Archive for the ‘Hawaii’ Category

20180521_0817181704347067.jpgAloha! Last we left off, I was standing at a bus stop wondering if this mysterious Polynesian Tour bus was supposed to come pick us up, and if not, where was the Hele-On bus? Now, the answers will be revealed!

Laura, who had some experience taking the public bus in her early pre-car days living on the Big Island, told us that sometimes the public bus turned toward the park instead of coming to what was supposedly the bus stop, so she jumped into her car to follow the bus just in case it was actually the public bus and not a tour group. Ten minutes later she was back with good news: That was indeed the bus, and though he hadn’t been planning to pass the bus stop the driver was going to come pick us up. Phew!

When the bus arrived Solène, Trevor, and I said our goodbyes to Laura and Aaron, stowed our bags, and boarded the bus. Now, here’s where the crazy bus saga gets crazier…

While Solène and Trevor were taking the bus all the way to Kona, Charlie had suggested that I meet him close to a town called Waikoloa, since we were heading to a place called Pololu Valley for the weekend camping trip and going all the way to Kona didn’t make much sense. I’d seen on the bus schedule that the bus would stop at a place called the Waikoloa Pyramid Stone, so I asked the driver to drop me there. “The Pyramid Stone?” he repeated, baffled. “Yeah…” I responded. “Okay…” he said.

An hour later the driver pulled to the side of the road in the middle of nowhere and announced over the intercom “Pyramid Stone.” Solène, Trevor, and I all looked out the window, flabbergasted. There was nothing in sight except an intersection and a large, weird-looking wooden triangle structure. This was Pyramid Stone? “Uh…good luck?” Trevor said as I hugged them both goodbye. I gathered my bags, stepped onto the side of the road, and watched as the Polynesian Tour Company bus drove off. Okay…?

Now…ten years ago, getting off the bus in the middle of nowhere could have been insane. However, in this age of smartphones, and having checked before disembarking that I did in fact have full service, I wasn’t worried about this strange development. I sent Charlie a pin of my location. “Do you know where this is?” I texted.

Long story short, it turns out that the Waikoloa Pyramid Stone – which is not easy to find even through a Google search – is in fact not in Waikoloa; it is almost an hour’s drive away from Waikoloa. After seeing my location pin and a photo of the odd triangular structure Charlie recognized the area, and so in the meantime I decided I’d investigate the Pyramid Stone, dry out some socks still wet from my hike, and enjoy a roadside lunch of carrots, peanut butter, and a Clif bar. Not a bad way to pass the time (if you’re wondering, there is nothing spectacular about the Pyramid Stone, and there isn’t even a sign explaining why it’s there. So weird…)

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Waikoloa Pyramid Stone…in the middle of nowhere. At least I could dry out my hiking socks while I waited for Charlie.

After Charlie arrived we continued our drive to Pololu Valley, a camping area that is essentially on the backside of where I’d been camping in Waimeau Valley (how cool to get to camp on both sides in one week!). Pololu Valley also happens to be one of the areas on the Big Island farthest from the current volcano action, and therefore farthest from the result “vog” as well (volcano fog). Vog has been causing mild respiratory issues for some people, so spending a night in the part of the island with the cleanest air couldn’t be a bad thing.

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Driving to Pololu

At Pololu Valley we found a nice camping area, waited for Kyle to arrive, set everything up, and then went on a hike up to the top of the valley. Along the way Charlie pointed out a bunch of guavas and strawberry guavas ripe for picking – delicious!

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Scenes from Pololu. The top and bottom photos on the right side are the same view before and during a big rainstorm.

That evening Charlie’s friend Paula and her son joined us, and we all enjoyed dinner, drinks, and a fire that stayed surprisingly strong despite the rainstorm we encountered (also, I realized this was the first fire I’ve had on any camping trip this entire time – crazy!). The rain continued all night, so we wound up leaving camp around 7 AM to escape the wetness.

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Wet but happy 🙂

We stopped at a coffee shop, then headed to another park to try to attempt a hike, but it was still raining there so we decided we’d just head back to Kona instead. On the way we decided to stop at a lava tube, a roadside cavelike structure where lava flows beneath the ground. It was very cool! Neither Kyle nor I had ever seen something like that, so we were eager to explore while Charlie chilled at the top.

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Photos from the lava tube, including a geocache I accidentally found!

Afterward Charlie and Kyle decided we should visit the Kona Brewing Company, which I hadn’t been to, so we went there for lunch and beers (ahi tuna tartar – yum!), then headed to Kyle’s mom’s place to enjoy the pool. Kyle’s mom lives across from an area of Kona known as “Surfer’s Sanctuary,” supposedly the best surf spot on the island, so there are always surfers there practicing their moves. It was cool to be able to watch them.

 

Eventually we parted ways with Kyle, who was heading off to hike to the green sand beach at the southern end of the island, and went to visit some of Charlie’s friends for another “float.” Then we jumped on Charlie’s motorbike and headed into town to check out the monthly Kona Market, which was cool. I met more of Charlie’s friends who have booths there, including one who plays rugby and is about to move back home to Utica, NY. Small world!

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Scenes from the street market, including a talented ukelele player.

Near the end of the market we met up with Solène, Trevor, and their current couchsurfing host Chuck, who was going to be my host as well for that last night. Solène, Trevor, and I had a plan to meet up with another couchsurfer the next day to explore part of the island by car, so it was cool that we’d be able to spend another night couchsurfing together. Getting to stay at the same place as couchsurfing friends you meet en route doesn’t always happen, so this was pretty awesome.

Before parting ways with Charlie we came across a hula performance and the woman invited us to join in, so suddenly Solène, Trevor, and I found ourselves dressed in Hawaiian grass skirts and flower wreaths (or…just a lei for Trevor) and learning the hula. Charlie filmed the impromptu event, so there’s proof!

Afterward I collected my stuff from Charlie’s place, said goodbye, and hopped into Chuck’s car. Thanks again Charlie for being a cool host and also for letting me borrow your tent – I appreciate it!


On the drive to Captain Cook, where Chuck lives, we listened to a traditional Hawaiian radio station and it occurred to me that Chuck was the only native Hawaiian I’d met on my whole trip – everyone else was a transplant. I appreciated his stories of Hawaiian folklore and traditions over the next 24 hours, allowing me to learn a bit about Hawaii from a native perspective. The most interesting were the stories of two creatures of Hawaiian mythology, the menehune and the Nightmarchers. According to legend, menehune are mischievous dwarf people who live deep in the forests and hidden valleys of Hawaii and usually come out at night when no one is watching. Meanwhile, Nightmarchers are the ghosts of ancient Hawaiian warriors who march in darkness to preparation for battle. If you see a Nightmarcher you’re supposed to immediately bow down before it or risk being turned to stone or worse. Intense!

As I got to know Chuck, I caught up on how he’d come to host both Solène and Trevor. Initially Trevor was going to camp somewhere near Kona, but when Chuck came to meet Solène he began talking to Trevor as well and they discovered that, through marriage of their cousins, they were distantly related, and Chuck had actually spent some time in Trevor’s small hometown! While I’d been out in Pololu Valley the night before Trevor had cooked up a dinner of pasty, a meat pie his Michigan hometown is known for, as a sign of thanks for his newfound cousin-in-law. Small world!

That night we enjoyed conversation and beers at Chuck’s place, then said goodbye to Chuck when he dropped us off at a local beach on his way to work the next morning. Mahalo for a brief but enjoyable stay Chuck, and enjoy your upcoming travels as well!

Next, snorkeling and surfing! Solène, Trevor, and I spent the morning enjoying some breakfast at the beach, then sharing Solène’s snorkeling gear while we waiting for a nearby surf rental shop to open. When I stepped into the water and put my face underneath I was shocked to discover a whole world of fish just feet from the shore. It was amazing! I enjoyed swimming around and watching all the fish, looking at the coral, and even observing sea turtles just off of the land. Super cool!

Soon, the surf shop opened and we rented longboards. I have to say, surfing on a longboard was much easier than the advanced board I’d borrowed from Ben on Oahu. I am definitely not a pro surfer by any means, but I actually caught a wave with this board!

After surfing we met up with a couchsurfer named Theresa who’d just arrived on Big Island with a rental car. We then drove to Pu’u wa’a wa’a Cinder Cone State Park, where there was supposedly a nice hike up to a summit point that had a view of many parts of the island, including the volcano we’d all been hearing so much about. The hike was pretty cool – we walked on petrified lava for most of it – but sadly we ran out of time to reach the top. So, instead, we drove to Ola Brewery (a local Big Island beer company) for a final drink together before I had to catch my flight back to the mainland.

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Photos from the hike, and a celebratory beer

So…that was that. One last cheers with Solène, Trevor, and Theresa, then farewell at the airport. “Are you sure you want to leave? Why not miss your flight and stay longer?” Solène asked as we hugged goodbye. Ah, I wish I could! Solène and Trevor were the kinds of friends I’d hoped to meet during my trip, so it’s ironic that we united at the very end of my adventure. We spoke about reuniting in Alaska, France, or mainland US though, so hopefully that will happen. Thanks for being awesome, you two!


This is not my last blog entry about my trip. Technically I’m still traveling…I’m visiting my parents in FL right now (and just submitted final grades for my course – hooray!) and won’t be back in Brooklyn until mid-June, making for a total of five months of adventuring. There are a couple more blog entries I want to write: One about the airports I visited, one about packing for a trip like this, one big summary of my whole journey, what I did, what I learned, what’s next, etc. I’ll end this one here for now, but stay tuned for a couple more posts to wrap up my trip coming soon!

Well…the Big Island of Hawaii certainly flew by in the blink of an eye. I was there five days – the same amount as Oahu – but those Big Island days were much more adventurous, and thus I’ll be splitting my stories of that island into two posts. Here’s part one!

My flight to the Big Island (the island called Hawai’i, which you’ve probably been hearing about because of the current volcano activity) was a brief 45 minutes, most of which I spent staring out the window at the water, simultaneously mesmerized by its blueness and caught up in memories of New Zealand. In what felt like an instant, the plane landed in Kona.

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Kona from the sky. As you can see, this is a volcanic island.

A few couchsurfing hosts had warned me about the inability to get anywhere on Big Island without a car, but I still wasn’t prepared for just how inaccessible the island can be. Upon arrival at the tiny, outdoor Kona airport I discovered that public buses only visit twice a day. It was currently 11:30 AM and the next bus wasn’t arriving until 4:30 PM, so I’d have to find another way to get to town. A taxi would cost close to $100 to get to central Kona, so this was not very appealing. What to do?

Luckily my first host on the island, Charlie, offered to pick me up after he finished working at home if I didn’t mind waiting an hour. Awesome! I spent the hour writing my blog entry about Oahu (published later that night) and enjoyed the outdoor seating at the airport. Note to anyone traveling to Big Island: There is no internet at the airport, so be prepared for offline tasks if you are planning to wait there as I did.

When Charlie arrived he insisted we find a lei, since that is the customary gift with which to welcome someone to a Hawaiian island. We drove to three separate roadside lei stands (one of which was someone’s garage fridge; as Charlie explained, some locals keep leis boxed in their fridge so people can leave money and take one), but no luck. Mahalo anyway Charlie!

Afterward, we bought lunch and Charlie told me about the “float” he’d sent word out about for the afternoon. Big Island is full of tiny, partially secluded beaches, some of which have little pools of water where the ocean current  doesn’t reach. Charlie is on a mission to popularize “float” events where everyone brings drinks and pool tubes and just floats around on their tubes in the little bays, and it seems like it’s catching on, at least in his circles of friends. That afternoon I met two of his float friends, then we went to his apartment for dinner. Charlie lives in an awesome location – literally across the street from the beach, on the third or fourth floor of his building, so there’s a great view of the ocean from his window.

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Notice all the black things on the beach – igneous plutonic rocks formed from lava!

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The view from Charlie’s window. Not too shabby B-)

After dinner we visited a local bar to play shuffleboard (Charlie is practicing for an upcoming beer team decathlon, in which he will compete in shuffleboard and darts). There I met his friend Kyle, who was born in Alaska and lives in Oregon, but who visits his mom in Kona at least once a year. We swapped stories of travel and talked about the possibility of meeting up for a camping trip later that weekend at Pololu Valley, one of Charlie’s go-to camping spots. Sweet!

 

The next day (Thursday), I had a big mission: Hitchhike an hour and a half to a place called the Waipio Valley Lookout. Charlie gave me a couple of his cardboard hitchhiking signs and tips on how to successfully hitchhike in Hawaii (it’s doable, but not as easy as in New Zealand). I packed my bag with the signs, his tent (thanks again for letting me borrow it Charlie!), my camping gear, and groceries, then he drove me to an area that he said would be best to try to get a ride. Well…I stood on the side of the road for around 45 minutes before someone finally stopped. The guy who offered me a ride was Cyrus, a construction worker who was coming off a night shift and had some errands to run before heading home to Waimea (which is fairly close to Waipio). As we drove I mentioned that I was couchsurfing in Hawaii and a couple minutes later we realized that we’d actually been in touch already through the couchsurfing website. What a small world! I still can’t get over the fact that in my first official hitchhiking experience (I’ve hitchhiked unofficially before, but never the whole deal with a sign), I was picked up by someone I’d already interacted with through couchsurfing. Small world!

Cyrus dropped me off at what he said would be a successful spot in Waimea, and sure enough, just ten minutes later I was driving with Richie, a Filipino who had immigrated to Hawaii ten years earlier. Initially he was going to drive me to Honokaa, a town close to the lookout, but when he learned I was visiting from the mainland he decided he’d drive all the way to the lookout point. Mahalo Richie and Cyrus, you guys are great!

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I still find it amazing that the first person I met through hitchhiking here was someone I’d already met on couchsurfing. Mahalo Cyrus!

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Driving toward Waimea. This photo is much clearer than the actual air was. The “vog” (volcano fog) in the air was very apparent above the clouds, but you can’t really see it here.


 

Hiking To Waimanu Valley 

At the Waipio Valley Lookout I met Solène and Trevor, fellow couchsurfers whom I would be hiking with to Waimanu Valley. Solène is a French biologist living in Paris and Trevor is a NOLS instructor from Michigan who currently works in Alaska. Trevor had  hiked to Waimanu just three days prior and loved it so much that he decided to return, which made me feel like this would be a great hike; I couldn’t imagine that an outdoor leadership instructor who hikes regularly as part of his job would choose to repeat a trail he didn’t like.

The first hour of the trail was definitely the most difficult; switchback after switchback leading higher and higher, mostly under the heat of the blazing sun. The whole time I kept thinking of the steep hikes I’d completed in New Zealand; if I could do those, these switchbacks should be cake. The mindset helped; the steep climbs weren’t as bad as I’d imagined, and the views as we hiked were gorgeous (notice the black sand!).

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Waipio Valley, our starting point

The next five hours were considerably easier than that first; the Waimanu trail is straightforward, and though you ascend and descend through a number of valleys, the path never gets overly steep. Along the way we crossed a number of rivers and streams and passed waterfalls, springs, and some interesting trees. We also got to know one another and became fast friends; we all hiked at the same speed, had similar interests, and seemed to easily click personality-wise. Solène and Trevor were basically the best hiking buddies I could have asked for, and I’m glad I got to have this experience with them. 

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Hiking to Waimanu. Pay special attention to the photo in the bottom left. It’s tough to tell from the picture, but there is a tree that has fallen and died, except for the fact that it has produced a new trunk growing straight out of it. The lighter-colored branch in the middle of the photo is from another tree, with a series of very thin branches growing straight up. Pretty cool!

At the end of our hike we ascended into Waimanu Valley and crossed one last river – the toughest yet, with a bunch of slippery rocks beneath the surface and a rope to hang onto for support. From there it was a short walk to Campsite #2 (said to be the best, and which Solène had booked at random) where we set up our tents and enjoyed the incredible view. 

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Waimanu Valley!

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Solene crossing the river.

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Camp with this backdrop? Yes please!

That night we all shared our food and spent a couple hours talking under the stars. Again, I have to stress how awesome these two people are; I don’t always click quite so well with the people I meet through couchsurfing, but we really made a great team!

The next morning we woke early and set out on a 45-minute hike to one of the tallest waterfalls in the United States. Along the way we traded stories of survival (my favorite is The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candace Millard, the story of Roosevelt’s post-presidential Amazonian expedition). We had a refreshing swim and enjoyed the grandeur of the falls before heading back to camp to finish packing up and begin our hike back to Waipio Valley Lookout, taking our time with stops for lunch, swimming in a watering hole, and enjoying the views. 

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Clockwise from top left: Waterfall from far away, up close and personal, and post-swim.

 

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Photos from the hike back. The last hill was STEEP!

If you’re lucky, the Waimanu Valley hike ends at a beautiful black sand beach, at which point you can hitchhike up to the lookout point (there are plenty of cars passing by on their way up from the beach). However, if you fail to catch a ride, as we did, that last mile and a half will be the most difficult of the trip as you struggle with your pack up a steep, steep, road to the lookout. After many failed attempts to flag a car, we found ourselves making the long journey up that steep road. The whole way I thought of my experience in New Zealand carrying my bags up the fifth-steepest street in the world to get to Kristen and Chris’ house, and this memory gave me the energy and motivation I needed to tackle this longer-but-less-steep road.

As I neared the top of the road, I met a cheery woman and her dog heading down. “Are you Solène?” She asked. “No,” I replied, “But she’s right down there!” As Solène had mentioned earlier, her next couchsurfing host was going to meet us at Waipio and give us all a ride, and here she was! Soon enough, Solène, Trevor, and I were chatting with Laura and partner Aaron, who very nicely offered not only to give us a ride, but also to take us out for pizza and beers and to let all three of us stay the night at their place (I had been planning to hitchhike back to Charlie’s, but this was much easier!). The three of us started laughing aloud when they mentioned pizza and beers; earlier on the trail we’d agreed that if there was time we’d find a place to have celebratory beer and pizza. Our wish was coming true!

After lots of pizza (not too bad, for Hawaii) and multiple rounds of beer, we returned to Laura and Aaron’s place. They are about to leave for a multi-month housesitting adventure in Japan, but that week they were still at their current home, a former BnB/Air BnB near Honokaa (fun fact about Honokaa: Cows used to be ziplined from Honokaa to nearby ships to be transported to mainland US). The place was HUGE and definitely the most impressive I’ve ever stayed at through couchsurfing; Laura and Aaron lived in what was once the BnB owner’s unit, so we basically had an entire bed and breakfast to ourselves! That night we stayed up late just talking, figuring out what we were all doing next, planning potential reunions, and enjoying what might be our last night together. It was a fun night, and I’m glad I got to meet these two awesome friends (Trevor and Solène are the kinds of friends I was expecting/hoping to meet on this trip, so it’s ironic that I met them at the end).

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Our living room, part of the fanciest couchsurfing experience I’ve had yet. 🙂

The next morning we enjoyed a delicious breakfast of lychees and pancakes prepared by Aaron (who was excited to cook for so many people) and then we all went out for a quick 20-minute hike at the nearby Kalopa Native Forest. That’s all we had time for before we had to catch the public bus to make our way back toward Kona, but it was a nice hike nonetheless.

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Lots of trees with interesting roots on this island. 

So…the public bus. It’s still incredible how inaccessible public transit is on the Big Island. Laura and Aaron were nice enough to drive us to and wait with us at the supposed bus stop for the supposed Heli-On bus that would come to pick us up. Fifteen minutes after its scheduled arrival time…we were still waiting. Finally, we saw a coach bus that said “Polynesian Cultural Tours” turn the corner near us, but no Hele-On bus. Hmmm….

Was that the bus we wanted? Would a bus ever pass our way? Would it take us to the places we wanted to go? Stayed tuned for Part II to see what happens!

 

Hawaii: Oahu/Honolulu

Posted: May 17, 2018 in 2018, Adventures, Hawaii

This morning I woke up and left the rainy island of Oahu/Honolulu to fly to the island known as Hawai’i, or the Big Island (this is the one people know right now because of the volcanic activity happening…but I’ll be on the other side). A word of caution to anyone thinking of traveling here: If you don’t have access to a car, it’s difficult to leave this airport. As the man at the information stand informed me, the bus only comes to the airport twice a day, so if you miss it you have to take a taxi to town. No worries though, my couchsurfing host Charlie had offered to pick me up, so I figured I’d use the wait time to start writing about Hawaii. Tomorrow I’m hiking to/camping in Waimanu Valley one of the most difficult but most rewarding hikes in Hawaii. Hopefully I survive! Another couchsurfer girl from Quebec is my hiking/camping buddy for the trip. Hooray! Anyway, about Oahu…


I left New Zealand on Friday, May 16th at 11:55 PM and arrived on Oahu at 10:30 AM on the same day. Trippy…

Arriving in Hawaii was weird. Full disclosure: I was not as excited about this as a person should be; I did not want to leave New Zealand, and I was coming to Hawaii because it was saving me money, not to achieve a life dream. Seriously…look up flight prices from New Zealand to Florida (where I’m going next to visit my parents); a ticket from Auckland to Orlando is around $800-$900, while tickets from Auckland to Oahu and Kona to Orlando are both roughly $300. Never did I imagine that visiting Hawaii would save me money! (though so far, my photos from New Zealand are definitely superior..)

I arrived in Hawaii with as positive an attitude as I could muster, but I wasn’t exactly jumping with joy. On top of that, my first couchsurfing host, Ben, had not confirmed where or when I should meet him after his agriculture conference that day. I arrived at the airport and began looking up places in central Honolulu where I hoped I could hang out with my bags until I heard from Ben. Womp womp, not thrilled…

Enter Dr. Eppink to save the day! In college I had a wonderful music professor who taught one of my favorite classes, Elementary Music Methods (assignments included learning kid songs and teaching them to everyone each week in class – so freakin’ fun). Dr. Eppink now lives in Hawaii and told me to contact him when I got here, so I did. By coincidence he was just leaving work when I arrived, so he offered to pick me up and take me out to lunch. Amazing!

Dr. Eppink picked me up and we drove to his home in Mililani, pointing out island highlights along the way and things I should know. For instance, a common sign in Hawaii is to hold up your first with thumb and pinky pointing outward and shake it. Called the shaka, this means something like “right on!” and supposedly originated in the 1940s with a Hawaiian named Hamana Kalili (from Laie, where I later stayed) who was missing three fingers, and it caught on. I also learned the words for mountain (mauka) and ocean (makai), important to know because sometimes locals give directions using these words as points of reference.

At Eppink’s place we met up with Ralph (his partner) and daughter Natalia and headed to one of their favorite lunch spots. What a nice welcome! Those guys were determined to be like my dads on this trip (they were even going to host me, but then Natalia moved into their place last month), always concerned that I was safe, fed, and happy. While at lunch I finally heard from Ben, so later they were nice enough to drive me to Haleiwa, an historic town where Ben would meet me. They dropped me off at their favorite coffeeshop, the Coffee Gallery, which proved to be an excellent place to hang out and grade work while waiting for Ben. I ordered a lavender latte – super delicious – and it was here that I began to discover how many chickens and rooster are present in Hawaii. Seriously, they are to Hawaii what sheep are to New Zealand, they are just everywhere! If you wondered what Polynesian culture was the influence for the chicken Hei Hei in the film Moana, I think I now know the answer.

Ben showed up later that evening and we drove in his truck to his farm. I’d known when I contacted him that he lived in a rustic setting, but I was impressed to learn that he built his little house! I also met Lucy, who also lives there and is about to move back to NYC (small world) and we enjoyed veggie burgers, avocado from the farm, and salad for dinner while getting to know each other. Ben is from British Columbia but came to Hawaii on vacation in 2013 and decided not to go back. He helped establish a bunch of fields in Hawaii and now works as a supervisor at the Dole Plantation down the street (we enjoyed lots of fresh pineapples free from his job!). Eventually he wants to have his own farm, but he’s learning all the skills he’ll need first.

That night we drove to town to attempt to find live music, failed, enjoyed a beer at a bar, and then went back and swapped music to listen to. That night, for the second time on this trip, I found slept within a mosquito net (the first time being in Vietnam), and luckily it worked – I didn’t get bit!

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Mosquito net at Ben’s place

Couchsurfing → Surfing!

The next day Ben decided it was a good day for surfing and that I might as well come along and learn. He has five surfboards and lots of spare surf clothes, so I was all set. When we arrived, the only people on the beach were all beginners taking surf lessons, so I felt pretty awesome to be right there getting a surf lesson for free instead of paying a lot of money for one. Hooray couchsurfing! The only downside to the day was that Ben doesn’t have any beginner boards, so it was much more difficult for me to catch a wave than the other beginners on their giant longboards. I did manage to catch one while kneeling, so I’ll count that as a win!

On the way back from surfing we stopped to get poke, which Ben insisted I had to try in Hawaii (it’s delicious if you like fish, which I do). From there we drove the back way through his farm to see his neighbors’ plants. First stop, a cacao field. It was really cool to see all the cacao plants; did you know you can actually eat another part of the plant that’s not used to make chocolate? The white part is gooey and sweet, but don’t eat the purple part inside – that’s what is used to make chocolate and is not good to eat raw. As we drove along he pointed out all kinds of other plants, and we stopped to grab some fresh mangoes from the trees. Yum!

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Ben was an interesting host. He was definitely not the best communicator, was super chill, and would often just decide to do something suddenly. As he said, he doesn’t live by a plan very much. We did have some cool conversations about the differences between agriculture and ecology in New Zealand and Hawaii though. He said that in some of the courses he has taken in the past (before coming to Hawaii), Hawaii was always used as the example of what not to do, while New Zealand is the shining example of conservation. Goshdarnit I miss that place.

Anyway, after the farm tour we went back and had a lazy afternoon. I did some student grading and blogging, then borrowed one of Ben’s bikes to ride down to a local beach to watch the sunset (Hawaii has very nice sunsets). When I got back I enjoyed a relaxing evening reading a book…a low-key and satisfying Saturday night.

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Beachside sunset

The next morning I slept late, then got to help Ben replace the tires on a bike that someone gave him. I’m happy to report that I still know how to change bike tires, and Ben showed me a bit more about bike mechanics. Sweet. Then I packed up my bags and he drove me to Haleiwa, where we parted ways. From there I met up with Eppink, Ralph, and Natalia for a day exploring all of Oahu! We started by stopping for a delicious lunch, then driving around the island (it’s only 30-40 miles wide, so this is quite doable when you have a car). We stopped at a number of scenic spots on the way, including a beautiful beachside featuring blowholes (remember those from the Pancake Rocks of Punakaiki, New Zealand?) where Ralph presented me with a Hawaiian lei and insisted we all take some photos (Ralph is a riot – he’s great). Then we stopped at Ulupo Heau Historical National State, a sacred area that is a gravesite of many Hawaiians, and later at Pali Lookout. At this very windy site I learned about the Battle of Nu’uanu. As the sign explained:

In the late 1700s, Kamehameha I from the island of Hawai’i sought to unite all the Hawaiian Islands under one rule. The battle for O’ahu began with the arrival of his forces at Waikiki in 1795…the battle, called Kalelka’anae (leaping of the ‘anae fish), refers to the men force off the cliff during the conflict. An estimated 400 warriors died in this battle. With Kamehameha’s victory on O’ahu and the signing of an agreement with Chief Kaumuali’i of Kaua’i, he became the first king of the Hawaiian Islands.

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Our final stop was Chinaman’s Hat before heading to La’ie to pick up a tent from my next couchsurfing host, Gabriela. She had recommended that I borrow her tent and spend a night at Malaekahana Beach Campground, a kind of hidden gem in La’ie. We picked up the tent and drove to the campground, where we all explored the beautiful beach I’d be camping next to (now those guys all want to camp there too!). Ralph and Dr. Eppink were concerned that all I had with me were granola bars, oatmeal, and nuts, so we drove back out to pick up some food before parting ways. Thanks for such a great day guys, I really appreciate your hospitality. Mahalo!

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That night at the campground was beautiful. I went out and danced on the beach in the dark just because I could, then enjoyed listening to the rain on my tent as I drifted off to sleep. Not a bad way to spend a night!

In the morning, Gabriela came to pick me up from the campground and we got to know each other a bit. She is originally from Maryland but came to Hawaii to pursue a degree in International Peacebuilding at Brigham Young University – Hawaii. This was an interesting surprise…I didn’t know it, but I was in a very Mormon area. I spent that day at the Polynesian Cultural Center, which is interesting and informative, but is also run by BYU and the Mormon church, which brings up all sorts of interesting questions about Polynesian culture, tourism, and colonization. The PCC was nice – Gabriela was able to get me in for free and I did enjoy all the Polynesian shows, but it also felt a little…canned? Touristy? The shows were impressive but…I don’t know. Most of the people working there are international students at BYU who work to represent their country in exchange for free tuition. I wanted to ask what they thought of working there; did they feel like the center was properly representing their culture? Were they proud to work there? Etc.

Each Polynesian culture had its own “village” and cultural presentation. Of course, I started by visiting Aotearoa, watching their show, and talking with the staff there. I was so happy to hear those New Zealand accents; I actually went back to watch their show again at the end of the day just to hear those accents again! Some of the village shows were informative (Fiji’s in particular seemed pretty legitimate) and others seemed to be comedy relief for tourists. I actually walked out of Samoa’s show; I learned nothing about Samoan culture other than that they have coconuts and weave baskets out of reeds…otherwise it was a lot of bad jokes that too many people laughed at. Anyway, I did enjoy most of my time at the PCC, but it felt uncomfortable and a bit fake simultaneously. But! On my way out I visited the cente’s ukulele center, checked out their ukulele making workshop area, and took a short lesson, so that was cool. Now I know a new strumming technique. 🙂

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Later that night I met up with Gabriela and we made veggie tacos for dinner – yum! She had a bunch of schoolwork to do and I had to work on my grading, so we had a studious evening.

The following morning, I started my day with a run to La’ie Point State Wayside, where I read a story about how the point was formed in Hawaiian folklore. Originally, it was a mo’o, a giant lizard standing upright , ready to kill any intruder. This particular mo’o was killing many people, so the warrior Kana chopped the mo’o’s head into five pieces which now make up five small islands surrounding the point.

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After the run, I attempted the Laie Falls Trail, a 7.6-mile hike to a waterfall. I never actually found the waterfall (it started raining and the trail got extremely muddy), but I did take lots of cool photos:

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Finally, that night I attended the night show at the Polynesian Cultural Center, which I found to be impressive as a show, but again I questioned its cultural significance. Anyway, that’s a bigger question for another day, but the show was cool nonetheless. Photos were not allowed, but there were some impressive fire dancers at the end!

That just about sums up my time on Oahu. This morning I woke up, took the bus to the airport, and flew to Big Island. Today I hung out at the beach with my host Charlie and some of his friends, and tomorrow I will hike to Waimanu Valley. Adventures await!