Of Aussies and Yanks: A Trip to Hawaii in Three Acts.
Act I: Shirts Off for the Boys
Of course my plane to had to arrive in paradise and wait on the tarmac, baking itself. My fat kid in summer camp sweating abilities kicked in before I even stepped foot on Oahu. But I’d made it, made it to the land of fire and water, sand and jungle, coconuts and poke.
I was there for the union of two cultures. One prided itself on its tenacity, rebelliousness, and ability to survive on a continent filled to the brim with poisonous creatures that bite, scratch, sting, and tear. The other was one that really liked the fact it could buy mayo in bulk. Granted, the island I found myself on was part of that latter culture, but suffice to say this state was the cooler, more laid back younger brother who everyone secretly envied but never admitted to.
I was there for the wedding of my older cousin, Anna, of the Menolds, who always pay their debts, to my soon to be cousin-in-law, Ben, of the Gray(boys), who don’t sow. It was the perfect storm: Irish-Germans with a propensity for drinking, hanging out with Aussie/Kiwis with their own propensity for drinking. What could go wrong?
Well, plenty, as Anna and Ben’s wedding planner soon found out.
(Oh, and Hawaii, all of it, is stunningly beautiful. I’ll get to that later. Though I will say that Waikiki beach was a bit too touristy for me; I don’t want to go shopping at Chanel when I get off the beach. But I digress.)
She couldn’t anticipate the fact that all of us would be up and dancing the whole night, that we’d run out of beer with an hour left, mixed drinks with half an hour, yet crates of wine left over.
But let’s take a few steps back to the days before the wedding. To Thursday, the day I arrive, the day I could finally hug my parents and sister, my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents for the first time in months. The first time I could actually talk to them in person instead of gauging what time it would be back on the East Coast. Or Friday, when we woke up early to take a boat out to a sunken caldera (Molly, our local volcanologist, told me that) with the largest sandbar in Hawaii. I saw a marine turtle in the flesh (it’s $10,000 if you touch one, not to touch one), got a sick palm bracelet for a price I’d rather not admit (he made a 1,000% return on investments), and snorkeled over a giant reef, fish darting between my legs as I tried avoiding getting gouged by coral (it’s brutally sharp).
Then there was the wedding. Just your typical ceremonies near the surf, conch shell blown to commemorate the marriage, breathtaking sunset that lit the sky on fire, beautiful couple dancing the night away. Ya know, the usual American wedding.
To speak to the title of this act, though. My uncles probably hoped I’d forgotten it, but I didn’t. I didn’t forget the Kiwis doing the haka dance, pounding their chests, shirts off, tongues out, eyes bulging. Nor did I forget most of the guys taking their shirts off to Bon Jovi and The Police, running underneath a canopy of their clothing draped over the string of lights, next to another article of clothing that isn’t appropriate to mention in a post that your mother will read but it’s actually your mother who put said article of clothing up there in the first place.
Act II: Getting Pitted at the Pipeline
“Yeah, this is crazy. It’s never this rough.”
So said the lifeguard to my dad as they stood on Ehukai Beach Park, taking in the “mini” waves that crashed against the sandy embankment. This is where the Pipeline waves throw their fury against the beach during the winter months, but for us mainlanders, us East Coasters, these waves were intimidating in their own way.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t even go near the water at this point. Unless you wanna surf, man. But good luck then.”
I wish I could have heard that conversation as I waded into the water a few yards down the beach. I walked down towards the water, my cousin Ernie next to me. We laughed nervously as the tide ripped around our feet, sucking sand down the embankment. We started wading in, up to our knees. This was strong water, an ocean that wouldn’t think twice about tossing a rag doll like me.
And toss me it did, as we both turned around to walk back up the embankment.
“Never turn your back to the ocean,” said the lifeguard to my dad, most likely at the same exact moment when I turned my back to the ocean. I felt to the slap, a concrete punch to my back as the wave shoved me across the sand, hat and glasses askew but miraculously still on my head. I tripped and plowed into the sand as the wave retreated. I stood up sputtering, my cousin Julie laughing at my demise.
I can now say I rode the Pipeline. Kinda. Not really. In fact, not at all.
From there we beach-hopped around the North Shore of Oahu, from Turtle Bay to Waimea Bay, to return home to the beach at our house. The beaches ranged from smooth and silty to grainy and rocky, and every sort of pebble in-between. But by far the most amazing beaches were on the East Shore, their turquoise waters catching the sun and holding it like a jewel.
Act III: Hiking, or Sliding with Style
I was on a mission to go hiking while on Oahu. Collin had sent me such a stellar list of trails that I felt I had to hit at least one of them.
First up, Diamondhead, the trail that ends at the top of an extinct volcanic valley just East of Waikiki Beach. I ran the three miles up the hill to the trailhead to find that you needed $1 to get in to hike the 1,000+ stairs to the top. I ran the three miles back to Waikiki, dejected.
Next up, the Wiamea gardens with the whole family. Don’t know why I set my hopes so high, but the photo below does the challenges of the trail enough justice.
Alright, 0/2 so far for challenging hikes. I resorted to pestering my dad, my hiking buddy, to try two more trails on the North Shore. On Tuesday we headed to Kaena point, a stretch of volcanic soil coastline with a wide trail, no elevation change, and no cover from the sun for two Irish guys with no sunscreen.
We didn’t make it to the point.
Kuliouou Valley was my last chance at pulling off a challenging hike; I was chomping at the bit, pacing, restless (surprise).
It was well worth it.
The hike starts out at the end of a residential neighborhood nestled at the bottom of a deep valley. Two ridges form a sharp V, the rightmost one stitched with a snaking switchback, our trail. My dad and I climbed into the jungle, scrambling over boulders and sidestepping roots that splayed across the path. The jungle was devoid of a breeze, hot and muggy, pressing in on us, both of our soaking shirts plastered to our bodies. We finally crested a rise, our running shoes slipping in the mud as the jungle gave way to a coniferous ridgeline. With this ridge came the breeze from the other side of the valley, rushing through the branches above with the sound of a freight train. It felt glorious, the cold breeze quickly cooling my soaked chest. Pine needles crunched beneath our feet as we meandered along the coniferous ridge.
The push to the top was along the narrow edge of the ridge of the valley, the coniferous trees giving way to scrubland and a steep grade, which in turn gave way to steps. And more steps. So many steps that even SF’s hills hadn’t properly prepared me for the climb. The mud sucked at my shoes as I slid over the roots, trying to keep my momentum upwards. But we pushed ahead, much like Sir Edmund, and reached the summit.
To find ourselves amongst the clouds, banks and banks of misty, cool, rolling clouds.
Damn, did that feel good as we stood there, standing next to my dad, taking in the rolling clouds as they galloped down the valley towards the beach below. We both expected a magnificent view, a sunny one, granted, but were still rewarded with one in the end, shrouded in clouds.
Beer I drank: Maui Brewing Co's Bikini Blonde Lager
Song I heard: Go Head by Awreeoh
Book I read: The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow