Tuesday, May 14, 2002

San Francisco to Sydney - Days 29-30

Day 30 : Grand Circle Island Tour, Oahu

Today, another tour, this time a 140 mile (200 kilometre) bus tour around the island of Oahu.

Overnight we'd had pounding rain, and a "severe thunderstorm alert" was in-force until early this morning. Though the rain eased, there were still showers as we headed for the tour pick-up point and for much of the first part of the tour.

Hanauma Bay One of the day's first stops was at Hanauma Bay, pictured at left. It's a pretty beach, but it was infested with box jellyfish today, as were many of the beaches on the southern side of the island. Apparently this is a common phenomenon about 8 days after a full moon.

If you look extremely closely at the photo, you might make out a sort of human-like dot in the upper right corner. If you do, clean your computer screen or consult an optometrist immediately, because he's actually in the lower left corner. In front of him there's a circular net, the tool-of-the-trade for a box jellyfish catcher. And you think you've got a lousy job?

Actually, the word our tour-guide used to describe the box jellyfish affected beaches was infestated. She demonstrated an endearing and unflagging ability throughout the day to create new words that the lexicographers have so far overlooked. A few of my favourites were:

  • demonishment - a severe diminution; think of demolished and diminished (eg the native Hawaiian population has experienced a demonishment over the years)
  • recluseness - a measure of an area's seclusion (eg a cave in the Himalayas has more recluseness than, say, a K-Mart store)
  • ongoers - people who want to go past (eg during the evacuation, the police had to stop ongoers and move them to higher ground)
  • agricult - to undertake agricultural activities (eg they came to the area to agricult)

Her linguistic gymnastics ended not with mere words; she had a way with phrases too. Two of her more memorable contributions were inedible in tasting and, surely the day's highlight, anytime we hear the word 'shark', it has to do with sharks. Impeccable logic.

Of course, you don't get to be a tour guide unless you know your stuff and have a passion for it; today's guide was no exception. Debbie and I just think she needs to work on her delivery and style. For the Aussies reading this, the best description I can give of our tour guide is to have you imagine the voice, inflection and cadence of Magda Szubanski's Beautician character combined with the phrasing and linguistic abilities of Mary Kostakidis's Effie.

Blowhole

Wherever there's rock and pounding surf, you're almost certain to find a blowhole nearby. The photo at right is of Oahu's blowhole, and today's ocean swell was providing a thorough demonstration of its capabilities. I don't recall it having that satisfying swooshing sound that accompanies other blowholes I've visited, but I might have been distracted by the sprinkling rain.

From the blowhole it's possible to see a large rock just offshore that's shaped, as all the locals agree, like a whale. It's called Rabbit Rock. Go figure.

We had lunch at a pineapple plantation which provides employment opportunities for the mentally retarded. Before today, I'd never realised how long it takes to get the first fruit from a pineapple plant : it takes two years. (I should mention here that Debbie and I had a pineapple-based wine last night. It'll be our last.)

Sunset Beach

A little later in the day we stopped at Sunset Beach, depicted at left, where I think the idea was to discover that the sand here is a lot hotter than the sand on Waikiki Beach. Some of the people on the beach seemed a little startled when a busload of 63 camera-toting tourists suddenly stormed their previously quiet beach, treading purposefully and earnestly contemplating the sand's temperature. Others though - I guess the more seasoned beachgoers - were completely unfazed.

The day's final stop was at the Byodo-In Temple, which we reached after travelling through the grounds of the surrounding cemetery. Buried here are those of the Buddhist faith, and surviving family members frequently bring offerings of food and drink to leave on the graves. As the local homeless became aware of this activity, the cemetery became a sort of produce and beverages outdoor supermarket until the cemetery authorities hired some security staff.



Byodo In Temple Anyway, the temple is shown in the photo at left. As you can see when we arrived at the temple in mid-afternoon, the weather had improved dramatically. You might also notice the unusual folds in the rocks in the background of the photo. These folds are the result of volcanic activity many thousands of years ago.

Speaking of volcanoes, as I write this I'm sipping on a Volcano Red from the Volcano Winery in Volcano, Hawaii (now there's a good example of finding a theme and sticking with it). The label says it's made from Red Wine (sic) and Jaboticaba Grape Wine. I've no idea what Jaboticaba is - sounds a bit like a character from the new Star Wars film - but it sure beats pineapple as a wine ingredient.



Day 29 : Waikiki and Honolulu, Oahu

Hilton Lagoon A short distance from our hotel is a small Hawaiian cultural museum, the Bishop Museum, and it was here that we first headed this morning.

Enroute to the museum, we passed by Waikiki's Hilton Lagoon, shown in the photo at left. I suppose the Hilton considers having its own lagoon as one step up on the competition, but it seems that its patrons don't agree. As we walked by and took this photo, not a single guest was using the lagoon (unless the fish we saw swimming in the lagoon were from the penthouse suite).

Bishop Museum Inside the museum were exhibits depicting early Hawaiian life, Hawaiian handicrafts, history and culture. A large portion of the museum is dedicated to Hawaiian royalty, who were an important part of Hawaiian life until the late 1800s when they were forcibly dethroned by a committee backed by US troops.

Shown in the photo at right is a ceremonial gown, made for and worn by the king. It was hand-made and used the feathers of presumably thousands of unhappy and presumably flightless birds.

From the museum, we set off for downtown Honolulu. We passed an Outback Steakhouse on the way, a restaurant that takes as its theme, the Australian Outback. I couldn't resist grabbing a menu. On it are traditional Aussie meals such as:

  • Aussie Cheese Fries - which includes "Aussie chips topped with Monterey Jack .. cheese ... served with spicy ranch dressing".
  • Kookaburra Wings - just Buffalo chicken wings with an Aussie-sounding name.
  • Walkabout Soup - described as "A unique presentation of an Australian favorite. Reckon!". As to what this is, your guess is as good as mine.
  • Ayers Rock Steak - described as "A 14oz New-York strip".

I could go on, but you get the idea. The meals are about as Australian as George W. Bush. As well, as Debbie pointed out, there's no dish that includes kangaroo or emu, there's no pavlova and there's no meat pie or sausage roll. Debbie refuses to have us eat there on principle.

Aloha Tower Once in Honolulu, we headed for Aloha Tower which you can see in the photo at left. It's a couple of hundred feet tall and, before September 11, could be ascended by way of elevator. On one side of the tower is the international terminal at which the cruise ships dock and depart. Understandably, on the other side of the tower is a shopping complex filled mostly with shops that appeal to shopping-deprived tourists.

We spent a pleasant hour or two window shopping and occasionally venturing into a few of the stores, which were staffed by less-hungry-looking shop assistants. After a time, we heard live music emanating from one side of the complex which, on investigation, turned out to be from a welcoming performance for guests arriving for a sunset cruise.

Hula Performance Aside from the musicians, the performance included five female hula dancers and three male dancers. You can see in the photo at right the three females in colours from the red end of the spectrum and the male dancer in orange. Out of shot were two female and two male dancers, one of each wearing purple, the other green.

All the female dancers were highly proficient and they seemed to enjoy their work. The woman in green though, looked decidedly Celtic and we waited for her to break into Riverdance at any moment; she never did. The male dancer in orange was clearly a dancer-in-training, and spent much of his time with head turned to the right seeking next-step clues from his male fellow dancers. Not at all bad though for a free performance.

Originally posted by TC

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