Honolulu was fantastic. We got off the ship and started asking people with Starbucks cups where the closest cafe was. Everyone was very friendly and kind if not precisely accurate. But we kept asking and quickly zeroed in on it. I settled in for hours to catch up with blogs and facebook. Kyle went walkabout through from Chinatown to the Iolani Palace. We both had a splendid time. Then we made our way to Walmart and stocked up on Hawaiian souveniers Walmart has the best prices in the islands for macadamia nuts, coffee and Aloha shirts. Our niece, Lisa picked us up there and she and her husband, Drew, joined us for lunch at the Aloha Tower.
Then we separated for naps and change of clothes, and they picked us up again for a sunset dinner. We waited for them where the busses drop off and pick up their passengers. We were beside the ocean, and looking over the wall, you could see dozens of tropical fish running wild. Bright yellow ones were bobbing up and down with the waves, eating the green stuff growing on the wall. Silver and black ones about a 8 inches long swirled across the bottom. And a couple of Moorish Idols - like extra fancy yellow, silver and black angelfish, danced their own fishy waltz as we watched.
Along came a middle-aged Asian gentleman in white shirt and slacks, with a fish pole and some bait. He would bait his hook, drop it into the bay, and the fish would swarm it. He would jerk it up, and the hook would be empty. Over and over he did this until I was ready to ask him if it wouldn’t be easier just to throw the bait directly into the water and not bother with the pole. But Lisa and Drew arrived just then, so off we went, leaving the fellow to his odd hobby.
We had a dinner at the Beach House Restaurant at the Ala Moana Surfrider on Waikiki Beach. Oh my God it was legendary! We got there a bit early and had a drink in the bar. It turns out there was some big naval function there as well, with handsome young and not so young men and women in uniform, with dates. The female officers were escorted by young men in various uniforms (the marine dress uniform is SOO manly!) Many of the male officers had civilian dates. One young lady was -- well, we guessed she was rented by the hour. She was curvy and bleached blonde and packed into a strapless black mini dress that left nothing, honestly, NOTHING to the imagination. She was wearing no underpanties and she waxed her cat. She was painted like a tropical fish and her hair was artfully dyed, teased and sprayed into a sophisticated version of a tumbleweed. When she jiggled by, every man in the room followed her progress like she was an electro-magnet and their eyes were steel ball bearings. They young man with her was torn between strutting like a stud, and being decently embarrassed by her flagrant display. His attitude was kind of, “She’s flagrant and cheap and don’t you wish she was with you, but I’ve got her tonight!”
Our table was by the window. The ocean was turquoise, the sand was like sugar. The sun slowly set, gilding the surfers and the wavetops. Newlyweds strolled hand in hand along the most romantic beach in the world and kissed tenderly under the palm trees. The food was marvelous. The service was splendid. We had a magnificent time!
The next day, Kyle and I got up and took a cab to the flea market at the Aloha Bowl. Visualize a football stadium floating in in a sea of parking lot. Now, imagine that football stadium is surrounded by tents and vendors or home-made goods, factory seconds of t-shirts, Muumuus,and get-ups for the grand-kids, local foods(Dried squid rings anyone? How about a cold, fresh coconut? The wrinkled brown gentleman will whack offthe top with his wicked machete, stick a straw in it, and hand it to you with a brilliant, kind smile, undimmed by the missing teeth.) Kyle is addicted to the high-quality t-shirts he can find here - long-sleeved heavy duty shirts are four for $20 here, and you can get short-sleeved shirts seven for $20 if you haggle a bit. We walked most of the way around the stadium with full backpacks. It was about 80 degrees, and we were drinking water steadily. Sweat was running down my face, but once you start, you have to finish because it’s a circle and there’s only one way out. He found some awesome little paring knives. I found a flowered hatband. He found black Hawaiian sea salt. I found a very pretty rayon wrap skirt. Then I found a place that was selling packets of pre-cut Hawaiian fabrics. Kyle was a hero and carried my purchases from there. Bucky sat half out of the side pocket of my knapsack and watched everything with great amazement but never said a word. He seems overcome with sensory stimulation and just lies around smiling.
We got back to the ship, unloaded our packs, changed into dry clothes since we had sweated through everything we were wearing, then headed off to the Ala Moana Shopping Center to find a place to repair my broken watchband. Good old Sears was the solution! By then, I was feeling kind of weak and achey. Kyle fed me a coke, which sort of helped. Lisa picked us up there again, (She had to work half a day on saturday. Her chiropractor boss offers Saturday care because he realizes that most people have to work during the week.)
We picked up Drew, and they took us to lunch at Lulu’s , across the street from the zoo and across the other street from Waikiki. Great hamburgers, and I drank pints of icewater. Drew suggested that we stroll a bit. The main street was closed for a celebration - the “Spam Jam!” It was a fund-raiser by local restaurants to help feed unemployed citizens. Gourmet chefs devised exotic spam-centric menus and sold the recipes. Spam snacks were available for those daring or demented enough to try them. Kyle bought a can of spam-flavored macadamia nuts. I think it’s a crummy thing to do to a perfectly good nut. Before we knew it, we were near the International Market Place, and I know that there area swarm of pearl-in-the-oyster stands there, so I begged their indulgence and bought an oyster. The folks at the stands usually feel conflicted about me as a customer, because I raise a great loud hullabaloo about my pearl, and draw in lots more interested customers, but then I don’t let them sell me the jewelry to mount the pearl. They make their money on the settings, not on the pearls. Still, I usually draw in two or three interested customers to see what I’m whooping a squealing about, so they don’t mind too much. Kyle indulged me with three more oysters, one selected by Lisa, one by Drew, and one by Kyle himself. Drew selected an oyster with a big white pearl, Kyle chose one with a beautiful irridescent luster, and Lisa found me a medium-sized silver pearl. Then Lisa and Drew stepped into an ABC store to get some water, so I succumbed to the lure of yet another stall (there are at least five of these stalls within30 feet of the entrance) and picked a fat, dark-shelled oyster that held two smallish black pearls with a lucious purple luster. I am such a sucker for pearls!!
We went back to the car, and Drew drove us up to a lookout point high above the city. It was breathtaking! We could see from Diamondhead to Pearl Harbor. The University of Hawaii was spread out at our feet and the school mascot, the rainbow, played peek-a-boo as showers swept down from the cloud-covered heights. WE went up one way, along a series of switchbacks that left me a bit giddy, and came down another road that had enough hairpin turns stacked one above the next that a long snack would have broken his back trying to navigate it. Meeting another car on that road would have been a religious experience because if two cars tried to take those turns at the same time, someone was bound to meet God.
We wanted to enjoy one final dinner together, but I started to fade and had to ask to be taken back to the ship. Again with the achey muscles, the weakness, the light-headed feeling. And chills. By the time I got to the room, My teeth were chattering and I was shuddering with shivers. The air temp was about 72 F. I crawled into a hot bath while Kyle went to find something to eat. When he got back, I crawled into bed and all the lights went out. I may have moved during the night, but I’m not sure.
The next morning in Kauai, I slept in while Kyle got himself up and out had breakfast, and walked around the dockside shops. He finally rolled me out, got me dressed and brushed, and took me to a local Mexican restaurant for lunch. Dayamn it was tasty! Then we put on our swim suits and water shoes,grabbed our tickets and towels, and headed out for our only excursion of the whole trip. We were tubing da ditch!
Kauai used to be a huge producer of sugar cane, and the cane plantation owners went to some lengths to irrigate more and more acres. Some engineeringly minded fellow back in the 1800s brought in crews of Asian immigrants to dig tunnels through the volcanic basalt to carry water from one side of the mountain to another. The local kids realized that it was a cool and exciting thing to ride inner tubes down the ditches and through the tunnels, and tubing da ditch was started. As tourists, we were fitted out with helmets with headlamps, heavy duty gloves, and truck-tire sized inner tubes. We were bussed up the wettest mountain on earth (400 inches of rain in an average year. As much as 700 inches in a wet year) through the fields and forests to the private property where we would be tubing. Through locked gates along rutted dirt roads until we came to our destination. The water was cool, but no shock to those of us who are used to rivers filled with glacier melt. The guides were kind, organized and wonderfully cheerful considering that they had made the same trip thousands of times before. The water was about three feet deep, so no fear of drowning, and drifting along in the mild air under the lush trees overhead and the conversation of a dozen birds playing above the rippling stream was idyllic! Then we got to the first tunnel. Lights on! We were swept, one at a time, into the narrow tunnel mouth. You could see the pick marks where the laborers had carved away the rock. Every sound echoed and resonated. The cruise director was with our group and she began singing. She has a magnificent voice. It was - transcendent. There was Iron pyrite in the rock so if you looked overhead, the ceiling was all shiny with gold and silvery flakes scattered like glitter. The water was so clear you could see the rocks on the bottom. And you were cradled in your inner tube like Moses in his basket. Then, you emerged from the dark into the light like an infant new-born.
And we went through three more tunnels after that, with lazy driftings in between. I would do it again in a minute! If I had felt more energetic, it could have been a frolicsome time, with splashing and horseplay and raucous laughter, but I still felt a bit off my game and was just taking it easy. And easy it was!
When we finally had to get out, our guides assisted us out of the water and over to the vans holding our towels. Then they drove us to a beautiful little picnic area with bathrooms and changing rooms, treated us to chips, cookies and bottles of water, then tried to get us back in the vans to return to the ship.
“It doesn’t matter if we’re late,” I assured the guides. “We have the cruise director. They won’t leave without her.” We got back in plenty of time. The guard at the gangway counted us and called to his buddy, “Only twenty four more still out.”
We have been getting tea and toast in the room at 6AM. As I was filling out the order card, and still feeling not quite the thing, I suddenly thought, “Potassium!” I had sweated so hard the previous day, and taken in only pure water, and I realized that the salty chips had tasted SO GOOD at the picnic stop. So I ordered a banana and two glasses of orange juice to go with my tea and toast. It did the trick. The aches and the drifty head went away. I was ready for anything! It was the first of five days at sea, and things are a lot rougher out in the North Pacific than they are between the islands. Kyle took his Meclazine and slept till noon,got up for lunch, then went back to sleep until 4 when we got dressed for a formal night dinner. I was wearing the beautiful silk coat he had gotten me in Lahaina, and wanted to get a picture of it, but the photographer didn’t understand, so we wound up not buying those photos. Kyle doesn’t know yet, but we may do a fashion parade for photos before we pack everything up. There’s a great spot for photos just a few steps away beside the elevators. Roxie with Grecian Urn in all her pretty new formals.
The next night we had reservations at the Pinnacle Grill, so I dressed up again, with my flower hatband worn like a crown. I felt like the queen of love and beauty!
Tonight is another formal dinner. I am having such fun playing dress-up! I am getting lots of chances to wear my pearls and it makes me no end of happy.
These days at sea are a sort of life out of time. No work. No schedules. No reference points. We are in the center of a wide blue circle, rocking gently (or not so gently sometimes) and nothing changes for days on end. I love it, but I can see how it would make some people crazy. The cruise director has lots of fun things organized all day long,so if you just can’t deal with unstructured time, you can go from the cooking demonstration to the art auction to the book group discussing the book Molokai, to a rousing Bingo session, with frequent breaks for food. The Hawaiian guide gives lectures on the history and culture of the islands. There are bridge classes and tournaments. The casino is open, as are the shops, (just in case you didn’t buy enough stuff while you were ashore.) The spa offers a selection of pampering treatments, the salon can get you buffed and puffed and lacquered in eleven different fashion colors, or you can sit beside the pool with a drink and observe humanity in all its rich and varied glory. The only fly in this balm is that the satellite reception out here is pretty much non-existent, so internet connections do not connect. That’s why I have to save all this up until I can find a window to upload. Pictures are out of the question, but text can squirt through the brief connections as they become available. So here I am, somewhere in the Pacific, fat and happy and still blissed out.