So a few weeks ago I was in Honolulu for a conference and managed to sneak some geocaching in there. This post is quite unlike anything I've done before, part geocaching, part highlights and anything I found interesting about my stay in Honolulu All my Geocaching adventures from Hawaii can be seen in my YouTube Playlist.
A little about my stay, and getting there
I was staying in the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki for a conference for my PhD. I'm an acoustics PhD student so travelled from the UK to Honolulu for a weeklong conference, a nice length to fit in some geocaching.
This was my first ever long haul flight, my third trip flying abroad, going to Berlin and Perpignan in the last year. The total time flying was 17 hours which was quite absurd, especially as I got picked up at 5:30am (GMT) and only made into my hotel room at 11:00pm (GMT - 10 hours), so about 28 hours door to door with very little sleep. This would be the start of a week of very weird sleep patterns. Luckily the food on the BA flight over to LAX was surprisingly tasty, and set me up for the day.
Geocaching in Honolulu
With geocaching in Honolulu you get the best of both worlds, the quick urban caches and the caches with the great views and adventures, the only problem is travelling to get the more rural caches. If I was a bit short on time I would go and get a few urban caches in close proximity to the hotel. If I knew there was a day when there were not many presentations that interested me at the conference I could plan my day around getting some more unique caches.
With Honolulu being the most densely populated region in the state it was a given that quite a few geocaches would be urban caches. The problem is that the main shopping areas are busy throughout most of the day, sometimes I had to move on from a lot of caches just as there were too many people about. After a few caches I knew what to expect, a lot of the urban caches were key safes attached to the metal leaflet and tourist information cabinets. The hardest thing was being stealthy while grabbing the caches, as it appeared that I was probably the only person who actually looked at these leaflets, so that alone arose suspicion!
However there were still some fantastic urban caches that were a bit further away from hustle and bustle of the main shopping areas. A cache near my hotel was a must do cache as it had over 180 favourite points, I left this one to the end of the week as a little reward to myself for my presentation and as a farewell to Hawaii.
Geocaching with non-cachers
One of the hardest things I find while travelling is trying to go geocaching while with non-cachers. The good things is that Honolulu has plenty of locations that are great to visit with non-cachers and fitting in the geocaching on the side. There's places of historical interest, natural beauty and great trails around the island, the only problem is getting there. The public transport is a bit naff so we relied on private transit companies or taxis to get around. However when you do arrive you get to see some great views and the less commercialised side of Honoulu.
The Things I Noticed - A.K.A Grumpy Student
1) It rains, A lot! Everyday it rained, luckily it was the warm rain not the cold rain we're use to in the UK
2) Things cost a lot! Being a tourist hotspot things cost an arm and a leg!
3) The traffic lights are a nightmare! Literally 5 minutes standing for the little walking man to appear, and when you do walk you have to look out for traffic turning right across the crossing
4) They love their pineapple, even the McDonald's meals come with a pot of it
5) Not only do they have air con during the day, they also have gas powered tiki torches burning all night
6) Honolulu is so comercialised, shopping centres everywhere with designer brands open til late at night
7) Have to travel miles out of town to see the beautiful natural scenery, but you have to get taxis to most places as the buses take ages to get anywhere
8) The cuisine is a tad unusual, but if you're adventurous you'll get to eat some great food!
Highlights of Honolulu
My highlights of the week were Manoa Falls, Diamond Head Crater and Pearl Harbor for the great views and the historical significance.
On the Wednesday afternoon four of us from my university who were at the conference went on the Manoa waterfall trail to experience the more natural Hawaii. We got to spend the afternoon hiking the trail seeing sights and plants we had never in the UK. There were three geocaches on the trail, one was a bit out the way, the other hadn't been found in months, which left me with one cache to find. As I was with three non-cachers I only had about 5 minutes to search so unfortunately had leave empty handed.
Diamond Head Crater
After attempting to walk to Diamond Head Crater on our first day in Hawaii, but taking a wrong turn, I decided that I would have to redeem myself and hike up one weekday morning. While walking up I managed to get quite a few urban caches before making my way to the crater itself. The crater, a volcanic tuff, was formed 200,000 years ago when a volcano erupted, spewing ash into the air. When the ash fell it built up and solidified creating the iconic crater. The crater is home to a virtual cache, two traditional caches and an Earthcache. I managed to log the virtual cache and a very cool, sneaky traditional. The traditional at the summit was too tricky due to the fact there were a gazillion places it could be, my phone wasn't very accurate, and that there were a constant stream of people. I later found out that I was very close to it and was looking on the wrong side as a fellow cacher I met at an event later on the same day had seen me searching! I still had a great time searching and visiting such a different place, definitely make an effort to go there if you're in the area!
Even though I didn't do any geocaching at Pearl Harbour I spent 8 hours looking round and learning so much about part of WW2 that, as a Brit, we don't get much coverage on. Visiting the USS Arizona memorial was a very poignant moment of the trip, with the rest of the day looking around the other points of interest around Pearl Harbour; USS Bowfin, USS Missouri and the Pacific Aviation Centre. My supervisor and I managed to look round everything and get there and back from the hotel for $80 each, $65 for the Pearl Harbor passport and $15 for Ohana Transit transport, relatively cheap to the $140 tours on offer whilst we still got to experience everything we wanted to. The thing that struck me was all the things that led up to such a devastating attack, mooring all the battleships next each other, placing all the aircraft, unloaded, in the middle of the airfield to reduce the risk of sabotage. The most interesting thing I learned was how the Japenese aircraft got mis-identified as incoming B-17s. I only came across this as we had a while to wait for a shuttle back to the Pearl Harbour from the Aviation Center and found myself watching a $5 dvd screen.
I'll re-tell the incident, as I can remember it, to finish this post off, there is a wiki page.
*Random Fact of the Trip*
There were three mobile radar stations on the Island of O'ahu at the time of Pearl Harbor, however they were only operational between 4am and 7am, the attack of Pearl Harbor attack happened at 7:48am, as it was known that this was when the Japanese had attacked their targets previously. So at 7am the two outer stations went offline and the operators went to breakfast, the central station however kept monitoring as they were training. This is when they the Japenese aircraft was detected, as the two operators were quite new, one was being trained while the other had only been there for a couple of weeks, they double checked that the equipent was set up correctly. Once they had double checked everything they thought they should phone it in with their higher ups. At this time one of the admin staff at the information center picked up the call as the officers had gone to breakfast. The operators wanted to know what was the cause of the anomaly they had detected, at this time a Lt. a fighter pilot who had turned up at the information center for radar training walked through the door. As the highest ranking person in the room he was put on the phone to the radar operators. This was when the Japanese aircraft were misidentified as B-17s. As the Lt. had a B-17 pilot friend he knew that the Hawaiian radio stations were told to leave Hawaiian music playing during the night whenever the B-17s were flying over from the mainland, the B-17s could use the strength of the radio signal for navigation. When he had got into his car to get to the information eariler in the day at 4am he had heard the Hawaiian music and thus knew B-17s were due in some time that day.
The last thing I learnt while waiting for the bus watching this DVD was that the Japanese could also hear the Hawaiian music and so, several years later, the Japanese pilots admitted that they were listening to the Hawaiian music while bombing Hawaii.
Sorry to anyone that was expecting a more geocaching centric post, I just kept writing!