The bucket list can beat you up

It was a bucket list thing, really.

Cash in about 10 years of Aeroplan points, sell the old MGB sports car, the cat and the furniture and head to Hawaii. A special trip for the Better Half’s birthday.

Who knew that the surf, the sand and the sun could beat you up and spit you out like a dog-tired tilapia?

The Better Half really wants to swim with the turtles. It’s a bucket list thing. We’re told a really excellent place to turtle swim is Hanauma Bay, the “most popular marine life snorkeling cove.”

So with anticipation in our hearts, and two beach bags full of 17 kilograms of sunscreen and bottles of water, we drive to the famous beach.

We park way up on the top of a tropical mountain, and from there, it’s another long and treacherous hike up paths and steps. Did I mention my wonky knee, trick back and aching sciatica?

We somehow make it to the top of the lookout and gaze at the breathtaking view of the coral reef cove way down there. And then we realize we have to walk way down there. I dig into the beach bag for a fistful of Extra Strength Advil.

We trudge slowly down the trail in the blazing heat and somehow make it to the first stop – the ticket booth/museum area. There is a lineup at huge metal doors.

“Maybe it’s a giant elevator,” the Better Half (who is a hopeless optimist) says hopefully. It’s not.

It’s a large room with a large video screen where they run a movie about the rugged perils of the famous Hanauma Bay nature reserve.

“If you can’t swim, don’t go in,” the video warns. “When in doubt, stay out.” And on like that. The Better Half doesn’t look so optimistic any more. I take another Advil.

We emerge into what is euphemistically called a squall. In other words, the temperature has dropped by about 20 degrees, it’s cloudy, and it’s spitting rain.

We see a long and winding road way down into the forest. I’m already seriously limping, but there’s a people-mover trolley there.

“A dollar seventy five each,” the driver says. Calculating the U.S. dollar exchange, we say to each other: “Naaa, it’s not that far,” and soon discover it is indeed that far. And then some.

Much, much later, we flump down on the beach, exhausted, and a National Emergency Alert suddenly dings on my phone: “High tide, surf and wind warning,” it says. But the Better Half mermaid is already wading into the waves.

So I limp in after her and quickly realize this beautiful Shangri-La cove has turned into one of the Seven Hubs of Hades. Did the video mention that razor-sharp coral reefs lurk under the water? Did it say how the waves knock you over? Onto the rocks?

Boom! The surf crashes. The Better Half goes flying one way, I go flopping the other, under freezing water onto the rocks, both of us sputtering and flailing and dragging ourselves somehow to shore, just as a young girl comes out of the water bleeding from her forehead and the lifeguard blows a whistle and paddles furiously on a surfboard to rescue several people thrashing away.

It’s cold and raining. The wind is howling.

“This is going to be the best $3.50 US we’ve ever spent,” I say as we slowly and painfully limp to the trolley parked at the bottom of the road.

And it was at precisely that point I remembered we left our wallets and money safely locked way back up at the top in the trunk of the car.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer writer and filmmaker.

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