The Long Leg Home

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The very last trip – the train from Cobourg to Toronto

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.

HildaBut 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.

First lesson in trip stories: don't all speak at once

First lesson in trip stories: don’t all speak at once

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.

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Checking out the sunny, sandy beaches

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Frustrations of a rainy day: possibly the worst rack of tiles ever in Rummikub

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The view of the Mauna Loa crater

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The lava flows cover much of the island, stretching down to the ocean

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Inside a lava tube

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.

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spam-musubiIt 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.

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On Mauna Kea, where we came across the rare and endangered Silversword plant that can grow for up to forty years before flowering. No wonder it’s rare.

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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.

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The island lights in the evening

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Before diving. Eva puts on a brave face, despite being seasick.

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After diving…

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.

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On the beach in Waikiki

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A poster at the gift store. War, brought to you by…

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On the deck

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The Instrument of Surrender with Japan and the Allies. Look closely and you will see where the Canadian representative signed on the wrong line. They had to amend the document from there down.

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An operations room inside the Missouri, looking similar to the rooms we saw in the bunker in Ho Chi Minh City

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The Pacific Aviation Museum

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On the bus ride back to the hotel: homeless people on the streets, reminiscent of the roadside shacks we saw in India

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.

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One year later – older and wiser!

Leaving, on a jet plane. Be back in 365 days.

September 2014

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But what memories!

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3 thoughts on “The Long Leg Home

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