Hawaiian Adventures Day 13

Tuesday, November 8th 

If I were forced to choose, this would probably be my favorite day, a horseback riding and scuba diving epic adventure.

I neglected to mention we rented another car on Monday. Nothing fancy, just the cheapest available. I also forgot to mention, when I finally booked the horseback riding, I was jumping up and down, talking a mile a  minute about how excited I was, and how happy I was that Kyle was going. He was pretty amused by my antics. I kept randomly bringing it up for the rest of the day, throwing in a little bounce or silly grin.

Kyle had never been on a horse before and while he will never admit to being scared, he was definitely apprehensive about the idea. It didn’t help matters that the guy at the military base early on in the trip told Kyle that horseback riding in Jamaica was the worst experience ever. Regardless, he agreed to ride out of sheer love and affection for my crazy horse loving soul.

We headed out early making it to the ranch by ten, stopping for breakfast on the way. Linda, from reviews on Yelp and from my impression over the phone, seemed a bit curt. We arrived at the gate to the stable, opened it with the given combination and headed down the narrow dirt road along the country club’s golf course. The stable wasn’t an actual stable, but a collection of paddocks with attached shelters. Everything was a bit run down, but kept clean and the horses were friendly and healthy.

I offered to assist in the grooming. I grabbed some tools from the bucket and started showing Kyle the ropes. He actually helped me out and did quite a nice job. Opal, a gorgeous dapple grey Arabian mare was to be my mount and this beautiful Appaloosa cow horse was to be Kyle’s. A very gentle giant with a kind eye and a very slow speed, something he could handle.

A whole bunch of women showed up. A few of them military or married to military men. (Found out Linda is a retired police officer, certainly explained her somewhat hard exterior.) The woman had a wild collection of stories as well as a great sense of humor. Just took a little while to get it out of her. This group of women was amazing. All steadfast, strong women with their wits about them yet still very friendly. I love these types.

The ride started out at a leisurely walk through a field that lead out to the ocean. We continued up the coast to a gallop spot. Another reason why I was so excited, this place actually lets you run! All the other places have a walking only mandate and that is horribly boring. Plus, I knew Kyle wouldn’t have any fun unless they let us go fast. The horse, perfectly trained, ran when they were supposed to and stopped when they were supposed to. Mine flew like lightning through the sand, while Kyle’s gave a few strides of canter before settling into a brisk trot. I let the wind take me, gave Opal some rein and spread my arms like an eagle. Incredible.

Her two gorgeous German Shepherds joined us. They loved it!

The ride touched the base of another horse farm. You can see a horse out in the distance.

These two handsome fellows from the neighboring farm galloped over to say hello.

As the ride came to a close, we headed back inland up a slight incline to a graveyard overlooking the sea. A man was sitting on the edge looking out into the ocean.

We ended up hanging out at the farm for a while. I spotted a few little babies when riding back and insisted on going out to say hello. Linda kindly offered me some peppermints to give them. They appreciated it. When heading back, one of the woman from earlier was heading out to see her horses. We started chatting and as it turns out, she has a 36 year old retired rodeo horse, gorgeous thing, flecked with grey all over.

At that point, Kyle rushed me along as needed to get a move on to make it to scuba in time. Then, this gorgeous stallion comes cantering across the field with one of the military ladies on his back. Turns out he is a celebrity. He played the black stallion in Hidalgo that nearly won the race. Beautiful animal, and who got to ride him around? Me!

They even let Kyle jump on him and ride around on a lead. As soon as we had dismounted I began to pester Kyle about whether he had a good time and if everything went okay with him and his horse. He had an amazing time! More so because I was having the time of my life, but it was something he enjoyed and would be willing to do again with me. That meant so much to me as horses are a big part of my life.

We headed out, driving rather quick as we were running out of time. We went to the hotel quickly to grab some snacks and supplies for the dive and got to the meet location of Oahu Divers just in time.

Scuba was incredible. The guide, Erik, was super fun and excellent at finding all the little bits of nature tucked away in the coral. Neither Kyle or I are licensed and this was the first time for both of us. We suited up on shore. Mine was way too think and way too big. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but once wet I ended up with a lot of extra fabric bunching up. We got in the boat and had a brief lesson on the air gauge, clearing our masks underwater, protocol and signals under the water and so forth.

I was a little nervous. I was already starting to feel constricted. The suit was uncomfortable, we were sitting very tightly packed in the boat with our vests on, our masks on, the sun shining down on us, and we were facing a 40 foot dive. I felt claustrophobic.

Arriving at the first dive location, two dives in total, Erik summoned me to jump first. I had a hard time waddling over with my heavy tank and flippers, but I made it to the edge of the boat and jumped in smoothly. Protocol was to head to the side of the boat, grab the rope and move towards the back of the boat where the second guide was. I managed to get to him just fine, but then I felt like my mask was slipping. I let go of the rope to fix it and next thing I know there was water in it and I’m trying to breathe out my nose and the guide, who looks like a Russian mobster is forcefully telling me not to let go of the rope and that I need to look at him  and listen to him and so forth. Well panic ensues and I felt my breathing go ragged as I struggled to calm down. At that moment I wanted to get out of the water and get that suit off. I nearly did. Had Kyle not been so excited to do this and I knew I’d regret doing it, I would have bailed that instant.

Instead, I took a deep breath, grabbed the rope, and took control of myself. Once I calmed down everything became easy. I eased down the rope, deeper and deeper into the sea off Waikiki. The coral was incredible. It came in sporadic large mounds filled with fish and life.

There were four people who had never dove before, Kyle and I and two girls from Japan. One of the girls flipped out and ended up not going in on the first dive. She made an attempt on the second dive but ended up having to get out. I felt bad for the poor thing. I definitely understood what she was feeling after going through my little episode. The next couple were licensed and on their 7th or 8th dive. Then there was a woman who had done over 300 dives! She was an expert and had her own gear with her and everything. Her one desire on this trip was to see an octopus. Erik made that happen on the second dive.

We were just swimming along and all of a sudden, Erik stops and reaches his arm under a bit of coral and pulls out this bright red octopus. It immediately inks everywhere. The first thought in my mind was the fish school in Finding Nemo and the cute little octopus saying, “you made me ink!” I immediately laughed which was a bad idea as it caused my mask to flood with water. Once the ink cleared and the little guy calmed down, we all got to hold him. He suction cupped onto my arm and did not want to come off.

Post dive, I felt drained. Between getting a little crazy on the first dive, swimming around for two hours, and just the overwhelming sensation of doing something so new, so crazy and so much fun, left my body and mind in need of a rest. I also had quite a bit of fog and stuffiness in my head from the combination of two atmospheres of pressure and getting my head filled with water. Poor Kyle ended up having his sinuses bleed after each dive. He also had difficulty equalizing and came out with some serious ear pain.

I can’t remember if it was this night or the night before, but we went out to Tonkatsu Ginza Bairin one of these nights. It is a Japanese place that specializes in fried pork. I did not know that. I saw Japanese on Yelp, high ratings, and I immediately assumed sushi. Well there was no sushi, but it was delicious.

Walking in we were greeted by an entirely Japanese staff, seated and handed a menu also in Japanese and all the customers were Japanese. The waiter kindly asked us if we’ve been here before, no, and offered us assistance if we had any questions. Considering I couldn’t read a thing and the only parts I did understand were pork and the picture of the fried calamari (plus Kyle was really drunk at this point and no help at all) I asked our server if she could point out the house specialties. We ended up sharing the fried calamari, a fried pork entree and Kyle had some sake.

The pork was incredible! The edges were lightly friend with panko breadcrumbs and the meat was tender and juicy. They served it with a special sauce that was sweet and tangy with a hint of spice, miso soup and a cabbage salad. Very pricey place, but super delicious.

All in all, an amazing day.

Hawaiian Adventures Day 11-12

It has come to my attention that I am a few days shy of taking a whole month to blog about my trip. With that realization, I am doing to try, no will, get through days 11-15 by the end of the weekend. These were some incredible days and I cannot wait to tell you about them.

Sunday, November 6th 

Hanauma Bay, a gorgeous protected bay on the southeastern coast of Oahu formed from a volcanic crater in the earth and rising sea levels, was on my list of things to do before even landing in Honolulu. We had put off going a few times, not enough time, or we had other things to do that day, silly excuses for not making the trip out there. Well today was the day, but rather than having the black Mustang to do it, we had no mode of transportation but ourselves and whatever the government allotted us.

I can’t remember how we started the morning, probably sex, breakfast and booze, but around 1 or 2pm we started to make our way out to the bus station. We walked down to the end of Waikiki to catch a direct route rather than having to transfer. The walk was lovely, sun shining, hot people in bikinis wandering around with leis around their necks and huge waffle cones of Cold Stone.

We paused briefly for me to snap a quick photo of Duke, Hawaii’s famous Olympic swimmer, surfer and rescuer extraordinaire. He has an incredible story and is definitely worth Googling. It is a Hawaiian tradition to put leis on his arms. The line to take photos with him was endless. I attempted to snap a quick shot of him alone, but this lady jumped in out of the mob. Forgive me, random woman, for putting you on the internet.

The bus ride was fun. There was a group of about 5 college kids heading in our direction as well, gossiping about other students and drinking fresh juices, definitely freshman, but really getting into the Hawaiian vibe.

The bay was spectacular. A definite nature preserve (so many have been perverted with overflow of tourists and poor maintenance) with an orientation on the nature of the animals, coral and how to keep it all protected and happy. We made it only and hour and a half before closing, so we rushed down into the crater, rented some snorkel gear and jumped into the warm, gentle currents.

Hanauma immediately became my favorite spot on the island. The beach had a bit more people than I would have liked (if I had my way it would be empty), but the waters were crystal clear, warm and the most beautiful shade of turquoise. Fish were everywhere. And not shy at all. Kyle and I were both splashing around, trying to fix our masks and flippers, the fish were mere inches away as if to say, “hey, welcome, let’s swim.” And we did just that.

Kyle lead the way out to the deeper areas of the bay where the currents got a bit stronger, the fish a bit bigger and the water way deeper. You could still see the bottom, but it was at least 10-12 feet deep if not more. The goggles tend to play tricks on you. This is where we spotted the first sea turtle of the evening. And then the second, who swam right beside me. I couldn’t help myself; I reached out to gently stroke his shell as he casually swam by.

At this point we’d be out for a while. Saw all kinds of crazy fish, beautiful corals, incredible life all around us. The snorkel gear had to be returned at a certain time. We decided rather than risk the late fee, we’d head back to check the time. Versus backtracking the way we came, we chose the fastest distance between two points and cut a clear line to shore. The coral started getting closer and closer to the surface, leaving little more than a foot for us to swim. I sped up (when I swim too slow I tend to sink a little). At some point I lost Kyle.

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

It was a little frightful being that close to the sharp coral, fearing a bold eel might come out and take nip at your belly. Eventually I hit sand and was able to stand. The water was about shin deep. Kyle made it back to shore a little ways down from me.

We ended up having quite a bit more time. With the northern corals left unexplored, we headed in that direction. The coral was tighter and the people, thicker, but we did see a beautiful parrot fish and two more sea turtles. So much for being endangered. I’m glad to see they are at least thriving here. Such amazing creatures.

“Wasting away again in Margaritaville!” It is impossible to visit a place and not hit a single tacky tourist trap. We chose ours wisely and went to the Jimmy Buffet restaurant on Waikiki. So worth it. The whole place was open air, really chill music, incredible island drinks and just a fun, fresh vibe.

The food was also really good!! We had checked out Yelp reviews before going. They only had a 3.2 or something. Almost changed our minds. Good thing we didn’t! Yes, the place is tacky. It is meant to be tacky! People gave it a low rating because it was touristy and lame. What those people forget to realize is that that is the whole point. But the food was spectacular. We split some fire, spicy shrimp appetizer which was to die for, flavor packed and delicious. I had fish tacos, again and so good, while Kyle enjoyed some mahi mahi.

It was such a fun, easy going meal. The service was incredible too!

Monday, November 7th 

We took it easy Monday. There were a few things we wanted to do before my flight out that Thursday night and they all required bookings. I had called a few horseback riding places over the weekend trying to find something for Monday, but none of them returned my calls. Kyle kept trying to get us set up for a dive, but found most things to be booked (this is why I usually crazy plan ahead).

As everything up to that point worked itself out beautifully, so did horseback riding and diving. We managed to get a morning beach ride (most places on the island only do jungle rides) at Kahuku Kai Horses for Tuesday. I found this place on Yelp. It didn’t come up in any of my Google searches, but was highest rated. Kyle was then able to book the dive for us Tuesday afternoon. Perfect. It would leave us Wednesday to snuggle, do laundry and pack.

This all occurred before lunch time. Very hungry after our valiant efforts to get reservations and having not had a single bite of sushi despite being in Hawaii, we looked up some places with high ratings and headed in their direction down Waikiki. The first ended up being an outdoor truck of sorts. Kyle got nervous about the refrigeration, so we picked the second best, Doraku Sushi, a beautiful sit-down in some two-story outdoor mall right on the beach.

The sushi was delicious. At this point I was trying to get back to eating an entirely whole foods, plant-based diet with no animal products. I’d call it vegan, but real vegan’s get pissed when they see someone wearing leather calling themselves a vegan. I’ve decided just to steer clear of the term. Kyle got some super intense volcano roll and I stuck to my veggie rolls and seaweed salad. Delicious and super fresh.

Strolling out of the mall, half in a food coma, I spotted horses. A beautiful painting of brightly colored horses in Island Art Galleries. The artist was Zhou Ling, painting ‘Riding the Rainbow.’ Her work was gorgeous. Bright colors and unique textures that brought the art to life. Gorgeous, but expensive. The painting was quite large and asking price was $25,000. Little above my pay grade. Then I took notice of Barry Power’s work entitled ‘Galaxy Beach.’ It was a beautifully colored galaxy of fairy dust on a black granite looking backdrop. Gorgeous and more in my price range, $1,200. Most galleries have a lot of junk. Paintings that really aren’t worth their salt. These two artists were incredible.

I don’t really remember what happened for the rest of the day. Not do to alcohol consumption, though I’m sure that didn’t help, but I think we just wandered around Waikiki, grabbed dinner somewhere and drank some more.