Mur’s First Impression of Waikiki

This is the place. The place most people consider the ideal holiday destination. And, most of the traveling public are here. There seem to be a lot of different types of tourists here. They are obvious by what they wear, how they are reacting to their surroundings, how big their eyes are.          .

Some folks have been here dozens of times. It may be in fact the ONLY place they have ever taken a vacation. They have seen the place grow and change for the last 20 years. It changes relatively slowly so unless they search their memory from the first time they were here they might not be conscious of the different surroundings.

There are people that have always dreamed of the prefect vacation and that would be in Hawaii and where more iconic than Waikiki.  There was a fellow on the plane yesterday coming to Waikiki to celebrate his 50th birthday. From their level of excitement I don’t think they had ever set foot out of TO. For the most part this group of holidayers wander around completely overwhelmed by what is going on around them.

Young people are here to make the ‘scene’, account for another hefty section of the vacationers. I’m not a nightlife person any more so I can’t say for certain but wandering around today there seems to be sufficient number of bars to keep all that are here occupied until early morning.

It is Saturday and the waterfront has a goodly number of locals taking advantage of a day off to enjoy one of the main reasons for living on the island, the ocean. Several of the public picnic tables were occupied by 8am and the BBQ’s  were being fired up ready for the crowd to arrive for lunch.

It seems to be an easy place to bring kids. There were a lot of kids on the plane yesterday and the beaches and promanade are crawling with families with young children. The water here is not too rough and even though kids still require minding it is not like some places where a single wave could scoop up a child and wash them out to sea. There are plenty of ice cream shops placed just far enough apart you could make it most of the way along the ‘boardwalk’ by coaxing the kids from shop to shop.

What all this makes for is a highrise jungle the length of the beach. There are few building less than 20 stories but not many. The streets don’t seem to be too crowded but the sidewalks are overflowing. Not like, say, Hong Kong where it is hard to find 6 square inches of space to walk on, everyone there walks with purpose and it is quite organized. Here the walkers are in a vaction haze, there is little convention, sometimes you pass on the right, sometimes on the left, sometimes you have to move over, other times the folks coming towards us make the adjustment. There is an abundance of places to eat, none of them cheap. People are here on vacation and they have to eat so the prices reflect that fact.

It’s not really my kind of place to travel to but it is not the worst place I have ever been either. It is good place to stop mid Pacific to break up the flight to the Southern Hemisphere. We have just over 24 hours here. We had an alright sleep last night even though it was off our body rhythm. This morning we walked along the entire length of the beach and then had a good swim in the ocean parallel to the beach where the local triathalons are held. And to keep our minds occupied while swimming the local government provides saltwater fish to watch. Saw several humuhumunukunukuapua’a, Hawaii’s state fish, a spotted box fish, a few needle fish, and the highlight, a very calm, cool and collected turtle swimming about 2 feet underneath us.

Easy place to have a holiday. Everything a person could need while taking a break from the day to day at home. Just not much of departure from what our western world has to offer so maybe not so much from which one can add to their worldly knowledge.

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And We’re Off

Today we round the first corner. Everything goes smooth.

Yesterday when I tried to check in on line there was a question. ‘Are you traveling with any of the dangerous goods listed?’ Listed is lithium batteries. I, trying to be legit, answered yes. There is not a person alive who does not have lithium batteries these days. This of course, if everyone reads the message and answers honestly, preempts any possibility of checking in early because as soon as one answers, yes, a screen comes up and says you have to check in at the desk, throwing things back in time and making for the possibility of horrendous line ups at the airline desk.

We dutifully show up at the desk as prescribed. Weird, we are the first and only people in line. I ask the lady about the lithium battery thing and she says ‘Oh, just answer No to that question. It is for folks that don’t know that lithium batteries can only be in a carry on and for people that don’t understand the difference between a computer battery and a construction tool battery.’ I’m a bit puzzled as it was a phone battery that caused a fire on a plane a few weeks ago. BUT from now on we are not carrying any dangerous goods as listed.

Security, no line; plane, on time; US security, zip; US customs, super guy; plane, as noted on the boarding pass; taxi, there and waiting for as ordered; hotel, all in order.

We sit on the 14th floor of the Ramada Plaza in Waikiki waiting for the sun to come up.


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Almost Gone!

We let out our held breath on Tuesday afternoon when our duffel bag arrived. It gets unpacked from its box and then packed up with all our dive gear and travel “stuff”. We get everything into the duffel and the one wheeled suitcase, that we will be checking. We are right on the weight limits, so we may be holding our breath again when we check into Fiji Airways for our domestic flight to Kadavu Island.

Yesterday there was an article in our local newspaper about a cyclone hitting Fiji. Floods! Deaths! Washed out roads! Flooded cities! Oh my!

We know that sometimes the news doesn’t tell the whole picture, and maybe the news gets sensationalized. We decide to email our resort contact to see if the resort is operational and whether we can still get to it.

An email arrives today saying that it is 100% operational and it was only a “big blow” of a storm. They did not dive for one day and at that moment, the guests were enjoying supper on the veranda. The divers that day said that the visibility was low, but they saw so many seahorses they lost count. I think we will be okay.

We are packed and only the last minute items need to be done before we are off tomorrow. See you on the other side.

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Luggage Woes

A “city” visit with our son and daughter-in-law in Australia is causing us to take a few more clothes on this trip than we would if we were just going on a scuba diving only trip. Add a present or two for the displaced Canadians, and we decide to forego the “carry on only” rule of travel.

As we start to pile dive gear, clothes and all that other stuff that goes with traveling, we discuss luggage and decide to use my somewhat larger carry on wheeled bag and an old bag from Murray’s mom that is a regular sized wheeled suitcase. We do a test pack early on and it looks like these two bags will work. The piles on the floor, unfortunately, get bigger the closer to departure date we get.

Last Thursday, I have an itch to do the final pack. I empty the bags and slowly pack them again, filling in all the small crevices. The bags are pretty much full and there are still items on the floor. I call Murray for a consultation and we decide to weigh the bags. The large bag comes in at 37 lbs, the small one at 30 lbs. We are in trouble.

Why are we in trouble? We are flying on two small airlines, one in Fiji and one in the Solomon Islands. The weight limit for checked bags on the one is 33 lbs and the other is 35 lbs. and we have heard that Fiji Airways is very picky about weight limits. So, we are in trouble.

Okay, now what? I decide to sort the items into “what MUST go” (dive gear) and “what could be left behind” (clothes!) so I expand the mess into the living room. I get most stuff out of the big suitcase and suddenly decide to weigh the suitcase. On our scale, it weighs almost 10 lbs! Yikes! We are using up valuable weigh limit room for the suitcase!!!

Onto the web I go to see if I can find a wheeled suitcase that is lighter than 10 lbs. Nope. They all weigh between 8 and 10 lbs and the cost of a new suitcase for a couple of pounds isn’t good enough. Wait a minute! What about a duffel bag? BINGO!

Now Murray gets into the hunt too. We find a Thule duffel bag that weighs around 4 pounds, which will give us about 6 lbs of weight, and will give us an extra 10 litres of volume. Unfortunately, we cannot find one in Edmonton, so we take a deep breath and order it on Amazon Prime to get it shipped within 2 days which will hopefully be tomorrow, Easter Monday.

We are holding our breath until the duffel arrives.


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We are two weeks away from what I call our grand tour of the South Pacific. Edmonton to Honolulu to Fiji to the Gold Coast, Australia to Solomon Islands back to Fiji then Honolulu then home. Seven and a half weeks away. That will be the longest trip we have been on. I wonder if we will even want to come home?

Our first stop for a night and a half is Oahu. I wrote awhile back about my love affair with this island and am excited to go back after a 9 year hiatus. I want to take Murray for a long walk down the beach, body surfing in the gentle waves, swimming in the lagoon and eating sushi for every meal. I have warned him not to look at all the tall hotels and the thousands of people. Just look out to the water.

Flying to Hawaii in the early 60’s

We had an option of flying to Fiji through Los Angeles or Honolulu. The flight is split more evenly through Honolulu, and if given the choice, wouldn’t you rather spend a night in paradise rather than a big bustling noisy smelly city?

Our flight to Fiji leaves Honolulu at 3:00 am. Who does that? So, after arriving in Honolulu at 9:30 pm, we opted to spend a day walking the beach rather than staying in transit.

I am excited about returning to Waikiki and I hope Murray will share my enthusiasm for my love affair with this paradise.

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David Henry Lodge March 2 to 7, 2018


Snowing. And snowing more. The heli should fly but we are waiting to see. There are only 7 of us and it will take 2 flights to get us in.

It’s a go and as we fly up the creek the snow abates. The flight is smooth.

Brian is at the lodge to meet us. Very laid back lodge intro. Most of us have been here before and know the routine.

We unpack, make and eat lunch, skin up and head to the uptrack. Powder Pig Bowl is our destination. All 7 of us are headed for the same place. The uptrack is a bit odd. The fellows at the lodge prior to us had set it before it snowed. It is easier to follow set tracks than to set new ones even if they are not very good ones. One of the backcountry rules is don’t follow set tracks blindly and we find ourselves stomping out our own path on a few occasions. On the way up we are all talking about how supportive the snow pack is. The avalanche danger is ‘considerable’ top to bottom so we are paying close attention to what we are walking on and how the snow is reacting.

David Henry Lodge

On the uptrack across a meadow

Staring us in the face as we approach the top of the climb is an untouched slope with a perfect pitch for us to make the first turns of the week. Debbie, our least experienced skier, should have no trouble negotiating what we chose as our first stop.

David Henry Lodge

J skiing Powder Pig Bowl

The snow is almost boot top deep, silky smooth and easy to ski. Debbie skis the entire slope without stopping and her turns are great. Not a long run but worth every step of the uptrack.


Different crew we are bunking with. J & I are early risers, 6am seems to our time. No alarm necessary.  At most of our other lodge experiences he and I sit quietly and read or look at the iPad for an hour and a half without being interrupted by anything. Breakfast is at 8am and the lodge comes alive at 7.55.

David Henry Lodge

With this group, J and I are up at 6 and have at least 15 minutes or peace before G is up hunting down a cup of coffee. B wanders through on his way to the pee hole and J arises because he needs dark to sleep and there are no curtains on the windows of the sleep loft. The quiet mornings we are used to are no longer that way. Debbie and S refuse to compromise their sleep time and get up at 7 or a little after.

The ski day works out quite well. Everyone involved is capable of skiing a variety of slopes. The entire group of 7 participates in the first couple of runs, then a group of 3 peals off knowing their gas reserves are depleted and they head to the cabin. The remaining 4 of us spend the afternoon yo-yoing the same slope and the ones adjacent.

Another change we made this trip is to make supper early and skip the 4pm snack. None of us need the extra calories and eating earlier makes for better sleeping. This lodge lacks a ‘living room’ so in the evenings we sit at the kitchen table and chaw. The stories run rampant. The group is quite knowledgeable so most of the stories are based on some sort of fact. The ones responsible for dinner also do dessert and it shows up after a bit of a repose from dinner. By 9pm the lower floor is clear, everyone is tucked into their sleeping bags and it is quiet. I guess I will have to adjust my quiet time activities to the evening.

David Henry Lodge


We have a big day planned and Debbie leaves with the first group. We are on an adventure. None of us have ever been to Miner’s Bowl and it is high time we ski it. We have a general idea how to reach our destination but as always in the backcountry there is now a sidewalk. We are again following an up track set by folks we have now come to realize as not very talented route finders, so we are leery every step of the way. At one point we abandon the set track completely and branch out on our own. This requires exploration and a few back tracks on our own route. Eventually we make it around the end of the ridge and the vision of the bowl with a abundance of ski-able slopes appears before us.

We find a spot to ski a few turns and skin back up and do it again. We get 4 runs in and it is time to head home. Another big part of any backcountry adventure is finding a route back. Bushwhacking is often part of it. Two of the five adventurers skin back up to do a couple more runs and three head back. J, Debbie and I find a nice slope to start our return journey. From a good start, our descent deteriorates quickly. Any instance of a ski-able glade disappears and the terrain gets steep. OK for J and I but Debbie is not very experienced and we had to do a lot of hill traversing (and wiping out!) to find suitable corridors. Eventually the slope pans out and the skiing gets easier, and after some nice turns in open glades, we reach the lake and the flat terrain that will get us to the cabin.

David Henry Lodge

Skiing is my ultimate reason for heading into the backcountry but in order to find good skiing the occasional ‘adventure’ into uncharted territory is required. Usually a lot of energy is expended in pursuit of new skiing areas. Today was not overly difficult and we did find areas to ski we had not been to before. After getting there once we think we would use a different route to get there next time, it would be safer and require a lot less output. All in all we had a good day and Debbie notched up a big step in the backcountry skiing experience.

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Last Two Days

The last two days have been overcast with light snow falling intermittently. The avalanche risk is still considerable, so we ski the trees.

I am getting better at picking my own routes through the trees but can only plan so far and then have to stop and review the upcoming terrain and plot a new route. I occasionally do my panic thing and end up laying in the white stuff waiting for Murray to ski down to fish me out.

Murray has been searching for the good snow and makes extra runs with a couple of the others after I head back to the lodge. Today they discover some great snow just above the lodge off to one side.

I look at a map that has the number of feet of the climbs up to the tops of the mountains.  Mista Vista is a climb up a 150 story building, Heather Ridge is a 100 story building and Mohawk is a 70 story building. Ouch!  Today I climbed up three quarters of Heather Ridge twice today, no wonder my legs are tired at the end of the day!

We have finished skiing for the week and I think everyone has had a great time. Great food, great skiing and great company. We are already talking about next year.

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2 cloud day

Suppose to be an easy day today. Take a trip up to the treeline on Heather Ridge and another trip through the trees for Debbie. She needs a bit more experience to believe she can do it. Oh my, what a gorgeous day. The sky is so blue and so clear. At treeline there is a discussion. Three of us are headed to Mista Vista. Yesterday, C had set a track to the top and it was mostly blown in with snow but it is easier to follow the bits and pieces of the track than break our own trail. M, Debbie and I trudge up. All the way up the snow seems unpredictable. There is 6 or 8 inches of new unaffected snow on top of a fairly but not completely supportive layer. Every tenth step or so I break through.

mistata lodge

It is way more climbing than we had planned but if we are going to get a view from a higher vantage point today is the day.

Top of Mista Vista

Top of Mista Vista

The white mountains with the sky blue back drop is stunning. The sun is out and the heat gain from it is significant. Although it would be a good lunch spot it is a might chilly with the wind.

Skins off, zippers zipped, poles shortened, boots locked into ski mode and down we go. Damn the skiing is great. The snow is fast enough for the gentle slope and turns are easy to make. There are 3 grins as wide as the face they are on. At treeline we stop and find a place in the sun for lunch. It is warm for a winter day but we still have to don extra clothing to avoid getting chilled. It is always amazing, we eat lunch with a million dollar view and we did not have to tip the waiter to get a table at the window.

mistaya lodge

The trees await. Debbie has a little apprehension about the first few turns but after one or two her concentration turns to where the next one will be and progression down happens quite quickly. One kurplunk in the snow and we are at the bottom. This is a rest day and Debbie heads to the lodge. M and I go for one more lap in search of an opening in the cliff band that faces the lodge.

We use the same up track we used this morning so travel is easy. A few extra vertical added to the top of the track and we manage a few more good turns above the treeline. We follow the cliff line to where we thought we should be and we were one gap to far. Six or eight turns and it is our turn to head home.

Short day? I guess so, somehow the skiing is a draw that cannot be passed up. We come home tired again.


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Skiing the Trees

The avalanche danger is quite high, so we ski the trees today. The combination of the slope and the trees make that type of terrain safer when avalanche conditions are like they are.

Murray, T and I hike the up track to Heather Ridge, but we do not go above treeline. Once the trees thin out, we stop and take our skins off our skis. I have not skied the trees here and am a little nervous. The trees lower down on the slope look awfully close together, but both T and Murray tell me I can do this.

Here we go! The snow is very thick and the lack of slope makes for a slow ski down. I panic and fall a few times, but I manage to navigate my way down and get used to skiing the white spaces in between the trees. “Don’t look at the trees!” is the rule. The trees are not  too close together after all.

Mistaya lodge

We come out of the trees at the lake in front of the lodge. A walk around part of the lake and across a meadow, and we are on the up track of Red Cliff.

The runs are steeper here and the wipe outs more numerous. I think I need lunch! We stop for a quick lunch and Murray skis off to find our other group and ski a run called ‘shoom room’. T and I find our up track and ski a less challenging run on Red Cliff (no wipe outs!) and then head back to the lodge.

Murray and the other group arrive back at the lodge about an hour behind us. It was a great day of tree skiing and I am sure I will win today’s award for most wipe outs!

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Our morning routine

Breakfast is served at 8:00 but Murray gets up well before that time. I roll out of bed and wander downstairs a few minutes before. Breakfast is two courses, a cereal and fruit course followed by a hot meal of pancakes and bacon, or eggs, toast and ham.

Once we have finished, lunch fixings are laid out and everyone makes sandwiches or wraps with a variety of meats, cheeses, veggies and condiments. The selection of cookies and desserts is enormous.

Dishes are done by the lodge caretaker and two helpers from our group. I think the two helpers are more for providing entertainment for the washer than anything else. We all get to know C, the lodge caretaker.

Mistaya lodge

We start the process of gearing up. Pack our packs with lunch, tea, water, heavy jacket, goggles. Put our boot liners inside our boots. Get dressed, long underwear, ski pants, shirts, avalanche transceiver, jacket, hat, sunglasses.

We then make a dash outside to put our skins on our skis. Back into the lodge to put our ski boots on, double check we have everything, don our pack and head outside.

Hook into our skis, make sure skis and boots are in walk mode and off we go for another day of powder.

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