Monday, 1st September 1986
At 8:20pm I boarded the Qantas 747 and took seat 31A. Through the window I could see another 747, this one belonging to British Airways, heading for London. I watched as it pushed back and taxied out onto the runway. I felt glad that I wasn’t heading back to London yet. Our plane, QF4, was heading to Melbourne but I was only going as far as the refuelling stop in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The plane took off. This was the third time I had taken off, but it was the first time I had experienced it in the dark. It was still exciting. All the runway lights flashed past and then a view of the lights of San Francisco appeared below us. I had an empty seat next to me, but the seat on the aisle side was occupied by a lady from Perth who was returning home after 3 months touring the USA and Canada. The rest of the aircraft was less than half full. I was told it would be much fuller after the Honolulu stop.
The service was excellent. There were more male cabin crew members than on my previous two flights and, although the cabin crew tended to be older, they worked very hard. We got hot towels on take off and cold towels before landing.
Dinner was delicious and consisted of a prawn salad starter, beef Creole, cheese and biscuits and a strawberry mousse. We had complimentary drinks, some excellent white wine and Perrier water. The movie was “Back to School” and after it was over I fell to sleep. For the last hour of the five hour flight I woke up and listened to my Walkman.
Tuesday, 2nd September 1986
Arriving in Hawaii just after midnight was a bit of a shock in more ways than one. I realised that, although I had been on a little piece of Australia in the sky, I was still effectively in the USA and had technically been on a domestic flight. I collected my luggage from the carousel and, intending to stay at the airport all night, I put it immediately into a storage locker and then walked directly to the departure side.
The airport was really just grey concrete but it was nicely decorated with Hawaiian symbols, Polynesian drawings and plastic pineapples. The sides of the terminal building were open. Instead of glass there was just space, and the warm air and the smell of kerosene poured in.
I bought a bottle of chocolate milk and a packet of Hawaiian crisps and found a seat overlooking the runway. I watched QF4 finish refuelling, taxi out and take off. Soon afterwards I put my sheet sleeping bag on the airport floor and fell fast asleep.
A lady who was vacuuming the floor woke me up at 6:30am and soon I got up and tidied my luggage up. The airport was getting busier and planes had landed from Australia and Japan. I grabbed a coffee and went off in search of the bus terminal.
By 8:00am I was on a bus heading for Pearl Harbour. The museum at Pearl Harbour was quite moving and, being the 41st anniversary of the official Japanese surrender, it was a poignant day to visit.
First we watched a film about the attack. It was introduced by a park ranger asking us all to consider the question “What does it take to unite a nation?”. Then we went out on a little launch boat to the USS Arizona which was still leaking oil 45 years on. It sits there as a memorial to the sailors still entombed inside.
It was getting hot. It was a lot hotter than I thought it would be. I changed into my shorts and got a bus and then another to head to the beach at Waikiki. I collected a roast beef and Swiss cheese sandwich from Arby’s and then spent most of the late morning and early afternoon swimming and sunbathing.
At 2pm I went off to visit the Hawaiian army museum and then checked out the Royal Hawaiian shopping centre. In the tourist office they were handing out vouchers for Burger King “two whoppers for the price of one” so I took one.
At 5pm I rang up for a bed at the youth hostel. They gave me directions on how to get there and it involved getting a couple more buses. The bus service in Hawaii was great. I especially loved the little bus stop signs nailed onto the palm trees.
The youth hostel was located near the university. It was a large wooden building with good facilities. I checked in and found an empty bed in one of the dormitories.
I immediately met two Australians. One, Matt, was heading back home after spending time in the USA and Canada. The other, Gavin, was heading in the opposite direction. He was from Melbourne and was just going out to the USA to spend time there.
We all started chatting and were soon joined by Guy from Cambridge in the UK. He was heading back to London to start a job at Marks and Spencer’s. He had done Japan, Hong Kong, Australia and Hawaii in just two months. We all headed across the road to Burger King and we all had the “two whoppers for the price of one” deal.
By now I was having trouble staying awake. I went back to the hostel and lay on my bed. The warm breeze was coming through the open window and there was the sound of “Hula Hula” music drifting in from a prayer meeting being held in the hut next door. I was definitely in Hawaii I thought, and I fell fast asleep.
Wednesday, 3rd September 1986
Over breakfast the next morning I chatted to Gavin and Matt again. Matt was off to do some weightlifting but Gavin suggested seeing some of the sights together.
We headed off on a bus towards the Dole pineapple factory. It dropped us short and we ended up walking along Date Street. Date Street actually had palm trees lining it and there was a small zoo which featured real Kangaroos. Neither of us was that interested in seeing Kangaroos in Hawaii so we kept going until we came to the “Kodak Hula Show”.
We sat and watched about half the show. It was an ersatz and kitsch take on Hawaiian culture featuring colourful dancers and hula music. It was actually interesting enough in its own way precisely because it was so false. We laughed at the pauses in the show and the loud instructions to “take your pictures now”. But, like everyone else, we took our pictures.
We came out of the show and got on the shuttle bus to the factory. We paid $2 for a factory tour. It was interesting enough, and I had certainly never seen a pineapple factory before. We got a bus back to the Sheraton hotel and spent the rest of the day sunbathing and swimming on the beach.
At about 4pm we set off towards the tourist office to get some more vouchers for Burger King. On the way back to the beach from our two-Whopper feast we passed several car rental agencies. We hit on the idea to go halves and rent a car to see more of the island.
Most of the agencies were offering vehicles at $26 a day, but the Kakualula Car Rental Agency had a big sign outside saying “$19.95 including insurance”.
A very fat lady showed us round our Toyota Tercel and then placed X’s on the drawing of a car on a sheet of paper that corresponded with the various bumps on the battered vehicle. What did we expect for $20? This was the first time I had ever rented a car, so it was all new to me. With all the paperwork done we finally set off at 5:30pm.
The clock was already ticking on our 24 hours and we intended to make the most of it. With Gavin driving, we headed off into the Honolulu rush hour and onto the H-1 freeway. We took the road all the way over to the left side of the island and watched a beautiful sunset. We drove all the way to the end of the road and had a paddle in the sea.
It was getting dark now, so we headed back towards Waikiki. I drove back and, experiencing driving a right-hand drive car for the first time, found it a lot easier than I had feared.
Back in Waikiki, we parked up and had a wander around the lively town before returning to the hostel and listening to the German assistant warden tell everyone his stories of travelling around the world. “I have been at least twenty times around ze world” as he put it.
Thursday, 4th September 1986
I woke up at 8am, showered and quickly woke Gavin up. We had a quick breakfast before gathering our stuff together and heading out to the Toyota again. We spent the whole day doing one loop of the entire island.
We stopped several times.
The longest stop in the morning was to go snorkelling. We hired a couple of cheap masks from a man in a hut on the beach and dived straight into the sea. This was another new experience for me. I found it difficult to get used to at first, but it was worth it for the beautiful fish you could see.
Lunch was, yet again, two whoppers for the price of one. I now realised that I had consumed 6 Whoppers in Hawaii and almost little else besides.
On the way back from lunch we got lost twice and ended up going around in circles on a housing estate and then somehow entered an army camp by mistake. We were offered to choice to either “get the hell off the base” or join up. We took the first option.
In the early afternoon we had a one-hour hike up to see the Rainbow Sacred falls and the little swim pool high in the mountains. We ran back down the trail in about 20 minutes.
After that we headed to another beach for another hour of snorkelling and sunbathing. The shoals of colourful fish in the water were quite outstanding and you felt as you could almost touch them.
It was a frantic dash along the highway but we made it back at about 5pm. We parked the car near the Youth Hostel and spent 10 minutes trying to clean the sand out of it.
At almost 5:30pm precisely we got the car back to the agency and received our deposit back from the fat lady. We certainly had got our money’s worth out of the thing.
We walked around the corner to the Royal shopping centre and had an orange juice. I said goodbye to Gavin and wished him good luck in the USA. He wished me the same in the land of his birth. I then endured a long hot and sticky bus ride to the Airport.
I had arrived five and a half hours early for the check-in, and there was certainly no one around on the Qantas desk. I spent the next two hours tidying up my bags and washing in the toilets as best I could.
I went back to the Qantas desk, but there were still no people on the desk, but a little queue had formed. I joined it. I met a married couple returning to Brisbane after a 12 week hike around the US and a girl returning to Sydney after a trip to see her fiancée in Washington DC.
Finally at 10pm I was able to check in and received seat 51K. It was to be another new experience; the first time I had ever sat on the right hand side of a plane!
With the girl from Sydney in tow, I went for a meal at Burger King. I was out of vouchers for whoppers now so I got a cheeseburger instead, glad for the variety in my diet. Amanda turned out to be a teacher and we talked for an hour or so about the differences between the education systems in the USA, Australia and the UK.
Eventually I excused myself to go off to write 5 postcards home that I had already put US stamps on. I wrote quickly and managed to post them before the flight was called 11:50pm. I changed my last 60 US dollars to 100 Australian dollars and headed to the gate.
Friday, 5th September 1986
I boarded the plane and took my seat in the window seat. The aisle seat was taken by a large American guy, but in the middle seat was a young Canadian heading to Brisbane to do almost the same thing as I was planning to do. Our conversation was going well when he suddenly realised he was in the non-smoking section.
He swapped seats with his British father. His father was a doctor and going out to Australia at the same time as his son to do a sabbatical. We talked a little bit as the plane taxied out and thundered down the run way and off into the night sky and out over the Pacific Ocean.
It was almost 1am by then, but we were served with a light meal of Waldorf Salad, Scandinavian sandwiches and, for the first time since leaving the UK, a bar of Cadbury’s fruit and nut chocolate. I dozed off and I slept quite well for a few hours.
I woke up just once to see what I thought was a long white island out of the window. I thought we must be flying extremely low and was starting to worry a bit, when I realised it was the wing.
Whilst I was asleep we had crossed the International Date line and I realised that Friday 5th September had become the shortest day I had ever experienced.
We had also passed over the equator at almost the same time. I was now in the Southern Hemisphere !
Saturday, 6th September 1986
We were served a delicious breakfast of crepes, fresh fruit, croissants and coffee and during breakfast they showed the film “Clockwise” with John Cleese. The film featured Hull Station. It was a strange feeling watching Hull Station on the aircraft screen whilst looking down on the Pacific Ocean out of the window.
After a nine and a half hour flight, the plane landed bang on time at Brisbane airport at 6am. The cabin crew proceeded to spray the cabin with a spray designed to kill insects and keep fruit fly out of Australia.
We got off using the traditional steps and seeing the whole of the Jumbo close up for the first time made me realise that, contrary to what I had thought at Gatwick, it really was an amazingly large plane. What a magnificent piece of engineering.
After a short time in the transit queue I made it to the transit lounge. I purchased a copy of the morning Brisbane newspaper and a tomato juice from the kiosk in the lounge. After a half an hour or so wait I was climbing the steps back on to the same aircraft.
Another thundering take-off and we were back in the air flying out over the mountain ranges on the short one-hour sector to Sydney. There was no one sitting next to me now but I chatted to the Filipino Lad in the aisle seat as we were served yet more croissants and spice buns.
The first officer came on to tell us that would be landing on time. He said that the route would take us over the city and we should watch out on the left side (damn!) for the views of the harbour, the bridge and the opera house. He also mentioned that it was 25 degrees Celsius and added that in his opinion that wasn’t a bad temperature for late winter/early spring.
QF4 banked over the Sydney suburbs and landed at Kingsford Smith Airport at 8:40am.