If you are going on a vacation, decide if you want to drive ahead of getting there and booking a rental. This has happened to us a few times. I had to stand in line about 45 mins to get a rental at Dubai and now at Oahu, it was an ordeal. After 1o minutes in the line, we were told they are sold out of all rentals. I was asked to go tot he Enterprise car rental in the nearby Marriott resort. Thinking on the feet I called in and booked a rental. Once we got there – a shuttle took us there, a mile ride – it was another 20 minutes before we signed all the papers and were on our way. We decided to visit the Pearl Harbor as we had been advised getting tickets wasn’t easy. It was more likely that the tickets would be sold out by 7 AM. It was already 9:00 AM and we decided to try our chance. The morning on the island was picking up and the Friday morning traffic was still heavy. We were lucky to get a ticket to the 3:00 PM tour of the Arizona Memorial. So we had to fill in the time. We took the scenic route – H3 – to the Avenue of Temples. This is a group of temples – a Japanese, Buddhist temple, a Roman Catholic Church and more. Spread on sprawling golf-quality grounds, the lushness of the place overwhelms you in a nice way. The Buddhist temple, the Byodo-in temple, is reminiscent of those you find in Japan and the garden around it is even more spectacular with a huge gong of a bell. The drive on H3 is too breathtaking to describe. I had seen part of the landscape on Apple TV on its screensaver, but in person, it is totally different. The ruggedness of the peaks, the lush green covers, the unevenness of each of the peaks on the way up is a sight to behold for a long time.
From the valley of temples, we took the Kamehameha highway to experience the shoreline on the east side. We wanted to back for lunch near the harbor, so we headed south on the highway. It is a about a 15-20 minute drive if you don’t stop, but you can’t not stop! Indianology Cafe advertises itself as vegan restaurant, but it not entirely vegan – you get meat as well; I thought it was clever marketing. Food was okay but not super expensive. It was good to hear some old Hindi melodies as we finished the lunch. Hmm, I forgot – I spent nearly 30 minutes trying to find parking and finally found a spot about 10 minutes walk away. Finishing lunch, we headed to Pearl Harbor. It is a must see for any visitor to the island. It reminds us of what it was during the war and how so many brave men and women had their lives taken away without much of a notice. Such huge ships – three football fields in length – were destroyed and along with it thousands of lives in a matter of two hours. The prelude film to the boat tour was an eye opener even for those of us who think we know about the attack in such movies as Pearl Harbor. The viciousness of the attack left nothing to debate on for America to enter the war. I recently watched Patton – the movie – and was in awe how much of a presence the American army had all the way to Berlin while fighting across the continents (Asia, Africa, America and Europe). As I looked downed on the Arizona memorial, it sent in me pangs of sadness to realize that beneath me there were men and women still lying there from that tragic day. The tour guide mentioned that the captain of the Arizona was the last man to leave the ship and he wasn’t yet given any medal of honor :(.
With the sobering memory and the rain pouring, we decided to visit the north-western shores of the island. It was about 50 minutes drive. We passed parts of the island basking in the sun but as we got to our destination – Waimea beach park, it was drizzling. The beach was sparsely occupied but there were those dare devils still enjoying the 15 foot surfs. The waves were awe-inspiring eliciting some wows from us unknowingly – such was the incredible display of Mother Nature. I remembered the song ‘Shilegalu Sangeethava haadide’ only with a variation ‘Alegale sangeethava haadide’. The original song starts with saying the sculptures are singing a song and with a nudge I changed it to say the waves are singing a song. It was however disparaging to see a homeless person digging through the trash and trying to find whatever he/she wanted to. Before leaving, I stepped to hand off a packet of biscuits and couldn’t bear the odor from what appeared like a very old woman. She left a pretty deep memory embedded in my mind for the coming days.
It was getting dark by the time we left the beach. There are so many such beaches on the island, you can’t visit them all and stay for a few minutes even in one day. No wonder Hawaii inspires so many to surf.