I was up early again on Saturday. I skipped out on a morning run knowing that I was to hike Koko Crater Trail. I had heard that it was a doozy so no need for over-exercise. I also skipped breakfast, opting to eat my mochi and the sweet bread that was intended for my sister.
I took the bus to Koko Head. I really find getting around on the bus quite easy. If you haven’t heard, buying a 4-day bus pass is really the way to go if you’re not renting a car. Use your smartphone to find alternate routes and read the bus signs where you are. You’ll find that there is usually more than one bus to get where you’re going. I met some Australian people who were waiting for the #8 to take them to the Ala Moana. Yes, the #8 will get them there but so will half a dozen other buses.
The bus ride to Koko Head was fairly long but I didn’t mind. I am getting to see other parts of Honolulu. The downtown part where the office buildings are isn’t so bad, but then there’s an area that looks like any inner city, and then finally there’s the suburb part that looks far more pleasant.
When I got to Koko Head I almost chickened out when I saw how big that mountain was. Oh sure, there are people who climb Everest and McKinley and Kilimanjaro but I am not one of those people. I consider myself to be in moderate physical shape. I exercise most days of the week and enjoy running and hiking but this thing was like a vertical climb into the heavens. What have I gotten myself into?
I just took a deep breath and wound my way up to the base of the trail. So, if you don’t know, the Koko Crater Trail is basically an old railroad line up the side of Koko Head. I wonder who decided that a railroad needed to go OVER this thing. Why not around? I don’t know. The ties are still there, packed in dirt. People run and up down this trail all day long, sometimes two and three times a day for physical exercise because it is a serious workout.
Some people have tried to count the steps but it appears that nobody can agree. Some say about 1000, some say closer to 1100. I’ll just say 1000 because that’s a nice even number. (TIP: If you do decide to hike this, sunscreen, water and a hat are a must. There is no shade and very little rest area.)
Steps 1-100: Well, this isn’t that bad. Why were you freaking out? There are small children out here. What can be so bad?
Steps 101-300: Okay, yeah, this is a bit of a workout. I can feel my glutes burning but nothing any worse than the half marathon you just did.
Step 310: Whoa, wait a minute. Heart rate is WAY up. I had to pull over to the side to rest a moment. Okay, so this might be a little harder than I thought.
Steps 400-600: Just put one foot in front of the other. Don’t pay any attention to Old Man River that just ran past you like it’s nothing. I am funny about showing excessive skin in public but it was so hot that I had to push my bizarre inhibitions to the back seat. I had to take off my t-shirt because I was sweltering under that 100% BLACK cotton thing. Don’t worry, I had a tank top on.
Steps 700-750: Here comes the worst part. This part of the trail that isn’t packed in dirt, but more like a bridge. It’s really only like six or seven feet off the ground but to me it seemed a long way down. I tried to be brave and just run across it like everyone else, but I have never been very sure-footed. Sometimes I lose balance and I didn’t want to fall. I crawled instead.
Steps 751-800: *long string of curse words* OMG. Am I at the top yet? How much further?
Steps 801-900: I. Can’t. Go. Any. Further. Calves hurt. Glutes hurt. Thighs hurt. Mama.
Steps 900-999: Almost there. Just a little bit more. You can do it. You can. You really can.
Step 1000: WOW!!! Look at that view! Totally awesome.
I’m telling you, it was amazing. First, a brief rain shower had moved in and the clouds were so close it was as if I could reach up and touch them. Then suddenly it was clear and beautiful with an excellent view of Hanauma Bay. I sat up there for almost an hour, just taking it all in. The wind blew fiercely while I finished off the rest of that sweet bread. A father and his two sons joined me in my picnic and then a married couple. Nobody was talking. We were just enjoying ourselves.
So the crazy thing is that I got to the top exactly around 12 noon which is 6PM east coast time, and all my friends back home were talking about the end of the world stuff. My friends were sending me text messages about the supposed end of the world and the volcanic disturbance in Iceland. I thought to myself, well, if the world is going to end then let it end because I am on top of it right now. It made me think of that scene from the movie 2012 where Woody Harrelson awaits the end of the world atop a mountain in Yosemite. My view was much better than this though.
The climb down was just as bad as the climb up. Your momentum gets the best of you and you start running down faster than you really want to. I saw a few people fall, but nobody went rolling down the mountainside. (TIP: Hikers coming down have the right away.) Another tip is to be careful of who you bring up here. I did see hikers with small children whom they had to carry because the little ones got tired. When you get to the top there is no guard rail or anything and it’s a long way down to the bottom. I saw a couple with a baby in one of those things that you hook on your back. I hope they put sunscreen on the babies because the sun is brutal with no shade whatsoever.
After a quick stop at the hotel to freshen up, I stopped for lunch at the Blue Water Seafood truck on Kuhio. I ate here several times last year and their food is always so delicious. Then I strolled over to the park next to the zoo because I had heard about an art festival going on there. There were many local vendors hawking their wares, everything from earrings made with real butterfly wings to homemade macadamia nut cookies. There was clothing and sculptures and jewellery boxes and paintings and all sorts of things. I took my time browsing but in the end I did not buy anything. I have my fair share of Hawaii souvenirs. I’d rather have the memories.
I hopped on a bus to Ala Moana Mall with no real intention of shopping. I know the Aussies like to come and shop here in the US, but to me everything is just ridiculously overpriced. We have many of the same stores here in DC or in close by NYC, so I didn’t feel pressed to get anything. I just wanted to wander. They do have a pretty expansive food court. I bought some greasy dumplings from the bento place in the corner. After all that grease I decided I wanted something sweet.
So guess what? I went back to China Town to the bakery. Yeah, I couldn’t resist. I felt like such a pig because the woman recognised me from the day before. She said, “We have more buns for you.” Thanks! Indeed, I bought three more buns and some more sweet bread to replace what was intended for my sister. I also got more mochi. I grew up on mochi and I can only find it in Hawaii.
I had nothing else really planned and I still did not want to go to any museums so I got the bright idea that I should travel to another part of the island and visit some of the other beaches. (TIP: Do some research before you just hop on any bus.) I saw a bus, the number 42 that said Ewa Beach. I got a beach towel from the front desk and hopped on.
What a mistake!!!
It was the bus ride from hell. According Google Transit, it was supposed to be about a 45 minute ride to Ewa Beach. Wrong! It was almost two hours and when I got there, there wasn’t any beach. Maybe it was around the corner or just up the road but when the bus got to the terminus there was definitely no beach. By the time I got there I was not in the mood to ask anybody for directions, because that bus ride was so long that I actually got a cramp in my leg from sitting in the same position for an extended period of time. My cell phone was about to die because I had been playing Angry Birds for the better part of two hours. I just wanted to go back to the hotel.
I know the locals were looking at me like where is this lady going with her big stupid sunhat? Ugh. Worse, I actually had to get back to Waikiki! Another two hours on that bus? If I had been wearing regular shoes instead of flip flops, I might have tried to walk back. Thankfully the bus driver told me I could take one of the Express buses. Thank God, this was about an hour long instead of two hours. By the time I got back to Waikiki I was frozen solid (too much AC) and annoyed that I had wasted a good afternoon. So much for an adventure. Well, I guess that’s an adventure in and of itself.
But wait…. There’s more!
Tomorrow: Manoa Falls, a political scientist, Hanauma Bay, and Hy’s Steakhouse