Author’s note: I recently came across a journal that I kept while on a trip to Christmas Island in 1987. This column, gleaned from the family-appropriate parts of that journal, is the second of a series about that once-in-a-lifetime fishing trip. — LP
Feb. 22 — For someone accustomed to winter in Alaska, waking up in Honolulu was a bit of a shock, but a pleasant one. While Howie and Doug slept in, Joe and I hiked up Diamond Head again.
Coming to this warm place from wintertime Alaska takes some getting used to. Normally, I’d be wearing insulated boots and two or three layers of clothing over long underwear. Walking around in flip-flops, shorts and a T-shirt feels weird, but it’s a good kind of weird.
Part of our planning for this trip was to stay in Honolulu long enough to at least partly acclimate ourselves to the sun. Having spent the previous five months or so in Alaska, all of us are pale. At Christmas Island, we’ll be only 119 miles north of the Equator, and we’ve been warned about sunburn. I like to think I’m prepared for it, having bought one of those goofy caps with the bill in front and back, a supply of long-sleeved shirts and plenty of sunscreen.
Upon arriving back at the hotel, we found that Chip had arrived. We joined him and the rest of our motley crew for a papaya and Mai Tai breakfast beside the hotel pool. The remainder of the day was spent eating, drinking, watching bikini-clad women walk past and wondering what the poor people were doing.
I can’t recall much about what we did on this night, and even if I could, I couldn’t repeat it here. At one place, supposedly an Australian hangout, we ended up singing “Waltzing Matilda,” although there wasn’t an Australian in sight. At one point, I remember wondering if we were getting in or out of shape for our fishing trip. I have a vague recollection of climbing aboard a bicycle-powered rickshaw and racing the others down a Honolulu street, yelling “Faster! Faster!”
Feb. 23 — Joe and I repeated our early-morning hike up Diamond Head, after which the entire group trekked to Sea World. There, we ogled whales, dolphins and lovely Hawaiian ladies in swim suits, took lots of photos, and did all the usual tourist stuff. It was dirty work, but somebody had to do it.
In the afternoon, we visited Charley’s Fishing Supply and outfitted ourselves with plugs, wire leaders, fanny packs and other necessities for fishing at Christmas Island. On that remote atoll, little or nothing can be bought. In the back of our minds, we were remembering everything we’d read and heard about fishing there, that some of the fish were so big and ferocious that they’d break off all your tackle and leave you, bruised and bloody, with an empty tackle box. Charley’s cash register had a good day.
We tried to eat dinner at a nice place, but the head waiter took one look at us and said, “No way.” By promising that we’d wear pants, shirts and shoes, we finally persuaded him into reserving a table for us tomorrow night.
Feb. 24 — Again, Joe and I hiked up Diamond Head. Again, everyone else slept in.
We were allowed to enter the hoity-toity place that refused to serve us last night. Having met their high standards — we wore shoes, long pants and freshly pressed T-shirts, and held our conversation down to an acceptable level of raucousness — we were allowed to dine.
Just another day in paradise.
Les Palmer can be reached at email@example.com.