Snorkeling and Pineapples
Hawaii – Wednesday, January 16
I was up bright and early again and ready for the snorkeling pick-up at 7:15. It was about 72 degrees out, but the locals thought that was a bit chilly and they had jackets and hoodies on. At that hour of the morning, it did seem a little early to be heading for a swim in the ocean, but I knew it’d be good once we got there. I was the first person to be picked up, and she had a full load, and had full loads all day – I was indeed glad to be getting to Hanauma Bay with the early birds. Traffic was congested leaving Honolulu, but once we cleared that, it was only about another 20 minutes. Our driver did not work for Hanauma Bay, which is a marine preserve, so she had to drop us off about 1/2 mile from the entrance. She passed out the masks, snorkels and fins and had a good supply, and they were in good condition. Once we were in the preserve, there was a mandatory video that everyone had to watch before being turned loose on the beach and in the water. It was educational, and mostly talked about not damaging the coral, and about some of the fish we would see. I guess there are octopus around, but I didn’t see any, although they are masters of camouflage. I headed straight for the water, and it did feel chilly! But I got right in and soon was comfortable, and I started seeing fish right away. The water was pretty shallow throughout the whole bay, and sometimes there was barely room to skim over the coral. There were big fish, little fish, and lots of sea urchins hiding in the rocks. So many colors and patterns – it never fails to fascinate me! And they get close – they must be used to people invading their territory. They had warning buoys out at the limits of where they felt it was safe to be out in the bay – and since there were lots if rocks closer in that the fish like to hang out in, there was no need to go out by the buoys. I pretty much hung out and floated around the rocky areas, and quickly lost count of how many different kinds of fish I saw. I finally began to feel a bit chilled, so I got out and discovered I’d been in the water for about an hour and a quarter. I sat on the beach to warm up, and then walked along the whole beach area. People were constantly arriving – they looked like ants filing down the long hill from the top. There was still a little time before we had to catch the van back, so I got back in the water and 45 more minutes passed quickly. By then, I was waterlogged and ready to warm up! We had to walk back down the road to meet up with our driver, and there was another extinct volcano to look at. The ride back to Honolulu went fast.
I took time to have a quick bite and get changed, then I wanted to take the bus up through the middle of the island to the Dole Pineapple Plantation. This time I knew which bus to catch where, partly from trudging around to find the first bus yesterday! I knew it would be a pretty long ride – nearly an hour and a half each way – because of frequent stops, but I had my Kindle (thanks again to my dance staff!) and a crossword puzzle book (thanks to my mom!) And of course, there was scenery to look at once we were out of the city. It wasn’t as spectacular as driving along the coast, but still pretty to see. After swimming all morning, it didn’t even seem like that long of a bus ride. Plus I had a window seat. Lots of people use the bus – to cover the miles I did round-trip for $2.50 is indeed a bargain…if you have the extra time.
I learned a lot about pineapples, which was the goal of this excursion. There is no fee to actually get onto plantation grounds, but they get you everywhere else, and it’s a pretty commercial venture. I wanted to go out to see the actual pineapple fields, and one has to buy a ticket on the “pineapple train” to do that. But it was fully narrated, and well worth it. Pineapples are grown year-round in Hawaii so that there is always a fresh supply. To this day, they are all planted by hand – after the field has been plowed and black plastic strips have been laid down in rows. The workers use a special knife to cut right through the plastic (which helps with weed control, and to retain moisture) and plant the green crown of an old (?) pineapple. It only just now occurred to me to wonder where the green crowns come from??? They take a really long time to grow – more than a year, and there is a “first cutting” and then many months later, a “second cutting” from the same plant, and then the field is plowed and the process is started all over again. We saw fields in several stages of growth. The little growing pineapples were cute. When it comes time to harvest them, it is again done all by hand. There’s a machine that pulls along a huge conveyor belt, and the workers move in long lines through the field, cutting each pineapple by hand and putting it on the conveyor belt, which eventually gets the pineapples to the sheds where they’re sorted. Even on the hottest of days, the workers have to be completely covered up because the pineapple plants are thorny. I think I’ll have a new appreciation for pineapples when I eat them! There used to be a big pineapple cannery right on the grounds, but that is now located somewhere else. I believe they said more pineapples are sold fresh than canned.
Once back at the huge gift shop (where one can buy anything one can think of in the shape of a pineapple!) there was a little demonstration in how to choose a good pineapple and how to core/cut one simultaneously with their handy-dandy new gadget (but the young lady doing the demonstration had to work so hard to push the gadget through the pineapple that her arm was shaking!). I have to wonder how many of the gadgets they sell. I learned the 2 things I thought were important in buying a pineapple (color and smell) don’t really matter, and 2 other things do! Once a pineapple is picked, it will not ripen any further. So they told us to instead look for even rows of uniform “eyes” – the little diamond-shaped “thorny” parts on the outside. The color does not matter – if it’s a little green or yellow, that’s not important. The other thing to look for is at the stem end, where the pineapple was cut – should be light-colored and firm, not brownish and soft. Lesson learned! I then went back outside to get a couple more miles of walking done in the Dole Guinness Book of World Record’s largest maze – nearly 3 miles of narrow pathways through all kind of tall native Hawaiian shrubbery. It has to be one of the more unusual places I’ve walked, but I did cover nearly 2 1/2 miles – trying to hit all sections of the maze, but I could have been going in circles for all I know! I stayed there until the plantation closed, then went back to the bus stop for the long ride back. It was almost dark, so couldn’t enjoy the view, so I simply read instead and the ride went quickly. The bus dropped nearly everyone off at the giant mall near my motel, which is also a transfer point. I did a little more walking since everything was lit up so brightly, then went in to the food court area, where the majority if the food was Asian. There was a huge variety, and it was very crowded. I got some Chinese food to take back to the hotel – I made a wrong turn leaving the mall area, and ended up walking nearly a mile out of my way, but it didn’t really matter. It was nice to get back to my room at the end of another full day.
I didn’t make a donation today – I tried to at Hanauma Bay since it was a nature preserve, but they seemed very confused with a check donation instead of cash (and they were asking for donations!) and didn’t know who it should be made out to, and thought they better not take it. And I don’t carry that much cash. And I didn’t see anything at the pineapple plantation – sometimes places like that raise money for good causes. But I had made 2 donations yesterday, so all is well.
I’m still having computer and picture issues – but hope to add photos soon… I’m out and about all day, and the office closes earlier than i wish it would, and it’s the only place my iPad works, so posts are coming slowly. Life on an island…