It was going to be a long, hot day so a quiet start was needed.
There’s nothing better for the soul than an early morning walk on the beach. When the beach is on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles away from any anything, so much better for the soul.
The sun was only just peeping above the horizon, partially hidden by early morning cloud and there was only a hint of the heat yet to come. I walked barefoot through muscular grass, which was cool and refreshingly wet with dew. Only a few more steps and onto the beach, deserted at this time of the morning save for someone snorkelling just offshore in the glass-like ocean. Cotton clouds dotted the sky and the gentle sound of ripples in the water were hypnotic – instantly relaxing.
The sight of the deserted beach, its sand renewed by the sea, was inviting and I walked, drawn as much by what I could not see, just around the bend, as what I could. The sand on the north shore is not as fine as that found in the east of the island: its exfoliating grains are surprisingly large, pleasing the feet. There are very few shells to be seen, which is surprising. Instead, there are what appear to be little stones, which, upon closer inspection, are bits of coral, broken off and washed up.
Little houses line the shore; a ramshackle collection of weather-worn timber amongst fallen palms, old boat hulls and surfboards.
Tiny children ran from one such house, straight into the sea,followed by their mother dragging a surfboard behind. A simple pleasure for the young – no screen required.
At first, I thought I was inadvertently kicking small stones along the sand but then realised they moved of their own volition. I bent to look closer – a baby crab, no larger than my fingernail scooted away. All of a sudden, there was many such creatures making the sand appear to move ahead of me. Their speed was impressive in relation to their size and they dashed in all directions as I walked. Their mother must be somewhere and, at the thought, I noticed holes in the sand, the size of tennis balls, accompanied by grainy mounds, dug out in the making.
The holes were perfectly formed, smooth and precise and the evidence of tiny feet were betrayed by the flat sand. Only one mother showed herself. I tried to follow but, like her offspring, she was equally fleet of foot and was gone.
On another such morning, I found a sea urchin, washed up on the shore. It was about the size of a tennis ball with many long, black spines and resembled a small hedgehog, curled up. It spines were slowly moving around, each one independent of the next, as if responding to an unknown threat – maybe the threat was me! I don’t know much about such things, but I do know their spines are poisonous and can burn if they puncture your skin. I assumed that this little fellow belonged in the sea, not on a hot, dry beach, so I used my flip-flop to gently roll it back into the water. It looked much more at home there. I later learned that these beautiful creatures, which I had seen wedged into rock crevices while diving in Maui, are called Wana in Hawaiian. I had done my good deed for the day.
Leaving my stuff on the beach, I decided to swim. At its edge, the water was warm and, a few feet further, became refreshingly cool. The early cloud was dispersing and the sun’s warmth broke through, making my salty skin prickle as it dried. Back on land, I lay in the sand, allowing it to cover my skin and I dug my hands and feet deep beneath its surface – abrasive, cool, satisfying. I remained for some time in the increasingly warm embrace of sea and sky before returning home for coffee.
We had booked tickets to the Pearl Harbour memorial for 2pm and it was extremely hot when we arrived and parked up in the parking lot. Signs in the lot warned that car thefts are common here so we carried bags with us to the entrance only to find that bags were not permitted. So, knowing that cars get broken into, we still had no choice but to leave stuff in the car. It wasn’t making much sense but we had to comply – we took valuable things with us.
The start of the tour is a film about the lead up to Japan’s attack on the USA on the morning of 7 December 1941 and shows real footage from the day. It was a sombre experience and set a tone of remembrance and respect for the many dead who still lay in the waters of Pearl Harbour to this day.
Then we took a boat for a tour of the harbour.
The main focus of the tour is the USS Arizona, which still lies beneath the water, the only vessel not to have been raised following the attack. You can see bits of it protruding from the water. It was amazing to think of the hundreds of bodies – remains of the crew – lying beneath. No video was allowed out of respect for the dead. This monument was built right over the sunken vessel and forms a viewing platform.
Unfortunately, today, the platform was closed due to repairs.
This tour was free of charge, which says something about the reverence felt for the people lost on that day. There are other museums on the site – a submarine and another battleship to mention but two and these must be paid for.
We spent time exploring the memorial site and reading the lists of names of the dead. It’s hard to comprehend such a loss of life, especially when you remember that the attack was over in about two hours.
Back at the car park, an attempt had been made to break into our car. The rear hatch was dented, where someone had tried to lever it open, and the rear windscreen wiper was broken off. So much for reverence for the dead.