Dawn on the beach is always a good start to the day on Oahu: a cool and tranquil experience that you wish could last longer. But as the sun clears the horizon, the heat quickly follows, increasing noticeably, minute by minute until the ocean’s cool embrace is all you long for and is hard to refuse. And so the morning was spent walking, swimming and snorkelling, with an interlude for breakfast and time to write.
Now, on our last full day on these islands, there was still time for one last adventure and, once again, we headed for Kailua in the south-eastern corner of the island. We chose the quick route directly south down highway 99 and H2, turning east at Pearl City on the H3, which would get us to our destination in time for our 2pm Kayak rental booking at Kailua Beach Adventure.
A double Kayak cost us just under $40 each, but with a discount of 15% by using a token from one of the local magazines, the total cost was very reasonable for a few hours of self-guided kayaking. We were given life jackets within the hire cost but also hired a dry-bag, which is essential for carrying valuables, camera and keys without the risk of getting them wet or losing them.
We were shown a film about what to expect, where we could and couldn’t go along the coast and all the safety tips we would need. Of course, we had already signed our lives away on the obligatory disclaimer form when we arrived. Next, we were provided with our double seated kayak and shown how to strap everything down safely and also lash the kayak to its trolley. After brief instruction on how to get to the water, we were off. We had to drag the kayak, on its two-wheeled trolley, along the road, through a park and into a river, just at the point that it meets the sea.
The river section of the trip gave us time to try out our paddling technique which, to be honest, left a lot to be desired. Next we had to drag the kayak up onto the back side of the beach, over its crown and down to the edge of the surf on the other side.
By the time we reached this point I had serious doubts about whether I had enough energy left to actually launch the kayak into the sea but, after a moment’s pause, we were in.
Rachel sat at the front, responsible for setting the paddling rhythm and I was behind and in charge of steering. The task was to synchronise our paddling action into a smooth tempo – a gentle, rhythmic beat, harmony in motion. Unfortunately, one minute we were playing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, the next it was like Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell!
Somehow, we made it off the beach and beyond the surf, more by luck than design and we were into open water at last.
We were heading to Flat Island, which was about a twenty minute paddle away. It may have taken us a little longer than that! Flat Island is a tiny, very flat island about a quarter of a mile offshore and is a bird sanctuary. We had to buy a permit for $3 each in order to land on the island and this was available at the time of rental. We were warned of patrols that enforce the permits. There’s one small stretch of beach on which to land and we headed for that – just look for the large blue sign at the back of the beach.
It felt like we were arriving on our own desert island as we alighted and dragged the kayak up the beach and wedged it between some rocks, a little nervous of the craft leaving without us.
Resorting to drinking our own urine and cannibalism would not have been a good end to our vacation had we been stranded in paradise. We managed to walk around the entire island in about 20 minutes and it can be a precarious business if you’re wearing flip-flops and almost impossible without.
The rocks are sharp and there are large holes everywhere just waiting to shred a foot or ankle and I can assure you that there is no first aid on this island. I read that there was an estimated 3000 birds living on the island in the year 2000 and, on such a tiny island, you would expect to run into at least some of them. We saw exactly one! Either they’ve all disappeared or they saw us coming. Stumbling about on jagged rocks in flip-flops shouting “watch out for that hole” and “ow, that was sharp” is not really conducive to successful bird watching. We’ll stick to sunbathing in future!
We left the island intact and decided to head over to Lanikai Beach, a little further down the coast. We had been warned to follow a strict corridor to avoid being capsized by the surf and by now we were at least able to zig-zag our way in the general direction of the beach, our now semi-rhythmic paddling resembling something approaching Land of Hope and Glory. We did make land without any serious embarrassment or injury to swimmers along the shore, which is, I suppose, a form of glory in and of itself. We had now made two successful landings and were feeling pretty chipper. We had just enough time to spend snorkelling in the surf before we had to start the journey back as the rental centre was shutting at 5pm.
Once back on the water it became increasingly tiring to paddle in the strengthening current. We found ourselves going in completely the wrong direction on a number of occasions and I have to take full responsibility for that. My jelly-like arms screamed for mercy and the pace slowed to something resembling a funeral march. We picked a point on the beach and headed for it, paddling for our lives, and woe betide anyone who got in the way and, as our journey reached its crescendo, we rode the surf and rammed our kayak straight onto the beach. But not straight enough as it turned out – the next wave to hit capsized us and we flopped sideways into the water, arms and legs flailing about amid the many kids having canoeing lessons and who could do this with their eyes closed.
We just managed to haul our kayak onto the sand and stood gasping on the beach.
“I saw that landing.”
The kids’ canoeing trainer had been watching us all long. I can imagine her using our shabby landing in the classroom later, as an example of how not to do it. At least we had contributed to the next generation’s learning.
By the time we reached the rental centre we must have looked like we had been targeted by one of those water cannons used in riot control. Luckily, they had not sent out a search party yet but they were starting to shut up for the night. It was quite a relief to be back.
We headed back home via the scenic route: that is, any route that avoids Honolulu. Highway 83, up the east coast of the island had been the best and most satisfying driving route we had enjoyed while being here and so we took it one last time. The downside of highway 83, however, is twofold: firstly, there are times when it can become extremely busy so you must choose your travel times carefully and, secondly, there’s a distinct lack of bars and restaurants along the highway itself. In such a beautiful place and on such a lovely drive, it would be nice to stop off along the way for a cooling drink or a snack – we could find nowhere to do this, which was disappointing and we had to wait until we reached our home town of Haleiwa, where we headed for the Beach House one last time. We sat at the bar and ordered drinks.
What better way to complete our trip than to spend time with Larry who told us of his life here on Oahu with his wife of over 50 years. Sadly, she had passed away two years ago and now Larry spends his days reading on the beach and eating out each night in his favourite bars and restaurants.
“How have you been these last two years?” I asked.
“Sad,” he said, “but I have a good life here – not a care in the world.”
Larry told us about his origins in New York and how life is completely different on Oahu, and of his son, who has a business here. He was going to see him next week.
The bartender swept past, making comments to Larry about the baseball game on the TV behind the bar. This bartender, Larry told us, has his favourite drink ready for him before he even sits down at the bar.
“I made lasagne last Thursday,” Larry said, “but, to be honest, I can’t be doing with all the hassle of cooking. I can afford it, so I eat out every night. Everyone knows me, knows what I like.”
The sun was setting, blessing us one last time.
“Not a care in the world.” Larry smiled.
As we left, we said our goodbyes to Larry.
“We’ll remember you Larry,” we said.
“Likewise,” said Larry and shook our hands firmly. We believed him.