Pretty much any visit to Hawaii begins with Honolulu, accompanied by a thoroughly uninspiring journey to Waikiki - a high-rise district comprising hotels, shops, restaurants and a corner shop on EVERY corner. Despite the vast crowds of resort holiday makers the area makes a good base for exploration complete with its own beach and a fantastic bus network covering the whole island.
My hostel was 5 minutes walk from the beach. At first I wasn't sure about it. It was pretty much a yard containing 3 large TVs and rows of tables and chairs, with 3 stories of rooms lining both sides and the lounge doubling as a car park. The reviews on hostelz.com were not exactly flattering either, although a lot of people using the site tend to use two ratings - 1 or 5 - despite the 2, 3 and 4 ratings in-between. Regardless, it turned out to be a good hostel with some great people, and my initial reservations were smoothed out by a good nights sleep.
The first day I got on the bus to Pearl Harbour so I could take a look at the 'USS Arizona' that was sunk by the Japanese and left in the harbour as a tomb for the soldiers that died within. Before the ferry took us to the actual memorial we were shown an awesome video explaining how the attack unfolded, giving much credit to the Japanese for the surprise and scale of the attack. Only the facts were shown, there were no underlying excuses as to why the Americans didn't do as well as they should have, and the video was worth the 1-hour bus journey alone.
After the film had finished they shepherded us onto a ferry to be transported across to the sunken ship itself. The memorial is a small white building/bridge that runs across the width of the ship containing little more than a wall with all the names of the buried men below. You can't see much of the ship other than a couple of bits jutting out of the water, and a multicoloured slick floating on top from the oil that still leaks from it after 60 years. I think that the whole point of being there is to pay your respects and get 'in the zone', maybe attempting to put yourself in the position of the men who died or thinking of their families left behind or... Well I don't bloody know. I've never really understood things like this. To me it's just a white building in some water. I was hoping we were going to be looking down into crystal clear water at a massive green-hued ship resting dozens of feet below the surface with maybe a few ghostly figures swirling around it and a couple of skulls on the deck but it was not to be. After looking at a bunch of names I would never remember or gather any meaning from, I retreated to the oil-slick to see how many different colours I could pick out.
The following day I just relaxed on the beach and walked around incredibly slowly, eating and thinking until it was time for bed again. It felt like I had wasted a day so the next morning I took the bus to the bottom of Diamond Head Crater to begin my trek up to the top. The few people that bother to walk up to the crater get in through a tunnel carved in the side of the crater walls which then opens into a beautiful grassed area dotted with military buildings and the inevitable 'visitors car park'. When I finally reached the top after climbing about a million steps and crawling through a gap from which the barrels of machine guns had once protruded, I was rewarded with an incredible view of Waikiki and the surrounding area, and a very welcome breeze. Once I had taken photos from every conceivable angle I made my way back down to the car park and bought some shave ice; a beautiful concoction of crushed ice flavoured with some cordial stuff. Amazing.
When that had finally been devoured I was back at the bus stop where I caught the bus a little further along the coast to Hanauma Bay for some snorkelling. It was the first time I had ever done anything like it so it was all pretty exciting checking out multicoloured fish and coral. After an hour or so I was nearly ready to call it a day, when out of the corner of my eye I saw something huge moving about. For a split second I panicked, until I was able to focus on it properly and realised that it was a huge turtle eating plants off a rock. I couldn't have been more astounded and I desperately wanted someone to share it with so I yelled across to a dad and his two kids and we just stared at it in awe for a while.
Eventually I managed to pull myself away and - happy with the outcome of the day's events - made my way back to the hostel.
It was my last day. It had crept up on me and surprised me with the realisation that I hadn't even left Honolulu yet. At least not properly. I hastily decided that I would catch the bus that went all the way around Oahu, stopping off at a couple of random places on the way and then arriving at Waimea - a beautiful sandy beach with very few people where I sat, read, and played frisby with a couple of randoms. After a relaxing couple of hours I got the bus back to Honolulu where I met Lisa from (puts on Yorkshire accent) 'oop north'. She wasn't actually from anywhere near Yorkshire but everything above London is North to a southerner so it doesn't really make any difference. Meeting someone on a bus in England is a decidedly bizarre notion - a ridiculous possibility in a world where someone would much rather stare at the roof, floor or a book than actually talk to the person sitting next to them but in America, some of the most entertaining conversations I've had have been on buses. They're social clubs on wheels full of delightfully weird people, and those who own watches saving me having to get my phone out of my pocket every time I need to check the time.
After chatting nonsense for a while, we finally arrived back in Waikiki and went for some (horribly dodgy) Chinese food and a few beers. I said my goodbyes and left for the airport with the sad knowledge that I was leaving paradise, but not entirely bothered about it because I was just going to hop into another one - Fiji.
Surfing, hula dancing, garlands, 'alohas' and 'mahalos'. The Hawaii of legends, of dreams - my dreams specifically. I've wanted to go to Hawaii for as long as I can remember and now I've been there, I'm left with an insatiable desire to go back. Words, and even pictures cannot begin to describe the beauty of Oahu - the towering mountains covered in lush green carpets of trees, the crystal-clear sea water, the stunningly beautiful women walking around the CBD in their bikinis, the most lucky students in the whole bloody world (seriously, if you ever go there you should see where they built the uni). This really is paradise. It's all it's cracked up to be and more, and I only visited the most touristy, commercialised island of the six.