As the title suggests, it is the end of the beginning. This coming Sunday, me and the boys will depart Honolulu for New Zealand. We could not be more excited about this prospect and look forward to a new chapter of our travel. However, we find ourselves using the time leading up to our departure to squeeze in everything we tried to do sooner but never found the time. Now with the end in sight, its now or never. That being said, here are the main contributions to my lack of sleep (and blog updates) recently:
We recently took a trip up to Kaena Point which is the western most point on the island of Oahu. It was a long drive up to the North Shore from Waikiki, but once we got away from the town there it is just the ocean and the mountain range to look at. The road in was not paved and we had to hike about an hour just to get around the edge of the mountains. Once around the edge there was another long walk to get to the actual point where, if you position yourself well enough, you can see all along the western shore and the northern shore which was a quite a sight to see. We almost lost Jeff to the ocean (again) to his photographer needs and fearless demeanor when we saw a monk seal in the water about 15 feet away. Jeff felt like he needed to get a closer shot for the camera and went down from the rock we were sitting on and almost got taken out by a wave that knocked him off his feet. In the end he only lost a flip-flop and was fine. The entire beach at Ka'ena Point was made of old coral and pearly white rocks which made it difficult to swim/walk but we went for a quick dip nonetheless and enjoyed ourselves. We want to go back at some point to camp in the hills along the trail to the point, but due to our time constraints we might not get a chance this time around.
Stairway To Heaven
Possibly one of the most challenging hikes of my young life. First a little background on the subject.
The Stairway to Heaven, aka the Haiku Stairs, were originally was built out of wood during World War II in 1942 for the U.S. Navy's Haiku radio station. Constant rain and mist wore out the wooden stairs, which were replaced with metal ones 10 years later. By the 1980s, the metal steps were rusted, broken or missing. Large gaps in the stairway were replaced with makeshift ropes that allowed hikers to shimmy up the slippery mountainside. In 1987, the city officially closed it, making the Stairway to Heaven Hawaii's most popular outlaw hike. As word of the climb continued to spread on the Internet, city officials feared they were exposed to liability because of the stairs' condition. They had the 3,922 steps replaced at a cost of $875,000 and hoped to reopen the trail. The plan to reopen has been complicated because the handful of access points to the stairs lie on land owned by different entities, including the city, state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, state Department of Land and Natural Resources and Hawaii's largest private landowner, Kamehameha Schools. --USA Today
(also see any google search on "stairway to heaven oahu")
This hike spawned from a story we heard about this legendary "stairway." When I first heard about it all I could think of was "NO STAIRWAY!" but after much more research i realized that this was in fact a feasible thing, and as previously mentioned, we always had it on our to-do list but always figured we would get around to it another time. That time is now.
Our good friend and hostel colleague, Jacek, had tried many times to get to the stairs. Each time his attempts were thwarted by either the guard being there, not having proper transportation, or his general lack of navigation through thick vegetation and forest environments. However, his persistence paid off when one night he finally got to the top. He came back glowing from his achievement and made sure we knew that he had done it. This obviously meant that it was our turn to go so that Sunday we rent a car and decide to go. For those of you who follow this blog regularly, you will remember that Sunday is my flag football games. So we went through our Sunday routine of football, North Shore, Sunday BBQ at the hostel, then had to wait until it was late at night to get there in between the guards' shifts. After the packed Sunday, Jeff and I decide that it is not smart for all of us to take a nap before the hike so we down some coffee and mountain dew and will ourselves to stay awake despite the lingering fatigue.
Around 2:30am, the Jersey gang and 3 Norwegian girls who came through the hostel pile into our rental minivan. By this point I had caught a second wind was was able to rally for the 20 minute drive to the trail head which at the end of a residential street. We park the car and walk to the first gate which was quite easy to slip by. We start our walk and realize we only have 2 flashlights one of which was virtually useless. I had the good light so I walked out front with Jeff navigating with directions from his phone. We walked through the forest for about an hour and about half way through the trail I spot something up ahead laying in the trail. I stop and try and figure out what it was, because to be it looked like a dead body, torn in half, and I was looking at the torso. I'm not crazy because my navigator thought the same thing when he saw it. We didn't want to scare the group so we didn't tell them why we stopped at first and I went to investigate. I did a thorough check of my surroundings to make sure I was not going to get mauled by some creature of the night and went to see what was lying in our path. It turns out our eyes/minds were playing tricks on us in the dark because it turned out to be just a small pile of leaves in the shape of a corps. So we continue on and have to go under fences, through puddles and brush until we finally...hit a dead end? We followed the directions and should have come to the stairs but found ourselves looking at a fenced off hill with no visible path anywhere. After some debate, we decide to back track a little bit and find the stairs. Turns out we made a wrong turn and after about an hour of searching, we had finally found the stairs.
We made our way around the final 2 fences that tried to keep people out but the fences were pointless as one could easily just walk around it. But going up to the second fence we almost had our first casualty. One of the Norwegian girls slipped and started sliding, but caught herself before too much damage was done. We file in line, me in front with the light and start our trek. The way up was borderline terrifying, it was dark, wet, steep, and worst of all you could not see where the top was. So every little landing we came to we thought might be the end was actually just the beginning to an even more difficult leg of the journey. Since I had the light, I would run up a a bunch of stairs before and try and light the way for the group, while calling out loose/missing stairs and railings. There were points going up where they were no longer stairs but step ladders where you would have to pull yourself up. This was of course fine for me, but being that we had some novice adventure hikers, we took frequent breaks. It was during our first break that I realized, in my haste to leave I forgot to pack water. The stairs started out going up through a hill with grass and trees and bushes on the sides, but as we got higher and the roads below got further away, the stairs just go along the ridge of the mountain with huge drops on either side. One bad step and dead, but the way up was dark, so you couldn't even see where you would fall.
The ridges got steeper as we got higher, and at one point we thought we reached the top when the next clearing looked to be a building of some sort. We scurry on up and realized its not the top and is in fact an old abandoned shelter for something. Covered in grafitti now, made of concrete and had a few rusted industrial cogs. We press on from this building and finally the summit is in sight. Only a few more treacherous passes. We are on the final push for the summit when one of the girls slips and falls down the stairs. She fell about 50 feet before she slid to a halt when the ground gave out and she fell the rest of the way.it was on of the most difficult things I've ever had the misfortune of witnessing. We were so close..I'm only kidding. We made it to the top, with everyone in tact and had to battle the wind and rain to take our group picture. We tried to hang out up there to watch the sunrise, but the old shelter up there smelled like homeless people, combined with wetness and garbage, plus we realized we were in a cloud and were too high up to see the sunrise. So we gather ourselves, and descend a bit to watch the sunrise over the east side of Oahu. We were overlooking Kaneohe and Kailua, with the incredible creased mountains on all sides and fresh green vegetation gently decorating all of it. We did not want to linger as we were all growing more and more tired, and needed to have energy to get down.
If the walk up was borderline terrifying, the walk down was downright terrifying. Firstly, now you could actually see where you would fall. So everything was that much more scary, and had everyone on edge. Second, it was extremely wet. It started to rain consistently on the way down and it rained from every direction for some reason. It was raining exactly horizontal at one point. Shortly thereafter it started raining up which absolutely blew my mind. Third, there were some portions of the stairs where you had to go backwards and lower yourself down. This combined with the wetness made me very nervous because it would be like falling off a 50 foot ladder if I fell. Needless to say, we got down with minimal incidents. The guard was there to greet us as we got to the bottom, he asked us how it was and let us pass. We trekked back which seemed to take a lot longer than the walk in. I drove back and was almost immediately hit with exhaustion. I almost dozed off while driving home and had to slap myself to stay awake while everyone else slept in the back. Right when we got back our boss was out front waiting to put us to work. I actually thought we could but then realized it had been over 28 hours since I had slept, and immediately passed out for the day. In all it took us about 8 hours to leave the hostel, climb the mountain, climb down, and get back home. I am extremely glad I got to do it, but I don't think I would do it again for a good while.
I am officially a certified PADI Open Water SCUBA Diver. We took two three hour classes and just completed our open water skills test this past weekend. Being certified is a life long certification and means I can dive anywhere in the world.
The dives were spread out over two days, with two dives each. For our first dive, we were on the east side of the island off a pier. The class started off with about 10 people and had 5 by the end. The 5 that quit, you could tell from the beginning that they were not going to get very far...lets just say they weren't exactly "fit." The conditions were ideal, as the visibility was very low. At the beginning we were all told to descend into about 10 feet of water, and 20 minutes later I get a tap on the shoulder from the instructor to surface. Apparently once everyone hit the bottom, all the sand was kicked up and made visibility worse (about 4 feet) so people just scattered and the instructor could not instruct. So we ended up doing our skills one at a time. We all passed the skills test with relative ease except one time when we were going over how to breath out of the alternate regulator (the regulator is the part that goes in your mouth so you can breath) from your "buddy." It was my turn to take a breath from my buddy (Jeff) so when it came time I took out my regulator and went to use his. When I did I put it in upside down and couldn't get any air. My body's first response was to take a deep breath, but I had nothing in my mouth to give it air. My body's next response was to shoot to the surface as quickly as possible to get air. My body's third and final response, panic and drown. But I had to remember my training to keep cool and I reached around for my air, then after a few breaths tried again and did fine.
The second dive was on the west side of the island at a place called Electric Beach. Its called this because it is across the street from an electrical company that uses the water to cool its generators, then spits the water back out. So the water gets super warm and fish love it. For this dive we went to 20 feet and practiced our final skills before our official dive as scuba divers. We did the skills without a problem. The visibility and conditions were much better than the day before with the exception of a small surface current which just made it harder to swim on the surface. During our dive we saw so many fish, tons of coral, and a turtle!!! We got really close to it and tried to swim with it. Some people saw an octopus but I didn't personally see it.
When we were done with the dives we filled out a few forms and got our papers and it was official.
Work at the hostel, until recently was a little dull. Lots of painting and building/installing beds and general maintenance. However, this week we started working on the long awaited roof project. We have been talking about starting the roof project for about 4-6 weeks now but have only just begun work on it. Our mission is to tear up and replace the roof. This requires us to be on a 26 foot lift tearing apart rotting wood and throwing it to the ground. The condition of the wood we are taking off is very similar to that of the room we demolished then rebuilt at the beginning of the summer. It is dirty and frustrating at times but still a job nonetheless. We discovered a new species of bug that resembles a cockroach but has a very sinister pattern on its back. At the end of every day there is a big mess to clean up with debris everywhere. Everyday it looks like a tornado came through and had its way with the roof.
As you can see, there is a reason to my tardiness of blog updates but I just want to make sure that when there is a post it is something that will leave the reader on the edge of their seat. I hope that is where this post leaves you now.
Until Next Time,
PS: skydiving this Saturday
PPS: finished making a music video to a song I arranged earlier this year