Alphadog's Travels

Joined September 2017Living in: Sydney, Australia
  • Day9

    Last Day

    December 28, 2013 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    Saturday was our last day in Hawaii.

    In the morning we met up with some friends of Margaret's and had breakfast with them at the Hotel. They dropped us at Ala Moana shops for one last fix of retail therapy. We then headed back to the Hotel and the boys went for one last swim at the beach.

    In the evening we finally made it up to the Cheesecake Factory for dinner. We had tried to get there previously but there was a 60 to 90 minute wait. Every time we walked past the place it was seriously packed. This time we got there at about 4pm and only had a 1 hour wait - it was worth it. The food was good with huge servings and dessert was - of course - cheesecake!

    The restaurant actually burned down a year or so ago but you sure wouldn't know it. Really worth visiting.

    It was then back to the hotel to try and work out how we are going to fit everything back into our suitcases. Departure from the Hotel tomorrow is 8.30 am which is reasonably civilised but another 9 hour flight is not going to be fun.

    We have been very lucky with the weather. It has rained quite frequently but the showers last for about 3 minutes and then they are all over so it was nothing to slow us down.
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  • Day8

    Pearl Harbour

    December 27, 2013 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    Friday was the day we did the tour of Pearl Harbor. This is the number one tourist attraction in Hawaii and there were a lot of people there but it all moved along OK so we got to see everything.

    There are 4 main things to see, the Arizona Memorial, the Missouri, the Pacific Aviation Museum, and the Bowfin submarine and museum. You can roll up and get a shuttle to take you around but that is a slower way to do it and no guarantees you'll get to see everything so we opted to do a proper tour that picks you up and takes you everywhere.

    First up we went to the Arizona Memorial. This started with a movie the explain the political events leading up to the attack, what happened, and a bit about what it means to the Americans now - it was all well done and interesting. Then they load you on a boat and take you across to the memorial itself.

    The ship is still leaking oil and will do so for about the next 20 years. There are about 900 men entombed in the wreck and they allow Arizona survivors to have their ashes placed in the wreck when they die. It was really well done and interesting. Pearl Harbor is still a major naval base and there were heaps of active warships and 3 submarines in port while we were there.

    You are given a specific time frame to be there and you get about 15 mins on the memorial itself which is enough time, like I said there were lots of people and they have to keep it all moving.

    Next it was onto the Missouri. This ship is seriously massive. They keep it alongside Ford Island just along from the Arizona Memorial. It last saw action in the Gulf War, not bad for a ship that was launched in 1942! They have a plaque on the deck marking the spot where Japan signed the surrender document ending WW2. We did a top deck tour and a reasonably quick below decks tour - there is so much room on the ship it was amazing.

    Ford Island is still a navy base mostly used for Intelligence operations and the training of Navy Seals. There was a massive oil rig type thing there with huge radar domes, they obviously park this thing out in the ocean somewhere and bring it into port for refit every now and then. The bus took us out to Ford Island via a causeway with a section that opens wide enough to allow the big aircraft carriers through so they won't get trapped behind the island.

    After the Missouri it was onto the Pacific Aviation Museum. This is spread over 2 hangars the first had a few of the key planes from WW2 - the Japanese Zero, US Wildcat, and a B25 bomber like the ones used in the Doolitte raid. This was really well set out. The other Hangar had lots of other planes and helicopters and was more of a storage/work in progress area. The second hanger had a couple of Migs, a Sabre, Phantom, Dakota, Seahawk, Sea Stallion, Huey, Sea King, and the main attraction ... an Australian F1-11! The F1-11 looked in excellent condition though it didn't have any engines.

    Then it was back across the causeway to the Bowfin and attached submarine museum. It was really interesting walking through the sub, it was a complete contrast to the Missouri being really small and cramped. Everything was well maintained with all the brass and copper fittings being kept very polished.

    The US lost 52 subs in WW2 with many just disappearing while on patrol with all hands - pretty horrible.

    After the Bowfin it was back on the bus and back to the Hotel for dinner.

    I really enjoyed the day, the history was just fantastic and everything was very well set out and run.
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  • Day7

    Cruising Oahu

    December 26, 2013 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    On Thursday we hired a car again. We were really keen to get out of Waikiki and see some more of Oahu. The car was a rather grotty new model Camry, apparently there are very few rental cars available on the island this time of year and I think we got the last one.

    We hit the road and first stop was Waikele factory outlet shopping centre. We arrived at about 9am, parked the car, and went for a walk. It was pretty empty and easy to get around but after about half an hour the place was packed with cars, buses and people going everywhere. This place was a lot better place to go shopping than Waikiki, we picked up 4 pairs of Levis jeans and a t-shirt for $150! There were lots of other shops there - Polo, Coach, Saks, to name a few. After spending some cash there we hit the road and headed to the north shore of Oahu.

    The north shore is where the big waves come in and this time of year is when they are at their biggest. The trip 'to the other side of the island' sounds like it could take a while but it took about 20 mins from Honolulu. It is very green and lush countryside with a few cows around and the huge Dole Plantation where they grow lots and lots of pineapples. There were some wide freeways in Honolulu but out of town it was just a 2 lane road and an easy drive. The road around the island is called Kamehameha Highway after King Kamehameha who was the first tribal King to unite the islands.

    First stop was Waimea Bay and the waves really were huge! It is hard to tell in the photos but some of those waves were easily 3 times the height of the bloke on the surf board so that would be at least 5 meters (or 16 feet) and I think that is a conservative guess as some of the sets coming through were a lot bigger. The waves were forming the perfect tubes you see in the photos. There were lots of people on surf boards out past the breakers but only a few actually seemed to be catching waves. As with every beach in Hawaii there was a mix of sand and rocks so you really didn't want to fall off.

    We then moved along to Sunset Beach and Bansai Pipeline. This beach is very long and there were loads of people standing on the sand watching the few brave souls out riding the waves. There were a mix of surf board and body board riders and they were all having a go.

    We continued along to Kawela and had lunch - burgers again but probably the best burgers to date, really sensational. We then continued our leisurely drive down the east coast stopping to take the occasional photo and look at some of the sensational scenery. Our hire car included a GPS that had a tour guide thing built in so as we were coming up to as place of interest it would launch into an explanation of what it was and the local legend behind it. One point of interest was a small island off the coast called Chinaman's Hat because it looks like a Chinaman's Hat, it also pointed out the island where they filmed Gilligan's Island.

    We hit the biggest town on the east side of the island which was Kane Ohe and via a convenient tunnel was back in Honolulu is about 15 minutes.

    We picked up Margaret and made another trip to Waikele to buy up a few more items before returning the car and calling it a night.

    In all I am pretty used to driving here now, there were no moments of terror like there was on the Big Island.
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  • Day6

    Christmas in Hawaii...

    December 25, 2013 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    Christmas Day was a quiet day for relaxing and taking it easy. We did the usual Christmas thing of opening the presents that were piled under the beautifully decorated Christmas Lamp. The hotel is pretty full so there were still lots of people around and all the shops in Waikiki were open for business.

    Lunch was down at the restaurant on the beach at the back of the hotel. Christmas dinner was the very traditional fare of burgers and chips. After lunch we went for a walk around Waikiki again before coming back to the hotel where the boys tried their hand at paddle boarding while Trace and I had a dip in the ocean - thus ticking off swimming at Waikiki from our bucket lists. This side of the island has very small surf so it is very calm and perfect for floating around in the warm water.

    The hotels 'own' the section of beach in front of them so they put out beach lounges and umbrellas for people to rent and you can also order drinks and food if you want. Trace and I just grabbed a patch of sand and watched the people walking past.

    A few points about Waikiki.
    1. It was originally swamp land that was used to grow rice and the like
    2. They dug a canal around the back of it that drained the swamp
    3. If the sand in the photos looks familiar it should, they imported the sand from Australia and California
    4. The beach is very long, shallow and very narrow in parts - like around our hotel
    5. It is also on a reef so you can't walk out very far 'cos it hurts your feet!

    Anyway the boys mastered paddle boarding pretty easily, the incentive of landing on the coral if you fell off had the desired effect. Trace and I also had a go and managed to get around OK.

    Dinner was a pretty quiet affair in the Hotel.

    Tomorrow we manage to get out of Waikiki!
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  • Day5

    Snorkeling with the fishies!

    December 24, 2013 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    On Tuesday we sent the boys on a snorkeling tour up the west side of the Island. They said it was really excellent and saw a whale, a few dolphins, a turtle, and countless other fish. They snorkeled over a reef that had loads of coral and fish. Some reefs on the island have been damaged by too much attention but this one was obviously still pretty healthy. The tour went for about half a day so they were back just after lunch.

    Trace and I had a quiet morning around Waikiki. Just up from the hotel is a Military museum that traces a lot of the military history of the Island. Over the years Oahu has had and still has a significant military presence. It is an active naval base, has a big Marine base on the east side of the island, and Honolulu airport is also an air force base.

    We met up with the boys and went for lunch and caught a taxi back up to Ala Moana shopping centre. As you can imagine being the day before Christmas most of Hawaii was there.

    A few Hawaiian comments:
    1. The island of Oahu has about 1 million permanent residents
    2. It has 111 miles of coast line
    3. You can drive from the bottom to the top of the island in under an hour
    4. They grow a lot of pineapples
    5. Motorcyclists do not have to wear a helmet
    6. It is legal to drive a ute (or pickup) with people in the back
    7. Speed limits are definitely a guideline only

    Since we didn't have a Christmas tree to put the presents under we had to make do with the next best thing, the traditional Christmas Lamp!

    Tomorrow is Christmas in Waikiki.
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  • Day4


    December 23, 2013 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    Monday was spend working out the activities for our time on Oahu and also scoping out the neighbourhood.

    The boys went for a walk down the beach while Margaret, T, and I went down the main drag of Waikiki to the Royal Hawaiian for a coffee and to walk around the grand hotel. You could really imagine the panama hat and white suits being the dress standard though these days it was pretty much beach attire.

    We then walked Kalakaua Ave again checking out the shops. I know we are in a tourist trap here but the shopping is no where near as good as New York, everything is pretty much Sydney prices. We are aiming to get out of Waikiki in the days after Christmas so it might be better then.

    There are millions of Japanese tourists here. Some of the shops even have signs up saying they will accept Yen as payment. There are a few Australians around but not as many as I expected.

    Dinner that night was at the Hilton Hawaiian Village where we attended our first Luau. This is basically an outdoor dinner with traditional Hawaiian dancing as entertainment. We all learned how to Hula with varying levels of success and then tucked into a big feast. Pork always figures in the Polynesian diet and dinner was really good and plenty of it, throw in a couple of Mai-Tai cocktails and it was all good!

    The dancing was excellent, especially the fire dance.

    Afterwards it was an easy stroll back to the hotel.
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  • Day3


    December 22, 2013 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    We left Kona on Sunday and flew to the main island Oahu.

    Before we left we drove a few miles south of our hotel to take some pictures of a cute blue and white church that was basically on the beach. All long this section of coast there are some popular surf beaches Magic Sands and Banyan breaks just to name a couple. These aren't beaches in the traditional Australian sense, most of the time there is a small patch of sand then a whole lot of black rock. The surf had dropped by this time.

    Dave took the photos of Kona out the sunroof of the car. Kona is right on the beach so the shops you can see are across the road from waves hitting the sea wall.

    Like I said before Kona airport is mostly open air with just a roof. So the baggage check in, security screening, and departure lounge all had a roof and nothing else. There were a few walls around shops and to maintain security once you had checked in.

    It was a short 40 minute flight back to Honolulu and a 20 min ride to the Hotel. The hotel is right on Waikiki Beach and you can basically walk from the street, through the lobby, down the steps, and onto the beach.

    We managed to find Margaret OK and went to a monster shopping centre called Ala Moana which is native Hawaiian for Hell on Earth (not really but it could have been). After battling crowds we made it back to the hotel and went for dinner in a local restaurant. After dinner the boys and I went for a walk down Kalakaua Ave and found every exclusive shop known to man - Louis Vuitton, Tiffanys, Dior, and The Stupid Factory (some cool t-shirts).

    A quiet day all up.
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  • Day2

    Hot Stuff

    December 21, 2013 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    The following day (Saturday) we had booked ourselves in for an evening volcanoes tour. The bus picked us up at 11.30am and headed south. Again. A bit of a shame but for the first part of the day we followed much the same route we followed ourselves the previous day but at least we had someone to explain what we were looking at along the way.

    Some Hawaiian island facts for you. The whole chain started because there is a magma dome or hot spot under the earth's crust pushing up lava hence creating the islands. The whole chain is moving north west so the oldest island is Kauai and Hawaii is the newest island. The next island is already under construction with the Loihi sea mount currently pushing up towards the surface 20 miles south west of Hawaii. The islands are the largest mountains on earth if measured from the sea floor. There are 5 active volcanoes on Hawaii with Kilauea erupting continuously since 1976 and adding something like 75 acres to the island.

    There are about 180,000 residents of the Big Island. Wildlife is mostly introduced animals like pigs that came with the Polynesians, the black rat, and the indian mongoose. The mongoose was introduced to control the rats in the sugar cane but the rats are nocturnal and the mongoose isn't so the mongoose moved on to killing off a lot of Hawaiian native birds and are now considered a serious pest - similar to the Australian cane toad.

    Anyhow back to our tour. Grant was our tour guide and took us to a coffee plantation, the black sands beach we had already visited, and then onto the Volcanoes National Park.

    We walked around the rim of the Kilauea Iki crater which is a smaller crater next to the main one that is erupting. This crater erupted in 1959 and you can now walk across the bottom of it. Grant took us to the Thurston Lava Tube, these tubes are very common and form when hot lava starts to cool on the top and forms a crust which then insulates the lava flowing in the tube below. Once the lava stops flowing it drains away leaving the tube. It was interesting to walk through the tube can fill and empty a number of times so you can see lines on the walls showing the depth of the lava. In walking around the crater rim you can see big cracks in the ground where the crater will eventually crumble. It really makes you realise the power of nature and how little people can do to control it.

    We left the crater and drove over to some steam vents. Really odd seeing clouds of steam rising out of the ground. We had dinner at a cafe near the crater, it used to be a US Military R&R camp but now days it is open to anyone to stay. After dinner it was on the the museum and the crater of Kilauea itself.

    While Kilauea is still active it was pretty quiet. The lava is flowing but mostly into the sea through lava tubes so you don't get to see much. There is a small section flowing on the surface but you can only see it from the air. We could see the smoke and see the glow but didn't actually see it flowing.

    After the volcano we drove up the eastern side of the island to the biggest city on Hawaii Hilo. We only saw the outer suburbs and lights before we headed west back to Kona. We stopped briefly to star gaze as we were up quite high and it was pretty spectacular.

    Another thing that stood out was the different climates we went through. There was desert, rainforest, and just about everything in between. Amazingly they actually ski at the top of the mountains on Hawaii, no ski lifts or anything so people drive their cars up and ski down. Being so high the island generates its own weather so it can be blue sky all round but the mountains will be shrouded in mist and cloud.

    In all it was a really interesting tour and Grant told us all about the Gods and the native Hawaiian beliefs behind the landscape and the volcanoes.

    Tomorrow it is woo-hoo to Oahu!
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  • Day1

    Cruisin' the Big Island

    December 20, 2013 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    Ok, OK, I am sorry. The trip has been hectic and I have been neglecting my loyal readers. I will endeavour to catch up ASAP!

    Our first day in Kona started with breakfast in the unit followed by a chat with the 'Activity planner' at the hotel. He suggested we go for a drive south of the island and have a look around. I had wanted to go kayaking around Kealakekua Bay, which is a short trip south of where we are staying, but the surf was too rough and all beaches had been closed on the western side of the island. The surf was really big, it looked a good 10 to 12 ft around Kona.

    So if we couldn't kayak we did the next best thing and drove. Kealakekua Bay is quite big and the memorial is on the northern side of the bay, we could only drive to the southern side so you can see it in the photos as the white dot in the distance. Why not walk around to it you say? Well the cliffs tend to get in the way, this is a very new island (geologically speaking) so the terrain is very rugged in places and there are some big drops down into the sea.

    The road down to Kealakekua Bay was a bit if a squeeze at times but the Impala handled it no problem.

    It's a long story but in a nutshell Capt. Cook arrived in Hawaii and was greeted as a God, he hung around for a while and then left but one of his ships snapped a mast so he then came back to make repairs. There were some issues with the locals around the theft and burning of a long boat (they wanted the nails to make fish hooks) which ended badly for the Captain, turns out that despite all his sailing skills he couldn't swim. Even when he was dead he was still highly regarded by the natives as his bones were distributed among the local chiefs who believed they held Cook's spirit.

    Hawaii is known as the Big Island but you could drive all the way around it in about half a day. The roads are pretty good and well maintained but can be a bit bendy in places. There are a few farms on the island growing coffee (apparently Kona Coffee is quite famous) and running a few cows, nothing on a very big scale of course but that doesn't stop the locals from driving massive utes and 4x4s some are even made higher by jacked up suspension.

    After Kealakekua Bay we continued south and started passing some lava flows. There are 2 types of lava flows the very hot and fast moving Pahoehoe lava and the slow moving relatively cooler a'a lava. A'a lava looks like dirt pushed along by a bulldozer and is really rugged. Pahoehoe lava is flatter and cools to be comparatively smoother.

    The southern tip of Hawaii is also the most southern point of the USA being about 300 miles further south than Key West in Florida. It is also the site of a big wind farm.

    A bit further around is Panaluu Beach. This is just like any other Beach except the sand is black. The beach was formed from lava hitting the ocean and cooling quickly not from rocks breaking down. There are very few white sand beaches on Hawaii, most are grey or black. There is a green sand beach as well which is caused by the formation of peridot crystals.

    This island is a geologists dream. There are so many different types of rock caused by slightly different conditions - lava cooling quickly, lava cooling slowly, lava spitting out of a volcano, lava oozing out, lava hitting water, lava coating trees, etc.

    Panaluu Beach is also a nesting ground for a number of types of sea turtles and when we were there six of them were resting on the beach before coming up to lay their eggs.

    After hanging out there for a while we hopped back into the chariot and headed home.

    Back at Kona, 2 significant things happened:
    1. I drove on the wrong side of the road. Lucky it was a quiet street and David in the back said very calmly you are on the wrong side of the road. I then noticed the monster ute coming at me - then it became slow motion ... 'Oh dear' I cried (or words to that effect), the wheel spun to the right, my passengers screamed in terror, I screamed in terror, we careened over to the right side, and then it was over. It wasn't really close at all, I just scared the hell out of myself and the bloke in the monster truck just thought I was an idiot.
    2. We officially became one of the 'People of Walmart'. If you don't know what that means have a look at our brothers and sisters in the photos on this site:

    Dinner was at the Outback Steakhouse in Kona, a bit cheesy but a good feed.

    After that it was back to the unit and rest.
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  • Day0

    The Big Island

    December 19, 2013 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    Greetings from Hawaii. After a 9 hour flight on a rather new Airbus 330 we landed in Honolulu and yes the flight was packed.

    We made our way through Immigration and Customs along with all the other tourists, lots from China and Japan. Somehow we were the last ones to collect our luggage, must have picked the slowest line at Immigration though it was nothing like the queues at LA. Customs just waved us through and we went over to the Domestic terminal for our flight to Kona.

    The weather is quite warm and humid with the occasional light shower. We had to make the transfer straight through to Kona on the Big Island so no time to hang in Honolulu just yet. On take off we took a few photos out the window, we flew in a 717 and passed some of the other islands on the way.

    The Big Island emerged out of the haze and you could see old lava flows (ie a few hundred years old) out the window, the airport was actually on one of these old lava flows. The terminal was the first international terminal I have been in for many years that we actually had to walk off via a ramp instead of an air bridge and the terminal was mostly without walls - including the baggage claim.

    After finding the bags it was time to start on the thing I have been dreading - hiring a car.

    There isn't a lot of public transport on the Big Island so if you are going to get around you have to drive. We found the hire place and signed up for a Chev Impala. Nothing like the monster Impalas of the 70s it's more like a smallish Commodore. I does have a sun roof which is nice and a spoiler to make it go faster but it has a pedal hand brake which is a pain.

    We loaded up and I got behind the wheel.

    - First thing. It is awkward getting behind the wheel on the left hand side of the car, not sure why it just feels odd.
    - Second thing. It is as scary as I expected. I find I have to talk out loud when I am turning so I know what lane to turn into - I am turning left I go into the right lane... Anyway we poked along the main road, through the main strip of Kona and found the Hotel with no problems. I think my passengers were as scared as I was.
    - Third thing. It is hard getting used to looking in the rear view mirror on the right instead of on the left.

    The Hotel is very nice. The room is great though a little over the top - we don't have 1 big TV we have 3 (and they are massive and each one has its own theatre sound system), we don't have 1 washing machine we have 2 (dunno why), and of course we have air conditioning.

    On the first night we went into Kona and had a nice dinner watching the waves roll in from the west. Not often we get to see the sun go down over the ocean.

    After dinner it was back to the hotel and ... crash.
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