Sunday, March 16, 2014

Reaching for Heaven is what I'm on earth to do...

Once, I got to go to Hawaii.
It was cool. Like ice cold cool.
But really, quite pleasantly warm.

I had the absolutely amazing opportunity to join 14 wonderful souls on a spring break trip to Oahu for six (turned into seven) days! I knew most of them, a group of men that live down the way from me who are some of my very dearest friends. The rest I got to know this last week and it was wonderful. They let me tag along when they scraped up some cheap tickets!

DISCLAIMER: this is a painfully thorough look back on this seven day trip, so by all means, I am not offended if you skip to the pictures and just listen to the music. Also I'll never really know whether you read it or not, will I? (to be read in a british accent, something very common on our trip, thanks to Aaron <pronounced A-A-ron> and his England mission heritage)

These songs were the soundtrack of our trip. I think that a good tune can set the mood for something as dry as a blog when I can't be there to tell you how amazing it was with such an intensity that I spit all over you. So there's that.

Also, everything Jack Johnson. It was bliss.

Friday night, we headed to Boise, a 4.5 hour drive from Logan. Stu (the ringleader of our gang) had a wonderful family friend who baked us five pans of cinnamon rolls and let us sleep at their house to make the 8 am flight the next day. After giving us all of the cinnamon rolls we didn't eat to go, she took us to the airport, about ten minutes away, and we were off to Honolulu.

We landed Saturday at about one in the afternoon, Hawaii time. The flight was six hours long and I had severely underestimated it. I was bored out of my mind. Luckily, I was sitting between two interesting people and we were able to chat quite a bit to help the time pass. Chris even helped me eat a few cinnamon rolls. (He's an evangelist preacher/musician who just graduated in music industry or something and we compared music for a while, it was actually quite pleasant!) Eventually, we landed and my jacket came off!!!

The skies were cloudy, and the forecast wasn't very uplifting. But. We were in Hawaii, and I wasn't cold or inhaling smog, so every single care in my mind was gone and I was just soiling myself in ecstasy. We picked up the two massive vans that held our jolly group and promptly went to Costco, of course. After enjoying our polish dogs and pizza, we bought enough breakfast stuff to sustain us throughout the week. (Best idea ever, it saved us a ton of money and time!) We then made the 45 minute journey towards the North Shore of the island, the more rural section, where we stayed in Hau'ula. *fyi, I have no idea where apostrophes go in any of these Hawaiian things so just nod and be impressed with my clearly inadequate knowledge of island culture*
Ben and Benji, the cuties of the trip.

It was a weird kind of town home cluster of three or five beach homes, all for rent for tourists, managed by the professional rugby player who lived next door. It was so nice, we had three bedrooms, a kitchen, two bathrooms, and even a washer and dryer! Space was tight with 15 of us haha, but it was honestly so much fun. There were two girls to each of the three beds in one room, and the boys shared the two bedrooms, three to a bed. Hilarious. There were couches and blow up mattresses for the stragglers without beds. 
Touristy touch to our home - we ate it up

Le whole gang, pre-wave.
males: Stu, Ben, Aaron, Gavin, Benji, and Mikey (Missing Zack at this point)


The females
Deters, Lindsey (or Lindlar) Ashley, Katie, moi, Keara, Hali, and Megan

It had started raining but that didn't stop us. We got into our swimsuits and set off looking for beaches. We stopped at the first one we saw to take pictures because we were all star struck with how GORGEOUS it all was! Then we all went to Waimea, which was pretty sketchy because of the storm, but of course Lindlar and I were idiots and swam anyways while everyone watched as we got thrashed by the waves. The ocean showed Linds who was boss and showed us what it could do with a swimsuit top and we all got a show before she could yank it back up - hilarious. Great ice breaker for the trip.

We went to a great little burger joint called Kahuku Grill in Laie, it was SO dang good. The burgers were huge, the fries delish. Not ready to call it a day, on the way home we passed a huge, super nice resort where all the rich kids stay called Turtle Bay, and we snuck in to the hot tubs haha. We almost got caught but it was seriously worth it, it felt so nice just to chill! We went home that night exhausted, something we'd be used to for the rest of the week!

Sunday started out early, thanks to the insane roosters EVERYWHERE. They were genuinely so loud, so alert, and so many. It was almost funny but not because it was like four in the morning. Not cool, guys. So we all got dressed in our finest and went on campus at BYU-H to find a ward at 8:30. That was awesome, there were the sweetest people there and it was their testimony meeting, a wonderful way to start the trip. After that, it was still pretty cloudy and almost rainy but we still put on our suits and went to Pipeline to swim.
Here is the classic moment in EVERY SINGLE trip of my 22 years of living that I think, "Yeah, I'm fine without sunscreen. I mean look at me. I'm practically brownskinned already."
And then the sun says, "hahahahahahahahahaha oh you."
and proceeds to just ravage my skin and cackle the whole time while infusing every pore with UV light. But hey. You live and you learn right? Maybe someday... 
Anyways. The sun came out after we played in the waves forever and we got to watch some sweet surfing. We then took a break from the beach to go to a restaurant called Cholo's Mexican that was pretty good, I got a delicious chicken spinach quesedilla and we were stuffed. Then, we went to the famed Matsumoto's Shaved Ice and that was absolutely delicious. I got the Strawberry and Coconut Cream with ice cream and "snow capped", which means sweetened condensed milk is poured on top. :) Then, we went back to Waimea to play and watch the sunset.

They buried Stu. He and his hat. Hilarious.

Monday started out with a trip to Hanauma Bay. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. We rented snorkeling gear for 12 bucks and had practically free reign to wander around the bay, swimming over and around the coral to see everything. The snorkel gear was claustrophobic at first, and I had to keep focusing on breathing slower because I would freak out haha, but I got it eventually and IT WAS AMAZING. It was pretty shallow in some places so we all got some good cuts and bruises from the coral but the fish were so chill, they literally were inches from my hands, face, and body as we all just swam together. It was crazy. They were beautiful, tropical fish, that no human should ever have the privilege to see, but WE GOT TO. Then, we saw a turtle and followed it around everywhere. It was the coolest haha! An old man also pointed out that my red swimsuit matched my red skin and asked me many questions about the quality and quantity of suncare I was using. Everyone was so sweet and caring, I felt very sheepish in my crisp red shell. 
P.S. I know I'm wearing the same romper, you'll see it again, too. I packed light. Don't judge. :)

We stayed snorkeling and sunbathing for a while until starvation forced us somewhere to eat. I ate way too much at Teddy's Bigger Burgers which was just delicious. Of course after eating that much, the only option was to go to Spitting Caves, which is a cliff over some caves that appear to spit out the waves after they come in. There's a spot that people jump off of into the ocean, and so we did it. Hahaha I have the biggest grin on my face thinking about it. About 65 feet high, into the ocean, and I did it. I was so proud and screamed the whole time. A few of us jumped a couple times and after a while, some people in the group next to us started yelling and pointing out towards the sea. LO AND BEHOLD, we saw some blowhole lines in the distance, and we watched as WHALES breached five times in one minute. It was absolutely one of the coolest things I've seen in my life. We were all in awe, it was so beautiful. Like I said, some things are too wonderful for humans to ever get to see in their lifetimes. I honestly don't know how we're so lucky. 

We then made our way over to a hike called Kokohead, which wasn't long, but the whole dang thing was steps. Not just normal steps, but wide ones that made every normal person lunge up the entire mountain. It was exhausting. I consider myself relatively well versed with hikes and physical activity, and I was struggling. Our entire group made it to the top, which is NOT something to be taken lightly, it seriously kinda sucked haha. Good thing the view from the top was absolutely amazing! We could see Hanauma Bay and Waikiki and everything in between. I was cold and headed down, while everyone else stayed to watched the sunset and we then went to a place to get some fish tacos at North Shore Fish Tacos. They were way good but also way overpriced. Thus ended Monday. We still had three. days. left!

Tuesday began with breakfast at the famous Hukilau Cafe where Keara and I split french toast and BANANA PANCAKES. It was so freaking good, we ate it on the sidewalk outside, we were all dying with how delicious it was! We then made our way to Pearl Harbor which was super cool. We got there a bit early to watch the USS Arizona memorial video, so we got to walk around and read some of the plaques for awhile. Eventually, we all loaded up on a boat to the memorial which is built over the Arizona in the harbor. It was very sombering and beautiful. I really enjoyed it and couldn't help but take my hat off while in the memorial.

The Memorial over the USS Arizona

The oil spots are from the Arizona, where she still leaks after 72 years.
We followed Pearl Harbor with a hike up to Manuwili Falls. This was a legitimately jungle hike through actual mud haha. We all had brown socks and shoes on by the time we made it to the falls, which was this gorgeous little deep pool where you could climb the sides of the mountain and jump in. Not to brag, but I was one of three people to jump from the tippy tippy top, which was about 65 feet high as well! I have no clue where the desire to jump off of things came from on this trip haha. I loved it, though. We all had dinner in a strip mall in Honolulu where I went to Aloha Salads. It was delicious and hit the spot after all the crap we'd been eating!
The beginning of Manuwili

It was a jungle. So cool.

SIDE STORY: So in high school, there was this gorgeous Samoan girl named Bekah that was great friends with all of my best friends. I knew she was adorable, crazy sweet, and absolutely hilarious, but we never really hung out or anything. She now lives in Laie with her wonderful mom, and I got in touch with her when we were planning the trip and we planned to meet up! We tried so hard all week to see each other, but couldn't until Wednesday morning at 3 am haha, when about five of us plus her all went up to Stairway to Heaven. It was SO GREAT to see her!!! You know those people that even if you haven't seen them or spent time with them in years, even when you weren't more than acquaintances before, you just KNOW that you'll always be there for each other? Haha that sounds so stupid. But seriously. I just have so much love for her and miss her even though we only hung out twice the whole week. She is an amazing person, one of the greatest that I know in this life. I'm so grateful that we're friends. :) 

So anyways. At 3 am, we set out to hike the great fabled Stairway. It was kind of tough getting there, I threw a fit when I thought we weren't going haha, but we got there and stumbled around in the darkness until we got to the staircase in the middle of the forest with handrails along the whole thing. 4,000 steps later, we were literally in the clouds, nothing but fog and mist around us at the abandoned radar tower. We were able to make it back down to the first platform to watch the sunrise and take a million pictures. It was so amazing, definitely a hard hike, but so very, very worth it. 

I got some pretty decent gashes, I slipped between two stairs haha.

"Up, up, up the stairs!" - Gollum

Seriously, how cute is she.

It's illegal, which is why we had to do it so early; guards get there as early as 6 am 

Around 8, our six membered group got home while the rest of the group went to the swap meet in Honolulu. We recuperated from the hike and went to hang out at a beach called Castles where Bekah had let us borrow her surfboard to try out surfing. Her board is one for people who are really good, it was only like six feet long, where the one I had gotten a big head about how good I was on was about ten feet long haha. Turns out, it's a LOT harder on short boards. I tried for a very long time, but eventually was haggardly washed ashore like Edmund Dantes. It was an absolute blast haha! I also got to see a couple huge sea turtles while trying to catch some good waves, I'd look over and they'd just be derpin around. So cool.
After awhile, we met up with the rest of our group at Pipeline maybe? Anyways, we hung out at beaches and just cruised. 

We all went home to get ready for the POLYNESIAN CULTURAL CENTER! Bekah and her mom seriously hooked us up, saving us about 500 dollars. 12 of us went to the Samoan luau and then the night show. Bekah works there, so it was great to see her again, and her sweet mom met us there to have dinner with us. She was absolutely delightful, and I do not use the word lightly. So hilarious and adorable. I want her in my pocket always to just lift me up whenever I need it. The dinner was delicious and the display amazing. The women were so beautiful and the men just disgustingly gorgeous. Auntie Fia (Bekah's mom) leaned over while they were doing their clap dance and told me all of them but the tattooed one was single and winked. :) The show was beautiful and we were all exhausted when it was time to go home. We stopped to look at the Temple that night and decided that those of us not going skydiving the next morning would go try to do baptisms.

I just loved this tree behind the Temple. Gorgeous.

Thursday began with skydiving for about half of the group with nothing but money on their hands, while my half, the more righteous half, went to the Temple. :) Haha we were all jealous of each other because both activities were wonderful. We were able to do baptisms and Aaron performed while Ben was a witness. It was crazy cool, and the Temple workers so sweet and hugged each of us. We had a wonderful time. Then we snuck in another visit to the Hukilau Cafe because we needed more banana pancakes. :)

We went back to Castles beach to play in the waves and catch crabs* while we waited for the skydiving gang to get back, and then we went and met up at Matsumoto's again. (*incorrect use of an asterisk but whatever. So there were these little white crabs that everyone had gone hunting for the night before after the PCC, but I had fallen asleep in the van and missed it haha, so Ben showed me how to find them in the day, and turns out THEY'RE EVERYWHERE! Like little white spiders, once I saw one, they were seriously all over the place. I held one. It might have died. We gave it a proper burial out to sea or maybe it was just playing dead and we encouraged it to swim. Anyways.) Waimea was visited again (it was our favorite) and we swam our little hearts out, getting yelled at my lifeguards for the third time for being in currents and going too far. Glad they got our backs. :) We went over to Haleiwa river and bay to rent paddleboards and paddled up the river to see many many sea turtles, and back down into the bay to watch the sunset. It was a perfect last night on the North Shore. :)

Castles Beach! Photo cred: Megan

Baby crab!! Photo cred: Megan

Bekah met up with us again that night after we had dinner at Seven Brothers (an extension of Kanuku Grill, I got the Shem burger: smothered in guacamole, bacon, and cheese. Soooooo goood. And those fries. Ugh. ), and we had a fire just off of Hukilau Beach. It was so wonderful. And the girls may or may not have gone skinny dipping. But I don't remember, so maybe not, mom and dad. But if we had, it was probably super safe and guarded and fun and worth it and I'm not endowed so it's fine, right? All hypothetical, of course. :)

Photo Credit to Bekah

Exhausted, we packed and got ready to be out the door at 5:30 am to catch our flight in Honolulu.

But wait. At 9, when the plane was supposed to leave, it was broken somehow. Something with the left engine or it wouldn't turn or something or other. So off we went. A few hours (and 16 bucks of airport food vouchers) later, we got back on.

But wait. At 2, it did the exact same thing. So we got off the plane and they finally announced that the next flight was scheduled for the next day, Saturday, at 8 am. They then handed us hotel vouchers to the beachside FIVE STAR HILTON HAWAII VILLAGE HOTEL and we blissfully left the horrible place called the airport. 

This hotel was gorgeous, literally built a few hundred yards from the shoreline. We walked around the shops, listened to the live music, and finally settled into the fourth floor outdoor hot tub overlooking the sunset. Ben and Benji then caught up with us and announced that the hotel had run out of rooms, so in trying to accommodate them, they received the PRESIDENTIAL SUITE. Since it was Friday night, there was going to be a firework show on the beach, so we decided to order pizza to said presidential suite and just live the life of Barack.

Sunset from the beach at the Hotel, the building on the right corner is where the Suite was, the fireworks were directly next to us! Photo cred to Megan!

The hot tub, looking towards the ocean

Crappy pictures of not crappy housing (we looked into it, it was like 1,500 bucks a night)

it. was. ridiculous.
literally. truly. thoroughly.
This room was huge and beautiful. With three different balconies to watch the fireworks from, which happened to be pretty much right next to us. It was so unreal. We loved every single second. It had turned into the absolute greatest case scenario. We had received an extra day in paradise for free. We had giant beds, (we still had to share but they were huge and divinely comfy), air conditioning, and best of all, CLEAN and DRY towels. It was sublime, to say the absolute least.

The next day, we were off by 8 am. Zero problems from the plane and munching on another 16 dollars worth of airport food for free. :)

Needless to say, we were spoiled beyond belief. And I absolutely loved every single second. Even the stressful ones. :)

So there are so many other pictures taken by others in our group I want to have documented, too, so until the rest of the gang gets theirs up, I'm going to just put up some of Lindsey's. She had a whole slew of them so I'm just giving her the photo cred up front and posting all of them for everyone to admire her talent and diligence in capturing moments!

Hanauma Bay

We were so close to the sea turtle!

Sorry for the cleav, but sometimes, it's just inevitable unless I put putty down there.

Me and Lindlar. She's so cool.

The view from one of the Hilton's towers at sunset, the building with the rainbow is the one where the Presidential Suite was

The nighttime view from the Hilton Presidential Suite, that's the beach to the right, the fireworks were directly to our right

The top of Kokohead looking down the dreaded stairs

But the view atop Kokohead was very worth it, that's Waikiki in the distance

Linds doing a backflip into the Manawili Falls, the high jump we jumped off is higher than this, to the right

Manawili Falls and some gals we didn't know, just showin off their bods

The whole gang at Manawili 

Paddleboarding was amazing

Paddleboard sittin outside of the Bay.

This is Hali jumping off the Spitting Caves, she's in blue falling. I just thought it was a sweet picture for perspective. :)

Me leaping into spitting caves

The gang minus Bekah at the top cloudy platform of Stairway to Heaven (observe thick fog)