
It made logistical sense to use the rental car for long distances while we had it, and North Beach - home to pro surfers across the seven seas - would be at least a day long trip. Off we sped, to the Waimea Bay the Beach Boys sing of in Surfin' USA and about five miles from shore, so tantalisingly close that we could smell the spray coming off the big-ass waves, we hit traffic. Proper chocker.

There's only one way in and out of Waimea and its popularity means that street is in deadlock traffic most of the time, each vehicle stacked with at least two surfboards and crammed with beach bummers winding themselves up into an increasing state of tension.
We brainstormed, cursed the cars in a variety of putrid English, Swedish and Australian, then rerouted to a closer seaside town where the water was just as mental. After a hearty lunch of fresh fish tacos (I was infatuated) we sat watching the water on the warm sand, marvelling at the fearlessness of surfer kids smashing themselves and their boogie boards into the churning blue ocean. All three of us spotted a sea turtle at the same time, its shadow tracing over the top of the plundering waves, and squealed in unison with unadulterated glee.

Pearl Harbour All I really know about Pearl Harbour and the devastation that took place there seventy-odd years ago I learned from the Hollywood blockbuster of the same name. After failing to see the DiCap and Wahlberg stalking the streets of Boston, I wasn't holding out any hopes of Ben Affleck waiting for me at the door in WW2 period dress.

However, there were a few other stunning models about - sleek submarines and out-of-service battleships lined the harbour while the occasional troupe of choppers or military aircraft painted the skies overhead with dainty white skids.
This was one of the best things I did in Hawaii - the trip to the USS Arizona memorial (under which the actual ship lay, many of its boys imprisoned in the underwater grave since that horrible morning in 1944) was free of charge, as were two of the exhibitions explaining Japan's ambush and the US response, as well as the interior of a small submarine. Decommissioned missiles dotted in the broad, mowed lawns gave us the perfect slivers of shade to escape the heat sizzling out of the white concrete under our flip flopped feet. You could probably spend the whole day there, and we might have done, were we not in such a hurry to get to the Aloha Stadium up the road to haggle with stall-holders at the weekend market for souvenirs and plucky ukeles.

Diamond Head There are no diamonds in this crater on the south east corner of Wakiki Beach, I discovered like many before me as I sweated and clambered up to the top (cheap day out, entry only costs $1 if you walk in, $5 for cars). The trek started out easily enough with gentle slopes leading to corners upon which you could gaze at windswept panoramas. Then came the stairs.
Some were cut directly out of the rock, crumbing, some covered with soft moss with only a rusty handrail for support and guidance. A lot of the elderly seemed to be attempting the mountain the Sunday I went, taking up entire swathes of the path with their zimmer frames, false teeth and IV drips while I was forced to dodge around them.
One lady seemed to think high heels were suitable for the hike. While pushing a pram loaded with a child that probably could have made it using its own two feet. Oh well, I guess it was their holiday too. After three sets of stairs and a stupidly dark tunnel, I made it to Diamond Head's summit and revelled in a rare sense of accomplishment. Fabulous view.

Surf School Every morning, I'd set my alarm for 7am in the hope that I'd be able to motivate myself to get up and pop down to the beach for a $30, hour long Early Bird surf lesson with the Star Boy instructors. But each morning, some sort of crisis would arise - dry mouth, headache, couldn't find my goggles. Until my last morning when it became a case of now or never.
The swell isn't particularly dangerous in Waikiki (compared to North Shore) but enough to make you worry when you're trying to balance on top of the water. I spent three quarters of the one hour lesson gulping sea water, gathering bruises and cuts on my elbows and accidentally slicing myself on a rogue piece of coral, incurring a cut on the sole of my left foot. It stung suggesting there was blood but in the adrenaline flow, I didn't even stop to think about sharks.
'When I say paddle, PADDLE', Kenny my instructor instructed superbly as we bounced in the sea. 'When I say stand up, YOU STAND UP'. Cheers, got that. The board caught the wave and I shot forwards towards the beach. 'STAND UP, ABHA!! STAND UP!' How was Kenny so loud over the waves?
I crept my knees forward, balancing on my palms, then brought my left leg up before finally swivelling on my right so I was upright. I was so surprised not to fall immediately over, I began cheering like an idiot and in my celebration, failed to spot a small child on a small surfboard, about thirty metres away, directly in my line of fire. 'Moooove!' I screamed at him. Too late. I jumped off just before we made impact, causing my own board to whack me in the head, coming up spluttering to see if I had maimed the tiny tot. He was still perched above his board, huge eyes dotted with bits of the sea or tears. Shit. I didn't stay to find out. 'You're alright, aren't you?', I threw back over my shoulder as I paddled away from him and my shame towards Kenny.

Booze Cruise, Christmas and Karaoke Queens Christmas time, lack of mistletoe made up for the copious amounts of wine. We began the Hawaiian Chrimbo celebobs in excellent style, heading to a catamaran that offered a two hour sail along Waikiki with an open bar for a mere $25. I collected my chums and we made our way to the Moana Surfrider Hotel, outside which the vessel was moored. It wasn't the best day weatherwise, but it was Christmas Eve and we pretty much had the run of the boat so we set about the challenge of drinking the bar dry and attempting to spot whales in the distance. There was a sighting, but I missed it because I was chatting with a pot-bellied Canadian about the merits of holidaying on the Mexican peninsula (never been, but he didn't know that).

Karin was the best Lad On Tour, downing mai tais like they were cookies and she the Cookie Monster, although each of us was trying to do her best, and keep the honour of her country intact. Representin'. Perhaps it was the sway of the boat, maybe they were being a bit tight with the drink, but none of us really felt the effects until we were back on the sand. Then they hit us like a sodding tidal wave. 

On Christmas Day, we carried ourselves and our vile hangovers to the cinema to watch Tarantino's latest, Django Unchained. Nothing says 'good tidings' like a bit of slavery, bloody executions and horrific torture.
We spent the late hours of the day wailing out Christmas songs in a hole-in-the-wall karaoke bar where the drinks were cheap and everyone was gay. I FINALLY got given a flower lei and celebrated by screeching to Chuck Berry's Johnny B. Goode.

Perfecto Chrimbo.

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