Until a couple weeks ago, I had never been to Hawaii, which has always seemed terribly wrong, given that volcanoes and oceans are two of my favorite things. Also, I love that Hawaiian slack key guitar sound. So I was thrilled to get a chance to go to a conference in Honolulu, on Oahu, even though I knew that these were the Hawaiian island and area least likely to interest me.
I am a churlish tourist who hates being with her own kind. For me, the best way to travel is to plant myself somewhere for a stretch of time and get a sense of what it would be like to live there. During this one week trip I did get a couple chances to escape the tourist centers where my hotel and meetings were sited, and venture into areas where people actually live.
One dawn I walked east, away from the beach into a neighborhood of boxy tired apartment complexes. At 7 am everything was dark and closed except for the bus stops with folks headed away to work. I happened by a park with some amazing graffiti. Note that the white form is some kind of creature with a tail.
I’d heard about the fragrance of plumeria in Hawaii, and I adore the scent of the small, captive plant a friend somehow keeps alive in a container in his non-tropical garden. I was disappointed to discover that on Oahu, the plumeria are trees with blooms too high to smell! (Turns out I should have bought a plumeria lei, to envelop myself with the scent as I went through my day.)
My last afternoon on Oahu, a Hawaiian coworker drove me around the eastern corner of the island. We stopped at a viewpoint with trails that could have taken us even higher up the mountain.
A hang-glider happened by.
From the viewpoint, I caught my first look at the north side of the island. After ogling the view, we headed down the hill, west and north, to lunch in a working class community nestled behind that beach.
We stopped at a local hangout of a takeout restaurant.
After ordering the barbeque chicken platter, we had lunch in the adjoining, semi-open-air dining room. There, between the walls and ceiling, dwell scruffy and bold pigeons who come out to forage for scraps. According to my local pal, pigeons are a new addition to the island, and they are quickly becoming a nuisance. (No. Really?) Over the last few years, the finches have disappeared from his bird feeders, crowded out by the pigeons. Turns out finches are plentiful in Hawaii. People trap the finches and sell them to pet stores. There is no market for pigeons.
The dining area walls are painted with scriptures and lightning bolts.
And the walls are covered with scriptural graffiti – Bible quotes in the handwriting of countless patrons.
After lunch, we took the highway back to Honolulu. The mountains are actually the back rim of an ancient volcanic crater. The rest of the crater rim collapsed into the ocean, many thousands of years ago, in a massive landslide that created an enormous tsunami.
The highway cuts through the mountains in a looooong tunnel. Here is the tunnel entrance
and this is the view upon exit.
The area looks remote but is scant few miles and minutes from Honolulu’s congestion.
These glimpses of Oahu away from Waikiki Beach gave me a better understanding of why people so love these islands.
See? Churlish. I told you.