February 2012 - More than two hundred and thirty-four years have past since Captain Cook laid the first western eyes on the Hawaiian Islands. Another, smaller, posse of westerners - comprised of myself, Jennifer, and Brian - journeyed for a look of our own. We had heard tales of high peaks, dense tropical foliage, fiery lava, and coral-blue seas. We wished to see these wonders for ourselves, and to place our own spin on the age-old ritual of the tropical winter vacation.
Our plans for visiting the Hawaiian Islands were probably overdone. We had spent a lot of time in the two months leading up to the trip fine-tuning a fairly eventful and activity-packed schedule: two days on the principle island of O'ahu, four days on the island of Kaua'i, five days on the island of Maui, and five days on the big island itself - Hawai'i. All this hopping around from island to island really upped the complexity factor of the planning: flights, car rentals, taxis, more rentals, more flights - the whole complicated affair had to be co-ordinated in advance. It was definitely a lot more logistical work than my standard Southern Utah desert trip.
It goes without saying that any sort of big Andrew Lavigne trip probably involves some combination of tents, mud, wrinkled clothes, possibly some snow, and sweat. This trip was no different, with the notable additions of snorkeling gear, bicycles, and leis (a lei is a traditional Hawaiian garland of flowers).
In addition to sightseeing and beach relaxation (yes, we actually did both of those), we had several backpacks and climbs planned - some of which required some stamina and fitness. As a result, we endeavoured to spend a suitable amount of time leading up to the trip gaining our backpacking legs. The 24-story stairwell in the Dunton tower at Carleton University in Ottawa proved useful for that.
Friday, February 17:
Our trip to Hawaii took place in late February - deep in the grip of a not-that-cold Canadian winter. Jenn, myself and Brian watched as the wings and fuselage of our Embraer 175 jet were coated in de-icing fluid. We were starting the first leg of our three-hop journey westward.
We had a mildly complicated journey ahead of us: Ottawa to Charlotte, North Carolina; then on to Phoenix, Arizona; then on to Honolulu, on the island of O'ahu. It was a full day of travel, with us leaving at 7am in the morning and arriving in Honolulu at 6:30pm in the evening (and that's not counting a -5 hour timezone bonus).
Two things we noticed right away upon arriving in Honolulu. The first was that large sections of the airport were open-air - a sure sign of an always-tropical climate, and the second was the playfully cheerful shuttle bus driver. That cheerfulness continued on to our rental car agent, and as we pulled out of the lot and onto the main highway leading towards downtown Honolulu, we felt that there may be some generally positive personality traits present in the Hawaiian populace.
Brian got us a two-night stay at a modest downtown Honolulu hotel called The Pagoda. We navigated the grid-like streets of Honolulu, driving through several brief rainshowers, eventually finding our way. After dumping our luggage and quickly freshening up, we popped out onto the streets to locate a bit of food - much needed after a long and relatively food-less 18 hours of travel. We settled on a Vietnamese Pho restaurant just a block from the hotel.