Fire on the Mountain

Liquid Gold Hawai’i
by Shane Boocock

Don’t throw another log on the fire, forget about the damp laundry, and kiss the dark mornings and early night’s goodbye. You don’t need a yoga class or chaise lounge by the hotel swimming pool either. I decided to put some excitement into my life by hopping onto an Air New Zealand lava express flight to Hawaii to burn off my winter blues.

Two taxis, three islands, three hire cars, four flights and five hotels in a six day stay. I’ve never been one for flopping by a pool, so for me visiting Hawaii was a chance to explore at my leisure and the way to do that is to get behind a wheel and drive. I hate backtracking, so circuitous routes on circular islands get me revving every time.

It’s like a random roll of a roulette wheel when you wait for a cab at any airport; as it happens the first cab on the rank was a stretch limo. “Is this a regular cab?” I asked. “Yep sure is,” replied the driver as he loaded my luggage in the trunk, “but there ain’t any beer or cocktails included.”

Honolulu was nothing like I remembered it. The first thing I noticed as we reached Waikiki was that there were something called ABC Stores on virtually every corner. Trolley cars trundled by ringing bells as they approached trolley stops. Everywhere high rise hotels and apartment buildings seemed to disappear into the clouds. Not long after checking into the Hilton Prince Kuhio, I found a bar and ordered a cold draft beer – a cool US7.95? I should have known nothing comes cheap on Waikiki Beach, not even local Longboard lager.

It was the woman with the shopping cart who first grabbed my attention. She was strolling along the promenade above the famous stretch of beach known as Waikiki. Inside the cart were three small dogs, with a large dog and another two smaller dogs in the upper tier. Beneath them all on the lower tier was a scoop-a-poop tray. I guess, even on a stretch of beach with some of the highest real estate prices in America, eccentricity sometimes goes hand-in-hand with luxury and wealth.

After negotiating heavy morning traffic in my rental car, I arrived at the gates of Pearl Harbour at 7.15am only to find the entrance area chock-a-block full of visitors booking tours, visiting the museum and taking in this revered place. It is after all the only maritime National Park in the USA and one of the biggest tourist attractions in Hawaii. This is one site not to be missed, but get there early otherwise you’ll be waiting in some very long lines.

Leaving Pearl Harbour I headed out on Route 99. It was now drizzling beneath opaque gray skies. Traffic was heavy as I moved further north. It was Sunday and the radio jock informed me it was Mothers Day – restaurants would be full and the roads clogged with traffic. I soon found the cozy laid-back surfing town of Haleiwa, where I ordered eggs over easy, crispy bacon, wheat toast and coffee. This is a surfie town, close to the famed north shore beaches renowned for their huge winter surf breaks, places with names like Shark Alley and Banzai Pipeline.

The road snaked around coastal bays and inlets as groups of Harley Davidson bike riders roared by. Churches outnumber bars 10 to 1 in this Northern part of the island! After a scenic east coast drive, I arrived back in Honolulu where I found myself a rustic Mexican restaurant called La Cucaracha, ordering a cold Corona and very bland chicken enchilada as dudes strolled by outside in board shorts clutching longboards as they cut a swathe to Waikiki Beach.

Back at the airport I awaited my flight to the Big Island on a bar stool. Airport bars are strange places to me, full of people in limbo, leaving one place and going to another. The bartender dabbed paper receipts in a wet spot on the counter and stuck them to each glass so the waitress knew which drink was for which table.

The Big Island is actually known as Hawaii, confusing I know! I picked up Hertz hire car number two and quickly found my hotel. The following afternoon I’d arranged a tour with Kapohokine Adventures. Our group consisted of a nice couple from Arizona and a friend of theirs from San Diego. Our tour guide and driver, Emma, was a local Big Island native. She’d picked up the habit of calling everyone cousin, after a Maori couple had once explained to her how the term Cuzzi Bro is used in New Zealand!

“Cousin Shane,” Emma began, “this is where they filmed some scenes for the Planet of the Apes. My uncle once owned beachfront land here but when the last lava flow engulfed the cliff face it created 500 new acres of foreshore and his land price plummetted.”

We were hiking across the lava that had taken six months to solidify; as it entered the sea the mean temperature was 2,000 degrees. On dusk we hiked into a viewing area where we could see molten breakouts as the lava flowed towards the sea. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, established in 1916, now displays the results of 70 million years of volcanism, migration, and evolution – processes that thrust a bare land from the sea and clothed it with unique ecosystems that house eleven out of the 13 climate zones in the world.

The park highlights two of the world’s most active volcanoes – the fiery Mt. Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Mauna Loa rises 13,677ft above see level and is the largest volcano in the world – Mt. Everest can fit inside it 130 times. At about 3,000ft the lush interior is beige green on the surface and liquid gold beneath. Here I began my first hike in the park. The trail starts on the rim in a forest where drizzling rain coated my face with poultice-like warmth in the cold air. The steps weren’t steep but slippery where the rain had turned the track to mud. The lower I walked, the thinner the forest became until it ended, revealing a solid crust of hard lava. With the exception of small plant growth, this was a barren moonscape – a world away from most hiking trails; an uneven, cracked and shattered surface of a volcanic crater laden with lava tubes, crevices and steam vents; a place that resembled a giant Pavlova that had collapsed into itself.

At the end of South Point Road from the small town of Wai’ohini, there was a menagerie of 4-wheel drive vehicles, all reversed on the windswept cliff edge. From each vehicle fishing rods pointed out to sea. This is Ka Lae, also known as South Point, the most southerly piece of ground in the United States.

My last adventure was over on the island of Kauai. On my first morning I was given instructions on how to slip my bum into a kayak – carefully! We were on a tour with Outfitters Kauai, a company that offers mountain biking, ziplining and sea and river kayaking adventures. Our Hidden Valley Falls kayak allowed us to cruise downwind smoothly for two miles, before splashing down from a Tarzan-like rope swing (where Harrison ford was filmed for Raiders of the Lost Ark).

After a short woodland hike, we were offered another zipline option and pool splash down with a cruisy ride back to base in a motorised canoe! With all the hiking, kayaking, lava viewing, driving and exploring, there was just one last thing on my agenda . . . a full spa treatment at a nearby luxury resort. Such are the joys of travelling in Liquid Gold Hawaii!

FACTS:
Pearl Harbour National Monument – 3 main attractions: the Battleship missouri memorial, the submarine USS Bowfin and museum, and the USS Arizona memorial.
Visitor centre open daily from 7:30a.m. to 5:00p.m. $42 Adult, $19 child

Hilton Waikiki Prince Kuhio – metres from Waikiki Beach, Honolulu – luxury and comfort on the Island of oahu. 2500 Kuhio Ave, waikiki Beach. t: +1 808 921 5599, w: hilton.com

Castle Hilo Hawaiian Hotel – Hilo Hawaiian Hotel – ideal spot for exploring Big Island attractions; a mere 2 miles from Hilo Airport and a 45-minute drive to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. 71 Banyan Drive, Hilo. t: +1 808 935-9361, w: castleresorts.com

Castle Kona Reef – Just south of Kona village on the golden Kona coast. offers one or two-bedroom condo suites in an exclusive spot where the ocean greets lava and sand. 75-5888 Alii Drive, Kailua-Kona. t: +1 808 329-2959. w: castleresorts.com

Castle Poipu Shores – condo rentals luxury style accommodation, individually furnished with an island style all their own. Each and every one, two and three-bedroom condos front the ocean. 1775 Pe’e road, Poipu. t: +1 808 742-7700. w: castleresorts.com

Hyatt Regency Kauai Resort & Spa – the ultimate “Hawaiian classic” where sea breezes mix with lush tropics. try the Anara Spa where traditional Hawaiian healing customs inspire lokahi – unity, harmony, balance. 1571 Poipu road, Koloa. t: +1 808 742 1234. w: kauai.hyatt.com

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – Easily visited by car in just a few hours or explored in more depth over several days. $10 entrance fee. w: nps.gov

Outfitters Kauai – Ziplines, kayaking, downhill bicycling or swimming beneath a waterfall in a jungle pool – there’s something for everyone. 2827a Poipu rd, Poipu Beach. t: +1 808 742 9667. w: outfitterskauai.com

The Beach House Restaurant – renown for its spectacular sunsets and unbeatable location. melds gracious Hawaiian service and innovative Pacific rim dishes with creative twists on island favourites. take a slice of paradise, mix well with a generous helping of island hospitality and a bounty of Hawaiian flavours, and you’ll discover something special. 5022 lawai road, Koloa. t: +1 808 742 1424. w: the-beach-house.com

Shane Boocock thanks Hawaii tourism, Air New Zealand (airnewzealand.co.nz), Hawaiian Airlines (hawaiianair.com), and United Airlines (united.com) for their wonderful service and support during this trip.

Special thanks to Katrina and her staff at United Airlines check-in at Kauai Airport.