Kaye’s itchy feet have taken her to Hawaii. Read the latest instalment of her ‘Notes from a traveller series’, only on Just About Travel
Continued from yesterday
However if you’re more about hiking than history, don’t miss Diamond Head Park – arguably the most famous site in all of Hawaii. The trail to the summit of this 475-acre land crater was built in 1980 as part of the US Army Coastal Artillery Defense System.
But let’s be honest: Hawaii is best known for its beaches (Hawaii does beaches better than pretty much anywhere else on the planet). Waikiki is the most famous, with Hanauma Bay– which has a reputation for the best snorkelling – also hogging the headlines.
However my own personal favourite is Kahana on O’ahu’s windward side, where the sand is soft and the only disturbance is the wind rusting the palm trees. Alternatively if Kahana sounds a tad too quiet , look to neighbouring Lanikai (meaning heavenly sea) – consistently crowned one of the world’s most amazing beaches by travel magazines.
Then there’s North Shore – a surfing mecca approximately two hours by bus from Waikiki – that draws pros from around the world, as well as local legends like Pancho Sullivan owing to its waves which are as high as houses. That said, in Hawaii, surfing is about much more than merely catching and riding waves: it’s considered a social activity and honoured ritual (in ancient Hawaii, surfing began with the selection of a tree, from which a board would be carved).
Tattoos are another ritual (Polynesians have been decorating their bodies with tattoos for hundreds of years) and a common sight on O’ahu: pretty much every Hawaiian I met sported several tattoos, viewing them not only as an art form but also a guard of a person’s health and spiritual well being.
I was consumed with the idea of getting a tattoo (as a bubbly blonde, I’d like to look a little tougher plus it would be a souvenir that would last a lifetime). So much so that I even booked an appointment at Victorian Tattoo where I discovered that a good tattoo isn’t cheap (and a cheap tattoo, as we all know, isn’t good).
Avanti Hawaiian shirts
And with my bank balance not in the best shape as a result of a trip to Honolulu hospital – but that’s a story I’ll save for another time – I reluctantly reached the conclusion that my first tattoo would have to wait for a future trip to Hawaii (yes there will be a next time).
Mai Tai time
However I was able to indulge in a few Mai Tais, spam (Hawaiians are mad about this canned meat and consequently an entire festival – The Spam Jam – celebrating everything spam has sprung up), shaved ice (a beat the heat treat whose famous fans include current US President Barack Obama) and loco moco (a satisfying comfort food dish of rice, fried eggs, patty and gravy) on a daily basis – much to the amusement of friends and family back home, who claim that I am highly impressionable.
They have a point: three weeks ago I was sipping mojitos to salsa soundtrack in Cartagena, Colombia. Rewind a couple of months to when I was working remotely in Argentina and Malbec – Argentina’s signature grape – was my tipple of choice pre or post tango class. No doubt you, dear reader, will agree that I am easily influenced, but I’d counter that, as the Indian novelist Anita Desai once termed it: “Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.”
The only drawback to the delicacies I got to delight in, was that they were expensive. Eye watering-ly so – and this is coming from someone who had a spell living and working in the Cayman Islands, a Caribbean destination that has never exactly been considered a bargain. The steep prices in Hawaii can be attributed to the fact that – much like Cayman – about 90 per cent of all food consumed on the islands is imported.
High price tags aside, Hawaii has an underclass which lives in poverty: Oahu’s unemployment rate is less than five per cent, but ridiculous rental prices means many workers are forced to sleep on the streets. Not that it’s easy to do so right now for in December 2014, Kirk Caldwell, Honolulu’s mayor, signed a bill banning people from lying on public pavements between 5am and 11pm. Anyone who risks doing so can be jailed for up to 30 days and fined up to US$1,000 if caught…
And yet despite these draconian measures, the number of homeless in Hawaii has increased to its highest level in five years according to new data released by the 2015 Statewide Homeless Point in Time Count. Initially I was shocked by the sheer volume of homeless people I happened upon in Hawaii but, on reflection, perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised… if you have to sleep rough, warm Waikiki sure beats Barrow (Alaska), aka America’s coldest city.
Yet while the aforementioned issues show that even paradise has its problems, Hawaii also proves that people from different cultures can co exist (Japanese immigrants live happily alongside Americans). Little wonder then that most residents still say to themselves and each other in island pidgin (which was developed on sugar plantations as a common tongue for immigrants at work): “Lucky you live Hawaii.”
I only wish I did too for while I arrived worried I might be lonely (although if there is one thing this trip has taught me, it’s this: make friends with yourself and you’ll never be alone), it didn’t take me long to adapt to the local lifestyle. By day two I was quick to wave hello and share a smile on the street with strangers (it’s just what people do here) which led to locals including me in their plans – be it for Memorial Day (a time to remember loved ones, honour those who served in past wars and pray for a world of peace) or an evening meal.
Sadly this string of emerald islands in the Pacific aren’t easy to get to, being some 2,000 miles from any country, but I left happier for having visited.
Next stop? Nashville!
To be continued on 7 July
To read part one of Kaye’s ‘Notes from a traveller’ series, please click here
To read part three, click here
To read part four, click here