As much as I want to say I’ve become a great and experienced traveller, that just isn’t the case. I have had my experience, but I don’t think I’m any better at it! I’m back in Amsterdam after 2 days of travelling (basically straight from Hawaii). I figured I’d do a blog entry on my time spent there for a little switcheroo of scenery and not complain about rain for once. I’m not sure that I’m totally conscious right now and I keep forgetting what day it is (Friday, right?) but I can write about Hawaii by just prentending that I’m still there.
My dad and I went to Hawaii primarily for his friend’s wedding, but also for me to see the Big Island that he and my mom have both fallen in love with in the past year. Although going to Hawaii a week before my trip back to Amsterdam meant that I was done with Dallas after only three weeks, I really couldn’t complain. We spent 4 days on the Big Island (in Kailua-Kona and Hilo) and our last day in Honolulu, on Oahu. We got to the Big Island on a thursday night and had full days Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Our first full day in Kailua was spent in a helicopter viewing of the entire island, exploring the snorkeling sites around the hotel, eating a fish burrito at Kohala Burger, and relaxing. The helicopter ride with Sunshine Helicopters was really incredible; I’d never been in a helicopter and this was a perfect first time. We saw all of the geography of the island, from lava flow and burning forests to beautiful valleys and thousand-feet waterfalls. The Big Island, although the biggest by far, is the least inhabited. It was easy to forget we were still technically in the United States, but I quickly remembered upon returning to the resort. A lot of the places we saw were only accessible by air which made the ride 100% worth it. Below are a collection of some of my favorite shots.
After the helicopter ride and lunch, we rented our gear for the weekend. Mom wanted a special postcard from Parker Ranch, so we drove to the north of the island to retrieve it (you’re welcome, Mom!). The north of the island is dedicated to farming, the west (where we stayed) is mainly desert with beaches, and the east is lush forest with rockier shores. I liked driving up north for a change climate (it was cooler and had more hills than our western side). We snorkeled at a site near the hotel where I immediately saw a sea turtle in the water. You can see them on the shore in the afternoon, but I was excited to see one of this size in the water. I have a thing for sea turtles (Sra. Wheeler, you know this already!) so any vacation with them is a good vacation. We rested up that night for a huge next day.
Saturday was our adventuring day where we started off by snorkeling with dolphins and ended the day snorkeling with manta rays. We first went out on a boat with Dolphin Discovery, and while I first assumed this would be a tacky “swim with dolphins that are trained” ride, that wasn’t the case at all. We searched and ended up finding a pod of 200-300 wild spinner dolphins that were slowing down close to shore to sleep (they are nocturnal). The boat knew to track where the dolphins were headed, stop about a mile ahead of them, and have everyone jump out as chaotically as possible to be in the water when they passed. We couldn’t touch them although many came close enough that it was possible. I had never swam with a wild mammal and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I also hadn’t swam in water that deep (no idea how deep, but seeing the bottom was difficult), water that dark blue, or waves that strong. I got a workout.
We ate lunch as Annie’s burgers after the dolphins and stopped down at Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, and here we saw the place of refuge. If sacred Hawaiian laws were broken, the Kapu-breaker could only be forgiven if they made it to the place of refuge and partook in a ceremony of absolution. This place of refuge had many significant statues, a native who was teaching tourists about fishing, and beautiful views of the ocean. We had to leave early in order for me to find a Hawaiian dress for the wedding in Kona before swimming with the manta rays. Although I’ve scuba-dived with stingrays, snorkeling with manta rays is completely different. First, they can be up to 1300 pounds and 13 feet wide. I had no idea how huge they were. They also eat only plankton and don’t have stingers, so I was safer than before. We went out with a company called Neptune Charlie’s to see these amazing creatures, and amazing they were. This was my first night swim, which meant it was colder than usual and wetsuits were necessary. We also weren’t allowed to swim on our own because the mantas’ sheer sizes could hurt us. All snorkelers held onto a raft with lights attached that would point down into the water. Plankton are attracted to this light, manta rays are attracted to plankton, and therefore they would swim right under us. I was definitely happy that both animals I saw in the water weren’t domesticated or baited in any way. They really were wild, and the lights just helped them find their own wild food. It was a good, and super adventurous, day.
Sunday was the wedding in Hilo, the tropical side of the island. No pictures from cellphones were allowed at the ceremony but I snuck some of the food. The wedding was beautiful, small, and very Hawaiian (lots of flowers and Hawaiian shirts). We drove across the island to get to the wedding which was probably as exciting as the wedding itself; the island is beautiful from the air as well as up close in a car.
Monday was a relaxation day and a flight to Honolulu, and Tuesday was for some sightseeing on Waikiki beach and flying home. My favorite about Honolulu was Cheeseburger in Paradise, a Hawaiian chain that was just silly. Waikiki beach was so incredibly touristy that it was hard to like, but we had an incredible view of the water from our hotel and it was worth seeing, even just for that one night. We flew out on Tuesday afternoon, had a layover in LA, then landed in Dallas Wednesday morning. I spent maybe 5 hours at home before heading back to the airport to begin my journey to back to Amsterdam.
I flew to Frankfurt first and met the sweetest little German lady on the plane. I told her what I was doing in Amsterdam and she told me she worked at a radio station and was going to talk about me. She was going to go home and google water in the Netherlands to learn more about what I’m studying. I then flew to Oslo, Norway, and it was incredibly snowy there. After a short layover I finally flew to Amsterdam and made it back to my apartment.
Even though I’ve been here before and have done this exact same thing, it is still hard leaving home and being in a new place. I had a stressful and sad night thinking that maybe the next four months won’t be as great as I was imagining, but Zack thankfully reminded me that I can’t judge a whole semester on how I feel within the first 3 hours of being back, especially in the state I was in after 2 days of travel. I have two weeks until classes start and will use this time to get even more comfortable and travel a bit. It’ll take a little time, but I’ll keep everyone updated. Tot ziens!