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Oahu

There is this funny thing that happens when you cross the international date line. Besides the floating checkered line, if you are traveling from west to east you actually go “back in time”. When booking your hotel for arrival you need to select the night before your actual departure date not the same day. I made this mistake and arrived on the island without a reservation for that night. Thankfully we were able to call ahead and get a room at the same hostel we would be staying at the following night.

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My first morning on the island started early as headed over to Pearl Harbour which was an hour journey on the local transit. Upon my arrival I was required to check my bag before I was allowed to enter the historical site. I queued up for my free USS Arizona ticket and visited this site first. A short video of the events surrounding the site and the attack on PH was shown before boarding a shuttle boat to the sunken battleship. The USS Arizona memorial is quiet and peaceful place. The memorial is set floating perpendicular to the length of the sunken ship allowing full view of the ship. On this morning the water was flat and easy to see the ship below the surface. One thing I did notice was the oil still leaking from the Arizona and floating on the surface immediately overtop of the wreckage. In the memorial is a dedication wall to all the men aboard the ship that lost their lives the day of the attack. In addition to the main list is a smaller list at the bottom of all the men that survived the attack and have since passed away. Upon their passing, most of the survivors have elected to be interned in the sunken wreckage with their fellow sailors with the dedication wall reflecting their presence. After short ride back to the main tourist centre I purchased tickets to visit the USS Bowfin and the USS Missouri. The USS Bowfin was one of the submarines used during WW2 and is now open to the public for tours. If you have never been on a submarine I recommend taking the opportunity to visit one. The interior has been restored to original condition and truly gives you the sense of being trapped in a floating coffin. My final stop at Pearl Harbour was at the USS Missouri. The Missouri was docked on the day of the attack and sunk. The ship was “refloated”, repaired within two years, and returned to action in the Pacific to fight the final year of conflict in the Pacific. The Missouri is most famous for being the venue of the signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender. The USS Arizona and USS Missouri are now parked a couple hundred yards apart with the two ships respectively signifying the beginning and end of WW2 for the American military.

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After finishing my visit I grabbed a bus back into town in search of a Walmart. I was in need of a tent and other related supplies for the upcoming week of camping that I would be doing. After a successful adventure I dropped my purchases back at the hostel and headed for the beach. Waikiki is a popular spot for many tourists to layout in the sun and go for a swim. This beach was almost as busy as Boracay but much more developed off the beach with regards to hotels and business. I met up with Kat for dinner and we caught up on each other’s adventures from the day.

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Friday morning I parted ways with Kat as she was headed home and I was headed out to play another tournament. I picked up my rental car, loaded up all my gear for the week ahead, and began my journey to the east coast of the island. I stopped at almost every lookout and snapped pictures along the way as the vistas were beautiful. I arrived at my destination of Waimanalo Bay well before my estimated time of arrival as the island is much smaller than it appears on a paper map. My destination for the President’s Day weekend was the Kaimana Klassic. There is nothing quite like camping on the beach, drinking beer, and playing ultimate for a long weekend. I setup camp expecting it to be windy and raining on me in the middle of the night. I went for dinner and returned to my site finding my tarp blown out but my tent still holding it’s ground. I took down my tarp because I didn’t want to listen to it flapping in the wind all night. This turned out to be a poor decision because it rained in the middle of the night. My low end tent started to leak in the height of the storm and I got up to remedy the situation. The easiest solution was to wrap my tent with the tarp and hope for the best. The solution worked for the night and through the rain of the next morning. Once the sun came out I was able to bail the water out of my tent that had worked it’s way in the night before. That’s right, there were puddles in my tent. Thankfully the weather took a turn for the better and it didn’t rain for the remainder of my time on the island.

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Once the tournament had finished up on Monday I packed up my gear into my car and headed north along the coast to my next camping spot at Malaekahana State Recreation Area. Even though it was a holiday Monday the grocery store was still open and I picked up some snacks for the evening along the way. I arrived at my destination just before the gate was closed for the night. In Oahu, every night the front gate to the park is locked preventing vehicle traffic from entering or exiting which means if you were locked out it was a 2 km hike into the grounds to find your campsite in the middle of the dark. It was dusk at this point and I setup my tent as quickly as possible in the fading light. I gathered only what I needed for the night and tossed it in the tent before I headed out to the local beach for some star gazing. The stars were bright and unobstructed but the critters on the sand grabbed my attention. As the moon had come out the Ghost Crabs had taken to the shorelines in search of a late night snack. Thankfully they were not interested in me and were peaceful in their hunt for food.

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Tuesday morning I packed up my tent and hit the road to travel along the north shore to visit the large waves and warm waters. It would appear that I had just missed a competition that had just wrapped up the day before and I wouldn’t be around long enough to see the beginning of the next competition that would be starting the coming Thursday. I stopped in a few locations watching some of the locals take to the surf and enjoyed many of the views. At this point I opted to head for the west coast as it was the leeward side of the island. It was a scenic journey the whole way with little traffic to speak of. I travelled up the coast until the road ended at a state park and public beach. I parked my car and suited up for a swim in the waves. The shoreline was steep at this location causing the waves to crash onto the beach which made for perfect conditions to play in the waves. The water was crystal clear blue and warmer than the windward side of the island. The waves were powerful and came crashing down from great heights. Here is an idea of the highs and lows of the surf. When standing at your waist the ocean would drop as low as your knees when being sucked into a large wave and could come over the top of your fully extended arms above your head. I had a blast playing around in the surf for over an hour. I showered at the provided facilities and headed south along the coast in search of food before heading back to my campsite on the opposite side of the island for the night.

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Wednesday was my final day on Oahu. I was up early, cruised the coastline one last time before heading into town to return the rental car. I spent my remain hours on the beach of Waikiki enjoying one final sunset before getting on the local bus to the airport. To my benefit I had checked in online before arriving at the airport because the line up for Air Canada was approximately 300 people long. I was able to walk right up to baggage drop and onto security in under 5 minutes.

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My Oahu visit was exactly what I could have hoped for. I didn’t enjoy the crowed and commercialized Waikiki beach and area. I did enjoy the rest of the island including the panoramic views, terrific local food, and the fantastic beaches and state parks. When I return to this island I will likely plan my visit the same way with the majority of it spent outside of the core tourist district.

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The North Island

With only 7 days to see New Zealand, I elected to only visit the north island on this trip flying into Wellington and out of Auckland at the end of my week. I was joined by two fellow frisbee players from Toronto, Kat and Jess. I flew in a few days after them so they already had a car rented and picked me up from the airport upon my arrival.

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In case you are unaware the kiwis drive on the left side of the road compared to the right side I am used to at home. The setup inside the car for the driver has the turn signal and windshield wipers switched. The running joke is you see a tourist coming a mile away because they always turn the wipers on instead of the turn signals. After the first day of driving you get the hang of doing everything opposite while traveling in traffic. The tough part comes when you approach an intersection or parking lot where your natural instincts kick in trying to get you killed. Thankfully I only attempted to kill us all once when leaving a parking lot and turning into the oncoming lane at 11:30 P.M. when there was one car on the road. Whoops.

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The first night in NZ was dedicated to traveling north from Wellington to Porangahau for the Hat Tournament. As it would turn out this weekend was the last long weekend of the NZ summer but traffic was for the most part non-existent. The roads in NZ do not ever follow a straight line. Period. Fact. Every journey you take is an 50 – 70 KPM journey of winding blind corners and hills. It’s like rally car driving to get to the corner store when all you need is a lottery ticket. Don’t get me wrong, driving along the cliff edge with panoramic views was thrilling. After our multi hour journey with multiple stops we arrived at our destination, a working sheep and cattle farm, after 11 P.M. and hunkered down for the night. During our two days on the farm we were treated to some great ultimate, a great Saturday night party, and we were able to visit the longest named place in the world. On the Sunday we headed out after the final awards were handed out and everyone had showered. Our goal was to make it to Cape Kidnappers and catch a glimpse of the golf course before sun down.

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We arrived at Cape Kidnappers Golf Course with only an hour of light left. We arrived at the perimeter gate to find out that it was another 20 minute drive to the clubhouse. We finally arrived at the clubhouse to discover that the club was closed for the day. I didn’t fly all the way to NZ and drive an hour out of our way to not see the course. With no one around but the three of us, we walked to the coast line where the course and cliffs meet. This view was completely worth the trip and I doubt I would have been able to enjoy the course as much as I did had it been “open” when we arrived. Once the sun had set we all jumped back in the car and set out to find a place to stay for the night. We chose to try for the town of Rotorua as it was recommend to us based on our plans for the next couple of days. After driving until the early hours of the morning I discovered that I had just piloted us about 2 hours past our planned adventure for the Monday. I was more than a little displeased at this point because I like being accurate and sticking to the laid out plan. I requested a road map from the hotel front desk to avoid running into this type of boondoggle again.

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We woke up on the later side of things and used Monday as a recovery day. Rotorua is a volcanic town surrounded by many hot springs that were very active. We plotted some places to visit around town and along the way to our next overnight in Turangi. First was the local park which had some smelly, muddy, bubbly hot springs for us to sniff and gag at. Next up was a short ride to Waiotapu Themeral Wonderland. This place is what I expect mars will be like once colonized. There are craters, extreme colours in the water pools, barren landscapes, and a random forest in the middle of it all. All in all an interesting spot to visit and a nice leisurely paced attraction. After the thermals we headed for lake Taupo to try and catch an afternoon cruise to see the Maori Rock Carvings. We made the journey with minutes to spare and were able to book a trip on a yacht take us out on a nice cruise across rather choppy waters. A short 30 minute ride out to the carvings gave us great light to view the piece and enjoy a nice leisurely cruise back to port. We enjoyed dinner in town before heading out to Turangi and our accommodations for the evening.

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Turangi is the town closest to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. We arrived at our hostel for the night and we were given advice on crossing by the owner. We agreed that we would split up for the 19.4 KM journey and complete the hike in opposite directions. The reason we split up was to ensure we would not have to pay any shuttle fees to get back to the car at the end of the hike. I would complete the hike from west to east and the ladies would stick together completing the hike east to west as recommended by the hostel owner. The most important part of this plan was the hand off of the car key and I almost forgot to pick up the car key from the ladies. Thankfully Jess was paying attention and handed over the prized key during our meeting around the 11 KM marker. I completed the journey in about 5 hours and 15 minutes with all of my up hill climbs out of the way in the first 9 KM of my hike. The reverse hike for the ladies was much more difficult as their journey was an uphill fight for a longer period of time and across tougher terrain. I met the girls with car back where I had started my day and we were all tired from our hikes. We headed into Turangi to get some wifi and plan our next day’s adventure and find a place to sleep for the night. We agreed to return to the town of Rotorua for the night and stay in a hostel there before heading out to Matamata and Auckland the next day. Our journey to our Rotorua hostel was uneventful with the hostel almost uninhabited upon our arrival with only two other cars in the parking lot.

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Our last final full day on the north island began with a short journey to the outskirts of the town of Matamata, also know as Hobbiton. The girls had signed up for a tour of the hobbit village, grounds, and working farm. I dropped them off for their tour and headed to the opposite side of town to catch a glimpse of the highest waterfall in NZ, Wairere Falls. This set of falls is 153M and a different style of waterfall than I am used. Niagara Falls is a horseshoe style falls with a high water flow crashing over the edge every minute. Wairere is a skinny cascading waterfall with the water following many different paths down to the bottom. I spent a short amount of time at the falls before returning to pick up the girls from their Hobbiton adventure. They raved about being whisked away into an alternate universe and loved the adventure. We piled into our trusty car and headed into Matamata for lunch before making the trek up to Auckland. The journey from lunch to Auckland was smooth until we hit our first bit of NZ traffic entering the Auckland city limits. It would appear that NZ does have traffic every now and then. We hacked our way into town and found our accommodation for the night. After dropping off our bags, we parked the car for the night, and headed out to the Sky Tower to catch the sunset from the 60th floor. We were treated to a lovely colourful sky and were able to see the city night lights come up before heading down to the wharf for an evening stroll that led us back to our hostel. We packed our bags for our upcoming flight before calling it a night.

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Our final morning in NZ only required us to return the rental car before checking in for our flight to Hawaii. Kat and myself were continuing on to Oahu and Jess was on her way to Thailand. What should have been an uneventful drive got way too interesting way too fast. On the way to the drop off location the car starting making a loud squealing sound whenever the wheels were turning. And to our relief the sound disappeared without warning just as it appeared. I still have no idea what that noise was and I’m glad that it stopped before we got anywhere near the drop off location because it was as loud as someone using a stone cutting saw. A short shuttle to the airport and a quick check in process left me with enough time to embrace my inner hobbit before I left with a second breakfast.

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My trip to New Zealand was great. I think I enjoy driving on the left side of the road better than the right, the terrain really dictates how fast you can make a journey between each city, the landscapes are beautiful, the ocean is cold but clean, the sun is extremely powerful, and the positives go on. The biggest downside for me was the price point of many items but that can easily be overlooked. I would like to return one day with more time and have a chance to visit the south island as I hear it is even more beautiful than the north.