More vacation meanderings – again, this post will go live about the time we return.
Wednesday, 19FEB 2014
The tradewinds dropped the last couple of days, and today, finally, it dawned clear and sunny. After some essential sitting-around-the-condo-drinking-coffee time, we packed ourselves up and went a few miles north to Kapalua Bay to snorkel for the first time this trip.
I own a snorkeling guide and also found a copy of Maui Revealed in the bookshelves, so was able to identify a good first snorkel spot quickly. We’ve been to Kapalua before, and although there’s a parking lot it usually fills early and people park all down the side of the road, even where it’s quite ditch-y. However we hit it lucky and nabbed a spot just as someone else was leaving.
The public access at Kapalua is easy to find – it’s at the end of the parking lot marked “welcome to Kapalua, beach access parking” near the northern end of Lower Honoapi’ilani Road. There’s restrooms with flush toilets and sinks, and two public showers outside and again right by the beach steps. Take the stairs down and through the access tunnel, and you come out at one of the most beautiful little beaches (and bays) anywhere.
According to the guide, there would be good snorkeling on both left hand and right hand as you face the water, along the rocky and coralhead-strewn verges. There’s also a rocky shelf along the middle so you can actually see sea life if you cross from one side to the other, although I went across a little seaward of that line.
There was certainly a lot of fish, and even small schools of certain ones. I even found a wrasse cleaning station, where larger fish wait patiently for their turn to have tiny purple-and-yellow wrasse “clean” them of annoying clinging parasites and algae. I saw a lot of big ulua, a very colorful fish, along with the state fish of Hawaii, the “humu” or “humuhumunukunukuapua’a” and some big angelfish or Moorish idols. I even saw an eel – a dark one with bright white speckles, so I think it was a snowflake eel – sheltering under the eaves of a healthy looking yellow coralhead that had fanlike extensions all around, like a shingled roof with a lot of angles.
After crossing toward the right hand side (as you look out to see, it’s on the side farthest from the public access) I encountered a juvenile sea turtle coming up for air. It was about 2 1/2 feet across, relatively clean of algae, and very healthy looking. I backed off, as it was headed my way, and circled around to give him a better look from a bit farther away. As I came around, he was doing the same – giving me the once-over as he circled warily upwards. I reached towards him, but he veered away, got his breath, and then took a leisurely corkscrew course down to where he would shelter from the crowds of tourists for a while. He had a nice deep overhang on a coralhead covered with bright yellow lumpy coral and couldn’t be seen from above unless you dove down and knew where to look.
I hadn’t seen David in a while, and he usually comes out before I do because he gets cold quicker. So I made my way back along the west side, and then struck out across the middle to approximately where I originally entered the water. There were plenty of people there at Kapalua, enjoying the sun and the beach, and there were certainly plenty of people in the water, yet except for one encounter I never felt crowded.
David was waiting for me as I galumphed out of the water – entry and exit is never my most graceful time – and we gradually rinsed stuff off in the nearby shower and packed up.
On the way back we stopped at Napili Market – near where we stayed on our last trip to Maui – to pick up deli sandwiches and a few odds and ends. They have some really impressive looking seafood pokes (pronounced “pokey,” it’s usually finely chopped raw tuna, octopus, or a combination, with seaweed and teriyaki and sometimes hot pepper) so must remember that for a time when we have a taste for poke again. We got some pretty decent sandwiches, with very generous portions of turkey or ham and a “protein kit” of vegetables, onions, garlic, olive oil, and some other goodies to saute some shrimp with – we’ll make a salad tonight and take it easy, as last night’s dinner was kind of a blowout as far as price is concerned.
I should say that the sushi at Miso Phat Sushi is DELICIOUS and served with plenty of friendly aloha, but the big specialty rolls are VERY BIG and they’re $20 each, while some of the other non-specialty stuff was more reasonable. David did well with his combination, I had 2 rolls, soup, and a bowl of rice. It was all very good but tonight we’ll take it easy and stay in.
Yesterday was a “no plan” day; since it was still cloudy, we decided against going all the way up Haleakala. So we went to Makawao after the obligatory lazing around drinking coffee, and browsed in the galleries, gift shops, and glass blowing studio before stopping into the Makawao Garden Bistro for lunch. We both had the “blackened fish special” sandwich, and it was delicious, very delicate, yet with a beautiful crust and plenty of flavor and a bit of heat.
We wandered up a VERY BUMPY Olinda Road, and came down a different road – I think it was Piiholo Ranch Road, as we passed a zipline place on the way down. Then we turned down Baldwin Avenue for the run down into Paia, pretty much following the route the Haleakala downhill bike rides take. Then we found a handy parking spot (traffic is horrible in Paia, owing to the high volume and the one lone stoplight) and mooched around for a bit. There were even more dangerous galleries and gift shops, including one really eclectic one called Indigo, owned by a photographer who actually prints or etches his work on aluminum and then laminates it. it makes for very shiny, very color-saturated large-format images, very striking. Anyway, after a tasty shave ice, we navigated homeward.
We’ve noticed the main highways are well paved and striped now, and they were doing more road work. Not-main highways are still a little.. unkempt (that is, anything off the “main tourist track” ). Found a good bypass to get around a lot of the congestion at Kahului where Dairy Road meets the Haleakala Highway – not the sugar road on Hansen, but the next big left, which seems to be slated to serve a business park yet to be built. Nice and wide, smooth and slick, no congestion, and it comes out just up from the big church on Dairy where the Kihei cutoff comes in.
David picks up his rental bike tomorrow, so I’ll drive him in to Lahaina and bring the car back. Will probably do some snorkeling on my own at either Airport Beach (Kahekili) or at Honokeana Cove to see my turtles (we stayed at Napili Shores last time, so I know the way in and the rock-shelf entry point).
Friday morning we have a whale-watching cruise set up, and that night we’re going to Warren and Annabell’s on our “free pass” that we got from Warren way back in 2002.
The Next Day, and The Next, and the Next
David picked up his bike at West Maui Cycles, which meant that I had the use of the car, and some time to fill in, while he took off riding southward towards Ma’alaea. I had a vague plan to go shopping for a new swimsuit or two, as the one I’d brought with me had lost all its stretch (I have other options, such as board shorts and tanks). So hooked around Lahaina, decided against trying to find parking, and headed for the Lahaina Cannery Mall, where I’d heard there was a Water Wear outlet.
Much, MUCH to my surprise, I found 2 suits, very quickly, in my size that I liked. One is a one-piece that I needed for those times when I’m in a wetsuit, and the other is a cute tankini (2 pieces, bought separately) that is pretty flattering (the bottom is like a little miniskirt).
Then just as I got back to the car, got the expected call from David that he’d made it to Ma’alaea and was ready for lunch, so I got down there and we went to the one place that’s right on the harbor (not Buzz’s Wharf, the other one). And got the sad news that the Waterfront had closed, or had never really re-opened at the new location in the Ocean Center complex. SAD!
Not exactly sure of the timeline here, it’s already starting to moosh into vague impressions.
I had snorkel stuff with me so I stopped off at Airport Beach/Kahekili Beach to try it out, but decided to just get in the water instead. It’s not a great place to snorkel when there’s not a lot of clearance over the shelf of rocks right at the surf/wave zone as you enter.
Then I went back to our condo and tried it again and snorkeled right off our beach – again, a shelf of rock just as the water gets about thigh-deep makes for tricky entries and exits. Not much to see, and very little coral, but some fish… and one REALLY BIG turtle that was worth seeing! But the whole time, I was worrying about finding a decent exit channel over the rocks, and picked up some bruises on the way out as it was. At least I did it.
By the time this post goes live, we’ll be home, or almost home. On most trips, I start out declaring that I’m going to blog often and keep up to date, and then I fall off after about 2 days and never post Part II or whatever.
Mostly this is because we get busier the later it gets in the trip, and partly it’s because David doesn’t think it’s a good idea to blog about not being home, because burglars or something (as if they read my blog, everyone knows my only readers are me, my sister, and a bunch of spambots).
We got to Maui late, on Saturday February 15. For some reason (probably due to a higher fare) I had booked us on a connection via Los Angeles instead of the usual nonstop flight to Maui or connection via Honolulu. David had said back in November when we decided to book the trip that he didn’t mind if we connected in Los Angeles; in retrospect it would have been better if we’d had a longer layover in LAX, as our 1:40 connection time shrank to 0:40 real fast what with delays.
My work life lately has been NOTHING BUT REBOOKING SAD PEOPLE WHOSE FLIGHTS HAVE BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO BAD WEATHER so I was quite apprehensive that Karma would be her usual bitchy self, but we managed to hustle to our connecting flight (fortunately, both United flights were in the same terminal). Not only that, but David spotted all three of our bags being loaded. All looked rosy as we took off.
There was quite a bit of turbulence on the way to LAX and a whole lot more on the way to Maui – in fact, for most of the second flight the crew kept us seated and seatbelts fastened, while they remained strapped in to their jumpseats. It wasn’t until later that I discovered the recent news of injuries due to turbulence on United flights to Beijing and Billings (two cities that couldn’t be more unlike each other, actually). Anyway, we finally landed just as the sun was setting behind a curtain of grey clouds.
After some disarray at the airport in the getting the rental car and driving away department (I say no more, but at least Enterprise Rental Car came up aces), we drove on in to our condo at the Royal Kahana. We’re in unit 915, which is a very basic 1 bedroom that smells of camphor, feet, and old people… the rest of the property is VERY NICE, but I suspect the people that own this one have more than one condo property, and thus this unit doesn’t get much love or display much personality. It’s fine, although the kitchen is tiny and the utensils are the absolute bare minimum. We’re tucked behind the Kahana Gateway shopping center, on Lower Honoapiilani, and within stumbling distance of the Maui Brewing Company.
After a long flight, and the delay in getting our wheels sorted, we finally got to the condo by about 9pm. We stopped at the Safeway’s in Lahaina, where we were happy to find that our old Dominick’s ID still worked in getting us a discount, even though Dominicks’ closed all their stores in the Chicago area. We bought 4 containers of various kinds of poke and pupus, and really, we could have done it with just 1 big one and 1 small one, but that’s okay, we had the rest the next day for a snack.
On the way in to Lahaina and beyond to Kahana, David suddenly laughed while we were still on the Pali (the cliffs near McGregor Point and the tunnel before the road drops to sea level).
“Ha! I’m anticipating the turns… driven this road so many times I just realized that I know what’s coming up even though it’s really dark.”
This is not a bad thing at all, being so familiar with a vacation spot like Maui. We started chatting idly about how nice it would be to spend more time here – more on that later.
So Saturday night we got settled, stowed our minimal groceries (besides the pupus, some Maui-grown ground coffee, milk, cereal, bread, and snacks) and finally konked out about 1030pm Maui time, 330am Chicago time.
Sunday morning, we quickly bagged the idea of driving up to the top of Haleakala as we didn’t wake up as early as usual (4am instead of 3am) and so we lazed about, had some breakfast, and walked down the beach south toward Honokowai. It’s been cloudy and somewhat inclined to sprinkle every day and isn’t slated to get sunny until Thursday.
As we walked down the beach, we could see a group of sea kayakers starting to put their plastic shells in the water down by a little pocket-sized short access park. They raised their arms and shouted “WHEEEE YEEEHAAA” or something as they ran the shells in, and then quickly got knocked a bit sideways because they were inexperienced lubbers. So as we came up, I asked the guy with the most tattoos what kayaking company they were with, because I figured that Chinese character tattoos all over his back and arms = experienced local kayak guy or something.
“No, we’re not a company, just a group of friends.”
They set off – about 10 or 12 people all told, and headed off southwest toward Tahiti (more likely setting a bearing on Lanai and then expecting to come back after spending some time out in the sea lanes where the whales hang out).
After that, we dawdled some more and decided to head into Lahaina to see if we could sort out some gear problems: when we were packing, I still could not find the battery charger for my Canon 40D, which I think may be plugged in someplace stupid like church or left in a hotel back in August.
Frustration: we stopped at several electronicsy places that might have it, and called the local camera store, only to be told that the original charger has been discontinued, and the replacement charger was out of stock. However, there was a “universal” charger available for a fairly nose-stingingly high price. We even checked at Radio Shack and at a very weird little discount computer repair place, where a nice man brought out a big box of different battery chargers, none of which was a match for my Canon. I considered buying one via Amazon and may still do, but after checking out the “universal” charger at the camera store, and thinking it over after lunch, decided to go back and get it so that I’d at least be able to take some decent pictures.
Lunch was at the Pioneer Inn, a favorite of ours. We were a few minutes early for lunch so we put our name in and dawdled over at the courtyard under the famous banyan tree, where the weekly art and crafts fair was taking place. Two guys played acoustic guitar and sang, very well, as we browsed. Then it was back to the PI to order.
“I want me some PIG,” I told the waiter, who looked like a weathered former beach bum. “Kalua pulled pork sandwich, coming right up.”
Waitstaff in the islands are like that – pretty unflappable, as they’ve seen it all from the great international traveling public. They’re usually good for joking around, within reason, and indulgent as long as they don’t have a table of arrogant assholes. They often strike me as having interesting lives outside of the workplace; they’re in Maui or Kauai to do something they love, like surfing or sailing, but they wait tables to make ends meet.
So after lunch, on the way home we fiddled with the charger and after some finagling, it was clearly charging my primary battery. After we got back to the condo, we lazed around some and I started fiddling with the backup battery. No matter what I did, it would not engage the little adjustable spring-loaded leads; after some struggle David noticed that the contacts on the second battery were just a little bit more recessed than on the original battery. This is not a big surprise as the second battery was an aftermarket replacement after Canon discontinued this particular model battery. GRRRR. So I may end up purchasing an actual Canon charger later, or perhaps just a better backup battery that can take a charge.
Dinner Sunday was at the Maui Brewing Company, previously noted as within convenient stumbling distance of the condo. We opted to squeeze in at the bar rather than wait an hour for a table, and I soon found myself chatting with an elderly lady seated on my left. There was an empty chair next to her, almost the only empty seat in the whole place, which was rocking with people enjoying the latest MBC brew, a “blood orange IPA.” I think the younger people crowding all around us weren’t willing to take a single seat next to the elderly lady or something: their loss, as she was a pistol.
We exchanged pleasantries and then she sized me up before declaring “I’m ninety-fowerr yearrs old, and I’m from Mizzoura.” I exclaimed “Oh! You and my mom are nearly the same vintage, and she used to live in Mizzoura before the war.” She decided I was o.k. to converse with after that since I knew enough to pronounce Missouri properly, or at least I chuckle at the thought. She was a lot of fun, and I learned that she’d been on Maui since December 1st, and although she didn’t miss winter, she was kind of missing home. We had one of those conversations you have with a complete stranger where the weather is always a completely safe topic, and David and I had conversations with several brews. In the end my favorite wasn’t the “blood orange IPA,” which was interesting but a little too amber-bitter for my taste. I liked the “Pau Hana Pilsner,” a really refreshing, light yet nutty tasting beer that had a nice finish and clean cold edges, kind of like some of the downhill skiers we watched on the bar TV.
We reached the stage of being just “nicely thank you, with a side of squiffy” before we decided we’d better head back to the condo and the end of our second day, Sunday.
I’d tried to contact some activities suppliers yesterday (today’s still only Monday) and so far we’ve got some things to do lined up. The weather is literally dampening some things like snorkeling and boat trips down, but we’re booked for the dinner package for the Slack Key Guitar show next Wednesday (not this Wednesday, we’ve seen the performer before) and for the magic show at Warren and Annabell’s on Friday (Warren is ill, so it’ll be one of several guest magicians). We’re booked for a whale watch on.. Friday morning so we’ll be busy that day, and also David is picking up a road bike rental Thursday. We’ve got some other stuff lined up or planned for, too.
Tomorrow (Tuesday) the vague plan is to drive up to Makawao and the Upcountry, dawdle around the galleries and check out whatever is new or different. We’ll revisit places like the glassblowing studio and that sort of thing, and maybe try someplace different for lunch. We cooked “in” tonight so will probably eat “out” tomorrow.
I noticed yesterday that Mick Fleetwood has started some kind of restaurant/music store of some kind in Lahaina, and there’s often live music, so that might be fun to try some night.
Still haven’t been in the water, probably take a dip tomorrow after we return from the Upcountry. The beach here is fairly narrow, with somewhat coarse brownish-pink sand, and constant waves. There’s no coral or snorkeling to speak of here, though it looks like there might be offshore reefs (or maybe it’s just banks of underwater seaweed).
It’s so nice to take a break from my allergies and from winter in general – I keep reading the news and Facebook and thinking “Thundersnow?? DO NOT WANT.” My poor co-workers are literally going to be snowed under for at least the next few days, yet again, with travelers who are stuck, or whose flights are cancelled, or whose connection is messed up because of delays. We’ve just about reached “island time” rhythms here, where except for those days we have some activity booked, we really don’t give much thought to day or date, let alone time. We haven’t had the TV on once, in fact, although I’ve seen bits and pieces of the Olympics via random TVs in the condo lobby or the MBC last night.
Speaking of the Olympics, my young cousin Jason Brown has done well in his first Olympics and most of his side of the family is home, or making their way home. One of our other cousins by marriage declared that on their return, the first thing he and his wife did was brush their teeth and take showers with hot water, soap, and shampoo – simultaneously! Oh, I hope they hold off on having a family party until after we get back, but it depends on Jason’s post-Olympic life, which I suspect is going to be pretty hectic.
It’s just so…. weird and interesting to see a family member in the news, and it’s hard to resist bragging “Oh, we have a family member who is an Olympic athlete” to random people. EVERYONE knows who Jason is – EVERYONE knows he’s the guy with the ponytail that has its own Twitter account.
Makes me wonder… who would win in a fight with sharp steel blades, Jason Brown’s ponytail, or Duncan McLeod’s ponytail? I’ve seen both in real life, and still own (somewhere) a pewter Celtic knot hair tie.
Anyway, on that bombshell (which makes no sense but who cares), that’s it for the beginning of our trip to Maui. Hoping there’s not actual rain tomorrow, too.
We recently toured the Kovler Diabetes Center after a recent American Diabetes Association volunteer appreciation event, and after seeing the labs we were both surprised to learn that researchers are kind of messy.