Sunday, 29 November 2009
Day 18 - Oahu, USA
Iwas expecting to wake up at 4am this morning feeling wide awake due to the jetlag. As it turned out, I was awoken by my alarm at 9 and felt terrible. But there was no time for a snooze-button marathon, as I only have two full days on Oahu, and today was going to be a photo day.
I was straight out of the hotel and up to the nearby Diamond Head; it's a volcanic crater close to Waikiki called the "most photographed crater in the world" by the travel leaflets that I picked up from the airports. Its local name is Laeahi, meaning "brow of the tuna," but if this was down to its resemblence to the fish, as the leaflets claimed, then I couldn't see it. The walk is
only 0.7 miles but is straight up - a feat of American engineering at the time that includes switchbacks, tunnels and stairs to a perfect view of Honolulu. The only downside is the number of tourists; at times you're walking in single-file with no view but the behind of the person ahead of you. I created a game where the winner was the one who overtook most other tourists on the way to the top. I was the unmitigated winner (though no-one else knew that they were playing).
The sun was hot and the climb steep, so a quick change of clothing and a shower was required before I was in the car and off to my next lookout point on the Pali Highway. I detoured past the hospital where Barack Obama was born, and drove up to Pali meaning "the cliffs" in Hawaiian. The route used to be the only one from Honolulu to the North of the Island: before the highway was built it was a precarious pass over the mountains used by local tradesmen but feared by foreigners. Today, it's an easy-to-reach lookout point that is so windy that on one occasion, when a man attempted to commit suicide from the cliff he was blown back against the cliff again and again. He was alive (though pretty battered) by the time he reached the bottom.
If the first two treks were thanks to feats of engineering; my final trek (top) was through mud, rivers and generally rough terrain, past incredible rainforest views, to a picture-perfect waterfall. The walk was hard and time was getting on; after a good half-hour of walking I was passed by a group coming back - their guide warned me that it would soon be getting dark. I didn't exactly fancy being stuck in the rainforest after dark; but pushed on.
The trail was indistinct at times, but thankfully someone had kindly tied pink ribbons to the odd tree where the trail split. I assumed they were from a kind soul - I guess I could've been walking into an ambush from a gay Hawaiian guerilla group - but no, eventually I found the waterfall. I took the shot, and had a little dip in the pool below the falls (you couldn't call it a 'swim' - I was not dressed for it - and unlike Hungary there were no trunks for hire (!)) before setting off on my return trek. Again I was in a competition: three lads were running back down to the bottom of the trail, but after overtaking me, they rested at a river crossing and I took back the lead. They overtook me twice more, before, at one of the final mud patches, they again were catching their breath. My steady striding had beaten their stop-start running, and though the sprinters had no idea they were in a race, this tortoise was still the victor for the second time in the day.
Such is the way one's mind wanders in the heat of the rainforest. :)
Off to the neighbouring island of Kaua'i in the morning...