Despite wondering if a giant wall of water might kill me, the Hawaii trip was fabulous. I visited four of the seven islands – Oahu, Molokai, Maui, and the Big Island – and saw all seven of Hawaii’s national parks.
It was a relatively complicated trip to plan, what with all the island hopping and a weekend trip to Guam. (More about that later, but let me just say you can safely take Guam off your bucket list.)
The first island I stayed on was Oahu, which felt the most regular, if by regular you mean charmless. Ha ha! Just kidding, Oahu dwellers! Oahu is a perfectly nice island, but it’s not as scenic as the others, because it’s where people work at non-tourism jobs, get stuck in traffic jams, and ride city buses. It’s the Cleveland of Hawaii, but with more sand.
Though there was this:
I stayed on Waikiki for the cheap hotels, and because you can catch said city bus to the U.S.S. Arizona memorial, one of the national parks. (I wanted to avoid a car rental, since I was trying to keep costs down on that 15-day, multi-island trip. Which I failed at miserably.)
Before I talk about the Arizona, I want to say one of my favorite experiences on Oahu was chatting with a tour guide – a native – over one of these:
He was friendly and funny, and gave me a good sense of what it would be like to live your whole life on an island. He said he often felt trapped, because of geography and limited work and education opportunities, but he also felt a deep connection to community and great cultural pride.
I asked about the business, which he owned, and he boasted he’d just had his best year ever. I asked him what his secret was. “I let my customers drink.”
Me: “You mean you stop at bars along the way?”
Him: “No, I mean I let them drink in the van.”
Me, setting my own drink down: “Isn’t that illegal?”
He shrugged. “I’ve got tinted windows.”
I don’t need to explain Pearl Harbor, but I do want to say that though I fully respect the loss of life there and what the attack meant for the U.S., I’m not hugely interested in military anything, nor am I a big history buff, so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel seeing it.
The park was immaculately groomed and interesting, even for this girl who doesn’t care a bit about military paraphernalia:
Entrance was free, and you’re ferried out to the site where the remains of the Arizona lay at the floor of the harbor.
There are still a few hundred bodies buried with the ship, unable to be retrieved.
My response? Saddened to the point of tears.
The place felt haunted. If I remember correctly, the night before the attack the Arizona had been filled to capacity with oil, 1.5 million gallons, and though some of it burned in the attack, most of it remained. Ever since, a few quarts a day have been leaking to the water’s surface. You could see it bubbling up, and it raised the hair on the back of my neck. It was as if ghosts were breathing down there.
Next up: Molokai.