Six weeks on gorgeous tropical islands, no plans at all and an open schedule; total freedom on a tight budget. After a super smooth start, hitchhiking from Central Oregon to Canada, it seemed like a dream come true. But everything comes with a price. Having the picture-perfect holiday on Hawaii, while spending no money, turned out to be wishful thinking.
Let me introduce the gang again real quick:
Already exhausted, after a sleepless night at the airport in Vancouver and a bad Canadian Oktoberfest the previous evening, Sarah and me arrive in Hawaii (Big Island).
We have some more time to kill, before Basti turns up in the afternoon from Seattle. Unfortunately the one (and only) available public transportation, a small school bus, is scheduled only two times each day. Of course we have just missed the evening shuttle about a few minutes.
We decide to walk out of the airport complex to camp on a close by beach. With heavy packs on our backs and thongs on our feet we start hiking. Our halfhearted attempts to hitchhike while walking are only answered by pitying smirks. Naturally, the airport was build in the middle of nowhere, so our little scramble turns into a devastating hike… Soon I realize that I have gotten some blisters on my feet already. Why did I buy these new trail-running shoes again?
After an hour (perceived at least two) we arrive on a little beach. About five by five square meters of sand, the only point of interest is a little sign that reads: “NO CAMPING” Hoping that the ranger is not doing any overtime this night, we put up our tents anyways and fall into a deep sleep. At least Basti and me… Sarah, who is trying to sleep next to me, is not used to being so exposed to the “horrors of the night” and struggles to come to rest.
Briefly after sunrise, a group of mystic seniors turns up to whisper and mumble shady incantations. Sitting around our tents with their camping chairs and sunshades, they let us know that camping is prohibited on this beach and that we should leave (before they put some evil spells on us). They don’t need much convincing, we’re outta here!
Once back on the highway, we start regular hitchhiking again and it doesn’t take long to get a ride into Kona, the closest bigger town. We load up with supplies for a few days and conspire about the best way to spend these in the godsend complimentary McDonalds Wi-Fi. (No loitering please!)
We decide to try our luck around the place of refugee (Pu`uhonua O Hōnaunau), where ancient Hawaiians could find sanctuary after breaking the sacred kapu laws. These guys didn’t mess around. Whatever law you broke, the penalty was always death. The only option of survival was to elude your pursuers and reach the nearest puuhonua, or place of refuge. Hoping to find some rest and peace ourselves, we take a public bus, direction south…
After touring around Kona for about an hour going back and forth and forth and back, we ultimately arrive at the terminus: bumfuck nowhere! There are no buses going further south until the evening. Luckily we quickly manage to catch a ride and get dropped off right outside the place of refuge.
Taking a hike towards the boundaries of the State Park, we trek through a prehistoric overgrown trail, which definitely hasn’t seen many hiking boots in a while. While the park boundaries are quickly crossed, the following lava fields are not! Slow but steady we get roasted by the ungracious sun.
After a while the lava fields and our odyssey stop with us realizing that we have reached private land. Amazing! We have just walked through the whole State Park to end up in someone’s garden… Damn you Google Maps!! At least there is a nice beach close by. We enjoy the soft white sand and even think about camping until the unkind private landowners kick us out. It’s not easy to be a hobo around here…
We retreat into the sharp and rocky shores towards the place of refuge again to find some nice pools close to the roaring ocean. Sitting in between a few dozen crabs we try to relax while big waves splash over the cliffs behind us. I have serious sunburn by now. I guess I was wrong, thinking that my skin was prepared for Hawaii after traveling around Central America.
The next day we make our way to Whittington Beach, where we indulge in the luxuries of a flush toilet and cold-water showers! We meet Randy, who comes here to catch some fish for his aquarium. He shows us around the area a bit and drops Sarah and me off at a pharmacy to get something for my newly developed athlete’s foot. As it seems, my feet didn’t like hiking around in tropical conditions and stinking socks too much. At the same time my former ear infection comes back after snorkeling for the first time on Hawaii. Come on travel gods, give me a break!
In the next morning Randy is back in the camp with some apples, fresh coffee, milk and cereals. What a guy! He definitely makes our day, before it even gets started. Together we drive up to South Point, the southernmost point of the United States, where Basti and me jump from the cliffs into the sea. Feeling like heroes, we are called back to earth soon, when we see a crazy swizz guy jumping into one of the large blowholes just to get sucked back into the ocean unharmed.
Randy continues his tour to show us another beach and how to eat some wild clams from the shores. Because my ear is getting worse, we drive to a little hospital to get a doctor to look at it. I will have to keep my ears (and feet) dry in the next few weeks and use different products to cure all my booboos.
In the Volcanoes National Park we get an interesting ride with Kevin McClung from Mad Dog Knives and his wife, who are on the Big Island to celebrate their honeymoon.
In the night we watch the active volcano glowing red in the night sky from our camp within the park.
In the next morning we hitchhike to Hilo, while crazy people from all over the world take part in the Ironman World Championship on the other side of the island. Rick, who drives us to Hilo, invites us to a delicious burger in town before dropping us off in the center. We stay in the Wild Ginger Hostel for one night, before continuing up north in the next day. Unfortunately another stop in the hospital is necessary for me to get different eardrops and an antibiotic for my ears.
Just north of Hilo we find the beautiful Hakalau Beach Park, where the lawns are mowed and camping is tolerated. We stay a couple of days to regenerate. Surfers ride waves into the river mouth underneath the old bridge high above the park. Skipper, who is taking care of the park, is supplying us with breadfruits and fresh water while we enjoy this little piece of heaven.
One day we take a bus back to Kona. Some guys from Youth With A Mission put their hands on my ear and pray with us for a quick healing. Obviously everything is about to get better! We sleep our last night in the lava fields right next to the airport, with planes roaring over our heads and cockroaches running in circles around our camp. On the 15th of October we take a plane out of Kona. Maui, please be gentle with us!