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April 10, 2013

Well, I was right, 3:30 am rolled around and so did I. I was certainly a bit restless for the next two hours. I finally got up at 5:30 and went down to the coffee shop just before 6. It wasn’t open…hmmm. Then I remembered I needed to geocache! I’ve cached in every state but Hawaii and Alaska. According to my app, there was one hidden less than a quarter of a mile away from my hotel and across from the park.

The hint for the cache suggested to walk down the stairs and to look for the water pond. I thought that was the nice way of describing the homeless person’s pee pond I found at first. As I was snooping around in the dark, the street cleaner dude was looking at me like I was a nut. I had to explain the game. Then I realized there was a fountain 20 yards away and there really was a “water pond”. It was a good hide, though I would have liked it better had I been saved from finding the pee puddle! Maybe the GPS needs to be re-calibrated on my phone :-).

The coffee shop was open by the time I finished. I grabbed something to tide me over and waited for my tour to Pearl Harbor. I waited for thirty minutes before I finally called! Well, the tour was at 6:30, but the pick up time was 5:50. It would have been nice if that were printed on my confirmation! They said they called me…nope…so they refunded my ticket.

I didn’t lose too much sleep over it. I was a little worried about making it back to the hotel and then the airport for a 2 o’clock international flight with the tour ending at 11:30, not including drop off times. I’d rather be in Palau than commercialized Oahu! United wasn’t letting me check in online despite my passport information being entered in my reservation, I wasn’t familiar with the airport, and in my experience island time is different from all other time in the world….much slower…so perhaps subconsciously I missed the tour on purpose, so I could relax on the beach!

Relax on the beach I did! I followed part of the Waikiki Historic Trail which passes along the deck of the Ilikai to a boardwalk, around a lagoon, and to a tourist beach. Then I turned to the right and found a little area where the locals cook out and surf. Before I selected my spot here, I checked out all the sailboats at the piers. The harbor was what used to be the mouth of the Pi’inaio River where men and women in early times used to fish. It was so muddy and there were so many tributaries here, that the locals could catch many types of sea life in Kalia Bay. Appropriately, the word Ilikai means Surface of the Sea.

After a few hours of sunbathing, while watching some surfers on three-foot waves, long boarders paddling in shallow aqua waters, and even a bride and groom “to be” posing for wedding photos in the sand, I opted for a cab back to the airport. It was a peaceful time on the beach and worth the $20 extra to skip any unknown shuttle stops and wait times to take a cab. Not to mention, the cabbie filled me in on a tip to see Pearl Harbor should I return…hop the city bus directly from the airport. These are the options are not available on the official Pearl Harbor website….just being able to buy a simple ticket. Each option includes some sort of tour, and I had to dig for the cheapest option $40. So yes, including the experiences from yesterday, I have determined that Hawaii likes to take advantage of its visitors. I met some really nice people, but it’s a shame how many people prey on those who support their livelihood. It seems, in some cases, tourism has ruined the natural beauty and culture of Hawaii. Oh well, there are other islands to visit…like Palau!

Speaking of Palau, I haven’t been thoroughly impressed with United’s effort to get me there. If they weren’t the only US airline that offers service to Koror, Palau, I would have picked another carrier. I think Ellen and Gary would have picked another airline too! I met them on the plane in Hawaii. At first, I couldn’t find them. They were in Business class while I was riding in the back of the bus, so I texted “where r u?” as I thought they would be on the plane before me. And they replied every plane they had been on so far had a mechanical difficulty. I wonder why? I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a credit card phone on a plane. While I do like their consistent water/juice service, I think what got me the most was the lady guarding the line at the check in counter in Honolulu. I passed by the agricultural line meant for any passenger bound for the US mainland to have their bag checked for fruits and vegetables. She watched me do this and was ready to send me back when she asked, “Where are you traveling?” I answered, “Palau”. Then she asked, “Are you checking a bag?” I responded, “No”. She stepped aside to let me through and then she says, “You’re Welcome.” Really? I didn’t ask any questions or need any help. Was I supposed to thank her for being a nuisance while blocking me from the ticket counter? Once I got to the front of the line, they told me to use a kiosk. I felt like I was back in Argentina, not allowed to speak to a human. I used the kiosk per their direction, and after scanning my passport and confirming its accuracy, a giant exclamation mark appears on the screen and below a statement read “Requires assistance from a United employee”. Duh…I knew this from my attempt to check in online, but instead I was like a walking pawn in an automated phone system. Live people at my finger tips, but unavailable to speak with. It’s no wonder airline complaints jumped 20% last year!

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The first security check point I went to was closed, despite five TSA agents standing there. Is this part of the sequester. Do they get paid half-time sitting there doing nothing? OK, enough of my cynicism…it’s just a long way to get this party started. I’m ready to kayak, snorkel and hike, even if the forecast does call for rain! We finally arrived at the resort in Palau around 9:30 pm after connecting in Guam. We were all surprised by the Guam airport. We didn’t have time to browse, but it was lovely. Palau is 15 hours ahead, Hawaii was four hours behind. Needless to say, the time change has been confusing and we all went to bed! ETB

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