Manoa Falls, Hawaii

America

CLASSIC: because when there is a skinny waterfall, you take this photo.


It was a spur of the moment decision to visit this magnificent place. 

The logic was basically “I’ve spent a day relaxing and I’m bored now”.

So I did zero research other than glance at trip advisor to ensure participants of the hike had come out alive, then rang up and booked a spot on the next available trip.

That might not seem well thought out but sometimes when time is short and the stakes are low, you just need to make a call.

It turned out to be one of the nicest days in Hawaii. Particularly exciting, is the fact they filmed bits of Jurassic Park there. Naturally I spent a large portion of the hike conjuring up dinosaur scenes in my head, hiding in trees, pretending they were chasing me etc.

It’s not a difficult hike to the falls. You definitely do not need to take a guided tour here. In saying that, our guide was great. She taught us about the plants and gave us a history of Hawaii. Their history is amazing.  There’s no poisonous plants or animals here because the islands have never needed to defend themselves! Biology and evolution are mind blowing. 

She also told us about how the water in the falls is currently carrying some sort of deadly bacteria so you’re not supposed to swim in it. There are signs but there were still a bunch of people swimming. I was tempted until one girl got out with a cut and our guide told her to see a doctor immediately because there was a good chance the deadly flesh eating (I didn’t confirm it was flesh eating but it probably was) bacteria would make her very ill. 

There’s just something special about hiking in a Hawaiian rainforest. It’s 30 degrees, all humidity. A time for skimpy tops and care free surf hair. 

On the way back to base I made sure I took a minute to really soak up the moment. To commit all the little details to memory. 

👌

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Waikiki wipe out

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I had been in Hawaii all of 12 hours and I had the itch that only ocean lovers know. The pool is great but a beach is better.

After burning off some excess energy in the gym I needed to get on a board and in the surf. 

The Modern is around a 20 minute walk to the main part of Waikiki beach along the boardwalk so towards the crowds we wandered on Thursday morning. Bringing surfing gear would not have been practical on this trip given 80% of the time we’ve been in remote deserts so I had to hire a surfboard in Hawaii. As the waves were small, I went for a fun mini mal and paddled out to one of the less crowded reefs to try my luck. 

I managed to get a few sweet little waves and avoid face planting into the reef until my last wave when I snagged my leg rope, went flying over the top of my board and crash landed on a sandbank. 

The issue wasn’t physical injury but rather my skimpy bikini. I had been too cheap to hire a rash vest or wetsuit. It took a while to sort out with some slightly too eager help from some of the lads. #stillgotit.

We wandered through Waikiki after my surf and then in the afternoon, I was let loose in the Ala Moana shopping centre… Bye money. 

Spending dome quality time with the Duke.

Aloha Hawaii

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If I had been starting to feel any end of adventure blues, it was soon stamped out of me when I stepped off the plane in Hawaii into 30 degree sunshine and air that was wet to breathe. 

By the time I saw the hotel room at the Modern Honolulu, I was basically starting a whole new type of holiday. One that involved long and lazy days by the pool drinking pina coladas and playing candy crush saga. 

Uninspired to do much other than bask in this lifestyle for a while, Kristy and I headed strait to the supermarket for nibbles and tequila ($20 a bottle unfortunately for my liver)before sitting by the room window overlooking the ocean and debriefing all the things we had done in the past month. 

Here we stayed until the nibbles had been polished off when we migrated to the pool to finish off the first afternoon in Hawaii. 

Sometimes I second guess my life choices, especially when I am travelling and become removed from my everday situations. Here is a snap of me not questioning the choice to order a frozen lime and coconut mojito.

Hey Hollywood! 

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What better way to end the trek than a day in Hollywood. A new movie starring Ryan gosling was premiering tonight and I was basically just wandering the boulevard hoping I might spot him, catch his eye and he would fall in love with me immediately.Then we would run away together and he would build me a house and row me down the river every afternoon at sunset.

Anyway, that obviously didn’t happen, so I compensated by spending money in forever 21 on new clothes because the ones I was wearing felt horribly unflattering and were obviously the reason Ryan and I aren’t eloping right now.

Hollywood is an interesting place though. I dislike it as much now as I did when I was here in 2001 and yet it is still oddly fascinating. 

I managed to find the Harry Potter hand prints outside the Chinese theatre and get lost in the tackiest souvineer shop I’ve seen all trip. 

We finished at our LA hotel and not quite ready to leave, those of us staying an extra night went out for pizza together. 

I am finding it difficult to even sum up the last three weeks. I’ve made so many new friends, seen so many incredible things and basically rediscovered life on the road as I do on every trip. 

There is something exciting about not having concrete plans and living simple out of a suitcase. Having the freedom to meet people from all over the world in hostels and on the road is such a privilege. I love watching the countryside change from day to day and the beauty nature hides around the world never stops being amazing. 

These kind of trips always leave me inspired to see more, do more and be more.

Next stop, Hawaii. 

Surf sighting in San Diego 

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Our little trek family from front: Leanne, Shona, Clare, myself and Emma

Back to sea level in San Diego for the final full day of the trip! 

This was one of those places where I had no idea what to expect, but it turned out to be a favourite.  

Most of the crew I am travelling with wanted to go to the zoo, however I have seen many zoos and after Africa, I didn’t feel like I needed to spend the money going in to see caged animals so I ended up at the beach. I was so desperate for a swim after being out of the water for almost a month that I was willing to brave the chilly Spring water and go in alone. 

It was perfect. 

There were a few of us at the beach so we played a round of mini golf (which Kristy and I tied over but I’m claiming victory for because I got two hole in ones).

We ate lunch overlooking the Pacific Ocean in a pub with some of the best food on the trip. 

Later in the afternoon I wandered down to the harbour and sat reminiscing about the past three weeks over cheap beers.

I think the reason I loved San Diego is because it had a fun Uni vibe. Loads of young, educated people who share a love of the beach. For me, it was the kind of place I could live and the vibe I miss every day. You can’t go back, but sometimes I wish I could. 

We stayed in the Gaslamp district which was packed with bars and late night shopping stops and our last meal altogether was at the Cheesecake Factory. In addition to the most amazing cheesecake of my life, their meals were also delicious. 

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas

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I don’t want to betray too many Vegas secrets about what our group got up to on Friday night but I can tell you that Saturday night was a quiet one. 

We arrived quite late in the afternoon after a short drive from the Grand Canyon, stopping on Route 66 along the way. It’s ridiculous that Route 66 is still so popular and yet it has been decommissioned as a highway so you actually need to detour from the highway to see it. 

We drove down the strip in Vegas as we arrived and while it is impressive, it almost doesn’t seem real. 

Friday night we had a party limo booked so naturally I bought 800ml of mini margaritas for 12 dollars at Safeway then got in the damn limo. 

We drove around for around 2 hours, stopping at the Vegas sign and finally at the Bellagio. Somehow we found our way into a rooftop club there and for the purposes of this blog, I did a little dancing, got in a taxi and came home. 

But actually that’s what happened. Pretty much. 

The Bellagio is known for it’s water feature display.

Saturday we spent on the strip hopping between the crazy hotels. 

For anyone with kids, New York is the definite pick of the hotel bunch. For me, New York was definitely the pick of the hotel bunch.  I went on the roller coaster and played in the chocolate shop for a bit. 

Ready to be an adult again by Saturday night, dinner was at the very nice Italian restaurant with nice Californian red wine in the golden nugget hotel where we were staying, followed by a gambling jaunt down Freemont street where I won $3.35. Which I cashed. 

My overall thoughts on Vegas? Well…I won’t be rushing back. Partially because I can’t afford it, but also because when it followed monument valley and the Grand Canyon, it all seemed a bit fake. 

The Grand Canyon, Arizona

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At 277 miles long, 18 miles wide and a backdrop to one of the world most spectacular sunsets, it was easy to see why the Grand Canyon is known as one of the world’s greatest treasures. 

Our group was blindfolded as we walked to the edge of the canyon’s southern rim, and we all took them off tougher so we could take it in at the same time. This is what we all saw in a shared moment of breathlessness:


I was still feeling absolutely awful but in a place like this there is no time for that. I couldn’t not be in awe or be enjoying myself here. It was just so beautiful. 

I decided to fork out for the helicopter flight to get a better perspective on the scope of the canyon. 

If you ever visit the canyon I couldn’t recommend flying over it highly enough. Yes it’s expensive, but yes it’s worth every minute. Pictures do not do it justice but coming over the edge of the trees and into the Grand Canyon was a next level experience. 


Later, safely back on the ground, I ate pizza ( my first meal in two days) and watched the sunset with Kristy and my newfound friends. 


My one disappointment is that I was not up to a hike on our second day at the Canyon. As much as I wanted to push through, there were many scary signs about how going down into the canyon was optional but coming back up wasn’t, complete with pictures of vomiting children. There were also a few missing person signs so in the end, I decided to hike the rim instead which gave me the option of bailing at any stage if I started feeling sick again. 

As it turned out, despite a little breathlessness from the altitude, I was feeling good and made it from rim to rim easily, and managed to fit in a fossil walk and a talk about condors too. I don’t think anyone should miss out on a visit to the Grand Canyon if they are in the vicinity. 

It’s a bucket list tick that requires a little more exploration and adventure. I’m definitely coming back here one day soon.

I don’t think there are any words that could do Monument Valley justice.

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Monument Valley was a definite highlight of my American adventures.

Monument Valley was undoubtably the highlight of my American adventures so far despite being ill with some sort of stabbing stomach pain that made me want to throw myself off a monument.
As we cruised through this untouched desert that belongs to the Navajo nation I quickly forgot about feeling sick. 

 There was something incredibly special about being in the open air four wheel drive and rolling through dunes, dangling my feet off the edge of sandstone that’s millions of years old and eating traditional food under a blanket of stars so vast there is no end or beginning. 
Time sort of just stops and you can imagine the people living here at the very beginning of time would have been looking basically at what we were looking at. I feel like in this world, that is such a rare sight to see. Original perspectives are hard to come by and in the western world I think this is one of the few places where it is possible to have that experience. 
I could have stayed here forever and in so many ways I wanted to. A life without complications sounds amazing. 

I wish we had been camping here rather than being back in a motel. It was the one night of the trip where I would have enjoyed being out under the stars all night. I would take eating Navajo tacos and dancing around a fire over everything any day and every day.
Perfection. 

Exploring the nooks and crannies of the valley.

On top of the world in Santa Fe

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I felt on top of the world in Santa Fe. Literally. As in, we were so high up I struggled to get enough oxygen into my body and ended up with a cracking headache and nosebleeds. I didn’t mind though to be honest, and it didn’t take long to get used to the feeling and start enjoying the lighter mountain air. 

New Mexico is great and it almost felt like we were actually in Mexico. Everything is sunny and colourful. I loved it. 

We wandered around the old part of the city and pottered through the street stalls of Native American goods. 

Dinner was at an authentic Mexican restaurant and after half a litre of margarita, it was safe to assume I had overcome my mountain sickness. 

Caving in The Carlsbad Caverns 

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Walking the mile into the Carlsbad Cavern is harder than it seems. Walking back was even tougher, but it was one of the trip highlights so far. 

Ordinarily you could take a lift down but it was out of order. I felt the experience was more authentic using the natural entrance anyway. 

The caverns are one of those projects nature has been working on for millions of years and the stalactites form some of the worlds most impressive structures. 

They are more than a kilometre underground and a kind of boardwalk has been constructed around the main chamber to keep people off the formations but make it easy to see them.

I powered ahead during the 6 kilometre walk just because I was enjoying the workout, but I did stop and enjoy the scenery and make jokes about the many formations that resembled body parts.

We spent just one night in Carlsbad and for dinner, I had my first ihop pancake experience. Apparently, America knows how to pancake.