Monday, July 13, 2009

Hal-ee-ewa? Holly-eye-wah? Hall-ee-wah?

Even though it took me several days to get the pronunciation right, the sleepy North Shore surf-town of Hale'iwa, O'ahu was our destination last Friday. (It's pronounced "Holly-evuh", by the way.) Even though we'd travelled with Stella before, our week long vacation in Hawaii would be our first real test of how she did when away from routine home life for an extended period of time, and would be our first test of how well Sarah and I handled travelling with an infant. And, I'm happy to say we all seemed to pass our tests with flying colors.

Speaking of flying, the first test would be how Stella handled being on a plane for nearly six hours. And, luckily, things went well. She slept for about half the time, and while she got squirmy and a little fussy on occasion, she generally seemed to enjoy the flight, and spent a lot of time making friends with other people sitting around us. One thing was for sure, she definitely wasn't "that kid"... y'know, the kid you don't want to get stuck sitting next to on a six hour flight.

...Unfortunately, Sarah and I found ourselves sitting next to "that kid" instead. Now, I hate to bad mouth children, but... man, oh, man... when you are trying to manage a baby while on a long flight possibly the last thing you want to deal with is sitting next to an 11-year-old who is trying to instruct you on how to manage that baby.

"You should really have her chew gum to help her ears pop... Are you sure breast feeding is healthy? ...Yeah, I can tell her teeth are coming in. You should get her something cold to chew. You know why babies like cold things to chew on?... If the plane was going down, could you really hold onto her for dear life?..."

And on, and on.... and on. For pretty much 6 hours straight. Well, except for when she was complaining about how bored she was, or demanding that the flight attendant give her alcoholic drinks but without the alcohol.

Anyhow, the flight there was over soon enough, and next thing we were doing was picking up our rental car.

Tyler: "Honey, they said we could have that Vibe over there. Or that red thing."
Sarah: "Let's take the red thing."

(This photo is actually from the end of our trip, but I couldn't pass up posting another picture of me with a rental car.)

Now, even though none of us had been to Hawaii before, we expected that the islands would be fairly small. That said, we were still pretty impressed when -only about 30 minutes later- we were pulling into Haleiwa and parking in front of our little one bedroom villa there. The villa ended up being a nearly perfect choice for us, giving us enough room to move and live for a week, allowing Stella a little more floor to crawl around on, and it had a kitchen so we were able to eat in from time to time. Probably the only down side was that it didn't have air-conditioning, so between noon about about 4pm it was hot! But, instead of complaining about it, we tried to use it as motivation to get out at do some site-seeing or find a restaurant or shop with air conditioning each day.

That first night, we grabbed burgers and then got our first of many shaved ice. Now, Haleiwa is the type of town that can support not one, but two shaved-ice stands and have both regular feature lines around the block. Of the two, Matsumoto's is the more popular, but because of the lengths of its lines we settled on Aoki's for the first night. Incidentally, when we finally got around to trying Matsumoto's several days later, we decided that we probably actually liked Aoki's more... based almost solely on the fact that their Li Hing Mui (sweet and spicy plum) flavoring was better.

That night, walking through the town with our shaved ice and a sleeping Stella on my back, we were surprised and delighted to see Sea Turtles swimming in the river as we crossed Haleiwa's main bridge. This wouldn't be the last time we were surprised by sea turtles.

The next morning we were awoken early (mainly by a little girl who was still on West Coast time), and grabbed breakfast at Haleiwa Joe's Cafe before heading out to find a beach to relax on. After driving down the coast aways and passing several packed beaches, we finally settled on a "hidden" beach near the Turtle Bay Resort. Unfortunately, we got out of the car and started walking at the wrong entrance, and ended up having to hike a bit to find it. But, when we finally made it, we were rewarded with a nearly empty beach.

Giant banyan trees near the beach, As Seen On "Lost"™

Stella prepares to get her feet wet in the ocean for the first time!

This was Stella's first encounter with the ocean, and ...let's just say she was a bit overwhelmed. For the most part, she didn't mind sitting on the shore, but when we took her down to the water itself, the sound and movements of the waves would quickly overwhelm her and she'd start crying. So, after taking turns diving in for a bit individually, we packed up and headed back into town.

Before leaving on our trip, our friend Johnny told us, via email, that pretty much any food served out of a van or truck was going to be good. And, Haleiwa had no shortage of trucks selling shrimp, so we decided to try one out. Now, it's a pretty well documented fact that I'm not a big fan of seafood, but who am I to deny Sarah a chance to experience a shrimp truck. So, I soldiered up and ordered the spicy shrimp, figuring -if nothing else- I like spicy food. Let's just say neither of us were disappointed!

Yowza! Spicy!

Finally, since it was the 4th of July, we made our way back to the Turtle Bay Resort, where they were holding a fireworks display. This ended up being a nice way to wind down our day, sitting in the grass, enjoying some local food from vendors, and listening to some live Hawaiian music. Surprisingly, too, though it was held at a resort, the event was obviously held for the whole North Shore community. So, in addition to the tourists you'd expect, it was also a nice mix of local families. After the show, we climbed back into our red thing and got in line for the long slow drive home.

Stella seems slightly less than amused by the fireworks in this photo, but honestly seemed to be interested for the most part.

The next morning was Sunday, so we took the opportunity to check out Haleiwa's Farmers Market. Sarah and I are both fans of Seattle's Farmers Markets, and since we were planning on cooking some meals at our villa, we figured it was a good way to stock up on some local food for the week. The market turned out to be small, but with a nice mix of fruits, veggies and food vendors. We ended up grabbing pulled pork sandwiches there for lunch before heading back.

Our market purchases: Sea asparagus salad, stir-fry mix, bananas, pepper and smoked marlin.

The previous day, while check out beaches, we'd been intrigued by the Waimea Valley park entrance, located across the street from one of the busier beaches. So, we figured today would be a good day to check it out. It ended up being a nice pleasant hike through a park loaded with flowers and bird that wound its way up the valley to a small waterfall. Arriving at the waterfall, we figured we'd try getting Stella's feet wet a little and see if she liked it better than the overwhelming ocean. She definitely preferred it, happily kicking her feet in the water and hamming it up for the camera.

Stella prefers this to the ocean. No big, scary waves!

Big leaf or small baby? You make the call!

On the way back from Waimea Valley, we passed Turtle Beach, which is known for it's sea turtles. As we passed, Sarah suggested I slow down, so she could check to see if there was any sign of turtles. Suddenly...

"Whoa! Stop the car! Stop the car! They're on the beach! They're on the beach!"

Pulling the car to the side of the road, we scrambled down the beach to where a small group of people stood in a half moon around a pair of sea turtles sleeping in the sand. While we stood there, a volunteer explained that they usually get a couple of turtles each day on the beach, and then pointed down the beach to where other turtles were swimming, surrounded by snorkelers. Apparently there were a couple dozen sea turtles that called the beach home, and seeing them there was regular to the point of being ordinary. Still, sea turtles! Sarah and I were impressed. Stella, on the other had was cranky and tired, so we cut our stop short and headed home to get some rest.

Stella encounters sea turtles. I think, when we tried to point them out to her, she just thought they were big rocks.

We were quickly learning a lesson about travelling with a baby: What adults want to do on vacation, and what babies want to do on vacation rarely overlap. But, again, instead of seeing this as a negative, Sarah and I were trying to use it as an opportunity to learn more about this little person who has come into our lives. So, for example, we'd learned that -despite her love of bath time and water- she didn't really care for the beach and ocean. But, converse, we did discover something she truly seemed to enjoy: Wind. Read on.

The following morning, we decided to explore the far side of the island a bit. The first stop: Pali Pass. The Pali Highway winds its way from outside of Honolulu through lush green mountains, and right at the pass there is an amazing view point which overlooks Kaneohe Bay. But, when we got there it was windy! Nearly blow-your-clothes-right-off-you windy. But, surprisingly, Stella seemed to love it, laughing and smiling the whole time as we pushed her around in her stroller and pretended to get thrown around by the wind. Other people were even pointing her out to their friends and family: "Look at that baby! She really likes the wind!"

Not too windy for a baby, but maybe too windy for a daddy.

Happy to see Stella enjoying herself, we carried on farther down the island to Makapuu Point. At the point, we loaded Stella into her hiking backpack, and set off up the trail. The trail ended with a observation booth that overlooked a lighthouse on the point and the Pacific stretching endlessly beyond. Off to one side, you could make out the dim and distant shape of some of O'ahu's nearest neighbors. As we stood there, the wind kicked up again and rain began to fall, so even though Stella didn't seem to mind, we quickly made our way back down to the car.

Sleepy! Stella crashes out while hiking back down from the point.

We did quickly learn that there is one thing Stella did mind: Spending too much time in the car! Our next planned activity was to take a quick drive up Tantalus and Round Top Drive. Tantalus and Round Top were two winding roads just outside of Honolulu that twisted and turned tightly through jungly rain forest and provided several scenic views of Honolulu and Waikiki. Unfortunately, the main thing we noticed was Stella crying in the backseat as we rushed through our drive.

Quickly finishing that up, we drove into Honolulu's Chinatown. Unfortunately, by this point, Stella wasn't the only one who was cranky, because both Sarah and I were starving. So, rather than hunt around for the perfect restaurant, we picked a Vietnamese restaurant at random and popped inside. The food ended up being pretty decent, and a middle aged woman who worked there offered to hold Stella while we ate... but that quickly dissolved into tears, and Sarah and I went back to taking turns eating while the other entertained Stella.

After lunch, we made our way back to the car, Sarah buying more fruit from vendors on the way, while I tried to sneak photographs of some guys unloading whole dead pigs from the back of the truck. Then, it was back to Haleiwa, to let Stella get a break and to get some more shaved ice.

Dead pigs! ...not sure why I found this so fascinating, or why I was afraid to just take a picture (this one was taken over my shoulder).

Tuesday morning, we climbed into the car and set off down the coast again, past the Turtle Bay Resort to see the Chinaman's Hat. Chinaman's Hat is a small island off the coast which has the same distinct shape as a conical hat. We'd heard from others who'd been there that you could pretty much wade out to it, but we must have been there during high-tide, because the distant island was separated from us by dark and choppy waters. So, after relaxing on the beach, and staring across the water at it for a while, we headed onward.

The whole family, with Chinaman's Hat in the background. One of the few pictures of all three of us together in Hawaii.

The next stop was the Byodo-In Temple in the Valley of the Temples. The Valley of the Temples is actually a large cemetery nestled in a long valley, and surrounded by a number of temples from a number of religions. At the end of the valley is the Byodo-In Temple, a replica of a 950-year-old Japanese Buddhist temple. As we pulled into the parking lot, and looked across at the temple, nestled in the valley, and with grey misty clouds wrapping the mountains above it, we could have swore we were in Japan. As we wandered the grounds, ringing the giant bell, peaking in at the Buddha statue and trying to point the koi fish out to Stella, Sarah and I agreed with each other: We definitely need to go back to Asia someday.

I thought we were in Hawaii?

I'll end my entry here, since it's about the halfway point in our trip. I want to give Sarah the chance to talk about our second shrimp truck, our hike on Diamond Head and our day on the beaches of Waikiki. But, I will quickly say that while it was a bit rocky at first, and while we did occasionally doubt whether or not it was "fair" to drag Stella with us to Hawaii, we really did end up feeling positive about the whole thing, and excited about travelling with her in the future. I think, once we realized the limitations to travelling with a baby, we also were able to quickly learn to appreciate the joys. Little moments throughout the trip reminded us that she was seeing so many things from the first time. Watching her kick her feet in the water or laugh in the face of the wind were the sort of experiences and memories I know I'll hold onto for years to come.



jjabodeely said...

Looks like a great trip! We might try and follow in your guys' footsteps in about 7 months!

The General said...

Yeah, it was a good time, especially once we got used to travelling with a baby. Let us know if you decide to go, and if you want suggestions, etc.

Allykat said...

I'm impressed with how much you guys saw/did! We took KT to Honolulu when she was 6 months. Granted, we stayed with grandma, so we hung out at home a lot. Traveling with a baby is definitely a different experience. We're hoping to go back in July 2010 (this time with 2 kiddos!).