Some of the most interesting people seem to be on top of mountains. Earlier this trip, I met Punaohu, the native Hawaiian blowing his conch atop a mountain on Kaua’i, and today I met Chris on top of the Diamond Head Trail, this guy with a bunch of scars under his chin, short brown hair, and was an extremely smooth talker selling certificates.
“Where are you from?” He asked.
“Philadelphia,” I said.
“Philadelphia, City of Brotherly Love, where they hug ya before they mug ya.” He was stamping people’s tickets with a stamp that said “Summit Reached”. He must have been working for the state because he said that he was accepting $5 donations for the support of the trail and was in return giving people certificates that said they completed the hike. It’s funny because he used the same speech each time someone came up and he was just a master salesman that way. I listened to him give the same speech for about half an hour. I remember exactly what he said to people and how he said it. “Do you hike much?…Over there is Koko crater. You should go there next. There’s train tracks going straight up the steep mountain. My friend actually went there recently, said it was so hard going up he had to CRAWL down. They say it’s the stairway to HELL.” He just continued on even if the other person talked, but they would stop talking and listen because he was giving information. “Then again President Obama just hiked up it. But the SECRET SERVICE guys basically CARRIED him up the hill. People were sending drones up there to take pictures and the secret service was SHOOTING them out of the air.” While his speech remained largely the same, he was able to incorporate new material into it based on what people said, and he did it very quickly too! Like he made some smart-alec comment or anecdote about Chicago and Minnesota, too. He had such an emphatic way of talking, and people just kept buying his certificates. It was very impressive. And then I got a picture with him which was pretty cool.
Today’s adventures consisted in a long, long walk with some pondering of plants in between. I started this morning with breakfast, then walked down Monsarrat Avenue, one of the two main streets bordering the ocean and Waikiki. Along the way, I arrived at the Queen Kapi’olani Garden where I spent way more time than I anticipated spending there. I got lunch, then I decided to go to Diamond Head State Park, what I was told was a moderate hike within walking distance of the hostel. Then I went to the beach for an hour and half where I snorkeled a bit (pretty unsuccessfully) and talked with Ray and his friend Ralph from Switzerland about books and Trump, two things that couldn’t be any more different. Dinner at the hostel was free Chinese food where I sat with Ray and some other people like Taylor and Ralph from Switzerland, and then Alan and Leo and their German friends Amina and …Jenna? I’ve forgotten this person’s name twice today now, it’s not good. Overall, great day.
Breakfast was fine, PB&J as is each morning. Ate with Vlad and the two German girls I met later that night at dinner, though in the morning we were less chatty with one another. I love being in Waikiki because you honestly don’t need a car. You probably don’t need a car in most of honolulu, but it’s especially true in Waikiki, as there are many places around that are interesting to go to and that can be walked to, and there are also many public buses which are cheap and go farther than walking distance. I walked to the Queen Kapi’olani Garden where I saw a lot of cool indigenous and endemic plants, a good number of which I had already seen on Kaua’i. Akoka, naupaka, hina hina, and the Pritchardia (palm) were all one I had seen before, but I also saw some new ones. One that I saw was the Koki’o ke’oke’o, one of the 7 native Hawaiian hibiscus species. I also saw this large tree that had these weird white oval fruits that could be moo she’d easily and had eyes. It looked like a potato and smelled inside like blue cheese. I thought it smelled pretty good, actually, as far as blue cheese smells good. I just looked it up and its called the Cheesefruit Tree from Papua New Guinea. It’s other common names include the Rotten Cheesefruit Tree and Vomit Fruit Tree. Eww. It doesn’t sound as appetizing anymore.
I decided to keep going down that street. I have wanted to go to the aquarium, but have not found the time. I stopped at the Pioneer Saloon, a Japanese restaurant, where I got the Ahi Mahi Mahi. It was out of this world good. Raw fish served with wasabi (a PLANT used by the Japanese as an anti-bacterial spice to prevent raw fish from going bad), white rice, potatoes, lettuce, and soy sauce. The fish was just amazing, I have never had anything like it.
Along the way to Diamond Head, I encountered some weight lifting equipment outside on the sidewalk. It was donated by some person who wanted to commemorate an olympic athlete. The weight lifting equipment used your own weight for the lifting! It was really cool, I had never seen anything like that before. I tried it out, but then realized that I’m pretty heavy and my biceps were not happy after one rep. So I continued on. The Diamond Head trail was fun overall. The trail was actually constructed in 1908 as part of an initiative to protect Honolulu from sea invaders (what sea invaders they were protecting against is a bit of a mystery to me. Japan? The Kraken? My dead hamster Striker who is back from the grave? who knows). The bunkers on the peak of the mountains served a lookout points. Americans could look out to sea, see a ship, calculate its position using triangulation (a process that I learned in 9th grade geometry that is now over my head, something about knowing the distance from one point to another and using that to determine the distance from one of the points to another point), and then would tell the artillery on the coast what coordinates the ship was at. The base was refurbished in 1943 during WWII, but not once was any of the equipment used, and they retired it and made it into a trail. Though there are still some military buildings there. So I got to go into this cave and up a bunch of stairs — both straight up and in a spiral staircase — then I got to go in the bunker and climb out. At the top was Chris, the Certificate Salesman. (That is just such a hilarious title. I’m going to drop out of school and go be a Certificate Salesman. God, my parents are going to be so proud). The view was terrific, see for yourself.
Then I tried hitchiking back to Waikiki. After asking one guy awkwardly if he had a car and him saying no, I decided to walk back anyway. But THEN I was reminded of the public transportation! How great! So I caught a bus all the way back for just $2.50. I was so tired and that was so nice to not have to walk back. So then I got my stuff from the hostel and went to the beach to try to snorkel. But I forgot my snorkel shoes AGAIN. So I sat with Ray and Ralph from Switzerland for a little while watching people play beach volleyball and this other weird game that is catching that involves a fist-sized ball and a small trampoline that you bounce the ball against. Ray told me to try breathing at the places where the reef was deep, not kicking, and only paddling sideways with my hands so that my body didn’t touch the ground. Except I kept getting knocked by the waves and I panicked a bit and gave up on the snorkeling after seeing one stupid brown-looking fish. Oh well. I got to watch the sun set which was beautiful.
Dinner was average, but I liked that there was a lot of food. No particularly notable conversations, people liked to talk about drinking, pop culture, and hiking, none of which are particularly interesting extended dinner conversations if you ask me (hiking seems like it would be good, but who would want to hear about someone’s hike? Wouldn’t you want to hike it yourself?) So that was my day, come back tomorrow for more!