Adventures in Paradise, Part 1

All the obvious hints aside, yes, we were gearing up for a return trip to our second spiritual home, Maui. This time we're staying in Napili, an area north of the Ka'anapali area that's s supposed to have good snorkeling. We had an uneventful flight, although a cramped one – it was absolutely jammed full of elderly group travelers from Wisconsin. After some delay in getting the rental car, which we may swap out again later, we drove up around Macgregor Point, and encountered our first whale, and our first Na Pali traffic jam.

It's been one of my peeves for years – development on Maui is dictated not so much by the people who have to live here, but by the big landowning interests. So roads didn't get built because they needed to be, they got built as afterthoughts around the edges of valuable land. Then when the local agriculture-based economy got switched over to development for tourism (big landowning interests again), the roads remained underfunded, badly routed, and soon became massively congested. We got stuck in a slow moving crawl, but once we inched past Lahaina, it eased up. Never did see an actual REASON for the delay. We kept an eye out for whales, watched for interesting things along the way, and managed to tune in NPR and lsten to "Car Talk." Hey, some things we do on vacation are a lot like the things we do on weekends.

This post is going to be VERY VERY LONG. Basically, it's one big post for the whole two weeks, that will be updated frequently but not published until just before our ::sniff::: return. To see the whole thing, see the extended entry… See you at the end!

The condo property is very, very nice – it sticks out on a point of land next to a pretty little rockbound cove. The birds are making their morning symphony – some of them have pretty calls, and some of them sound like squeeky bicycle wheels, but they all make a happy chorus in the mornings. It's still overcast, as it was yesterday, and when we stepped outside just now it's spittin' rain a little, But that's okay. Because when we were on the flight last night, the pilot announced "It's currently 84 degrees in Maui." And when we left Chicago, it was -2 at O'Hare, with a windchill that took it down farther than that. So, a little rain in Maui still just another shitty day in Paradise, but more damp than usual.

Last night for dinner, we walked over to a nearby restaurant, Fish and Poi. We ate there last year on our trip with Steve, so we knew going in it was good. Our waitress was typical for the area; young, beautiful, healthy, strong looking, and from Wisconsin. She looked like she might spend a lot of time during the day in the water. And she was knowledgeable about the food, steering us to the hamachi special. Mmmm, that was some good grilled fish! It's a strong flavored fish – we've always had it as "negi-hama" sushi with minced green onion. So it was served with a spicy, warm pineapple compote, which softened the oily taste and complemented the fish well. Wine was a Stella Pinot Grigio – we're not fancy, we know we like it, and we know it goes well with fish.

After dinner, we walked around the grounds of the condo, and discovered the local denizens – lumpy toads that hopped heavily out of our way when we crossed the "grass." Just now we walked outside and spotted a couple of whales, far out. In a short time, we'll get pulled together and walk over to get a little breakfast at another nearby place. Snorkeling, perhaps a bit later, after I figure out the point of safe entry for this cove. Oh, there willl be many photographs taken on this trip. Actually, since we've taken so many of the normal tourons-in-Paradise shots, we're going to try a little experiment and come up with themes for the day, and groupings, and so on. Some photos will be taken purely to be submitted to various Flickr groups I'm on, or that I know of. More later…. much more.

Same Day, Later On Dude

Breakfast turned out to be a long wait, but the view was great – whales out in the channel, and of course everyone was comfortably attired in shorts and sandals. Ah, it's good to be on vacation. We were at the Gazebo restaurant at the property next door – this is one of those local favorites that you just have to know about, because the signage out on the street is tiny. We walked over via the beach "path" after our typical first morning of getting up hours before dawn, puttering around, and taking a few photos.

 

Maui Pineapples

In spite of wind and spittin' rain, we drove north past Kapalua to the overlook above the village of Kahakuloa.

 

Kahukuloa

 

Got a couple of delicious and overpriced smoothies at the little snack bus, which we've seen before but never stopped at.

 

 

And hey! You know you're in the islands when you see slippahs at the door! Took quite a few photos of the area around Nakalele point, where there is a blowhole, and then we started to get interested in returning the way we came. This was fraught with a little tension, because the road just before arriving at the snack bus was extremely narrow and kind of steep, and if you met anyone, one car would have to find a spot to pull over.. in some cases, back up until a spot was found. We had to back up once and start completely over. Then after watching for a long while, we did it again and followed a big local truck down. We noticed the locals just went for it.. interesting technique.

 

After David's experience, time for lunch and errands. So we stocked up on a few groceries – which is always a fun experience in Hawaii, because normal "staples" to stock up for a week or so usually set you back a hundred bucks or so, and we have pretty simple tastes. We bought a bunch of local delicacies for dinner, like salmon poke, several other kinds of poke, rice, poi, soy sauce. You know, the usual. Poke is pronounced "pokey" and is a kind of cold seafood salad, garnished with seaweed. Lunch supplies were laid in, so we ate "in" for both lunch and dinner. David took a nap, and I took a walk around the neighborhood scoping things out. Figured out where the entry point for snorkeling was on our little cove, tried to figure out whether the grocery store was within walking distance, that kind of thing. Walking along the road was an experience, because it's narrow, winding, and the cars whip around pretty quickly. No sidewalks most of the way. It would be suicide walking at night.

Dinner was pretty successful – no sunset due to clouds, which is okay for now, since we've already taken a ton of sunset photos.

Monday: We Meet The Neighbors

 

Turtles! There were at least 3 big turtles bobbing around in the cove! We got all the gear and went down to the edge. Took many photos of two guys who swam right into the "slot" which is the point of entry for the snorkelers. David named them "Penn and Teller." We walked over later in the morning to the snorkel area at the next property in order to have a little easier entry for our first day – it had rained heavily in the night, so it was a little murky at first, but farther out, it was a lot clearer. There were a lot of fish – David saw a turtle, but I wasn't in the right area to spot it until after it disappeared. Then just as we decided to get out after a long snork, the rain started coming down again. The people on the beach had gathered underr a shelter and were being entertained by someone from the property – birthday singing, games, and whatnot, so I guess they're big on the fun over there. We dealt with our gear as best we could at the beach shower – we were covered with sand and so was all our stuff. Then we migrated back home via a route that we could surely improve on, just to avoid getting all sandy again.

 

Then after getting completely cleaned up (ack! Sand everywhere) we headed out south to look for a good spot to watch whales. It's a rough existence, but someone's got to live it. We drove as far as the Kealia Wetland bird sanctuary, which was not actually wet and contained no birds, but did have a magnificent but unfinished boardwalk. Our tax dollars at work. We walked along that for a while, then decided we didn't want to make the acquiaintance of the local guy who had apparently decided that a remote boardwalk in the middle of nowhere was a good place for a bender, so he was sprawled on the deck. Eh, move on.

Shopped a little in Lahaina, bought a new outfit, picked up some Maui Taco stuff to eat and had lunch at home. Then – naptime! Yes! It's vacation excitement galore! And then after that, DINNER! Yes, yes, we're fine. The heady excitement of our daily routine will not go to our heads.

I'm just trying to keep track, because usually it all blends into one pleasant but hard-to-remember "goo."

So dinner, before I so rudely interrupted myself, was at a place new to us, the Maui Brewing Company. VERY decent brews – I had the Honolua Lager, David had the Bikini Blonde.

Lager.

He doesn't like blondes really. While enjoying our meal we kept an eye on the hostess, who was popular with just about every unattached guy in the restaurant. All of them, as they went to leave, would stop to chat with her. She had a slight resemblance to Natalie Portman – an unforced, natural prettiness, and not like the usual tanned beach babes that so often wait tables here. We heard her laughing and chatting with two good-looking guys, who seemed to be competing good-naturedly for her attentions. She told them she was a teacher – good for her, Maui needs teachers badly. I wonder if she moved here because of that? Our waiter mentioned in passing that he'd come to Maui on vacation once and never went back to the office, it happens sometimes.

We've had Internet access now and then but it's kind of spotty. We seem to have fallen into a happy accident there – it wasn't supposed to be working at all, and there would be a charge once it was repaired… but for us it's mostly just… worked. No password. It may be that we're in a unit with a different setup than the others. Not asking too many questions at this point.

Tuesday is Turtle Day

Swimming with the turtles! Yay! Although the entry from the "slot" is tricky, we managed to enter Honokeana Cove and swim around for about 45 minutes. We both soon encountered turtles; so large that they could only be prefaced with the phrase 'frickin' HUUUUUUGE." The water was a bit murky but cleared up after a while. Along the one side, I could tell that fresh water was mixing with salt; maybe there are some springs over there. It makes it hard to see because of the different densities.

I found my own personal turtle, who I'll call "Barney" because of the white barnicle over one eye. Later, I found both Penn and Teller, hovering near each other. At one point, I took a photo with the little disposable underwater camera that was absolutely full of turtles. I don't know if the images will look like anything, though, because it was still overcast. While I hovered over Barney, he decided it was time for a breath of air. I reflected for a moment on the sight of a hard-shelled amphibian the size of a coffee table rising rapidly toward me, and decided to get the hell out of the way, but quick. He and I floated around for a while, each breathing in our own way. It was very relaxing. Barney, however, wasn't all that impressed with me. Soon, he floated off to find another ledge to wedge himself under.

Getting out was a lot harder than getting in – the rocks make it difficult and there's not a lot of clearance when the tide isn't high. David struggled a little and really, really didn't want to deal with the rocks again. Darn. Then we took off and went for a drive along the shore and looked for whales.

Our ultimate goals were:

  • Book a better car with Avis
  • Migrate all the way back to Kahului to make the swap
  • Pick up lunch somewhere on the Kahului side, maybe watch surfers at Ho'okipa
  • Pick up the new Arctic Monkeys CD, which I had reserved, at the Maui Borders
  • Shop for more gear at the Sports Authority next door
  • Pick up groceries on the way back to the condo for a dinner "in."
  • More shopping opportunities as they arose
  • More whale-watching whenever possible
  • Avoid traffic on the Pali Highway

 

Of these goals, we succeeded at all but "go to Ho'okipa" and "avoid traffic." I callled my Avis corporate services rep, told her I'd been stupid to cheap out by booking Alamo, and confirmed a Ford Escape for the rest of our stay. Not a hybrid, but David's a lot happier with it. Much nicer, MUCH cleaner, much newer vehicle. For one thing, the "cigarette lighters" worked, which meant that we had plenty of things to plug rechargers into, plus I had one of my two iPod car-FM transmitter things (don't ask why two).

Then we dropped off the Alamo sedan and walked across the street to Avis to get the new car. Heh. The whole front counter could see us. Pity there was a long line at Avis, we burned about 40 minutes there. We got there not long after a couple of big flights arrived at the airport. Then we waffled a bit, eventually went to Pa'ia, but encountered traffic. Much relaxed conversation.

On arriving at Pa'ia, we were still stuck in traffic, out on the edge of town, right by a public parking lot. Hmm! Advantage! Adapt and Overcome! So we parked and walked a couple of blocks to the center of town. There was this crazy character in the parking lot banging on a beat up little Toyota truck, apparently taking the front end off. He seemed to be engaging in a little street theater to freak the mundanes – called out cheerfully to everyone, asking if they had a particular kind of bolt. He had crazy eyes, crazy hair, and even his tan was crazy – he was the color of old mahogany furniture, with not a gram of fat on him, shirtless and very nearly pantsless, as he was going extreme low-rider for the occasion. When he turned, you could see his buttcrack. No photos document this encounter.

We had lunch at a little place with mostly "island Mexican" food up in the center, browsed along the street going into galleries, and then headed back to the parking lot (we actually spent a lot of time looking at beautiful things and chatting with the proprietors).

On the way, we took photos of a mural and of a junkyard and of a couple of artists painting watercolors of the multicolored storefronts across the street.

I thought it was nice that they were making something beautiful, while sitting someplace ugly that was full of old rusting cars. Back at the parking log, our crazy mechanically minded friend greeted us. David noted that he'd actually removed the entire front end in addition to the front fender. and engaged him in conversation about it. The guy seemed less cheerful then – claiming that he owns a $400,000 autorepair shop in Las Vegas, and normally charges $100 per hour or more to have his mechanics do what he was doing. Well, his tan and hair said "local," but he was really working on that car, so who knows the truth of it? He was entertaining the tourists nonetheless, but not getting any bolts from them.

We drove back toward the Pali highway, and sure enough hit traffic again outside of Maalaea. This is getting to be a daily routine – I'd hate to live here and have to deal with it! We followed a pickup with two teenage kids in the back, a girl and a boy. They both had headphones on and the boy had a laptop. Obviously, they had good coping skills for dealing with the delay.

The line of cars stretched ahead into infinity, which was just as far away as the next outside curve.

Suddenly, a plane I'd noticed earlier flew right over the highway, banking low and to the right. We realized that there was some sort of Coast Guard "thing" taking place out in the channel. Sure enough, when we finally rounded the turn, we had ringside seats to watch:

  • Coast Guard plane circling, repeatedly dropping flares
  • Flares burning in the water
  • Observation raft nearby
  • Whales, mother and calf, close to shore
  • Whale watching boat right in the middle, really getting their money's worth

.

 

We finally crawled into Lahaina, shopped at the Cannery Mall for food and a new sarong outfit for me (yay!). Cooked dinner "in" and relaxed at the condo for the rest of the evening. That night we had… see? It's all becoming "goo." Chicken teriyaki? Rice for sure. We were really trying to get through the rice and not waste it.

I had bought some "Da Kine" seasoned salt and used that.

Wednesday is Slack Key Guitar Day

David wasn't into the idea of clambering over the rocks into the cove, so we took our stuff south to Kahekili (Old Airport) Beach. When we got there, the surf was a little rough for my taste, so I hung out on the beach in a shady spot and watched people while David contended with the waves and the current. Whales were active offshore, and we saw several breaches. Yay! Big whales, too.

I paddled my feet in the sand and fell into a state of complete relaxation. Had forgotten to bring a book, darn it. Must remember to have one with me. An artist painted the beach scene and the line of palm trees, and so I took a picture of the artist and the palm trees. After that, we muddled our way into the parking garage at Whaler's Village and had lunch at the Rusty Harpoon. One of the waitresses was very loud, very gregarious, and an Island girl — as in LonG GIsland. She sang "Happy Birthday" so loudly, and so far off-key, that people were chuckling all over the restaurant, which is open-air and very relaxed. Then she went from table to table, saying "Did you hear me? I sanG! I really love to sinG!" She was a stitch. Everyone was laughing and smiling in the whole room. What a gift that is to believe in yourself like that – she was a funny looking little thing, but definitely the most interesting and captivating person in the room.

We had concert tickets for the Masters of Slack Key Guitar concert series at the Ritz-Carlton, so we headed back early to get ready, put on our fancy resort wear (well, fancy for us, no jewelled flipflops and pedicure for me, thankyouverymuch). As before, a great concert with beautiful music and some hula.

This is the series whose compilation CD won the Grammy in the Hawaiian music category – hosted by George Kahumoku, who sported a feather lei and a cervical collar, because he threw his neck out. I told him after the concert that I didn't think his new style would catch on and got a big laugh from him and his guest, Ledward Ka'apana. Once again, we weren't disapppointed with the evening's entertainment – it just makes you feel so good and so much a part of the family to go to one of these concerts. I think they're just tremendously good. We had plenty of time before the show and ate at the sushi bar Kai at the hotel. Chatted with the chef and found that like so many others, he came to Hawaii on vacation once and decided that sometday he'd live there. Only he came from Japan, most of the other people I've talked with who've moved here are from the Midwest.

iTunes: Arctic Monkeys: From the Ritz to the Rubble: Five Minutes With Arctic Monkeys – Single [3:11]

Laughed with the guy to my right at the sushi bar – he was about to order the same thing I did, and I said, "don't be a follower, be a leader – order something different and make me jealous." The grounds of the Ritz are really… ritzy. We wondered whether the hotel has a problem with that kind of copyright infringement, or whether it degrades the brand, or whether they see it as free advertising.

Thursday – Makawao and Whatevah

We're getting a slower start than I talked up yesterday. Yep, me. I'm the slow starter. I didn't get in to the cove this morning to snorkel because the surf outside the point is high. But it's sunny and we're headed to Makawao, a long haul but a nice place to wander around. We'll take hiking stuff, and snorkeling stuff, and maybe catch some snorkel time at Olowalu (which is always calm and easy to enter) on the way back. We packed up hiking gear, snorkeling gear "just in case" and some snacks and drinks. Off we went, eventually, around 1130am headed toward Makawao. On the way, we stopped for gas and noted the following:

Some drivers are so courteous and road-savvy that they brake for polar bears. This is not too useful a skill in the tropics, where many people brake for whales instead. This is because when you're driving along the highway near the cliffside overlook, and you spot a whale, you could cause a wreck if the people behind you couldn't stop in time if you jam on the brakes.

We got to Makawao and started searching for a place to have lunch. It was a little hot, and we worked up an appetite. Finally stopped at Cafe Del Sol for some pretty delicious grub – I had a vegan burger and David had a turkey sandwich, both with fresh greens (the vegetables here are incredibly tasty, which is why they're so darn expensive). After a short photo stop for the protea arrangement…

IMG Protea Blossom

we wandered into theglassblower's shop.

where we watched them shape an ovoid of hot, multicolored glass into what would eventually turn out to be a large vase with a fluted lip. I've got a lot more pictures of the stages the piece went through up on my Flickr page, starting here

After spending a lot of time taking lots of photos and watching the vase take shape, we noted one thing – a sign on the wall that said "In Case Of Emergency, Break Glass." Also, the dog sacked out on the floor next to the slippahs made me laugh.

Then we wandered around the town looking at interesting things – also in the same part of my Flickr set.

After that, we drove up to the top of Olinda Road, admired the gorgeous view, and went for a short hike though the experimental-or-something forest. It's pretty weird, walking through a pine tree forest on a tropical island, but it's there.

We tried to hike all the way down to some springs, but the trail was pretty slippery and I started to feel worried about getting back – so unfortunately we bagged off on the very last few sets of steep switchbacks. I really struggled coming back up – have GOT to continue walking daily and going to the health club regularly when we :::sniff::: return home.

On the trail out, we met up with the girl from the glassblowers' shop. Chatted with her for a bit and got the skinny on how the big piece turned out. It's a large amphora-shaped vase with a big flared, fluted lip. Hot, sweaty, and tired, we headed back down the mountain through Makawao and headed in the leisurely way dictated by the stupid layout of the highways toward Napili, zig-zagging of course into Kahului and all the way back.

Traffic wasn't so bad and we relaxed along the way by stopping to watch the sunset and surfers at Ukumehame Beach Park.

And of course, the obligatory slippah shot.

Then a quick stop for some burger fixin's, including sweet ripe Kula tomatoes and some onion rolls, plus of course one very expensive little Maui onion. Once again we were grilling in the dark at the condo, but this time we brought a flashlight. Beforehand, I cut up the onion and worked Yoshida's teriyaki sauce into the meat with the onion. MMMM!!! For once, perfectly done, medium. Yummy. Again, no TV watching. We went to bed relatively early. We'd been booked onto an early kayak-hike tour the next morning, but when we were up in the woods we got the call that the trip had been cancelled due to nobody else booking, so we were free the next morning. We decided on heading into Lahaina and then "maybe Olowalu" for snorkeling. Also, some geocaching!

Look Out For Falling Fish Friday

Another not so early start: however we had only a few hundred yards to go for our first activity. Last year when we were here with our friend Steve we tried geocaching, and were only about 50% successful. This time I was hoping we could do a little better, and as it happens one of the locations we failed to "find" at was very close by. This time, we "found" and logged our success. It seems that on our previous attempt, we were off by just a few yards, and the clue was dreadfully obvious once we got there, although I can understand why we would have hesitated to look where it was the first time. Sorry to be so vague, but I don't want to "spoil the hide" for anyone.

Then it was off to Lahaina. Since we've been there a number of times, we have a few favorite spots and restaurants.

We had packed a lunch (using up the last two onion rolls) but once we were in town, the smell wafting from some restaurants was pretty enticing, so we left the lunch in the cooler on ice and had lunch at Moose Magillicuddy's.

While there, my knife fell into the street. Luckily, no one was injured, but I documented several people walking and driving right past it as it lay there, forlornly.

Earlier, we encountered a bizarre street preacher, who was hollering something incomprehensible about the gospel of John, but with an island flair. He pretty much shouted nonstop, and was ignored by all and sundry.

After lunch, we walked over toward Lahaina Scrimshaw, because David was determined this time to purchase a small piece for our collection of interesting travel treasures. As we walked past Lahaina Fish Co., they were taking delivery through a side door of some fresh mahi-mahi, heads and tails and all. As the guy was trying to get them out of the truck and hustle them past all the tourons, he dropped one on the sidewalk. Unfortunately for him, I got the whole thing with my camera, because I saw how he was rushing to get the fish out of the truck and had time to get set.

Then we wandered around one of the little courtyards looking for interesting and unusual things.

Spent a little time at the Lahaina glassblower's booth – he sits in a little windowed bay so people can watch him work. Rather than blowing glass, this guy works with colored glass rods and a blowtorch. He does nice work with dolphins – David's parents bought a nice combination piece from him a few years ago when we went together to Maui. Here, he's working on a tropical fish with long, trailing orange tail and fins.

Actually, I'm really glad that I took so many photos, because it's helping me reconstruct the order of events (but not remember what we had for dinner every night). After that, we went south to Olowalu to look for another geocache, which we found. Yay! It had a good view, too. This won't be a spoiler, because the actual cache isn't that close:

Some of those figures show up in the graphics and stickers you see in the islands on clothing, surfboards, and trucks.

Like on the back of this "Fresh Island Fish" truck, which we had seen about an hour earlier back in Lahaina. It was cool to get up so close, but the site is actually a little too accessible. Like many such places in Maui, you can see that at one time the county made an ill-considered effort to make a park or an interpretive site, but all they had to work with was concrete, pipe-fitting handrails, and no money in the budget for maintanance. And then thirty years later, you get sad little vandalized places like the Oluwalu Rock Art site and the neglected little taro garden display up at Iao Needle, and so many other places. It's a shame, really – there's so much interesting cultural heritage in Hawaii, and very little money for the state or the counties to pay for maintaining the sites.

Dammit, I Totally Lost The Thread

Typical. I stopped writing up the trip and months have gone by. So now what I'll do is just list a bunch of photos and reconstruct. It's all on my Flickr set for Maui, anyway.

Based on photos, here's what I think happened next:

After puttering around geocaching in Olowalu, we decided (I know) to go completely out of the area for dinner, brave the Pali Highway traffic, and go down to Kihei for dinner at a favorite restaurant we just call "the Greek place." Several years ago, we and 5 of our friends went to Maui and stayed in the penthouse unit of the Hale Pau Hana, a place I like to call "The Mothership." Since we were a party of seven, the problem of where and when to have dinner came up, and one night we just walked into the Greek place across the street, tucked behind another restaurant, and had a great, great meal. Since then, David and I have usually eaten there at least once on subsequent trips. It's always a realiably good meal and you get the pleasure of outdoor eating while being slightly off the street. They have a narrow view of the beach across the street. If there's live music at the restaurant next door, you get to enjoy it.

After dinner, we strolled across the street for another sunset. The weather had been rainy and somewhat cloudy (though nowhere near as rainy as it was later on when Hawaii was getting flooded out) so the sunsets weren't as spectacular as they could have been, but this was a pleasant one.

Then the Amazing Coconut Dog showed up! Yay! We loved the Coconut Dog!

David went for a wander while I goofed around with coconut dogs.

 

img_5588.JPG

 

And then he came back. Yay! The next day we went for a whale watch cruise in the morning, and then down to Big Beach in Makena in the afternoon. I think that's when we finally ate the sandwiches we'd made for the day before.

The next day was a big one for pictures – the surf was up and a bunch of elite surfers came out to Napili Point. I'm going to break off here and post the rest of the trip saga later. I took a lot of really amazing pictures and frankly, I need to get to bed early and not stay up all night tweaking. Suffice it to say that we were dreading the end of our vacation, because it was in sight. We only had a night or two more at Napili Point, and then we were moving on to Kula for a couple of nights, and then the last two nights at the Maui Prince in Makena. And then home, which we missed, but we didn't want to leave Maui. More on that later.

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