We took the main highway northwest from Honolulu, past Pearl Harbour, stopping on the way for our daily fix of supermarket poke (Hawaiian raw fish speciality). Our first stop was the Dole Plantation. Hawaii is famous among other things for pineapples, and a young man by the name of Dole made his fortune by buying up lots of cheap land and cultivating a very fruitful enterprise. We stopped to have a look, as well as to attempt the world’s largest maze. It was a bit of fun and even a little frustrating at times. The object of the game is to find 9 checkpoints in the maze in the fastest possible time. Even with a map, which we stubbornly refused to use for the first 30 minutes, it’s difficult. We eventually split up and had a contest, which Ninfa just edged in an exciting finish. Well done Ninfa!
After our amusement at the home of pineapples, we headed for Historic Haleiwa, aka surfer central! We didn’t really know what was historic about Haleiwa and were about to bypass it until we hit a traffic jam, and we’d thought we’d try a shortcut through the town. Haleiwa is picture postcard perfect Hawaiiana with an added twist of surfer dudedom! Check out our pictures here. We stopped for some food before continuing on to Sunset Beach.Spanning just over a month every December, the Triple Crown of Surfing hits the North Shore of O’ahu, as the winter Pacific storms start to push high waves southwest straight into the North Shore of Hawaii. We stopped first at the famous Banzai Pipeline, known in the surfer kingdom for its unbeatable tubes or pipes that surfers can swim along underneath the wave. It wasn’t our day though, as the weather forecast showed the storms coming from the northeast rather than the northwest, so the normally fearsome Banzai Pipeline was a shadow of its potential. The surfing championship had been called off for the day as the waves were too low, only a few metres high. It was right in the middle of the ladies competition, so many of the competitors were posing for publicity shots on the beach, or putting in a few hours practice. It wasn’t all doom and gloom for Ninfa though, as some of the male competitors were taking the opportunity to practice some impressive surf skills as well.
We hung around the beach until just after dark and watched a beautiful sunset stretch out over the sky and the beautiful beach around us. We’ve seen a lot of beaches on our tour, but Hawaii’s North Shore looks to be topping the charts. Although we spent a lot of time looking for an underdog to be our champion beach, sometimes the favourite is just too hard to beat. Check out our North Shore photo album here.
We drove a little further up the coast also, and found a few locations which we recognized from Lost, the desert island drama series that we had downloaded and watched on our lazy evenings throughout the trip. We found the shrimp truck where Sawyer killed his supposed father, which among other things, began to whet our appetite. We stopped off at Historic Haleiwa on the way back to Honolulu and found a shrimp truck and had a delicious shrimp meal which came very close to equaling supermarket poke.
We would have liked to stay on the North Shore, but during the surfer high season, the rooms were ridiculously expensive – about $40 for a bunk bed in a dorm! So we headed back to Honolulu and got a last minute deal on a nice hotel just off Waikiki. We took a walk down around Waikiki to see some Hula Girls dancing in a public show that the Honolulu municipality presents most evenings. The show is very touristy, and we did our best to enjoy. What was really funny was that there was a man in the hula-dancer troupe. We’re all for equal opportunities, but a man as a hula girl was the final straw for me. We walked further along the beach until we found the Duke Kahanamoku Statue. Duke, the original Big Kahuna, was an Olympic champion swimmer and one of Waikiki’s original beach boys. His statue depicts him with his trademark longboard which he used to surf the waves on Waikiki beach, and his arms are graced with beautiful lei (Hawaiian floral necklaces) – it’s a real icon of Honolulu, Hawaii and the Aloha state, and one monument you just have to visit in Hawaii. See more of Waikiki and Honolulu here.
That night, as we were relaxing back at the hotel, Ninfa started doing some research on skydiving, as we had seen a van advertising it on Waikiki Beach. I hate heights, and always find some excuse to avoid these escapades, so I told her to make some calls in the morning, hoping the idea would disappear. We had to get up early to move the car in the morning (Honolulu parking is expensive – look out!). Unfortunately, this gave Ninfa a superb opportunity to contact all the skydiving companies on the island. It was around 10am, and the skydiving company told us we needed to be there by 12 midday to make the jump that day – it was about 90 minutes away. I was at the denial stage of the coping cycle, and we packed as quick as we could and jumped in the car. We were on schedule to make it to the Dillingham Airfield on time. As we got closer, Ninfa started getting cold feet! I was style too preoccupied on getting to the place on time that I couldn’t think – the reality was obviously sinking in for her. We were just asking questions when we started to see parachutes above, and before we knew it, we were getting out of the car and signing the usual disclaimer forms.
There were two types of jump available – the Standard at 7,000ft, or the Ultimate at 14,000ft which included 60 seconds of tandem freefall. We were already paying half-price as we are both students (;-)), so as we were paying, I opted for the Ultimate. Ninfa thought I was crazy, and I probably was in the throes of some sort of death-wish mentality, completely scared by the prospect, but nonetheless, we both signed up for the Ultimate. About 30 minutes later, we were strapped up, fully briefed on our 2-minute safety talk, and boarding a light aircraft which holds about 20 people.Ninfa won’t mind me saying, but at this point she was as nervous as hell, was a whiter shade of pale, and completely speechless. I was managing my nerves by yabbering incessantly with my tandem instructor, to avoid the reality sinking in too much. The plane ride was probably the scariest part – the anticipation, as well as the fact that this aircraft was so light and waving around in the wind, that we were actually happy we had parachutes and could jump out! We watched the altimeter hit 14,000 and our stomachs almost came out of our mouths as they plane stopped ascending and leveled out. The instructor at the back of the plane threw open the door, and the wind swept in. We were the first ones in, so we would be the last out. It all goes very quick once the door opens – they are obviously aware that any hanging around is going to make people nervous. The girl who jumped just before Ninfa was screaming “No!”as she got to the edge, and the instructor pushed them out anyway. I had told Ninfa that she would jump first as I knew I would be scared silly, but that I would still do it no matter what, and I wanted to be with her for moral support (amn’t I great?!). Ninfa didn’t need any, but she did admit afterwards to closing her eyes. Now it was my turn … JT pushed me to the edge of the door. I was practically hanging out with only a few straps securing me to him, looking out at a gusty 14,000ft fall. I wasn’t even the least bit scared (believe that?), and then out we went, somersaulting through the air and falling, falling, falling, faster, faster, faster. JT tapped me on the shoulder which was the signal to spread my arms and tuck my legs back under his, in order to keep face down for the parachute. We reached terminal velocity quickly, at about 140mph. The cold air was shooting up my nose, and I was breathing fast. My cheeks were somewhere around where my ears were, and my ears were deafened by the air going by. I was able to see clouds and the coast of Hawaii that I remembered from a map. And then it happened, the moment of joy, the parachute had opened – I was going to live!!! But this was actually the worst bit. JT steered the parachute which involves closing one side of the chute so that you accelerate down and around. I didn’t want him messing around – wasn’t it ok to be alive, why did he want to mess it up. The swerving around was so dizzying, I felt faint. Then he asked me to have a go. So I did, and nervously swung us on gentle curves deceptively similar to a straight line. It’s only at the end that fear of heights takes hold. As the ground comes into view, so too does perspective, and all of a sudden I thought I was falling too fast. But we landed so softly, ungracefully on my bum, that a foot step would give a greater impact. I ran over to hug Ninfa – we were both on top of the world to be off the top of the world.
And so it was, our finale to a week in Hawaii, which had yielded dizzying heights of enjoyment, one of the most enjoyable (and thrilling) weeks of our lives, recklessly risking our lives on two occasions and surviving to have wonderful memories. Hawaii may have its equal, but we don’t know it, and what a place that must be!