Friday, October 23, 2015

Aloha Hawai'i

Sunset at Waikiki Beach

A stopover in Hawai'i on the way back to mainland America, yeah why not? In reality for me, I was hoping it was going to be the first and last flight to America. Ever since we started the visa process, I have said to everyone that we are moving to Hawai'i. My visa got accepted and straight away we booked our flights there, with no further connections. I wanted to make our way to the windsurfing mecca of Maui and never leave. Well, I couldn't quite twist Amy's arm for right now, so we did end up booking connections on, however it is still firmly a goal of ours to one day make the Hawaiian life happen!

Haleiwa Beach, the real Hawai'i
Our time on the Island of Oahu was not your standard resort vacation, but are ours ever? We were staying with Amy's mum's goddaughter Corinne, her husband Brett, who is an officer second in charge of a submarine, and their two adorable daughters Veronica and Cecilia on the Naval base Ford Island at Pearl Harbor. There they lived in modern 1950s style housing set out in an odd fashion which ensured the 'historic concrete', runways etc. containing bullet holes from the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor, was not built upon. We had special access passes and had free range of the whole island which is restricted to tourists. We could wander to the Aviation Museum and the memorials of the USS Arizona and the USS Missouri. The complete center of the island was open and set aside, the site of the runway strip creating such an open and sun-baked walk when heading anywhere. Here we enjoyed their company with family outings, dinners, nighttime walks and even a board game or two. The girls quickly warmed to us, referring to me as "Thomas the Train" and wanting Amy to teach them to play the ukulele. 

Historic concrete

Besides the pink eye that I somehow obtained during the 8 hour plane ride from Auckland, we had a fantastic time with the family. They packed in activities for us. One day we were taken to a private military beach and got a good vibe of the good life that those posted there would have. Corinne and I got out with some surfboards while Amy and the girls had fun in the waves and sand. On another family outing, we were brought to the Hanauma Nature Preserve where there was some great snorkeling to be had and a mandatory video upon entrance, encouraging safe practice on the reef. A bit bizarre, but doing what they can to help the fragile ecosystem and probably protecting themselves from a lawsuit, too. This cove was absolutely stunning. The water everywhere on the island was crystal clear as you would expect, so mild and doused in swell. There were little fish darting around everywhere you looked. 

Hanauma Nature Preserve
While the girls were at school and the parents at work during the week, we managed to get out on our own a bit. We were a little disappointed with our day trip into Waikiki Beach which started with a bus ride in from the naval base. We passed through overdeveloped neighborhoods with strip malls, poverty, urban degradation and multi-lane highways that the great American legacy has left on the southern part of the Island of Oahu. It was disappointing to say the least. Once we were on the promenade in Waikiki, there was more of an image of wealth and tourism. To top it all off, we weren't even impressed with the Waikiki Brewpub. But one can still understand the draw for many. With 30+ story hotels right on the beach, shopping to the hearts content, all the good fast food and oh yeah that crystal clear Pacific Ocean is still right there, not much sand to sit on though.  

Looks miserable, right?
My favourite little adventure of our time in Hawai'i was a refreshing day trip to the North Shore. Despite suffering an arduous multi-hour bus journey with transfers to make the seemingly short trip over the mountain, it was paradise. As soon as we stepped off the bus in Haleiwa, it was obvious we had arrived in true Hawai'i. A few friendly locals struck up a conversation with us as we were getting lunch from a food truck and invited us to eat with them nearby in the gardens of an eco-sanctuary that they manage. They were such warm company and so happy to have us as their guests. Afterwards, one of them insisted that she drive us across town so we could get a couple of Maui Brewing Company beers and walk back through the quaint town, ending at the beach and the bus stop.  We did that, also grabbing some famous Matsumoto Shaved Ice along the way. It is well worth the hype. We camped ourselves down on the beach for the afternoon enjoying the surfers and having a beer, which this time, DID impress us. Very much so.

The girls had a particularly hard time saying goodbye to us the next morning, as did we. Although we wish we had more time to explore the islands properly, we are thankful that we got to catch up with Corinne and her family. It was just a quick taste of Hawai'i and we are ready to head back there soon. For now, we'll take the pink eye medication and our tans on to the mainland, where the adventures continue. 

North Shore Paradise