Back on Oahu, we rented a car and drove to the North-Shore, a surfer's mecca, and stayed at the Backpackers Vacation Inns & Plantation Village in Waimea. The accommodations are really modest (but no cockroaches, centipedes or rats, just ants). We could afford much better accommodations but we wanted to meet other backpackers and this definitely was the right place. The first night we heard loud music coming from the end of the plantation. A big party was in the making and we asked if we could join. We brought some beer to contribute and we instantly became friends with people from all over the world: Germany, Switzerland, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Argentina, Brazil, USA... Nobody could remember each other's names we were known as "Canada". We haven't had this much fun in a long time. It must have been 3:30AM when we went to bed and we woke up with quite a hangover but it was worth it. Some of these people were professional surfers but most were fellow backpackers around 20-35 years old.
In Waimea we mostly ate grinds from the local Foodland which had great sushi and sandwiches and the Starbucks next door gave us that jolt of energy required to snorkel and surf all day. The Shark's Cove Grill has some great salads with fresh Ahi Ahi or shrimp skewers and ašai berry smoothies. The county has bylaws forbidding the construction of big malls and hotels so the beaches are pretty empty and the whole town has a very laidback feel. It's really surprising to find such valuable beach front land in the USA still relatively undeveloped. Thanks to the 30ft waves in the winter, you can't really build resorts here. In the spring, the waves are perfect for beginner surfers and there are some really nice apartments, walking distance to the beach for around $100/night. The people here are really nice and we love their Hawaiian Pidgin (distinct language). We started saying things like "grinds" as you may have noticed, "brah" (brother) "da kine" (whatchamacallit), "funny kine" (strange or different as in "He stay acking (acting) all funny kine"), the waves are "da bomb"... We also like a few Hawaiian words like "pakalolo" but we won't tell you what that means.
For snorkelling, we recommend Shark's Cove which was 300 meters from the backpacker plantation village. Don't worry the only sharks that swim here are a few reef sharks, but it's filled with colourful fish and we swam close to a family of green sea turtles (you can't swim too close it's against the law). The papa was a behemoth about 4 feet wide! We floated in the water next to them and rode the waves like they do, it's actually quite relaxing. Tavi actually spotted a sea snake which he tried to pint out to me but I did not see it, luckily it was hiding under rocks (they are supposed to be more poisonous than land snakes!). We also saw a monk seal on the beach!
On our last day, we took surfing lessons with Uncle Bryan and the team at the Sunset Suratt Surf Academy (808.783.8657 www.surfnorthshore.com). This surfing school has a very good teacher to student ratio about 4 teachers to 7 students plus a photographer. They managed to get us standing on our boards for a while! It's not easy, it requires a lot of upper-body strength and you can expect a few bruised ribs and scuffed toes. Watch-out for the coral-reefs, Tavi hit his foot on one and it bled quite a bit but he's ok. Right after surfing we washed up and drove back to the airport to catch our long flight home, the bruises and sores all over made it a pretty uncomfortable ride but it was all worth it!
Mahalo (thank you) to all the people who have made this last-minute trip memorable! We learned a valuable lesson from this trip, "ride the waves, dude". You cannot control everything, you have to go with the flow. You never know where you might end up, but you'll probably have fun!
Virginia and Tavi