Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Hawaiin Trip

Christmas has come and gone, and Elise is feeling much better now (it's amazing how quickly kids recover). Miraculously, none of us came down with her flu, and we were all very thankful for that. We've had a mixed bag of weather so far, but this has allowed us to mix up our activities a bit. Hiking new trails has been a focus on this trip, but we've also done some of the standard Hawaiian beach activities to keep the trip special for Elise. Photos...

Pam and I hiked the Kuli'ou'ou Ridge Trail on Christmas Eve. It was cloudy and cool, perfect hiking conditions. The trail switchbacked through a Norfolk pine forest and ironwood trees before reaching an interesting ridge traverse. The vegetation and scenery were beautiful.

On the ridgetop the clouds obscured our views somewhat, but the ambiance was still unique.

Ropes were in place on some of the steep, loose sections. These additions were appreciated.

A banyan tree midway along the descent.

A huge Norfolk pine. All in all, a good day.

Here are some shots from Christmas Eve. Elise opened a couple of presents and had stories from Grandma and Grandpa. There was no indication a stomach flu was brewing...

Christmas morning. At this point, Elise was too weak to open her presents. Pam did it for here between rushed trips to the bathroom. Poor girl!

As I said earlier, Elise recovered very quickly so we did a short hike to Waihe'e Falls on Boxing Day. We took it slow, but Elise showed good energy. The trauma of the previous day was quickly forgotten.

Orchids lined the trail. This one came complete with an interesting insect.

At the waterfall, both Elise and I put on our suits and stood under the spray.

On the way down, we spotted this huge banyan tree. Elise checking it out...

Elise's sleeping "nook" across the hall from our bedroom. She's as snug as a bug in a rug.

The following day, Pam and I did a very long hike up the Moanalua Valley to another steep ridge traverse. This ridge dropped away dramatically on both sides giving us a true sense of exposure - we were glad we opted not to take Elise. The hike started on a dirt road and then pushed through thick brush to reach the ridge base. From there we climbed steeply for two miles to the summit. Surprisingly, we hit serious mud in the last twenty minutes of the hike, just as we were reaching the very top. 

Once on top, we were able to see down the "Haiku Stairs", a snake-like path of steel that leads STEEPLY down to the valley below. Despite it being a fantastic hiking objective, the state keeps these stairs closed for liability reasons and posts a guard at the base to prevent hikers from heading up. However, if you approach as we did from the opposite valley, you can hike DOWN the stairs to reach the highway. We wished we could have exercised this option, but we didn't have a car shuttle arranged so we had to turn around and return to our car by hiking back down the ridge and road, a total of five tiring miles.

No trip to Hawaii would be complete without a visit to Hanauma Bay's nature preserve. We all snorkeled and enjoyed hanging out on the beach with the 3,000 other tourists that visited that day. Regardless, we saw good fish and I saw FIVE sea turtles beyond the main reef. This is, hands down, the best place on Oahu for kids to snorkel.

Leonard's bakery in Waikiki is a local tradition. They make fantastic malasadas (doughy Portuguese doughnuts dipped in sugar). We stopped and grabbed a few, hot out of the fryer.

Yes, Elise tried surfing. She had asked for surfing lessons for Christmas but then changed her mind and asked for art lessons instead. She got art lessons from Santa, but we gave her a gift certificate for a one-hour surfboard rental. I took her out at Waikiki and pushed here into about a dozen waves. Most rides were on her belly, but she did get into a cryptic crouching position twice and managed a short ride clutching the edge of her board. At least she can now say she's tried surfing and, truth be told, I think she did better than I did my first time!

We spent a day on the North Shore repeating some of our favourite activities. First, we hiked to the Ka'ena Point nature preserve to see if we could find a monk seal.

We spied a coconut on the beach and split it open with a large rock. Elise and I tasted it, but it was a bit dry. We continued hiking and as we neared the point (after about four kilometres), Elise broke into a full run. This was so she could be the "first to see a monk seal". So much for hiking fatigue...

Sure enough, Elise spotted the one and only monk seal on the point. While we relaxed, we saw humpback whales breaching numerous times off the point, and glimpsed many albatross nesting in the bushes. It was a good wildlife viewing morning!

Elise found two boys to play with in the tide pools. They had lots of fun together.

Our second stop of the day was my favourite beach on the island, the strip of sand in front of the YMCA camp. Unlike Hanauma Bay and Waikiki, we had the kilometre of golden sand all to ourselves. What can I say? It was awesome. We lounged, played in the surf and beachcomed.

Next, we drove into Hale'iwa for some shave ice, a North Shore tradition. Elise ate a large all by herself - she'd earned it after the long hike. Shave ice is literally just that - ice shavings with flavoured syrup. A scoop of ice cream in the bottom of the cup makes this treat even more delicious.

We ended the day with some beach time at Waimea Bay, home to some of the biggest waves on Oahu. We all bouldered on the rocks at the back of the bay then watched the sun set over the coast while tourists got annihilated in the shore break. The swell was rising and 25-35 foot waves were predicted the next morning. I was sad we wouldn't be there to witness this amazing natural phenomena.

A couple of days later, we visited "Cockroaches", a small cove near Sandy Beach on the south shore. Our plan was to jump off a rock shelf into the cove, an activity Pam had done as a child and we thought Elise would enjoy. All went well until Pam jumped into the cove feet first and kicked rocks on the bottom while pushing back toward the surface. She cut the top of her foot quite badly, which ended the activity promptly. We cleaned up the cut and closed it with butterfly bandages, but Pam's swimming and hiking options were finished for the remainder of the trip.

To fill the time, Pam offered to drive Elise and I to the North Shore the next day so we could do a five-mile, one-way hike along a deserted part of the coastline. We started at the Kahuku golf course and finished at the Turtle Bay Hilton, a trek that took us three hours (one hour longer than I had predicted)! The miles of soft beach sand and driftwood debris made walking very fatiguing, plus we stopped repeatedly to comb for shells in promising spots. We were thrilled to stumble upon a monk seal sleeping on the beach as we neared the hotel. It lifted its head, blinked at us and went back to sleep.

After the hike, we enjoyed a nice New Year's dinner with Ron and Sharon at their apartment and now have 1.5 days left on our trip. We are planning to visit the Honolulu Zoo today with Ron, an activity Elise always enjoys, then possibly a short jungle walk tomorrow before our afternoon flight home.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Marc, Pam and Elise

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