Around the World: Hawaii Part 2

biggerwavesToday we fly to Ohau. The airport in Kona is small and completely outdoors. Such a wonderful climate. During this flight the seats are not reserved so we can sit wherever we want. But by this time the flight is not even half full, so we are asked if we can sit throughout the plane to more evenly distribute the weight. When we arrived in Honolulu we get our rental car and drive to Makaha Valley.

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It lies on the west coast of the island.It was not easy to find an affordable hotel or short term apartment here. So there are only the resorts to stay at. The west coast is not the best area of the island. Clearly more of the dodgy types live here, but we don’tfeel really threatened and believe this is better than the tourist factories of Honululu and Waikiki. The resort has its own golf course and therefore travel in a golf cart to our room. This we find handy with all our luggage. The rooms are in small buildings scattered about the grounds. The rooms are fine but old. And we have a room on the ground floor overlooking a hill and a large tree in front of us. We have no views of the ocean or the valley, but you can’t expect much with the booking we made. A few days later we found thee is a mongoose living here. It’s was just getting dark when we checked in at the hotel. We decide to get out and drive back to the village to eat something before it gets too late for Youri and Michelle. We end up with the MacDonalds. There are a few tables outside where we sit to enjoy our food. There are no tourists on the terrace, only a poor mom feeding her entire family with just a happy meal. She spontaneously starts chatting with me. Her situation touches my heart and makes me appreciate my own situation and family. Frankly, I think it is sad as I look around me. This area is not the best in Hawaii, but we have – even at home in the Netherlands – seen poorer neighborhoods.

The next day we went to Pearl Harbor. When we arrive it appears the car park is full. There are three other car parks, so we drive to them one by one to try to find a place to park. We can’t get in at any car park we try. We just have to wait for someone to leave to get a place.

Once we finally parked we then had to walk back to the entrance, but are told we can’t take any bags or cameras on board. We have a small backpack full of stuff but they say we cannot board the transport boat with it and that we have to leave it behind. If we had more time on the island before we were to leave we would consider coming back, but since we drove three hours to get here we do not want to come back another time. We decide to surrender our backpack of stuff. Besides, it’s being guarded by the U.S. Army, that should be good enough for me. We can only take Michelle’s buggy and baby goods in the separate pouch at the bottom.

We walk through the entrance to an area near the water. Part of this national monument is the sunken ship, the USS Arizona. This ship was sunk in the attack on Pearl Harbor in just nine minutes. Only a small number of the ship’s crew survived. The American government decided to leave the sunken ship as it lay and declared it a mass grave. Today it is still there and they have made a memorial of it. We got tickets and are told once have we have them we can walk around the dock at our leisure, but we have just under an hour before we have to be on the boat. So actually, we barely have enough time to take in any more than a trip to the toilet and get a quick something to eat. Like a good mother, I brought bread and fillings for sandwiches, and got them out of the backpack that they wouldn’t let us take onto the boat. So we each get a sandwich and walk along the pier while we wait.

We do not really know where the tour is to start. According to the ticket, it takes over one hour to do. We stand at ease on the deck and munch on our sandwiches when suddenly a voice tells us over the public address system that we’re about to board the boat now, but are are not allowed to take food on board. We have to immediately eat what is in our hand or else throw it away. What he asks is not easy with children of 1 and 4. Luckily, Michelle did not protest too much when I came to the buggy to cleanup the sandwiches. We will not sit in on the monument course dinner, but during a background movie or something, when we can slip away we will go back onto the transport boat. We walk behind the crowd getting on to the boat. Just before getting on the gangway one of the staff calls that we can park the buggy on the side, and that the buggy should not be put on the boat. Hmmm, we are just not suited to this.

I quickly fill up cups of apple juice for Youri and Michelle. Actually, you may only bring bottled water on board, but I’m assuming that if they condone water then they won’t mind a bit of juice for the little toddlers. I do not think that’s a very nice boat when you have hungry and thirsty kids are on board.

It seems to be a relatively short boat trip to the monument. Here we leave the boat and we can see the monument. There is a kind of bridge platform that was built around the sunken ship. The water is not too deep so some parts of the ship are still above water. It is fairly clear water so the rest of the boat is quite distinguishable. Right at the back of the monument is a marble wall with the names of the crew who are deceased. There are still crew who survived the attack, who request that their ashes be sprinkled onto the ship when they pass away. Their names will be credited to the monument. The monument itself is actually not that great, but it’s more of a reason to think about what happened here. A little further lies the USS Missourri. A large battleship that played an important role in World War II. The huge size is very impressive.

After a while, the transport boat returns to pick us up again and bring us back to shore. It also appears that this whole tour is well timed. We have three minutes left so we pack our buggy again and now leisurely stroll about the grounds. Everywhere there are billboards and memorials. There is also a submarine from World War II, the U.S. Bowfinn. Little by little it begins to form a picture of the history that happened here. I am particularly impressed by little details that make the experience very personal. A child of three months is named on the list of dead, with the explanation that people from the area were killed by artillery fire. Crew members of the Arizona who survived because they were simply on leave on the morning the attack happened, but later felt guilty because they survived and their comrades did not. After a while we discover a kind of cinema in a tent, where a documentary is playing about the attack on Pearl Harbour. That we found interesting to watch. We both know that Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and that this meant the beginning of the war between America and Japan, but what exactly was the reason – that is what we do not know anymore. The documentary shows exactly how the events surrounding World War II eventually led to the attack on Pearl Harbor and how it has managed to surprise the Americans. It’s a good movie that looks even slightly critical of America, which I find quite special. I suggest to myself that this piece of history now I probably never forget, simply because I’ve been here. It’s late in the afternoon when we drive back towards Makaha. It has now become rush hour and we get terribly stuck in traffic. We wonder why Hawaii has such a big city as Honululu. That there are people who want to live in Hawaii I understand, but I think more like a country house in a quiet spot on the coast. Why do all these people want to live in a big city? And apparently there is work for those people. We did not find our answers during our stay in Hawaii.

While we are stuck in traffic waiting Marc suddenly see an IHOP (International House of Pancakes) on the left side of the road. This is one place we really want to eat at again while in the United States. Youri would like a stack of pancakes on a plate and we order Michelle a pancake made with a Happy Face on it. When the pancake is made its clear that Michelle’s is as large as the plate. The pancake is made with banana, strawberries and whipped cream on top. Michelle begins immediately with the sliced banana using her hands to eat. It is of course a delicious meal. Youri eats his stack of pancakes to the bottom also. We adults have the remains of Michelle delicious pancakes for dessert. After we are finished eating we will drive back to the hotel.

The next day is the first at the hotel and we begin by lounging by the pool. Afterward, we leave for the northern part of the island. This is where the famous big waves come in and we want to see where famous surfing competitions are held. We would sometimes see the huge waves bend into the tunnel where surfers ‘ride the curl’ of the surf. That’s what Hawaii is famous for, so that what we want to see. We follow the road north and as we approached the coast we look expectantly to the sea. The sea is as flat as a mirror with just small waves lapping on the shoreline. We are disappointed although it is a nice atmosphere here along the coast. We drive on. At a stand along the way we buy pineapples and of course … a fresh coconut. Youri wants to taste what it’s like, but it just takes a few sips to satisfy his curiosity – it’s so-so. Michelle thinks it is nice but has some problems with drinking from a straw. We eat in the evening sun in a sort of outdoor snack bar at Sharks Cove. The food is simple but excellent. I eat a fried tuna steak sandwich that makes me lick my fingers.

The next day we decide to go see the west coast. We drive a beautiful route through the mountains until we reach the west coast. We picnic at a picnic spot near the beach. As we are cleaning up it starts to rain so we run to the car. We drive right along the coast to the north, driving through the rain and stop less often than we would otherwise have done. It’s a little damp because of the showers, but we do get to see very beautiful places. We finish back at the north of the island. There is more wind than yesterday and the waves are now slightly stronger. Although the waves are not as high as the guidebooks say that they can be, it is now already more spectacular. The shape of the waves is different than other places. It is certainly beautiful to watch. We decide to eat once again at Shark Cove by the sea.

It’s the last day here in Hawaii and I really just want to lie on the beach, but the weather on this side of the island has now turned to severe rain showers. We still have to make the necessary arrangements for our stay in Fiji and Australia, so I dives behind the computer to get some work done. If the weather clears this afternoon we can enjoy some time in the pool and then go back to packing our bags.

The next morning we are back on time at the airport. We catch up on the last details in the morning. Michelle is always awake on time, but Youri sleeps peacefully until 9:30. When I woke up I cry: “Youri come, we must look. We’re going to Fiji today” in a tone as if I’m waking him to take him to school. He rubs his eyes and pops up, “oh, we’re going to fly today”. I realize suddenly that this of course is not really common, but that our world at this moment is very special. Sometimes its the little things that suddenly remind me of just how unique a thing it is that we are doing.

We leave Hawaii flying with Air Pacific and I must say I haven’t flown on an airline with better service. The plane only half full so our group have four of the six seats in the row. Both Youri and Michelle do not go to sleep. Halfway through the flight we land on Christmas Island, which, from the air, seems like a strip of sand along the shore and a forest that all dotted with azure blue lakes. I see no paved roads here, only dirt roads and houses.

The plane makes a nice gentle turn over the island and then touches down. I suspect that the runway is the only piece of asphalt on the whole island. It looks like this place has been unchanged for some time, a fact that is evidenced by the little amount of maintenance that’s been carried on here. As the aircraft comes to a stop we are facing a building. There is a sign with Christmas Island Airport on  the terminal building. Next to this is a fence that forms the boundaries of the airport. There are some people waiting behind it. I wonder, are these people that are here to meet someone or are they just curious, but later I realize that they are there for the passengers. Apparently this one gate is both the Boarding Gate as well as the Arrivals Gate. This aircraft is the only one that lands here and that’s only once a week. After a one hour stop for refueling and to let the passengers off and on the aircraft, we leave. We fly a few more hours more and arrive in Fiji with substantial jetlag.