Kualoa Ranch, Vally of the Temples, Makiki-Lower Punchbowl
100 days away
100 km / 62 miles since last post
44,630 km / 27,732 miles total
Today we had our ATV (all terrain vehicle) tour booked at the Kualoa Ranch. It didn't start until 1:50pm, but we were advised to get there half an hour before it starts. We decided we would leave late morning, pack a lunch to have at a nice stop-off along the way, before going to the ranch. Google maps advised that it would only take 40 minutes to get to the ranch, but we have already come to realise that travelling distances on Oahu can take longer than expected - due to slow speed limits and traffic.
We left the condo just before 11am, and made it up to the ranch at around 12:45pm - so it took a little longer than 40 minutes!. Luckily we had allowed extra time for this.
Along the way we noticed there was even more traffic than usual, which is probably expected seeing as it is Saturday. As we drove past the car
park for Makapu'u point (where we had parked and taken a walk up to the lighthouse the other day) we saw that cars were queueing back to the road to get in! It looked so busy, I am glad we went the other day when there was hardly anyone around.
We took along a packed lunch with us today and parked up at the same spot we visited before on our drive to the north shore, where we could see out to the Chinaman's Hat island. It was a good place to stop as there were hardly any people around and it was just down the road from the ranch, so we could get there easily afterwards.
With full bellies we drove up to Kualoa Ranch, parked up and went inside the visitor centre. After showing our ticket we were asked to sign a waiver form, which basically states that if we injure ourselves or die it's all our own fault and their company cannot be sued for damages. We were then shown where to wait for our tour outside.
As we waited we saw a few others turn up who would also be on the same tour - a young couple and a middle aged couple, all American. Our guide then came out to introduce himeself. He got us to watch a brief safety video, and then ran through the basic intructions of how to operate the vehicle. It is essentially a quad bike, but a larger quad bike than I have ridden before. It was all pretty straight forward though - brakes, accelerate, no one-handed riding, no standing up etc. Once that was done we were able to grab ourselves a helmet and then get on our ATV.
We had been a little bit concerned about the weather. For the last couple of days there had been forecasts of possible rain in this area. However, the chance of rain had decreased over the last couple of days from 50% to 20%, so we had been hopefull. As we were waiting for our ATV tour to start there had been a few spots of rain. Thankfully, once the
tour began the rain completely stopped and the sun came out once more.
Once we were all on our vehicles and ready to go, the guide said we would do a course loop first, just so we could all get used to handling the vehicle and he could check we were riding it safely etc. They take a few seconds to adjust to, just to get the acceleration and steering correct but this was fairly easy to do. However, the young American girl in our group seemed to struggle. No sooner had we started to move and go round the first bend, she went off the track. The guide had to go back and help her out. As we came round the other side of the course, she did exactly the same thing again, and once again the guide helped her back onto the track.
Once we had gone round the course it was time for us to head out on our tour. As we left the course track, we started off on a semi-paved road, and then veered off onto another track. There was a slight incline and then a slight bend at the top, and once again the girl got into trouble. This time she veered right off at the top of the incline and into a tall
grass area. You could forgive her the first few mistakes, but now it was getting silly. She was clearly not cut out for this at all. This time, the guide wasn't taking any more risks and told her she couldn't continue. Therefore, she had to wait for someone to pick her up from there. Meanwhile, the rest of us continued with the tour (including her partner).
It was great fun riding the ATVs. I think Stu and I would have enjoyed going a bit faster, but it was still great. Now and again you could hold back a bit and then get a bit of speed going which was cool.
As we came up to having the coast on our right, we drove past a huge bunker, and it had a sign outside stating it was used in the filming of Pearl Harbor. I though we may have stopped here, but the group continued on.
As we drove down the track we came across a more familiar looking area. We had the beautiful tall mountains on either side of us and through the middle was pure, lush green. As I had expected, we had seen this area before. This part of the ranch was used in countless tv programs and movies over the years. They had filmed scenes from Jurassic Park, Windtalkers, Lost, Godzilla and many others here. Thankfully we made a stop so we could have a walk around and take some pictures. It seemed only right to get the obligatory pictures near Godzilla's footprint and where Hurley's golf course was set up in Lost.
After ample time wandering around here, it was back onto the ATVs to continue with our tour - although this stopping point was certainly the highlight of the whole tour.
We drove through more of this valley, and then turned off to ride past some cattle fields, some straw huts (which would have been nice to stop at, but I guess there wasn't enough time), then heading up past the Pearl Harbor set again. This time we were able to stop and take some pictures. Whilst it was good to take a picture of the Pearl Harbor set, there wasn't the best view of the coast here - I think I probably would have prefered another stop, or a longer stop, in the valley given the
Next we continued on the ATVs, taking a slightly different way back to the ranch. We went down some winding tracks, and some very uneven tracks too, which were really bumpy, but that just made it all the more interesting. It was great fun, but before we knew it we were back at the ranch and the tour had come to an end. We're both really glad we did the tour. We did the one hour tour, but on reflection I think the two hour tour would have been better, just because you get more time on the ATVs. However, we didn't have the option as the two hour tour had already been booked up. Even so, we both really enjoyed it.
It was only once we were off the ATVs that we realised just how dirty we were. We both had put sun cream on earlier, and the dust had just stuck on us as we had been riding around. I managed to at least wash my hands and face in the bathroom.
Once back in the car we decided to take a drive to the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park - specifically to see the Byodo-In Temple. (This temple was also featured in an episode of Lost). It was established in 1968 to commemorate the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii, and impressivly built without the use of nails. It also houses Amida, a golden Buddha which stands an impressive 18 feet tall, and is thought to be the largest figure carved since ancient times. It was a very attractive temple and Buddha statue, and with the koi swimming around in the pond too it almost felt like being back in Japan again.
Our next destination was a mountain top drive heading back towards Honolulu. I had searched on Google yesterday for scenic drives on Oahu, and this one had been suggested by someone.
Just before turning onto the scenic drive, we saw the sign for the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific and turned off here and parked up. The cememtary is located on the Punchbowl volcanic crater, so it sits high above the city. It certainly is an impressive view over the city. The cemetery itelf is the final resting place for over 13,000 soldiers and sailors who died during World War II, including those who perished during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
Once back in the car we drove to Tantalus Drive, which takes you along a scenic drive around the Punchbowl Crater. It is a really winding road which takes you really high up. There were a couple of great stop-offs to get beautiful views over the city - this was a great find and a perfect end to the days activities.
After doing the loop, we drove back to the condo. We grabbed a quick shower and headed out to Chilis, where we ate a few days ago. We just thought it was the easy option as it's just at the bottom of our road and we were both feeling too tired to venture anywhere else.
Tomorow we check out of our condo, which is a shame, and we have a new hotel to stay in for our last couple of days on Oahu - which is fortunatley only two blocks away making things a bit easier.