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Enjoy & Learn


My Hawaii

My Hawaii–these may be too big words for someone who has been there only once, but I’ll try to share some of my impressions with you. Being in the States I succeeded, among the other trips, in visiting the 50th state–the youngest in the whole country, “adopted” only in 1959 (it had been a territory dependant on the USA since 1900). I landed in Honolulu after 9 p.m. local time, which compared to Chicago (my “home” during the stay in the States) was already after 1 a.m. Traditional lei greetings (a necklace most often made of flowers–one of the very few customs that has barely changed under the influence of the culture of white men), a few welcoming words and a short drive to the hotel. Once there, a few additional organizational matters: allotting the keys, looking for our rooms, basic unpacking and… it was almost midnight. After the all-day trip, which lasted (including a plane transfer) over 14 hours, it was time to go to bed. Suddenly I opened my eyes, darkness around, and on the clock… 3 in the morning! And there was no more sleep! A similar situation happened the next night. Not until the third time could I “reach” 5 a.m. All of this, of course, because the time difference– at 3 a.m. in Hawaii it’s 7 a.m. in Chicago, and at this hour I was used to getting up day in and day out without exception. The same difference was also in temperatures (I think those who have gone to Egypt during the winter are familiar with the subject)–I went there at the end of November, and the temperature stayed around 77-82°F every day (while in the Windy City it was only a little bit above freezing–weather generally similar to Poland). I think that not everyone realizes that Hawaii is on the same latitude as Mexico City, and around 300 miles further south than Miami! Hawaiian winter differs from summer only a little bit (more in precipitation than in temperature), and the gain in daylight is only about 2 hours!

What distinguishes Hawaiians from “inlanders” of the USA is their cheerfulness and relaxed manner. From the very first moment we hear “aloha” from them, which they immediately say to most of the tourists, you have to be a diehard sourpuss not to give in to it. These words have become almost inseparably linked with the image of the Islands. Sometimes natives stretch the middle “o” almost to the limit, but most of the time it only increases the smiles and laughter of the newcomers. Also, in the last few years as the popularity of the state’s second slogan, “hang loose,” which can be compared to the continental “take it easy.” Hawaiians, who believe in this rule themselves, try to persuade the tourists not to be in a hurry during their vacation. They say: spend your time as pleasantly as possible, take advantage of the beautiful weather, beaches, sun, restaurants, coral reefs, surfing and many more attractions. I didn’t have time to try it all, but during my two-week trip to the four islands I tried my best to see and experience as much as possible.

I started in Honolulu, the capital of the state and the only really big city on the Islands as it contains almost 75% of the archipelago’s population. By the way–Hawaii consists of eight big islands (two are almost uninhabited, the next two are much less visited) and almost… 200 islets, patches of land sticking out of the ocean as well as atolls of coral reef. I stayed in Waikiki, in one of the dozens of hotels which that district is strewn with, near probably the most famous beach on the Islands, made famous, among others, in one of Elvis’ movies. The next day in the morning as a “welcome” we went to Pearl Harbor to see the USS Arizona Memorial. It, of course, commemorates the only direct attack on American soil during the world wars, which completely ravaged the whole of Europe. It was an absolute shock to the Americans, convinced of their power and inviolability mainly because of their distance from the main theatres of war. In the attack on December 7, 1941 almost 2400 military personnel were killed, another 1200 were seriously injured and 21 ships were sunk or seriously damaged. The USS Arizona became a true hell–hit in the first wave of the attacks by a bomb penetrating the armor-plating, which went through the deck and hit the magazine. In one moment the warship stood in flames, melting even metal and in less than 9 minutes sank with 1177 members of the crew on board. Some of the bodies stayed there forever, as well as the hull of the ship, which was left as a mausoleum commemorating the victims of that attack. On the surface of the water, a few yards above the deck of the sunken warship, is something like a combination of a long white container with a tent with a few windows and galleries on the sides. You can reach it by small boats which leave every 30 minutes.

The next morning I set off on an eight-hour trip around the island. We stopped (mostly for only 20-30 minutes) at several places on the way: the Dole Plantation, where pineapples grow and THAT juice is made of them; at the beaches that are surfers’ meccas with names like “Banzai Pipeline”; under the mountain ridges shaped like a lion’s head, King Kong or a giant turtle; at bays as picturesque as in the movies. Along the coast we followed islets resembling things like a huge whale or named “Chinaman’s Hat.” Towards the end of our trip we stopped near Halona Blowhole, a place where ocean water enters through channels worn in lava hardened centuries ago and then shoots up for 10-15 yards like a geyser, making a loud whistle at the same time! And if that wasn’t enough, just after that we stopped at Hanauma Bay, perhaps the most famous place on the Islands for snorkeling with its bay shaped like a horseshoe, high rocky cliffs, marvelous yellow-sand beach, and coral reef starting just 10-12 yards from the shore full of creatures of all shapes and colors.

I went there the next morning. I put my towel on the sand under a palm tree and went just to check the water, and I was gone for… one and a half hours. As the reef is hypnotic, I swam, enchanted with the waves over it, scraping my palms a few times on the razor-sharp coral, when the water level dropped and was just a few inches over the reef! I squeezed through channels like the miniature streets in some old town. I followed one or another fish colony–some of them were so yellow, that a canary probably would go grey with embarrassment upon seeing them. I stroked sea turtles’ shells and gently touched their flippers, while they calmly kept nibbling algae off the coral. My second journey to the water ended similarly: again before I knew it, more that an hour had gone by. I would probably have stayed there till the evening spending most of the time in the water, but I still wanted to see Honolulu and environs that day.

The next island in a row was Kauai. Over there the main attraction was Waimea Canyon, known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. And indeed it’s like a smaller version of that famous Colorado ravine (which I had been able to admire two years earlier), even more amazing because it was created on such a small island, and lies just about 10 miles from the shore. What’s more, our guide during that trip was a Hawaiian woman who, a few years earlier, had come third at the world women’s surfing championships! And what was even more, the next day during a trip around the island, at one of the stops in picturesque spots, I almost brushed past Pierce Brosnan relaxing on a bike with his sons.

A few days later we moved on to Maui. And there Haleakala was waiting for me! I had been waiting for that meeting for a long time. Haleakala is an extinct volcano, over 10,000 feet high (Rysy stand just over 8,000 feet!) and about 12 miles from the shore, therefore accessible from sea level. The caldera of that extinct marvel looks like the moon’s surface. I wanted to hike a few of the trails there, but that turned out to be impossible logistically. But I changed that into different attraction. I went on the bus to the top of volcano to watch the sunrise. I was picked up from the hotel at 2 a.m.(!), we reached the summit before 5 in the morning, I climbed to the very top rocks, set the tripod and my new Canon and… was freezing! Despite having thermoactive underwear (I knew how to prepare for that challenge), a sports top, some fleece, oilskins, and sport pants and oilskins pants, I shivered from some wind gusts–it had to be not much above freezing in Hawaii– where at sea level, even at night, the temperature rarely drops below 70°F.

And finally that moment approached– at first a very faint glow, then deep violet, lighter and lighter with the passing minutes, and in the end the outlines of the crater’s interior began to appear like the rocks of some Mordor as well as volcanoes on the neighboring Big Island (the Island of Hawaii). The view was breathtaking! I savored it for almost an hour, taking dozens of pictures at the same time. And one more attraction was waiting for me: we biked back down about 35 miles! During the whole ride we had to pedal only a few times for a total of maybe a few hundred yards. The panoramic view of the whole island and a couple of neighboring ones was unforgettable, as well as the clouds, which at one point we finally stopped seeing from above and started from below! Not without reason people call Hawaii the “Paradise Islands”!!! The other stories: about a Model- T Ford from 1924, about the most active volcano in the world (on the Big Island), bamboo forests, crabs running away as fast as sprinters, Diamond Head Crater, waterfalls, black-sand beaches, banyan trees and few other attractions (magnificent botanic gardens and an albino tiger) maybe in the next issue or by email: darekgaca@yahoo.com. Aloooooha!

Dariusz Gaca

 

Glossary
allot przydzielić
latitude szerokość geograficzna
precipitation opady atmosferyczne
diehard sourpuss (slang) uparty ponurak, mruk
uninhabited niezamieszkały
islet wysepka
commemorate upamiętniać
inviolability nietykalność
armor-plating blacha pancerna
hull kadłub
picturesque malownicze
enchanted zaczarowany
nibble skubać
caldera niecka
marvel cud
summit szczyt
oilskins sztormiak
savor delektować się
 
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