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Around the world travel, Backpacking, Bucket List, Hawaii, long term travel, Travel

The North Shore Peep Show

From Honolulu, I arranged transport to the North shore, which is synonymous with surfing. I had decided to see more of Oahu than the frequently visited Waikiki and Honolulu and found home at Backpacker’s Hostel. It was only an hour’s drive from downtown Waikiki, but 30 minutes into the drive, and I was already feeling like I was on another island. Undeveloped land; lush, green, dense fields and forest; and rolling hills surrounded me. Ok, now I understand why people get the hell out of Waikiki.

I got checked in to my very sparse, but cheap, digs… a wooden cabin, with 3 rooms- 2 bunks each and a communal kitchen and bathroom. No one was around… they were all out surfing. Craig, who works at the hostel took me for a quick bike tour and showed me where the local grocery store was and then we went to check out the surf. I guess as a surfer, this is what you do. We stopped at about 5 beaches just to look at the waves. I watched in awe as surfers made it look so easy, and Craig got antsy to get in. When we went back to the hostel, he asked if I wanted to venture out for a session… Did I want to surf? Yes, I want to surf! But I’ve tried before, and it’s not easy, and I’m in Hawaii, next to the beach where the pipeline competition is surfed, and so on and so forth. But, I am in Hawaii…so, I grab a wetsuit and a board and despite impending rain, we climb in the van and head to Chun’s, which he promises has baby waves.
Well, I’ve come to a conclusion about surfing… it’s not so much the height of the wave as it is sometimes the width of a wave. A wave can sometimes not look that high, but when you are in it and on it, the thing can feel like a monster and take ages to either pass by you, or for you to ride it in. Craig was a good teacher, and never has someone told me to actually not try to stand up on a wave. So I spent the first few waves just riding them in on my belly, getting a feeling for the force, speed and momentum of the water. It was fun, a lot more fun than trying to stand up and getting tossed around in white water and undertow. But the conditions weren’t great, rain was on its way, and it was getting dark, so we headed in.
When I arrived back at Backpacker’s, everyone was home from their evening surf sessions, so it was meet and greet time. Dinner’s were being cooked, beers were being opened, and Cabin 2 seemed to be the place to be. So we all gathered around the table, listening to music, discussing Hawaii travel plans and talking surfing.
Before I knew it, I was getting a lesson on the mentality of surfing… it went a bit like this:
“Never think you are bigger than the ocean.”
“You have to be one with the wave.”
“Don’t think about it too much.”
After a couple glasses of wine, I was determined that I would get up the following morning and catch a good wave. Craig and I headed out early, but it was choppy, and after having to rescue a few stragglers who got caught in a strong current, we decided to head back in. I lounged on the beach for the afternoon and soaked in the North Shore… there’s not a whole lot going on here, besides surfing and smoking.
That evening, I set out for a run on the nicely shaded footpath. I passed the occasional runner and biker, but at each public lot, I passed the semi-nude surfer. It’s almost like these guys have no shame, and they will just drop their drawers anywhere. I guess no one ever taught them how to do a proper deck change. Maybe they are in too much of a hurry to get in to the water, but you would think they would give thought to the direction they are facing, and maybe face away from the road?? But no! So, if you are looking for free entertainment on the North Shore, just hit up the public footpath. You’re guaranteed to see at least a handful of semi-nude, shameless surfer boys!
Around the world travel, Backpacking, Bucket List, Hawaii, long term travel, Oahu, Travel

On and Off the Oahu Tourist Track

Thursday morning dawned clear, so I took the opportunity to head to Pearl Harbor. I wasn’t sure how long I was going to spend in the southern part of the island, and I knew I couldn’t come to Oahu and not visit Pearl Harbor. Coby was kind enough to walk me in the direction of the public bus stations, and within 30 minutes, I had arrived at the museum entrance. I opted for the free tour of Pearl Harbor, which included the boat trip out to the USS Arizona, a film, a museum exhibit and a tour of the grounds. I spent a good 2 hours here and left with a better understanding Hawaii’s role in WWII.

From here, I made my way back to Honolulu and met up with Coby. Our plans were to hike Diamond Head, but the weather had different plans for us. Oahu is experiencing one of its wettest times in history, and unfortunately, this just happens to coincide with my first week here. After debating on whether or not it would clear up, Coby and I ended up hitting up Leonard’s, the famous Portugese bakery on island, to sample malasadas. These are like fried dough, and you can opt in for fillings like coconut or choclate, quite contradictory to hiking, but well worth the indulgence. We made our way back home, and promised to try for Diamond Head the following day….

The following day dawned wet and windy, so Coby and I hit up Chinatown and sampled Dim Sum at Shu Mei (which was EXCELLENT and about $7.00 each for a massive lunch) and then went to see a movie. That night, we tagged along with Ludmila to a warehouse party in Honolulu… we stayed up way too late and forced ourselves to get up the following morning to make something of the day. I was determined to hike Diamond Head, so after Coby’s homemade pancakes to cure us, we set out to catch the bus to the foot of Diamond Head Park. Well, after roaming around, and not being able to find the right bus stop, Ludmila called and said she and a friend were going to meet us and hike with us, so she picked us up on the way and we drove to the park. Finally, the rain had passed and the vog (volcanic smog) wasn’t too bad, so we hiked about 30 minutes up and got to see all of Waikiki and Honolulu as well as the Southeast coast.
At the foot of the park is a community college and small botanical garden with a great cactus collection- we visited that briefly and then headed for an authentic Hawaiian meal. We went to Ono’s in Waikiki and sampled LaoLao, Poke, Taro Root and other delicacies. The food was amazing and reminded me of being in Indonesia- the same basic, good flavors. And well deserved after our hike.

By Sunday, the weather was really improving and I started the day with a long run through Honolulu and Ala Moana Park. I was amazed at the number of people out and about- running, swimming, biking and beaching it, as well as the number of families preparing for their day long picnics and barbecues. I couldn’t help but be reminded of my time in Sydney and think that these people have struck a good life balance. For a city, there’s a pace of life here that’s not too crazy to keep up with, and despite the influence of tourism, the locals do a nice job of keeping their island their own. So while I may have had preconceived notions about Honolulu and Waikiki and while it may have felt like SoCal/America at times, there was a definite relaxed vibe to this place, that was (as I would come to find out later) purely Hawaiian.

Around the world travel, Backpacking, Bucket List, Hawaii, long term travel, Oahu, Travel

Aloha, Couchsurfing and First Impressions

With only 2 months to hit the road with, I realized that my South America jaunt was going to have to wait, so I went back to the drawing board and started to think about where I could travel for a shorter period of time that was closer to home, warm and maybe not so draining as the third world destinations I seem to be frequenting as of late. Hawaii came to mind… a place I had always viewed as “too close to home” in past years, a place I viewed as “America,” “expensive” and “touristy.” But lately, it had been creeping up on my list of places to visit in the world. I had seen other travellers’ photos, heard stories of remote waterfalls, pristine beaches and friendly people. I wanted some warmth and some ease instead of the “roughing it” i’d become accustomed to, so I decided to spend my Spring thawing out on the Hawaiian Islands.

I managed to get a reasonably priced flight from Atlanta to Honolulu via Phoenix on US Airways and, after a solid day of traveling, arrived to the rainbow state. Ironically enough, after grabbing my bag and getting into a cab, a rainbow appeared in the sky… I took this as a good sign and tried to make conversation with my Taiwanese cab driver. I’d never seen a full rainbow so low in the sky, so I was pretty impressed. He wasn’t and said to me sarcastically, “you know this is why we’re called the rainbow state, right?” OK- i’ll try to keep my naivete to a minimum (but it was beautiful).
I had heard Hawaii was expensive, so I had set up my couchsurfing account before leaving Atlanta, and I had managed to set up a place to stay for the first 4 nights in Honolulu. I had also heard that it was best to get out of this touristy area as quick as possible, but with a free place to stay and 6 weeks to see the islands, I figured I should spend a few days here.
Ludmila, a Brazilian girl now living in Honolulu, was my host, and I was welcomed in typical Brazilian fashion- with very warm hospitality. Instead of arriving at a strangers’ house, I was greeted with a hug and made to feel at home at once. After getting settled in and cleaned up, Ludmila took me for a tour of Honolulu and Waikiki. We watched the sunset over the beach and saw the moon creep up over Diamond Head. Everyone was squeezing in their end of day workout- whether that was a run in Ala Moana, an ocean swim, a surf session, or paddle-boarding.
We drove through Waikiki and for a moment I felt like I was in Southern California, what with all the Gucci, Prada and Tiffany’s and high-rise hotels, but soon we passed through that and found ourselves surrounded by Hawaiian and Japanese restaurants- we made our way to a Japanese Grill for dinner, and Ludmila got adventurous with chicken hearts while I stuck with Terriyaki. I was beginning to fight time difference here, but I knew I was losing. The free couch was calling my name. We headed home and Ludmila whipped up some Capirhaina’s for us and her other roommate Coby (a former couchsurfer). We toasted to my first night in Hawaii, and strangely enough, I felt very much at home.