Went to Bed in Honolulu, Woke up in Seattle
The one, unfortunate piece of bad timing with the trip (Besides the onslaught of spring break teenagers and college co-eds) was that we were visiting Hawaii at the tail end of its “wet season.” It starts in November and typically winds down by March, but this particular season was lasting a little longer than expected. What we witnessed throughout the week (Especially on our catamaran cruise) is while parts of the island were soaked by torrential downpours, other parts might be warm and sunny. However, this morning wasn’t one of them. In fact, the local weather reports claimed that we could expect on and off rain through the following day (The local, TV news weatherman even said “You better bundle up!” because the evenings would be in the low 70s). I recall this as similar to being in Miami (Notorious for brief but heavy afternoon downpours). The storms would roll in, people got up and went inside, waited for the rain to pass, then went back outside again. This particular morning a storm rolled in, but it was taking its sweet time leaving, so the sunny Honolulu I flew into the day before had been replaced by fog and grey mist.
The first picture is from my balcony, looking northeast. The second is from the elevator lobby, facing south toward Waikiki (Just beyond the buildings – a few blocks from the hotel).
Since our meet time wasn’t until later in the morning, I used the rainy weather as an excuse to tour the International Marketplace and stock up on my chotchkies collection.* Not that the market was all cheesy gifts and knick knacks that you could find anywhere, but there are a few artisan shops and the like, too. I was sorely tempted over a local carpenter’s merchandise (Mostly trunk-sized tiki idols, walking canes, etc.), but they were too big for my bags and shipping would’ve cost an arm and a leg. I managed to find my share of t-shirts, magnets, etc., and yes, I dared the 70s TV gods by buying a cheesy tiki idol.** I quickly discovered (And I wasn’t the only one based on accounts from others in my group) that the market is a maze with little view of the sky or any other outside landmarks to get your bearings. Deciding to head back to the hotel to prepare for the afternoon’s excursion, I ended up going around in the same circles and arriving at the opposite entrance from my hotel multiple times. Sadly, practice didn’t make perfect and other excursions into the market ended the same way nearly every time.***
On the left, the entrance for the International Marketplace. On the right, I can’t help wondering how many visitors have bought and showed these off to or given to friends as “eccentric” ashtrays.
* I’m the person with a magnet and shot glass from almost everywhere he’s been. The only exception is not having a shot glass from Bordeaux, France. I found one that I badly wanted to buy, but the shop only had one left and one of the women I was traveling with also wanted to buy the same shot glass, too, so I let her get it (I’m a sucker). Fortunately, one of my cousins and his wife just finished a tour of France, including Bordeaux and I asked them to pick up a shot glass for me while they were there.
** If you haven’t seen the Brady Bunch’s Hawaii adventure, then go watch it and don’t remind me about how old I am.
*** The frustration was only matched by my horror of discovering a Cheesecake Factory restaurant across the street from the other entrance (To say nothing of the Chili’s at the corner of my hotel and a Denny’s across the street), ALL WITH WAITING LINES. While there’s something to be said for needing comfort through familiarity, the idea of going out to a chain eatery while traveling is just wrong and to be avoided at all costs. Almost to the point of starvation.
Extreme Measures for a Snorkeling Excursion
The plan for the afternoon was a snorkeling trip to Hanauma Bay, on the southeastern tip of the island. Having bumped into one or two from my travel group throughout the morning, there was a mix of concern and confusion about the day’s plan given the persistent rain. Meeting at our scheduled time, Paul reassured us that snorkeling was still on and determined to get the most out of our plans despite the frustratingly crappy weather.
The tricky part about visiting Hanauma Bay is it’s heavily protected under environmental laws. The bay is a popular tourist spot and overuse was harming the local flora and fauna. Paul explained how the bay trip was in danger of not happening because the laws prevented groups of more than a dozen to visit, and even then, tourist vans weren’t permitted near the bay. We took our van to the bay park’s pick up site, where we had to pile into an official park van for the rest of the trip in. Once there, we waited a little longer and attended a mandatory lecture on the bay, explaining what not to do (Pretty obviously, no touching coral or petting the local sea life) and where not to go. The fact that the lecture was given outside in a slightly chilly rain didn’t brighten our moods. Even with grey clouds and light rain, the bay is pretty impressive and beautiful. Walking down to the beach definitely helps you appreciate its tucked-away appeal and fascination, and wishing we could see it with the sun out.
Jumping in was our first lesson about Hawaiian waters – they aren’t as warm as you’d think, and even less so when it’s overcast. Again, we were a determined bunch, so we dove in and tried to do our best. Sadly, snorkeling is one of those activities best experienced on a sunny day, where the water is easier to see through and the coral and fish colors are much more vibrant. Nevertheless, swimming around, you could see convict fish, jacks, even a few squid and an eel that scared the Hell out of me.* We were there during low tide, so it was pretty much impossible for sea turtles to wander in.
Although the bay isn’t that large, these pictures make it appear smaller than it actually is.
The original plan was to stay until late afternoon, but the rain was lingering and everyone’s mood was as chilly as the wind making us shiver, so we called it an early day and headed back to the hotel.
* In addition to my not liking eel as a food, they genuinely freak me out a bit. Swim goggles tend to magnify everything, and while the eel was probably a dozen feet away, it looked like it was close enough to chew my face off.
Drinking Our Body Weight in Pineapple Juice
After heading back to the hotel and cleaning up, we decided to go out for an early dinner and find Moose McGillicudddy’s – one of a local chain of good Irish bars in Hawaii. A good meal and a few too many Mai Tais later, jet lag was still fighting us and we crashed.