IMG_8954I have to write about this, because it was the most amazing adventure, although I say that about almost every single day. It was such a change to go inland after all the rocky beaches, sandy beaches, black sand beaches, green sand beaches, turtle beaches and the long miles of Big Island.

Have been staying at the HI Hostel near the University of Hawaii Manoa Campus, a beautiful place to study and be hot. Well out of town, it is already quite a level higher and  far away from the tacky Mediterranean-ness of Waikiki. I got the 6 bus easily about a mile from the hostel, but never forget here you are in baking heat well over 30 degrees every day. The bus sets you off about half a mile from the Manoa Falls trailhead.

After a quick comfort stop at the Rainbow snack shop, as advised, I lathered up with insect repellent. There was such a distinctively different feel from the Paradise sun baked coastal beauty, this was tropical, untamed, Jurassic almost. I was dripping already and felt like an Amazon explorer out of a movie. And of course the Manoa Valley has been the backdrop for many films and TV features including Jurassic park and Lost. In actuality, the enormous broad leaved, hanging, tall, brightly coloured and poisonous things are all carefully managed by the University and State, although you cannot tell other that there is a car park or two and the Arboretum has labels.


I had determined to do both the Manoa Falls trail and the Lyon Arboretum in the same afternoon so I romped off at a pace. When you are that wet already, there is no point in trying to preserve dignity – just wipe your face with you T shirt and push on. The Manoa Falls trail being the most popular was quite busy ( and it was a weekend) and this on it’s own is not a problem. I have noticed certain types of tourists from different parts of the world, (includes me sometimes) have their own distinctive faux pas. Teenage people who turn up in bikini and flip flops, height of fashion visitors in white linen trousers and pumps or tiny silver or gold backless sandals, the multifamily groups with loads of kids and dogs in tow etc. So they do hold you back a bit. This route starts out like a soggy Sherwood Pines track and turns into a full on technical and very slippery, rocky climb to the falls. So you can imagine if you get stuck on this single track behind any of those groups or individuals there can be some frustration. I come into the category of ‘people who are always stopping to take photos of EVERYTHING’ like they have never seen the light of day.  But if you never seen forest like this it is difficult not to. The growth is dense and when the sunlight gets through, emits a beautiful luminescence. I’m sure I got in some people’s way sometimes.

IMG_8792AS mentioned before it’s really slippery and quite steep at the top end of the trail and although there is roped off section, not many people were abiding by it. I was well rewarded when U got to the waterfall. It is breathtaking  – not because of it’s size, it’s more because you are looking at something you might associate with the Prisoner of Zenda, or King Solomon’s Mines. It’s tropical, beautiful and surrounded by wildness.

After an uneventful but slightly painful on the knees descent, I reached the gates of the Lyon Arboretum. This is a ‘giant’ botanical garden, but actually more like a national park – it comprises of many acres of rainforest and steep terrain. Some parts are carefully landscaped, while most is completely naturalised. The Lyon Arboretum has its own trail leading to the Aihualama Falls – not so impressive as the Manoa Falls, but far more mystical and secluded – I only passed about 5 people all afternoon.

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Without the map, I do think you could get very lost in here, as there are many alternative paths which wind and weave over the mountainside.  You could spend a whole day here if you bring a picnic. Anyway, I wanted to share with you some of the astonishingly beautiful and unfamiliar flora that I cam across. And so I have done so. There’s no denying, I felt like a Victorian explorer. This day was challenging, wondrous and just about perfect. IMG_8875

Final Jeopardy

final-jeopardy-1985Ha! You’ll only remember this film if you are at least my age. It’s an ordinary sort of evening. A couple in a car lose their way and find themselves in the wrong part of town. Definitely the wrong part. And it all gets worse from there with lots 80’s music. So last night when I started to make my way down N Hotel St in Honolulu wearing a sundress and carrying Minnie – I felt I may have been just an incy bit in jeopardy .

All started well. I was bound for an open mic night which I discovered on Facebook events. I got on the no 4 Bus round the corner form the hostel – it was nearly  dark at 7 and a little rainy, but still 30 plus degrees. The bus journey was uneventful and the busy driver very chatty. ‘Are you sure that’s where you want to go?’ He asked reassuringly. I asked if it was not such a nice area, the answer to which was that I should not venture too many blocks from the corner of Bethel.  Bear it mind that I had not been in any part of Honolulu which was not near the University or beach and knew nothing of dodgy or no go areas and this was not greatly confidence inspiring – because it did look decidedly creepy and sort of empty when I alighted. To be fair it was Sunday night – not the most bustling of times.

Following the iMaps instructions – I went further down N Hotel, where the sparse trendy looking bars gave way to boarded up Asian shops, heavily graffitied. And as the occupied units became less and less, the lighting did also, and correspondingly the people living in the doorways became more and more, as did the ne’er do wells and skateboard philosophers hanging around. One young man on a board told me to trust my intuition –  that I would find what I was looking for – while another one was telling me to get the fuck out of the country .

I’ve never really panicked unless crises involve my kids, so I decided just to turn round and walk back up to Bethel – walking in the manner which my Sifu had taught me, and to not show any hesitation.  Remember I was looking for an arts centre – when the area looked more like a detention centre. I should say that I make no judgements at all on people who find themselves in the midst of such misfortune, especially considering my own privileged place in the world, and in fact have never felt threatened by them.  But there were other groups there who where doubtless loitering in the district through lack of purpose, aspiration and sheer poverty. It was the rapidity in which the environment went from urban to squalid which made me feel so vulnerable. You want the music school,’ someone said and they gave me directions. There was salsa there and all that stuff he said – well it sounded like it could be the right place. I followed the directions and indeed found the salsa centre which was upstairs above a locked darkened Asian owned building.

At this point I knew it was totally not here.  I remembered seeing on the events page that the establishment had recently moved . Maybe this was an old address. Sometimes in these situations when data is slow, you haven’t got time to wait for it. If you dither, you look lost, then you look vulnerable – then you are prey! I found a bus stop on a main-ish road and tried to load the event page. My strategy was that if a bus came, I would get on it, no matter where it was going. The bus driver would help. As it happened, the page loaded and when I found the location, it was indeed in a different place but only a few blocks away. As I followed the directions hastily, I began to see regular people: an elderly couple, a trendy looking guy – yea a bar! The Ong King Arta Centre was still not visible anywhere, but the kind staff at the Proof bar helped me to locate it – through their back door. The relief was the same as dreaming that you murdered someone and then waking up.IMG_9004

The Ong King Arts Centre was vibey, hippie and cool. There was a small crowd of well-worn ( meaning my age) musos chilling outside. My heart warmed. It was a great night in the end. featuring these really great  vintage musicians,  and a lady with the French horn. I did a set of four, and sold 2 CD’s. img_9001.jpg
Well in fact I swapped one for a plateful of proper food with vegetables which I could feel my body absorbing urgently. ( The hostel isn’t well located for groceries). The sound system is excellent and the nature of the venue – a kind of building site / industrial work in progress provided wonderful natural reverb. I left at 10.30 to ensure no issues with getting back; admittedly there was a bit of a cafufflle but I made it. The only other thing I must remember, other than checking the venue location, is that I have clothing later for the bus. It’s boiling outside but the AC is near freezing. Eventful night.

Monster Day Out

IMG_1999The day began somewhat impromptu as I earwigged two people discussing a trip down to the south of the island. Marie had wound up with a soccer mom people carrier as the hire company had no compact cars left. Jason was island hopping from Ouahu for the weekend. He was lucky enough to have family working at island air. I  cheekily cadged a lift and was so grateful for what turned out to be an epic day. The first stop was south of Captain Cook, down to Two Steps beach. This sheltered little snorkelling area had no beach exactly but a myriad of rock pools set in the lava. it was clearly very popular and good place to try out my snorkelling gear. It was baking hot and the water was refreshing. And my $20 snorkel fit perfectly.fullsizeoutput_516

I couldn’t believe what I saw in there. I don’t have a go pro – so I will have to borrow these pictures to show you what I saw. There was a ledge to slide off into the water and the fish were in massive shoals too many to count and so many varieties. It was truly hypnotic and enthralling. After a very short time it had become so ridiculously hot sitting on the lava and we had such a big agenda, we made a move to find coffee. Unfortunately Two Steps coffee shop was closed Sunday.

We drove round the coast looking for the Green Sands beach.  It was quite a way, winding at elevation around the coast, with not single open refreshment establishment in sight, and we stopping at every scenic point to admire the magnificent vistas. Usually vast lava fields, brown and black and at various ages and stage of regeneration, stretching down to the coast from the lush interior. Eventually we found the road down to Green Sands. This was extraordinary because we dropped down from the verdant heights onto a long and winding single track through a sort of anomalous prairie land with cattle. On the way down we stopped at a coffee farm, thinking to get coffee ( well it was just me really), only to find it was a roadside shop selling coffee, macadamia nuts, chocolate and all sorts of products combining these. The amount of samples she gave us made a good lunch and I tasted for the first time the delicious and compelling flavour of fresh macadamia nuts. All the while there was a parched and throat searing heat. Further down and incredulously was a serious coffee shop truly in the middle of nowhere, (though it was really an orchid farm) – so like a lot of enterprises on the island, doubling up on income sources.

In due course, we wound down through the sparse cattle in flat land to the Green Sands car park. You can go no further here unless you have a dedicated off road vehicle. The hike to Green Sands is 2 hours, over savannah like terrain riven but deep off road tracks and bomb holes – not to be attempted without at least 3 litres of water in the heat of the day. In the car park were local family businesses offering a shuttle service to the Sands, looking anything but legal and far from H & S aware. Jason checked it out – $20 dollars a person – we were aghast. But what choice had we if we were still to see the volcano. So with trepidation we coughed up. What followed was one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life. I don’t know what possessed me, maybe the mountain biker/climber outdoor person did, but I decided to jump in the back of the what I can only describe as a large white monster truck with only a rail in the back. There were two or three other girls who screamed all the way in both thrill and terror. Forget Alton Towers and every ride you’ve ever been on ( well none in my case) and think extreme body abuse. We were thrown about like popcorn in the back as we negotiated forty five degree berms, cliffs and obstacles at speed. I finally understand off-roading, though I don’t think a land rover over houndkirk quite comes close. IMG_8531The Green Sands beach was the most extraordinary landscape, with its olive peridot volcanic glass and strangely sculpted headland, but the ride there and back kind of topped it. After an hour and return journey where I did manage to catch some footage, we could hardly come down. But knowing there was a drive ahead, we set off . The local family shuttle  business must be raking it in at that rate, but it was definitely a trip highlight.

Another hour or so drive bought us to Volcano National park, a mere $25 between us. Proving to be an expensive day but in many days priceless. We went into the first entrance we came to really – even though fellow hostellers had said go to the lava flow, it was two against one and it would have meant another 19 mile drive. So we settled on the Kilauea crater rim. I felt a hint of disappointment when we drove up to ‘the crater’ and saw only plumes of steam coming out of a grey quarry like expanse.

To be fair there were steam vents all around us and you could feel it on your chest and also if you put your hand over the vent, you could certainly feel the intense heat. It’s all a bit unreal as tourists loom out of the fumes. But this is not Niagara – with billions of visitors daily –  this is an island that’s quite a long way in the middle of the Pacific and the volcano itself is a mere ninety six miles from Kona. You’re not going to get the Niagara hordes. We went back to the car and drove the few extra minutes to the viewing centre – and then everything changed – particularly  the disappointment bit. At first there was just a bowl like glow in the greyness of everything, more like a crucible or a few embers. Within a few minutes another area had become active and all was getting a little more visible. A patient wait at the telescope revealed a churning, spitting, boiling fury of molten lava and sprays of fiery ash. Pretty unreal to see. fullsizeoutput_442More people arrived for the vigil of encroaching darkness, and a couple of hours passed by with all three of us completely transfixed. Against the night sky, the lava and heat illuminate the gases and you get a real sense you are watching land being born, this island being born. And all the miles and miles of lava flows, some clinker and chiming, some brown and like turned earth, some whiskery with new growth and some architectural. It all makes sense . It was a long drive home – two hours – thanks too Marie for all the driving and a day not easily forgotten!


Forty Five Pound Bike Day

IMG_7896The perfect day for me, yesterday. Yet another one, I should say, as I have been very lucky here in San Francisco with ‘perfect days’. And I’m not just talking about balmy weather and blue skies – thought they always help – but just that feeling of extreme privilege and everything falling into place, and just being exhilarated by what you experiencing.

IMG_7903There was rather a large gathering for the bike tour in the hostel lobby, and some decidedly non cycling types as expected, and the guide from the hostel was wearing beige skinnies. Mmm! I therefore didn’t expect a taxing ride and was intending to head for the Marin Headlands after we had crossed the bridge. Well when I got the bike from Blazing Saddles, I realised that was going to be out of the question as the beast weighed 45lbs and was not equipped with a pump, spare or toolkit. I would have to revise my plans. I was unduly cynical really, because the tour guide was really good at keeping everyone together and showing us stuff. The first hill out of Fishermans Wharf killed a lot of people off almost immediately and I admit, even I had to stand up. And with no clips or cleats – this was difficult. Thing then got easier as we coasted along the Presidio, and stopped at the Palace of Fine Arts. This is absolutely beautiful and reminded me of something out of Logan’s Run. I expected Peter Ustinov to be sat on the steps there. Marvellous piece of architecture with absolutely no purpose.

aeHhe4cWRt2+U4By%5u0lQ_thumb_e85It wasn’t long before we were at the bridge, and I was champing at the bit somewhat, and eager to get away from the group now and do some exploring. I did manage to set my video going as I rode across dodging people who were in a world of their own. Personally this was amazing for me and you can, of course, see more photos on bridgephile.co.uk . After, we rolled down into Sausalito and by then conditions had become perfect for riding. I said Goodbye to the group at Golden Gate Market where I had bought provisions for the ship only a week before. I headed up to the Taste of Rome Cafe for a bit of familiarity and wifi. Easting my sandwiches by the marina, I was feeling truly blissful.

Revision time. I decided to play it safe, owing to the conditions of the bike, stay in civilisation and push on to the ferry at Tiburon. But first I wanted to see the Sausilito Boat Houses. This is a lesser know local attraction, I would say, as there were no ‘visitors’ there, but if you can negotiate the little harbour area it is well worth a lot. I’m thinking that it’s probably more expensive to live here than…well…a lot of places. There are streets with private entrances – you have means if you live here.FullSizeRender 2

The cycle path along the road soon filtered off into a cycle trail and cross a beautiful lagoon area at the head of the inlet. It was full sun, the water was blue and there was a bit of a breeze. I followed the trail through some parkland and the terrain started to change. Hills. Yes – hills. The sort of hills that make you aware the bike is nearly as heavy as you. Standing up is essential. The whole coastal area was really picturesque and it’s hard not to just stop everywhere and take in the beautiful views.  I went up and down over Strawberry, and stopped at Blackies Pasture for sit by the water. IMG_7911The trail into Tiburon, then takes in bits of shared track, bits of road, but all ver pretty and well signposted. As you enter into Tiburon you realise that this is a very expensive area indeed. Its quite extraordinary with street fountains and little foot bridges, a bit more like a landscaped garden than a town. A cluster of bars and cafes hug the ferry terminal and this makes for a very pleasant wait – if the ferry doesn’t come for a while. The Blue and Gold line only takes foot passengers and cyclists, and you just pile your bikes up in a heap, so I was thankful I only had a 45lb rental bike. The trip over is exhilarating, taking in both the Golden Gate and Bay bridges, and a beautiful sunset to boot.


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