I am knackered. My body is aching. My hair feels like a straw nest. I am sunburnt as hell.
But shit, what an amazing day.
We began our day early with an incredible breakfast, of all places, at the local medical centre.
Yes, the hospital.
This sounds so strange, but Hawaii is full of hidden gems in terms of eating – just like the army base I mentioned a few days ago, the hospital is a largely unknown but amazing eat spot. The building itself is set into the hills, with a gorgeous wooden restaurant and large veranda overlooking an unreal view of the highway stretching in either direction, running alongside the rolling white beaches and glittering morning waves. Such a beautiful spot.
After a delicious 3-egg omelette (for $6.50 – bargain), we set off for our first stop of the day – to hike the world-famous Diamond Head crater.
Approximately 200,000 years ago, when Hawaii was still being formed through daily explosions and eruptions, the Diamond Head crater was born. The peak reaches out into the ocean, visible from anywhere along the south coast of Oahu – it’s a landmark known to many, a defining feature of the Waikiki coastline. It’s absolutely beautiful.
The hike itself was busy, and hot – a pretty steep gradient in 30 degree heat makes for a tiring walk. But the views are incredible – both into the crater itself, the sloping sides in such an obvious, perfect volcano formation, to the views out to sea, the turquoise water widening into the distance, unending. The walk takes you to the very top of the western ridge of the crater, where there is a bunker you can go into and walk around – crazy to imagine having been there in years gone by, reloading ammunition, keeping an eye out for enemies, readying yourselves for war.
Hanauma Bay is a nature preserve on the southeastern point of Oahu – a world-renowned snorkel spot, home to over 400 species of fish, plus sea turtles and other marine life.
It is absolutely stunning.
Now, I have something to tell you. Don’t laugh.
I have a phobia of fish.
Sad I know, and yes – it’s completely irrational. I just. Hate. Fish. Everything about them – their goggly eyes, stupid pouting mouths, greasy, scaly skin. They’re gross. I am terrified of them. I have often had nightmares about being dropped into a pond or lake full of disgusting fish. I don’t think they’re going to hurt me – it’s just the look and feel of them, it freaks me out. You know those foot spa things where you drop your feet into a tank and all of those horrendous little fish nibble at your toes? I would rather die. That is my idea of a truly bad day. Only last year did I start properly going in the ocean and, even so, I’d have to be deep enough that my feet couldn’t touch the ground – that way I could pretend there’s absolutely nothing down there, just clear, empty water.
OKAY so cool
I decided that today is the day I am going to face my fear. I am going to go snorkeling.
I know for most people this isn’t a big deal – I’m not kidding, I was anxious the whole day. From the moment I woke up, to gazing into the distance from the top of Diamond Head, to the car journey to the bay itself – sweaty palms, palpitations, all sorts.
I’m a loser. I know. But this is a big deal for me. I HATE fish.
We rented snorkel gear and got going straight away. The Boy’s family are certainly outdoorsy – his parents dove straight in, putting me to shame.
I walk knee deep into the water, shaking a little.
I sit down. Shaking a lot by now.
I throw myself clumsily, face down into the water, and try to use my new fandangled snorkel.
I immediately swallow about 8 gallons of murky sea water.
I get out of the ocean.
It took the Boy about an hour of coaxing to get me back in. As it turned out, in true Joanne-fashion, I managed to get the one fricking snorkel tube in the whole place that was faulty – I wasn’t just terrified of snorkeling, no, I’d been given a breathing device that DOESN’T WORK. How’s that for beginner’s luck?
New snorkel gear in one hand, the Boy in the other, I timidly ventured back into the water.
It was amazing.
Honestly, once I realised that as long as I actually kept my head down and breathed normally, and that the fish were more afraid (barely) of me than I them, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. We saw fish in abundance – black striped tangs, bright blue parrot fish glimmering here and there, grumpy-looking trigger fish mooning about. Sea urchins hide in every crevice of the living, breathing coral – which, in itself, is a sight to behold. We were lucky enough to see the beautiful Hawaiian state fish, named humuhumunukunukuapuaa: (“who moo who moo new coo new coo ah poo ah ah”). It was such an experience for me; the coral is only a foot deep in places so it’s a real work out to stay afloat, not wanting to touch or disturb the reef by stepping on it. To be that close to my biggest fear was, of course, at first terrifying. But having never done anything like it, after seconds I was in absolute awe, eyes widening at each new life form we saw. It was something completely new for me; I’m feeling pretty bloody proud of myself right now.
After a good few hours snorkeling, we retired to the beach to watch the setting sun drop behind the cliffs and nurse our sunburns… It’s easy to forget that whilst you’re face down in the water, your whole back is up to the sun.
As a semi-red head, that does not bode well for myself.
Nevertheless, what an incredible day – the underwater world is astounding to me, and it’s a world I can’t wait to explore more of. I know, I know – most people grew up in the ocean, going to the beach, playing in the water. Even as a kid I’d rarely venture in, not wanting to go much further than wetting my ankles. It’s a fear I’ve lived with, stupidly, since I can remember.
But no longer. No. I am mighty Joanne, ruler of ocean, lover of fish, facer of fears. Fear faced – come at me, fishies.