Saturday, October 28, 2006

Six nights in Waikiki

Well so much for my amateur insights into Hawaiian culture - what did I actually do in my 6 nights in Honolulu? To be fair, for the first three days very little. I had a routine, moving from hostel to (air-conditioned) coffee shop, to beach, to splashing around in the sea, to (air-conditioned) cheap noodle bar, and back to my hostel dorm. During this time, I was almost exclusively sleeping or reading.

But on Monday, a group of us from the hostel decided to explore the island in a mini-bus. We went from south to North Shore, from Sunset Beach to mountain rain forest - from the ugly volcanic beach where Burt Lancaster kissed Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity, to the enormous Del Monte estate where we stole one of their pineapple crop.

Naturally, when it came to the event, we were closer to Whitehall farce than street-wise grifters. Just as we parked the mini-bus, and were trying to project an air of amateur but enthusiastic horticulturists, two lorry-loads of fruit-pickers came out of the Del Monte compound (which I thought looked worryingy like a dirty cement plant). Objectively, there is no reason for these poor fruit-pickers to give us a second thought - especially as they are probably paid a pittance, looked as if they had been bussed in from South America, and had to wear layer upon layer of clothes in the humid Hawaiian heat to protect themselves from the short, hard spikes of the pineapple bush (I speak from experience).

Nevertheless, their presence had a paralysing effect, reducing us to grinning half-witted tourists waving wildly at the passing trucks (a gesture which seemed to be warmly appreciated, and certainly enthusiastically reciprocated). After aimlessly milling about for what seemed like an age but was probably only 3 minutes, our driver Jake grabbed what looked like a ripe pineapple and we sped off - monitoring the road behind us for the Del Monte security guards in hot pursuit. But none came, and we ate our ill-gotten gains at beautiful Sunset Beach on the North Shore - playing Frisbee, scaling palm trees and watching the sky turn red and the stars slowly appear.

Tuesday I hiked up Diamond Head mountain, just outside Honolulu (short, steep with fantastic views) and on Wednesday I braved the Hawaiian public transport system to go into the mountains for a 5 hour hike. From dense tropical rain forest to panoramic mountain views and a brief stop-off at a hidden water-fall - I felt quite pleased and self-satisfied with myself.

Anyhow, I am now on a computer in Auckland as the one in Waikiki was out of order - but Ill save the story of the trip over for the next post.

Things I have learnt:

- the sand on Waikiki beach is imported from Australia
- it costs as much to travel from one end of the island to the other (a journey which takes over an hour, goes over a mountain range and through a rain-forest) as it does to get from Gateshead to Newcastle (a 7 minute journey over a short bridge). $2 or GBP1.
- Spam sushi is incredibly popular - you can buy it at virtually every shop in Waikiki
- the ukulele is central to Hawaiian music - no information as yet on George Formby's influence on islands' culture


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