Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Aloha from Paradise (Mahalo, Sallie Mae!!!)
OK- I got a call from my daughter about the Friends and Family Plan her company offers, and she had a deal too good to pass up for Thanksgiving week. Consequently, I flew out to Hawaii and spent my Thanksgiving week on a cruise ship! This was so cool, but not without stress. I had a short time to plan, so I ended up finishing my rotation on Friday, finishing my abstract by midnight, packing on Saturday and then flying out Saturday night. During my layover in Oakland Ca, I finished all my PEMS work (pharmacy talk for homework) and napping, then off to Honolulu to land 1 pm Sunday. I checked into the ship- I had a luxury cabin with a balcony, the same VanGogh Starry night that I keep on my mantel, and a complimentary bottle of champagne! Kate and I took a walk just to keep me awake, and we saw Diamond Head off in the north. We sailed out in the evening. I had a hard time getting to sleep- every time I turned out the light it felt like someone was watching me, so I left my laptop on screensaver, just dim enough. I woke up in Kauai. Kate rented a car and we drove off to Waimea canyon "the Grand Canyon of Kauai". It was unbelievable. The next morning I headed up to see Wailua waterfall and drove thru plantations and cane fields to get there. We sailed at 1 pm past the Nepali coastline and I took pictures from my balcony as the sun set. It being Formal Night, we dined in the restaurant Crossings in our finery.
I woke up the next day in Hawai'i, the Big Island, in Hilo. We picked up our rental car and headed up to the Kilauea Volcano park, home of goddess Pele. The volcano crater is alive and smoking- you can drive around its 11 mile perimeter. You can hike down if you have more time, but we drove and walked out to the main sights. I had the second worst asthma attack of my life and gave thanks to the albuterol goddess (Thanks Beth!) from the sulphur- you couldn't smell it but the beta cells in your lings knew it was there! The locals leave leis and flowers for Pele to petition her for favours. We went to a lava tube made by water that evaporated out after an eruption, leaving a sizable tube behind. When we left Hilo, we cruised past the active volcanos at night and watched them from my balcony while the ambassadors chanted in Hawai'ian. You could see the lava spurting up on the shore from our vantage point at sea. Kate says it looks different every single week.
The next day we docked at Kona on the other side of the island. We decided to shuttle up to a beach, so we headed to a state park for the afternoon. The sand was black, volcanic sand that I wanted to bring back but was told no-go because of nematodes. I had brought Kate her snorkel gear, so she and Philip snorkelled while I tried to keep my balance on the rocky beach. Tropical fish of all colors swam past my ankes and both delighted and scared the hell out of me. I found a part of the beach that had a sandy bottom and hung there for a long time in the 70+ degree water. I have never been in water so warm without my rubber duckie. A woman standing near me stepped on a sea urchin and got some nasty spines stuck in her foot. We lunched at a restaurant near the ship before boarding. I talked with my family on cell and wished them happy holiday. We had our Thanksgiving dinner at Pacific Heights restaurant on the ship with all Kate's friends, and Leilani regaled us with Hawaiian stories. It was lovely.
Next morning found us in Maui, where Kate had rented us a car for the Road to Hana, a grueling gorgeous road along the cliff-hanging coast: 56 bridges, most of which were one-lane, and 617 curves & turns, most of which are hair-pin. Kate drove like she was playing Pole Position (she was always good at that game), and I gave the Imaginary Brake a good workout. We agreed that if I were driving, we'd probably still be on the road to Hana! I cannot begin to describe the untouched beauty this coastline represents. I understand why the locals don't commute into town! Kate described returning at night, and all the stars on this unlit road- I could imagine the splendour, but am glad I wasn't there in the dark. We got to the town and a kitty was right above us in the beach parking lot. I got some incredible photos while we waded around and stretched. We made good time on our way back.
We rose at 4 am and grabbed the car for a trip to Haleakala Peak for the sunrise; we drove a road that was all twists and turns in the dark. We got into the state park just after the choice parking lot closed so we headed to the next best lot. THEN I learn that we are over 10,000 feet up above sea level. I had on five layers and still I was shivering, it was 39 degrees F at the top. It was cloudy, so we did not get a spectacular tropical sunrise, but it was quite an awesome experience anyway. As the light increased, one could see the striations in the terrain around us; this is a volcanic peak, and the minerals spewed in past eruptions have definitive colors and shapes. You can see the two segments of Maui and the valley connecting them. A tour guide was pretty funny, commenting on taking the Griswolds' Christmas card photo. We had planned to take a short hike, but there was a warning sign stating unusual wasp activity had been noted so beware: without my EpiPen, I was reluctant to chance it, so down we drove for breakfast. On the drive down, I could not believe how high up we were; we went past such beautiful places. After a hearty meal, we grabbed our bathing suits and drove to Lahaina on the other side of the island. Kate knew of a beach that only the locals know about, you park in a lot near construction sites and hike thru a meadow, then come out on this incredible beach. The surf was very strong, but the water was great. Kate took a nap on the beach and I took a nearly-4-mile walk. I saw a couple my age being married on the beach near a hotel, with a Hawai'ian native presiding over their vows, and no one else but other vacationers to notice. Sailboats moored nearby, fishermen cast their hooks, and the sun shone and the waves rolled. We headed to town and did some shopping, Hilo Hattie's and the Crazy T-Shirt shop among others. We got back and returned our car before dinner and made good time.
In the morning we were back in Honolulu on Oahu. I checked out from the ship and we cabbed my stuff up to Waikiki where I had a hotel room reserved. We walked across the city to a mall to get Kate's computer fixed but the Apple store had a reservation policy. We made a reservation, and did some shopping. We had lunch and then I said goodbye to Kate, who needed to be back on board. I walked to Ala Moana beach and took some photos and dozed in the sun, then I kept the appointment and got her computer fixed. I met Kate back at Aloha Tower to return her laptop and enjoy a final glass of wine with her friends. The I walked all the way back to Waikiki beach, which was very enjoyable until it began to thunder and lightning (just before I got to the hotel).
I planned to have breakfast at a local spot, but a bus pulled up for Pearl Harbor, so I hopped aboard. I wanted to visit the Arizona Memorial and get my dad a hat to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the attack. It was such a somber and holy place- it was eerily quiet and you could sense the 1,777 souls around you. I took a lot of photos, and read every exhibit. I got back to my hotal and went online for a shuttle, then headed down to the beach for my last afternoon. I stayed til sunset on Kuhio Beach, and saw the beginning of the torchlighting show they do.
In the morning, the shuttle driver picked me up and was so personable and nice, he gave me a big hug at the airport when I left. My flights went very well- I made my connection in Oakland and caught the red-eye back. I got back the Wednesday morning after Thanksgiving, at about 8 am, and cabbed to my sister's to get my car. By the time I got home and made breakfast, I fell sound asleep watching tv with my tea mug in hand.
It felt so good to be home and sleeping in my own bed. I still can't believe I got to go, it all happened so fast. This was the trip of a lifetime.