Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Day 164 (Tuesday July 22). I arrive in Hawaii

No, I have not made a mistake in the date. Last night we crossed the International Date Line, and effectively I have gained a day on the rest of you all. I feel young!
So, I landed in Honolulu International Airport, in the island of Oahu, and by 8 am I was on the road, headed for Pearl Harbor. It is indeed a perfect harbor, saddened, however, by the events that pushed the US into war with Japan. I walked around the USS Arizona Memorial (but didn’t wait in line for one hour to take the boat to the memorial itself), and then continued going around the island toward the lee side (the west side). This is the dry side of the island, and I was surprised by the fact that it was a bit shabby. This is where the “native” population lives, in a rather modest way. There are also quite a few people living in patched-up tents along the beach. The inland mountains are pretty, but they are part of a military reservation and thus inaccessible to the public.

I backtracked to Pearl Harbor and from there crossed the island to the north shore. The island of Oahu is surprisingly small, and can be crossed in less than half hour. Way on top is the original location of the Dole Pineapple Farm. The north and eastern shore are green and pretty, but to my surprise they have all the appearance of being the boondocks. I was looking for a small hotel or campground but found none. Apparently tourists are confined to Waikiki (the beach of Honolulu), so to find a hotel I had to conform and go to Waikiki.
From the west I crossed to the south along a fast highway, which is a pity because some of the best photo opportunities were along this highway and I missed them. Rats!

Waikiki is a lively tourist center with all sorts of fancy hotels. I was looking for something modest in terms of price, and landed the last room in the only hotel that could be called modest (still, $100 per night, which is the most expensive lodging I have had in the last four months). The Royal Grove Hotel is a friendly spot, three blocks form the beach, where people lounge chatting around the small pool, and where to my good fortune a group of old friends got together to play some tunes (reminded me a lot of the music afternoons of Phil Rojas and his friends). The music was great, with every member of the group coming with one idea or another. We heard old Hawaiian ballads, beach songs, and even some Hula songs that inspired a couple of the ladies to stand up and dance. A really fun evening :)

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