Eleven and a half months to travel from Toronto to Tasmania, and two weeks to get back home. Every great journey has an end, and we boarded the plane that pointed towards home with a mixture of sadness and exhilaration.
But the world was not done with us yet. There was still a week of exploring the Big Island in Hawaii ahead of us, and after a year of dodging disasters such as earthquakes, floods, and heatwaves, it seemed we might have to deal with a rare Hawaiian hurricane.
Luck was still on our side, at least a bit. Hurricane Hilda, a category four storm, weakened as it approached the Big Island and veered to the south. No hurricane, but a lot of rain, especially on the rainy side of the island where we had rented a place to stay!
Our first reunion: Nancy’s mom, Jeannine, arrived at Honolulu airport a couple of hours after our flight.
After a night in Waikiki, we caught a shuttle flight to the Big Island and spent a happy, if not slightly wet, week catching up on stories, poking around lava tubes, walking around the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, swimming in the ocean, and (one of the highlights of the trip) snorkelling with manta rays.
At the national park, we stopped to take in a mele and hula performance, performed by a group working to restore and preserve traditional culture.
It was about the time that we saw the signs for Spam sushi that the contrast between Hawai’i and Bali began to seep in. Each island originally had strong indigenous cultures but of the two Bali has thus far, to our eyes at least, been far more successful in retaining its traditions and practices.
Our Hawaiian highlight was another snorkelling trip, but this one was different. The story goes that a few years back the Sheraton Hotel put up floodlights so their guests could look out over the ocean as they dined, but they noticed a strange phenomenon. The lights attracted plankton, which in turn attracted manta rays, and thus a new tourist business was born. Go out after dark, strap lights to a raft, have people float on the edge, and watch the show. The sight of a manta ray gliding upside down inches from your face is unforgettable. Oh, for a GoPro, but we will have to settle for a You Tube video.
On our last days back on Waikiki, we had a final dinner with Jeannine, and on the next day we toured the USS Battleship Missouri and Pacific Aviation Museum at Pearl Harbour.
And then, finally, the last flights back home, where we were greeted at the airport by my parents and brother. A week in Cobourg, and then back to Toronto, and all of a sudden a year of intense travel is all just a set of memories.
But what memories!