Going in to our Big Trip, we knew that spending 27 days together as our little group of five was likely to get tedious, so we made sure everyone knew it was perfectly fine to say when one needed a little space. We agreed out of the gate that there would be days where we’d split up or days where one (or more) of us would be allowed to have some downtime.
I certainly didn’t intend to play my “I need space” card so early into this adventure, but Saturday morning found me doing just that solely because I could not handle the thought of watching my children engage in the nerve rattling experience of cliff jumping once again.
They begged and begged and begged to go back to the North Shore, and Russ finally caved. He rented the car (which still had drips of chocolate pudding from the malasadas cooked into the paint on one of the doors) for another 1/2 day, and they all hopped up Saturday morning, ready to hit the road.
I was on our balcony helping the boys with sunscreen when I looked up to see the most ridiculous rainbowS I’ve ever seen…
We were all speechless. It truly was a spectacular moment.
Once the rainbows began to fade, the preoccupation with the North Shore moved again to the forefront. The menfolk grabbed some towels and headed out; our plan was to meet up after lunch.
I spent the morning ambling around Waikiki in search of a store that could fix my sunglasses. (I had the serious misfortune of dropping them on a marble floor, which resulted in one of the lenses popping out. Ugh. You can’t do Hawaii without sunglasses; trust me.)
I thought I’d hit pay dirt when I rounded a corner to find the T Galleria staring me down. Instead of being what I thought was an upscale shopping mall, the T Galleria turned out to be a gigantic labyrinth of duty-free mayhem. When I say “gigantic” and “labyrinth”, please know I am not exaggerating. This place had multiple levels, no windows, and armed guards everywhere. Also–and again, I promise I’m not exaggerating–97% of the languages, both spoken and printed, were Asian: Mandarin, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai…
Click on this link right here and then scroll down a bit to the photo gallery and you’ll see what I mean about this place being a vortex. I literally could not find my way out. I also failed several times at asking for directions on how to escape. Even the armed guards spoke no English. It was the most bizarre store I’ve ever been in. (Just take a peek at how many separate shops the T Galleria contains.)
It was funny until I realized I was closing in on the one-hour mark of roaming aimlessly around in search of an exit. Somewhere on one of the mystery levels, a tiny elderly lady recognized that I was a fish out of water (probably after seeing me make many laps around the floor) and took mercy on me; she left her storefront, walked me to an escalator, rode the escalator down a level with me, and then walked me to an elevator. When the elevator opened, she reached in and pressed a button marked with a character, said “turn left,” bowed, and then walked off as the doors closed. I followed her instructions to a T, and the off-the-wall T Galleria finally spit me back out onto the streets of Waikiki.
I didn’t dare look back.
(I did find a Kate Spade store on a side street, and popped in to ask their advice on where to take my one-lens sunglasses for a fix; to my surprise, they swapped my broken glasses out for a brand new pair!)
In an attempt to get as far away from the black hole of the T Galleria as possible, I crossed streets until I was walking next to the beach and back towards our hotel. I braved another shopping area–the International Marketplace–in order to grab lunch at the Street Food Hall which was an excellent decision. By this point in the day, it was time to circle back with the daring cliff jumpers, so I grabbed a book and camped out by the pool until they arrived.
We wisely opted to head back out to the beach for our last afternoon in Hawaii (and we realized we had given Hawaii the short shrift; five days here was not nearly enough time…).
One of the punch-list items on Russ’s Big Trip list was to attend a luau. After poking around on the internet for a bit, I learned we were late to the party; all of the most famous luaus were booked solid. Russ did find one option, though: the, um, Rock-a-Hula Luau.
You know it’s a little off the beaten path when the Uber driver has never even heard of it.
Nonetheless, we went in with open minds and took a family pact to make the most of the evening.
There was a pre-show buffet featuring “traditional Hawaiian luau foods” along with some hula dancing. When they asked for volunteers, Tucker and Theo showed that they had taken the family pact to heart.
When it was time for the real show to start, we were funneled into a 750-seat theatre where it was first-come-first-serve seating. This wasn’t a problem because there were only about 150 gullible souls present to see the campy Rock-a-Hula.
Actually, “campy” is an understatement. This wasn’t a luau and it wasn’t a musical; it was something stuck in the muddy waters of in-between. There were surfer dudes and dudettes and a minuscule skit about the native Polynesians–all to be expected…
Then the Elvis impersonator made his way on stage and proceeded to roam the aisles and serenade all 150 of us to an endless chorus of “Suspicious Minds.”
Elvis was followed by the Michael Jackson impersonator.
(To this day, we still don’t understand what Michael Jackson has to do with a Hawaiian luau…)
The Rock-a-Hula wrapped up its weirdness around 9, and we opted to walk back to our hotel.
We packed up our bags the next morning while watching the crazy last set/tie-breaker of the Men’s Singles at Wimbledon. (Packing took almost as long as the tennis match; remember, we were attempting to travel the Pacific merely with carry-ons…).
The Honolulu airport feels massive because you do a lot of outdoor walking between terminals. We made our way to the international terminal and watched as Hawaiian Air officials trolled around the waiting area, eyeballing everyone’s carry-ons. Somehow we managed to pass inspection (most likely because we were some of the first in line to board at the gate). We quietly celebrated this small victory as we filed onto the plane that was to carry us all the way across the Pacific Ocean.
As Delta loyalists (forced perhaps by geography, not necessarily brand affinity), I was a little leery of the next batch of flights we had scheduled; we wouldn’t see the interior of a Delta plane again until we were on the second of the three flights on our long, long journey back to Atlanta.
I’m thrilled to report, however, that Hawaiian Air was lovely. We did spring for the Extra-Comfort seats, and while these seats were not even in the same galaxy as the 2 ridiculous Delta One seats we had scored 5 days before, we can confirm that it was money well spent. Theo was also very excited about his complimentary travel kit and quickly (and frequently) set about making sure his face and hands were properly moisturized, which cracked up everyone seated around him (note to others: the “hydrating face spray” has a commanding–and extremely long lasting–scent).
This flight was the poster child for “long haul.” The tedium of being cooped up in a tennis ball can was coupled with the V.I.P. goal of staying awake the entire time, in hopes to knock down the jet lag before it even began (Honolulu is 6 hours behind Atlanta’s time zone; Sydney, on the other hand, is 14 hours AHEAD of Atlanta. Plus, we crossed the International Date Line (and the Equator, but by that point, we’d given up trying to process all of the oddities that were taking place). Try wrapping your head around that time traveling whiplash…)
A little over 10 and 1/2 hours later (at least according to a stopwatch), we landed in Sydney. We were bleary eyed, exhausted, and unsure of what day it was, but we were beyond excited to be in Australia. Time to start the second leg of our Big Trip!