Hawaii: Some people say that this is a tropical paradise.  Yeah, I'd probably have to agree.

October 25-27, 1999
I arrived after midnight and went to the Waikiki hostel where I met a Danish-American woman, Vibiana, and talked to her before I went to sleep. It was a weird feeling to be in a backpackers again, having to share a room.  Better get used to it, I knew that I’d have a lot more of this to come.

I got up around 6 a.m. and went out for a walk.  Jeepers, what a horrible place.  The beach had 50-story hotels.  I haven’t seen anything like that before.  I really didn’t come to see this in Hawaii, but it was the only place to stay since I arrived so late.  I saw Vibbe, as she was also an early riser.  She could only be described as bodacious.  Six feet tall and shapely, friendly and outgoing, loud voice, with what can only be described as very large breasts and a tight shirt.  Well, not that I was fixated on her chest or nothing...ok, ok, maybe I was, but she was quite a character.  It was a fun way to spend the morning.

I set off for Pearl Harbor and walked for many miles to see the city on the way there.  Pearl Harbor was my only real goal on the island of Oahu.  I wanted to see the battleship Missouri, which was docked in the harbor.  The Missouri is the ship upon which the WW II surrender agreement was signed in Tokyo Bay in 1945.  It is the largest U.S. battleship and arguably the most powerful battleship ever.  I could certainly see why.  It had guns that fired shells 40-cm in diameter and 2 meters long and capable of throwing them over 38 km.  They were housed in turrets that were the size of a house.  All clad in armor 40 cm. thick.  Good heavens, talk about heavy duty.

U.S.S. MissouriEverything about this ship was huge.  Unfortunately the engine rooms and turrets weren’t open to the public, but it was interesting to see what I did.  I’ve always wanted to see a battleship and this is the biggest remaining battleship in the world.  It really is quite an impressive piece of machinery.  I was able to see the battle bridge, where the ship’s commander would stay during a battle.  He was probably pretty safe in there, as the battle bridge is a large vertical cylinder that is encased in 45-cm of armor.  It all seems kind of silly that some guy has to sit behind so much armor because some other guy is lobbing pieces of steel and explosives the size of small cars at him, but I guess that’s the stage of evolution where the human race is.  I know I’d want to be behind thick armor if someone was shooting at me.  Later in the day I went to see a WWII submarine.  What a marvel of engineering.  It’s surprising that this thing could be designed so that all sorts of valves, pipes, food, men, etc., could be crammed into such a small space.  Glad I didn’t have to live in there for months at a time.  It’s bad enough sharing a dorm room with five other people.

Later in the day I went to see the Arizona Memorial.  When Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941, almost half of the casualties were from the battleship Arizona.  A bomb hit a gunpowder room and 1400 men died, most are still inside the sunken ship.  It’s a floating memorial in the middle of the harbor where the ship sunk.  It’s a place of quiet reflection of what happened that day and what was to come in the next four years.  The symbolic meaning today is that Arizona represents the start of the war and the Missouri represents the end. You can clearly see the ship beneath the water and every few seconds a small drop of oil rises to the surface. The ship is still bleeding, as it has been since the day it exploded in 1941.

On The Waimano TrailI went back to the hostel and spent some time with Vibbe.  I also met two English women, Cornelia and Gale, and the four of us spent the evening goofing off.   It was nice to be around people from different countries once again.  The following morning I went to the tourist office.  On the way, I saw several handgun ranges that catered to Japanese tourists, so much so that there was hardly any English on the signs.  I was told that Japanese people go to these places as guns are strictly controlled there and they couldn’t do this at home.  In the U.S., strict gun control is considered to be waiting for three days to allow the police to do a background check.  I thought it odd that this would be a tourist attraction, but I guess travelling is about doing new things, even if it is something that I don’t think of.  Once at the office, I asked about the Waimano trail, which they tried to talk me out of as it had been raining a lot, but I still went.  The trail was ok, it followed a ridge high over a valley and allowed me to wander through the trees.  Later I went down the valley and walked along the river.  It wasn’t the nicest trail I’ve been on, but it wasn’t the worst either.  I went back to the hostel and hung out with the people I had met the last days.  Nothing special, but a nice day.  I really didn’t like Waikiki and knew that it was time for me to leave.  This place was so overbuilt, it’s everything that I don’t want and it was time to go.  So I booked a flight for the following day to the largest of the islands, Hawaii (the island and the state have the same name) or as it’s often called, “The Big Island.” 

October 28-29, 1999
I met Vibbe early in the morning.  To this day, I have no idea how it came up, but Vibbe told me her boobs were fake and told me how and why she had it done.  “One of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  My breasts started to sag and…”  She showed me how they went up through the navel to put them in.  It was quite interesting to hear but also a bit unexpected.  Some guys later asked me, “Why didn’t you ask her to see what they felt like?”  I…think..who, um…err..I don’t know.  Well, it was pretty odd, but she was a lot of fun.  Travel is great ain’t it?

I flew to the Big Island.  When I arrived, the car rental people delayed me as they said they had no compact cars available.  I waited for a bit and they kept apologizing for the lack of cars.  After about twenty minutes, they said, “Sir, we have no compact cars left.  Would it be ok if we substituted a convertible for the same price.”  Whew-hoo!

Yep, there I would be, driving a big, fancy, red convertible around Hawaii.  Talk about classy.  So off I drove.  I stopped on the side of the road and tried to get the top down.  I couldn’t quite figure it out, but I managed to force it down by hand.  I didn’t bother to go back to the counter and ask about the top, what if a compact car had just come in and they wanted me to switch?  A few kilometers away, I stopped at a grocery store.  While I was inside, it started to rain, so I ran out and tried to get the top up.  However, nothing I did would make it go up.  In the meantime, the leather interior was getting wet.  Some guy in the parking lot was laughing (in a good way) and asked, “You’re a tourist, aren’t you?”  I said, “Yes, I am.  Now could you help me get this up.”  He continued to laugh as he walked over, but lo and behold, he couldn’t figure it out either.  He said, “there’s a switch somewhere.”   I replied, “Yeah, I know that, but where is it!?”  As the car and the two of us got wet, I laughed at him (in a good way) and said, “Guess we’re both pretty dumb, huh?”  We managed to force the top up, but by this time, the seats were all spotted.  It took an hour of scrubbing to get it back to its original state.  Later on I saw the button that operated the top, but it was very deceptively labeled and the picture on it looked like it opened the trunk.  D’oh!  Once I pushed the button, it was amazing how easy it was to get the top up.   Funny how that works, isn’t it?

I went into Volcanoes National Park for some sightseeing.  I drove to the end of the Chain of Craters road. I was walking down the road in the dark and stumbled on a small ledge.  What I tripped on was the edge of the lava flow, where it covered the road on its way to the sea. The Kiluaea volcano has been erupting non-stop since 1983.  No matter what it is that gets in the way of the lava, be it a house or road, ends up covered.  Off in the distance, I could see the brilliant orange of glowing lava.  It was seven-km. distant, but it was very clear and beautiful, even from this far away.  It was late at night and I couldn’t go anywhere at the time, but some people were returning from seeing the lava and I knew that I’d have to come back tomorrow.  I found an empty road to park the car.  It was a warm night and I couldn’t believe how clear the stars were.  It was as good as I’ve ever seen them.  I lay down on my back and gazed at the stars for a long, long time.  That’s also where I slept for the night.

Mapau CraterPahoehoe Lava FieldsIn the morning, I walked to the Napau Crater.  The trail goes over the lava flows and is a total moonscape devoid of life.  Barren lava had formed in many bizarre shapes.  Sometimes it was smooth, other times it was in jagged shapes, other times there was a type of lava known as Pele’s hair (Pele is the traditional volcano god) that resembled strands of hair that would crumble when touched.  I walked for several hours across the lava flow.  Sometimes the lava would be fascinating in its shape, other times it became monotonous, but I liked it, as it was something very new to me.  The trail markers were tall piles of loose lava that went off into the distance.  Sometimes these stacks reminded me of the Forbidden Lands in the “Planet of the Apes.”  The only thing that was missing was me on a horse with a beautiful bimbo.  Guess you can’t have everything, can you?  I walked to the edge of a large crater named, Makaopuhi, which was on a mountain named Pu’u’o’o.  Just try and pronounce that one!  I sat at the edge of the crater for a long time and looked and looked.  Once again, it was very quiet and there wasn’t another person around.  I was walking on the trail and suddenly it got quite smooth for a short section.  I didn’t figure it out until I ran across another smooth section, though this one had a yellow stripe painted across the middle.  It was a road.  Ahhh…once again, an inhabited area that was covered over by lava.  Nature eventually claims back its own I guess.  There are sections of the trail where the forests had started to regrow and start a new ecosystem.  I would sit in the shade and listen to the birds sing and look at the flowers in bloom.  I guess there are more ways than one for Nature to reclaim its own.

Earlier in the day I talked to a ranger about how I would get back to the beginning of the one-way trail.  “You can hitchhike back.  I’m sure that it will be a foreigner that will pick you up.” he told me.  It took me only a few cars and sure enough, it was a guy from England.  I wonder why that is?  It’s something that I would learn quite a bit about in the coming years.

Mr. Moose Meets The Earth GoddessIn the late afternoon, I went back to the Chain of Craters road.  What a beautiful road.  I didn’t realize how much I couldn’t see last night in the dark.  When I got to the end of the road, I started the seven-km. walk to the lava flows.  It was across another bizarre landscape.  Nothing grew there and the lava undulated in weird shapes, forming a cliff here, a sunken area there, and a random blob somewhere in the middle.  There was no rhyme or reason to it, but endlessly varied it was.  About ten people were walking up that evening.  Once we arrived at the lava flows I immediately knew it was worth coming!  I arrived just as it was approaching dark, so I got to see the lava both in daylight and the darkness that would come.  I won’t forget my first view or the heat of the lava.  Two people walked up to the lava flows, looked at each and gave each other high-fives. 

A River Of FireTo stand next to a river of molten rock at 1000C is nothing short of very cool.  There was a molten waterfall, or should I say, lavafall in one place and in another place, a small dam formed in the lava flow.  The lava would pile up behind it and the dam would form a big bubble.  Eventually the bubble would burst and lava would flow through the break covering a large area in a glowing, orange liquid.  It really was like being in a science show on TV.  You could stand right next to the flow, but periodically a gentle breeze would blow across it and the heat would become absolutely unbearable. We would have to pull back about 20 meters from the flowing magma.  It was so fascinating watching the patterns that formed in the lava stream.  Differing shades of brilliant orange would form as it piled up or broke out.  I could see how the undulating shapes of the lava I had seen in the last days was formed and I didn't tire of watching it's endless variations.  In some ways, it's too much to believe that I could actually watch this happening in front of me.  I had a feeling that it would be one of the highlights of my trip and it turned out to be that way.  I never imagined that I would stand right there next to a river of molten rock and watch it slowly wend its way to the waters of the Pacific Ocean.

I had the top down as I drove off and stopped to look at the stars.  Even though I did the same thing last night, it’s not something that I get tired of doing.  I’m not a big car fan, but after driving in a place like this, I think I like these convertible things.  That night I found a quiet spot and slept on the ground under the brilliant Milky Way.  I can’t imagine a better bedroom than that.

October 30-31, 1999
I went to a black sand beach early the next morning.  These beaches, made from eroded lava, are very striking, but not exactly pleasant once the sun is shining.  The most common sounds heard on these beaches are “OW..OH…OUCH!” as the black sand gets quite hot in the sun.  I sat on the beach, went for a swim, and watched sea turtles swimming in the bay.  I guess I have a thing for turtles, I like ‘em.  I wandered around for the day.  I drove up the western shore and stopped here and there to check out the local villages and walk a few trails.  The people of Hawaii are very laid back about things.  Today I met a woman who was complaining about the dress code in the local schools.  The administration was trying to require the kids to wear shoes and that didn’t sit too well with everyone.  I found another beach and went for a swim, sat among the coconut trees, and…you know I don’t remember exactly what I did, but I sure had a good time. 

In the evening, I was going up the coast past Mauna Kea.  This is a 4300-meter volcanic mountain that rises straight from sea level to its summit.  It was a beautiful sunset.  I looked to the east and saw Mauna Kea glowing pink in the setting sun.  I looked to the west across the vastness of the Pacific and saw the yellow and orange sunset and there I was cruising along with the top down.  I was the Master of All of Creation, if only for a little while. 

Contemplating...Unfortunately, the next day I had to leave, so I bummed around the coast a bit and did a little of this and that and I cut across the middle of the island at night.  I hid behind some trees and slept in the car.  In the morning I headed back towards the east side of the island, went to some lava tubes and later to 129-meter tall Akaka Falls.  It was a quiet Sunday morning and I had the impressive falls and rainforest to myself.  I sat among the trees and…sat.  Seemed pretty simple.  Actually, the highlight of this little side trip was a restaurant with a sign that said, “Locals eat here, you should too!”  I went to the coast, which overlooked the ocean on some tall cliffs and decided to get some exercise.  There were many people coming up from the beach who were huffing and puffing on the climb.  I, who had just come off the mountain bike racing season and was in top shape, was repeatedly running up and down the climb.  They looked at me like I was an extraterrestrial.  Later I sat on some rocks and listened to the ocean, went for a swim in the waves, and contemplated eternity.

I had to leave as I had a flight back to Oahu this evening.  My stay in Hawaii was really just a short stopover.  I originally came to see my brother, who lives near Volcanoes National Park, but the day before I arrived he went to another island and I couldn’t get to see him.  Good to know that you fly thousands of miles to see your brother and he decides to go somewhere else.  Yep, you can always count on your family!  Whatever happened, I’m really pleased to have come to Hawaii.  It’s got a nice feel to it.

I flew to the main airport on Oahu and had a few hours until my plane left in the middle of the night.  I met a homeless woman who was quite pleasant, but a bit of a nutter (she told me about the “movie project” that she was working on with Kevin Costner).  She said that she picked me out because I looked “interesting.”  I think that’s a good thing.  I had a bag of fruit left that I couldn’t take with me on the plane and gave that to her.  She seemed to like that.  It turned out that Cornelia and Gale were on the same plane as I.  They asked what I had been doing for the last days.  I told them about the Waimano Trail.  They said, “Oh, you’re the one the tourist office was talking about.  They said there was ‘this one crazy guy who was going to walk the trail.  We tried to talk him out of it but he insisted he was going saying he wasn’t going to allow a little mud stop him.’”  Now I was famous.  The three of us got on our plane and off we went, flying southwest over the Pacific Ocean.