Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head and Ka Liko O Kapalai
Wireless service in Samoa is temperamental!! Especially when it rains! So I’m falling behind, but will do what I can!
Hawaii – Tuesday, January 15
I was wide awake before 5am – the 5 hours of time difference are working in my favor, although I know I’ll pay for it on the way back! It was too early to go anywhere (and this is certainly not typical for me – ha!) so the first thing I did was check prices at other hotels, but it works out best to stay here. Hawaii is expensive, and even with the “distress rate” for the room, it’s still a bit pricey. But when I average out the expense for all 3 nights (since American paid one), this hotel – Ala Moana – is clearly the best deal. Since I didn’t have a reservation, and they’re at 90% occupancy, at first they thought I’d have to switch rooms for the next 2 nights, but it all worked out. And it makes me feel better to have a nice safe place to stay during my unexpected visit to Honolulu.
I hadn’t decided yet if I wanted to rent a car, but it was still too early anyway. I had read that the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor opened at 7:00, and there’s a limited number of passes they give out for the boat over to the memorial, and sometimes they run out by early afternoon due to the crowds. I decided to tackle the bus system to get out to Pearl Harbor first thing, which was quite a ways away. One of the front desk people was kind enough to walk outside and point me in the direction of the bus stop I would need, and said it was a bit of a walk down the street. I told him it didn’t matter how far it was – I’m used to walking! So I was out looking for my bus stop by 6:30 in the morning. But I walked right past it – it was only a half block away which didn’t seem like a bit of a walk to me! Even at that hour with the sun just coming up, there was lots of traffic, people out jogging before the heat of the day, and lots of commotion. The hotel is right next to an enormous shopping mall, and there’s parking structures, and a big bus transfer place and lots of traffic. Honolulu is the giant hub for business, commerce and travel in the whole South Pacific and that became apparent quickly. I decided then and there I was not going to rent a car. In the end I walked nearly a mile and a half to get to the correct bus stop – there’s a lot of different bus numbers and routes, plus you have to know which direction you’re going. But, as I discovered, the public bus system is efficient and prompt and very reasonable. A lot of people use them. Because of all the stops, it took about 40 minutes to get out to Pearl Harbor – nearly twice as long as driving it would take. There were lots of people already there, but lines weren’t bad, and I got my pass for the memorial, and had time to look in the museums before the video part of the excursion. The video was really good – it is truly astonishing how the Japanese were able to pull this off. Some soldiers watching the radar had actually noticed a huge spike in air traffic shortly before the attack, and reported it to their supervisors, who said “It’s probably nothing” since some US bombers were due in that day and he figured that’s what it was. I doubt there would have been time to do much had an alarm went out, but maybe some of the fighter planes could have gotten off the ground instead of being picked off like dominoes on the field. The video footage is awful, and I just can’t imagine the horror of those 2 hours. Then we took a navy launch out to the actual memorial, which was built cross-wise over the sunken Arizona. (All but 3 of the stricken battleships eventually went back into service, but the Arizona had been hit where all her ammunition was and she went down quickly with most of her crew.) The Arizona sank in shallow water, and is visible just under the surface – rusty, and turning into a coral reef. It is a tomb – the 950 or so men who went down with her are still inside. She carried a crew of over 1100, so not many survived. So far, 36 of those survivors made the request that upon their death, they wished to be returned to the USS Arizona to be entombed with their crew. The Navy honors those requests. After nearly 70 years, the Arizona is still leaking oil, drop by drop. I asked one of the rangers if they had any idea how much fuel was still left, and they guesstimate there’s still a half million gallons, and nothing can be done about it since it’s a tomb. It’s a very touching memorial to visit and just makes you stop and think what this country went through in WWII. There were many walkways and other explanatory exhibits, and I wandered around all of it. Then I sat in the Contemplation Circle and wrote out a donation check and a little note saying the donation was in honor of my dad’s 2 brothers who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor. Then I went out and caught the bus back – this time we went through the huge Chinatown, which seemed like a foreign country!
Because of my early start, it was only about noon, and I quickly tried to put together a rough plan for my remaining time in Oahu. My sister had told me about a nearby snorkeling place, and there was actually a coupon for it from a book I got in the lobby, so I called them up to see about snorkeling. The bay is near Honolulu, and the lady told me it’s always closed on Tuesdays, but had been closed a couple days before that due to bad weather, so Wednesday was very crowded, but she had room on her 7:15 pickup route, and the early time would also mean avoiding long lines. So I had her put me on the list for the morning. And that left my afternoon free to walk out to Diamond Head State Park and climb the volcano. I got various opinions as to how far away it was, so I just decided to head out and see what happened. My hotel was in the business district, surrounded by skyscrapers blocking the ocean view. After a mile or so of walking, I got near the Waikiki Beach district – which was packed with towering hotels, resorts, expensive shopping areas, and lots of restaurants and cafes. It was crowded and noisy and I couldn’t even see the beach at first because of all the highrise hotels. But it was kind of a fun street to walk down because the sidewalks were like boulevards and there was lots to see (except the ocean!). There were people carrying surfboards in swimwear, and people dressed to the nines shopping in the boutiques. As I continued to walk, I passed the main hotel area, and then I was by the beach. It was a pretty day, and lots of people were out enjoying the sun and water. Diamond Head didn’t look too far away from the end of the beach area, since it was kind of towering right there, but…looks are deceiving, and it was still a bit of a walk, which didn’t matter. It was a pretty afternoon. After the Waikiki Beach area, the road led through more of a “real” Hawaii area, since it was away from the tourist zone. I walked past neighborhoods, and schools, and the everyday shops that the residents would use. Diamond Head is big, and the state park encompasses a lot of land. Naturally the entrance to the state park was on the far side of where I was coming from! But I got there, and they only charge walkers $1 to get in. Then the climb began – gentle at first, then getting steeper, then zigzagging up the side, then lots of stairs, then a 99-step flight of stairs, then a tunnel, then 2 narrow spiral staircase, and voila! you’re at the top! I had to stop and rest several times along the way. The view looking down at the ocean, and looking over at distant Honolulu and Waikiki Beach was beautiful. It was obvious that we had climbed up the crater of a volcano, and it was rimmed with some jagged edges, but it wasn’t black and full of hardened lava rock like I had imagined. It blew its top ages ago, and grass and weeds have taken over, plus the army has some sort of military installation in the crater. The floor of the crater is about 175 acres, so it’s big. Definitely an impressive view! On my walk to the state park, a mother and her daughter (Tracy and Joelle) had passed me, also walking to the state park. And then we kept running into each other on the route to the top, and in the end, we walked back to the Waikiki Beach area together. The sun was just about to set as we got to the beach, so we watched that although clouds prevented it from being a perfect sunset. They invited me to join them for dinner, which was very kind, but by this time it was nearly 11:00 my time, and I still had a couple miles to walk, so I thought it best to just keep going. I figured I’d grab a quick bite from some stand to eat as I walked. I walked on a bit and found a crepe stand, and got a mango crepe, which they put into a paper cone for easy eating. As I was walking away with that, I heard some Hawaiian music, and saw people going into a park across the street, and it looked like there was a Hawaiian dance performance starting up, and I couldn’t resist going over to watch, even though I was tired.
The hula group was Ka Liko O Kapalai, which was named for a blossoming fern. There were 6-8 dancers, and 3 musicians – playing a bass, a ukulele, and a guitar. Sometimes when the lady was singing the traditional Hawaiian songs, one of the men would translate in such a way that it didn’t distract from the music or dancing. And since the dancers are telling a story, it was a fun combination to hear the Hawaiian song, the English translation, and watch the dancers put the words into movement. I was happy to be able to see the show! Afterwards the dancers were selling snacks, and my donation radar kicked in! I didn’t want to disturb their sales, but I found an opportunity to talk to one of them, and explain what I was doing. She was a former Michigander, but has lived in Hawaii for a long time and has been dancing hula for 12 years. She told me they use the proceeds from the snack sales for costumes – something I know a thing or 2 about! I was happy to be able to make a donation to them since I haven’t done as many cultural donations as I would like. In fact, the last dance group I donated to was a clogging group from New York which had been invited to perform in the December 7 Pearl Harbor remembrances.
At this time, I finished the couple miles back to my hotel – pleasantly worn out after an unexpectedly full day – and 14 miles of walking and 2 donations!