Summer follows winter
On the drive back to Christchurch we stopped at the Hamner Hot Springs. It was, as usual, raining and pretty cold to get from one pool to the next. The 37°C pools felt freezing in the pouring rain. But there were warmer pools with rocks around them where Chan loved to play and try to swim. Later we went to a café for a hot chocolate. That night we had an inside frozen car for the last time.
Driving out of the mountains towards Kaikoura, the sun burnt the humidity off the road and the fog slowly rolled up from the ocean towards the mountains. We took a small road which turned into gravel after a while and suddenly we were caught in the fog. I could only drive between 30 and 40km/h, sight was really limited to a few couple of meters. It was kind of ghostly. We were lucky the day turned out to be really beautiful once we arrived in Kaikoura. We ate lunch at the edge of the ocean next to some lazy fur seals. One of them crossed over the parking lot to lie down in the grass, in the shade of some bushes.
It wasn’t far to Christchurch anymore now. Back at our friends place we organized bike boxes and started packing. Every time we take a plane, we have to find a way of packing everything within the weight limit. Flying internationally this shouldn’t be a big deal, since you get two pieces of 23kg per person. But for us with the three bikes, the trailer and the follow me it still is a challenge. That’s why we got rid of everything we don’t really need, got rid of all our food and still it was a gamble. That’s why we borrowed a small kart and loaded half of our luggage onto it, then pulled it through the neighborhood to the close mall, where they had a scale at a pharmacy. Little things went back and forth between the boxes and our Bolivian bags until every piece of luggage was exactly 23kg and every piece of carry-on baggage was exactly 7kg.
The airport scale measured the same weight! Our flight was leaving Christchurch early afternoon July 5th and we arrived in Sydney, Australia around three in the afternoon. The next plane was leaving around 8pm. We were flying through the night, a long flight, and finally arrived in Honolulu July 5th at 10 am! It was like a fairytale. Here we were, pulling off layer after layer until we were only wearing shorts and t-shirts, our feet in sandals. While on this exact same day we had been freezing in wintery Christchurch. Magical date line!
Entering the US wasn’t a big deal and our entire luggage made it whole as well. Right outside baggage claim was an area with benches and lots of space. We brought our four boxes and two Bolivian bags there and started unpacking right away. We put our bikes back together and stuffed the panniers with everything else. It took us four hours to get ready. By then we were starving. So Florian went to look for something edible while I finished packing the bikes. Our first food in Hawaii was a cup of cut up pineapple.
Camping can be complicated
In order to camp in Hawaii, you need to have a permit, that is, if you are looking to camp on State and City Campgrounds, which are the only campgrounds besides one private one on the island of Oahu on which we were. It was Sunday and therefore the offices from which to get the permits were all closed. We had to find a hotel. There was an ad at the airport for a relatively cheap hotel room. The hostel didn’t want us because we are a family. But that hotel still had a cheap room and so we started pedaling towards Honolulu and the famous beach of Waikiki.
Our room seemed luxurious even though we probably found one of the cheapest in Waikiki. It was equipped with a fridge, iron, air conditioning, TV, three different sizes of towels per person, shampoo and body soap, face soap and a coffeemaker. After we took a nice long shower and organized our luggage in the room, we headed out to the beach. I brought a light jacket, since it was shortly before sunset. We just made it in time to the beach for the sun to turn into an orange ball lightening up the distant mountains and setting the clouds on fire. The waves washed over our feet and didn’t send chills up our bodies, as we would have expected. There was no need for the jackets even now. The surfers caught the last waves far out in the ocean before the light faded. The restaurants lit up the torches along the beach. We kept walking and taking in the sounds, smells and sights of rich men’s life.
On the way to the supermarket next day, Chan’s back tire somehow came off and deformed so badly, that it had to be replaced. While I walked back to the hotel with Chan after we shopped for groceries, Florian cruised around town to find a new tire. At the hotel I tried to find out more about campgrounds and Florian visited the satellite city office where he could get some permits for some City Parks. We weren’t ready to leave Waikiki for another couple of days. We had salad and yoghurt dinners in our hotel room and in the early evenings, when the sun wasn’t as strong anymore, we enjoyed the beach.
On a beautiful morning we finally pedaled off for our Island roundtrip eastward. We assumed that there were hotels in the other towns of Oahu as well, and so not worrying where we would be staying the nights for which we couldn’t get a camping permit. On Oahu camping isn’t allowed Wednesdays and Thursdays anywhere. When we reached the next town we looked for a hotel. There was none! We got the well intentioned advice to just camp in a city park without permit. Nobody would be bothering us. But that kind of advice is sweeter if you don’t have to act on it yourself. We didn’t want to be woken up by police sirens and be moved in the middle of the night. We rode on over a hill to the next beach. In the beach park was no where to hide our bright yellow tent. Florian went scouting for a place while Chan was flying a kite with a veteran and I was watching our stuff. We ended up pushing our bikes into the dunes and bushes of forbidden state property. It was the most romantic camp spot on our round trip; the waves washing over black rocks nearby, glittering in the light of an almost complete moon, clouds chasing towards the mountains and jamming into thick black monsters wetting the rocks and plants further up the valley.
Early in the morning intense sun rays hit our tent driving us outside. We packed up ate breakfast and pushed our bikes back to the road, as the first people strolled passed along the beach. It was a really hot day. In the next town we wanted to look for a hotel, but again, there was none. There was a campground in the botanical garden, but because it was Thursday, we weren’t allowed to camp. No exceptions. Not even for sweaty cyclists who just biked up half a dozen really steep, but short hills and back down, only to see the Botanical Garden Headquarter…
We climbed over all those hills back into town and filled our panniers with good food, then pedaled on. We wanted to enjoy Hawaii’s beaches and therefore not pedal for more than 30km a day. We were around 40km when we came across an Inn in a very funny little town. People there must have mistaken their driveways for dumps and between all the free walking hens and roosters, we felt like being back in Mexico. The Inn turned out to be a bit overprized, for the cheapest room was 145$. We headed on, along the beautiful seaside of eastern Oahu. The parks along the highway were too small for a got hideout for our tent and we started to wonder where we could be spending the night. People sent us further to another beach park, they didn’t seem to know the rule of not being allowed to camp on Wednesdays and Thursdays, so we wanted to give it a try. We pushed the bikes to a picnic table and sat down for a bite to eat. It was now almost 7pm, one more hour of daylight, the bike computer showed some over 60km. As soon as we had settled at the table, a maintenance worker came over, to tell us, that we couldn’t stay here. So we said that we didn’t intend to camp there and that we were on our way up north to some other park. The maintenance guy went back to his four-wheeler and sat down thinking, not moving away looking at us. So I got up to use a bathroom. He called over, that that bathroom was out of order and I had to use the other a bit further away. Then he came back over to us. He said, that we wouldn’t make it to the next park before dark and that it was too dangerous to be on the road in the dark. He was worried about Chan and finally told us to push our bikes around the corner behind some bushes and stay there for the night. He was going to inform his maintenance partner and was going to wake us up early in the morning so that we wouldn’t’ be caught by higher authority. And that’s what we did. It was a beautiful spot right at the beach, where we camped and we spotted small crabs in the sand.
Camping with a permit finally
We woke up before we were woken up and pushed our bikes out of hiding to a table, where we ate breakfast. Then we pedaled only about 7 more km to Swanzy Beach Park for which we had a permit. The system works like this that you can only get a permit for a whole week exempt Wednesday and Thursday. That meant that we took the space for a whole week even though we only camped there for two days.
It was nice for a change to know, that we were allowed to camp where we were and to be able to stay for more than one night. There was a playground right there and more families camping with plenty of playmates for Chan, which meant that we had a lot of time and nothing to do but reading magazines, news papers and eat.
After two days we pedaled on for 20km to Malaekahana State Beach, where we were able to book three nights (different permit system for this park). That was a beautiful spot to spend some time. We camped in the shade of trees and bushes. The beach was right there. There was drinking water and even showers, although with cold water only and no shower heads. Flo and I discovered Sudoku while Chan was busy with the sand, the waves and other kids. It was like vacation at the beach.
The other face of Hawaii
When we continued our ride, we had no more permits for a few days. But because we were now at the north end of the island, which is known to be really busy with surfers, we thought, that there must be some sort of accommodation. There wasn’t. There was a hostel in one town which wouldn’t allow us to stay because of Chan. So we ate lunch, checked email and had an ice cream. Then we checked out private camps, but it was not possible to stay in any of them. On the way back into town we took some shortcuts through back roads. Suddenly we found ourselves on gravel, the houses around us were falling apart in the air lay the scent of poverty. At the end of the lane lingered a pack of street dogs. Was this the US or Latin America?
Back in town we checked out a recreational area. The only possible spot to hide our tent seemed to be someone else’s home already and we weren’t keen of homeless people about us, so we tried to find another place. There was none. Finally we decided to ride out of town knowing that there would be cultivated fields for the next 20km with little chance of a spot for us. But at the end of the town was a huge traffic circle with some trees. Flo went to check it out and we decided to stay there over night, since this was the only spot with no signs prohibiting camping. We waited until dark to put up the tent. But as we were about to mount it, the sprinklers started at the other end of the circle. We spent the next half hour searching the ground for the pop up sprinkler heads but couldn’t find any. Finally we put up the tent and went sleeping. We were lucky, that none of the sprinklers popped up from under the tent and we had a quiet night. We got up early in the morning, with the first light, and then went over to the gas station to get some breakfast, before we rode on.
Before us was the first and only kind of a pass on Oahu. It looked like we would get rained on, but the wind chased the clouds ahead of us. We tried to get a permit for a road crossing through army and navy land. We got permission from the army but not from the navy which meant, that we had to ride a detour to our next City Park, for which we had a permit.
The highway was not too busy and we were riding mostly downhill now. The detour wasn’t too bad until we reached the highway going west, which turned into an interstate without the interstate sign and no shoulder for parts of it. We decided to stay on the first park along the way and enjoyed the beach. We cooked dinner, when the park was still open for public and once the light faded looked around for a spot to hide our tent. We found the perfect place between stacked canoes until we discovered that the ground was covered with spikes from a tree. Chan was fast asleep by now in the trailer and we didn’t want to move again. So we took down the tent, cleaned the ground as good as we could and put the tent back up a little bit less hidden, where there were no spikes. Nobody bothered us.
We got up very early again and packed the bikes before we moved to a picnic table to have breakfast. We were visited by two homeless guys, both of them warned us about heading more west individually. We didn’t think much of it, until just a couple of kilometers further up the highway the beach looked like a slum. We kept going, but the homeless settlements didn’t stop. After a while we stopped and discussed what we should do. I wasn’t in the mood of putting up our tent in between homeless structures, even though we had a camping permit for a park some 15km further up the highway. We asked a police woman about the conditions further west and she said that it would look all the same until the end of the road. That was probably why only that park still had some camping space available for that weekend.
We called the hotel we had stayed before in Waikiki to see if they had a room available. Then we started riding back. I hated the part on the interstate which wasn’t one. Suddenly a car stopped on the gravel strip and the women asked if we wanted a ride with them. I said yes immediately, Flo a bit more reluctant. The women even offered us to drive us right back to Honolulu, a 30km ride for us on busy highways. I was so glad. I needed a shower and I was looking forward to the nice beaches, even if they were touristic, with no garbage lying around, illuminated at night by torches. I wanted to really enjoy the last days on this beautiful island like a vacation, who knows if we will ever be able to come back.
Back in the hotel room we showered, how good does it feel when you’re clean! Then we went to buy lunch which we brought down to the beach and we were speechless for a moment. That beach was covered with human bodies, towels, beach chairs. It was in its own way kind of gross. So THIS was Waikiki. We realized that before we went around the island, we had only visited the beach in the early evenings, a time, when most tourists are heading off to the restaurants and it had been the beginning of the week. That’s why it had felt so pleasant and not crowded at all. Now it was just after lunch hour and it was the weekend! After the initial shock we kind of enjoyed people watching though and Chan found other kids to hit the waves. The water was nice and warm. I’ve never enjoyed swimming in the ocean more than here.
Time to move on
Again it was time to pack the bikes. The day before the flight we rode out to a Best Western right next to the airport, where we were able to store our bike boxes all that time. It took us the whole afternoon to pack up again, even though we had scribbled on each box what was in there last time. Somehow it didn’t work out and one box was now suddenly 10 pounds more than last time. We didn’t care and paid the 50$ overweight the next day at check in. The flight was five hours to San Francisco and American Airlines didn’t serve any food. We had the option to buy a 10$ sandwich, which we didn’t want to buy.
For the first time on our journey we were about to be picked up from an airport and we were looking forward to that very much. We could stay with Peggy and Michael and their kids again as we could last time we were in San Francisco, about three years ago. We have been staying with them again for almost two weeks. In a couple of days though it will be time to move on…