Saturday, September 29, 2012

Maui, Sept 28, 2012

Today's adventure started with a drive to Ahihi bay.  This is at the far south of Maui among the lava fields. The landscape down there is amazing--fields and fields of crusty black lava rocks and scattered vegetation.  There were some black lava goats grazing on the scattered vegetation.  I read that they were brought here by farmers but have run wild causing untold harm to the environment.  I was impressed they could survive the lava fields.  Those animals are tough.

We found our parking lot for the best snorkel bay the Killpack way by driving past it while saying something like 'we're looking for a dirt parking lot a lot like that one'. Then we had to turn around as the road got considerably more narrow (when it was already narrow to begin with) and unpaved. Luckily, our little red rental Jeep has a great turn radius.  (And a lot of head room for a tall driver. Kip is thinking it might be time to retire the '95 Sentra and buy something headier.) We got back to the parking lot, which is kind of dirt spread over lava rock.  I appreciated my fancy yet sturdy new croc sandals as we crunched across it, only slipping off their slight heal a few times. The walk to the bay was over lava rock that had been crunched under the feet of thousands of tourists and local surfers and snorkelers.  In some places it was fairly smooth, in others it was quite rough.

The bay was in two sections.  In the first, the waves were mild and people were snorkeling.  In the second, the waves were boisterous and people were surfing.  We walked out about 2/3rds of the way into the first section and looked a little lost.  The shore was made of sharp black lava rocks.  Where were we supposed to enter the water?  A nice looking local man probably in his mid 40's pointed it out to us.  He showed us the slightly-less-sharp-and-pointy area where you can walk into the water and put your fins on.  He also pointed out where the best fish could be seen and said that he takes his kids there and they enjoy it.  I wasn't sure if he wasn't also suggesting that if his young children could do this, we were lame mainland wimps to be just trying it out for the first time as old as we were.  In any case, his help was appreciated and we took off our shoes and headed to shore.

I think it's important to mention at this time that my feet are very sensitive.  They are used to soft carpet and smooth linoleum and even then usually cocooned in a fluffy-lined slipper with custom orthotic inserted.  Walking on the concrete sidewalk barefoot is torture for them, although I have to say that whoever came up with the crazy, rock-heavy concrete of our neighborhood sidewalks was a loony.  I mean, sidewalk chalk is useless on that rough stuff.  Where's the fun in that?  But the beach sand mixed with lava rock of Ahihi was a particular type of torture for my foot bottoms.  I hobbled out into the waves like a wounded animal, no doubt to the amusement of all the visitors at the bay that day.

In the water I faced the next struggle: not getting crashed up the beach by the waves while struggling into my snorkel mask and flippers.  I am certain that this again was a source of great amusement to onlookers.  The challenge of the endeavor was only heightened by the fact that my hair kept getting stuck in my mask and said mask kept fogging up. The ultimate struggle eventually was conquered and Kip and I managed to stick our faces in the water and breathe through our snorkel tubes.

We paddled for a little and suddenly came upon what people go snorkeling to see--a coral reef!  There were fish, yellow little ones (yellow tangs?) and bigger black ones with a white or blue line outlining their bodies.  There were fancy coral structures and strange foggy voids.  I think I saw a starfish once, and I know I saw pokey anemone-things.  At one point I saw a little yellow fish chasing a zebra-striped fish.  It was really neat and definitely better with the corrective-lensed snorkel mask.  That was a fine development by the snorkeling world.  And it also helped that Kip was a master at unfogging my mask.

My body, I have discovered, is built in such a way that floating is quite easy.  If I lay on my back in water, I can float almost indefinitely.  Even my knees and feet are buoyant, bobbing up to the surface and poking out of the water.  On my belly, it turns out that it is pretty much the same.  I could float with my snorkel mask in the water staring at the fish forever with hardly any effort at staying on the surface.  The effort is in fighting the current to keep from getting too far out to sea or too close in to shore.  Kip isn't the same.  He has that type of body that gravity drags toward the sea floor.  He can float, but his legs get pulled constantly down.  I feel pretty lucky.

Unfortunately, as we were swimming, the large cups of water I drank over the course of the morning made their way through my system.  I remember once on a family trip to Florida being in the ocean when Anna realized she needed to pee.  Our rental house was two blocks away and we had only just gotten to the beach for the morning.  In spite of our assurances that it was OK to pee in the ocean, she just couldn't do it and one of us was forced eventually to take her home.  I felt like Anna this morning.  Logically, I knew it was OK, but years of training to ONLY pee in potties left me trapped.

Kip and I were both tired at this point and had had a good swim, so we headed back to the shore. As we neared the beach, I considered keeping my flippers on to avoid the torture of walking on the rocky sand again, but the waves were too strong and after falling onto my hands and knees, I gave up and pulled off the flippers.  I found a mildly painful place to wait and Kip got me my shoes.  By this point I really needed a potty.  I ditched Kip and trekked back to the parking lot where I knew there were two lovely though well-used port-a-potties at my disposal.  I hadn't realized how long the trek was until taking it at breakneck walking speed back.  The little heals on my sandals kept slipping out from under my hurrying feet, but I didn't care to slow down.

I finally came in site of the parking lot only to realize that there was a port-a-potty cleaning truck parked at the potties giving each one a deep cleaning.  I laughed ironically and crossed my legs and waited.  I did a little dancing.  It was awkward since there were people sitting in the cars parked on either side of our Jeep.  If they hadn't been there I might have been tempted to use the Jeep as a shield and just go for it.  As Kip started approaching from the beach, I couldn't take it anymore and headed to the potties.  The potty-cleaner saw me and stepped to the side saying something about having cleaned them out just for me.  I thanked him heartily and went inside.  He said something about making sure of locking my door that I didn't understand.  I mean, who wouldn't lock the port-a-potty door, especially with a cleaning guy in the stall next door?  But I must say, if you have to use a port-a-potty, a freshly cleaned one really is a treat.  I don't know how they do it, but it smelled like mint and sparkled.

Once that was out of the way, we were able to get back on the narrow road and head back up to Wailea and our cozy condo.  We had a relaxing lunch there and then spent the afternoon at the Maui Ocean Center, where we got to see all sorts of fish and coral from behind glass windows.  It was definitely less effort, but I'm glad we did the snorkeling and saw them in their natural environment.  It was neat to be a part of it and not just watching fish someone put in a display for us to observe.
Of course, we didn't see nearly as much variety in our little swim.  There were turtles, all sorts of fish, and even sharks and rays at the aquarium.

We happened upon feeding time at the shark and ray tank.  They had some divers come in and give the rays treats.  They then swam around with their bellies to the glass sucking the fish into their mouths.  The female ray was gigantic!  After giving the treats, the divers got out and dropped in the main feeding of fish.  The sharks and other big fish swam around in circles selecting their foods.  There wasn't a feeding frenzy.  Everything was pretty calm.  But it was interesting to watch.

One of the bonuses from our rental car company was a free item coupon for the aquarium gift shop.  We weren't sure if we had to purchase something to earn it.  There had also been Hilo Hatties coupons for us but you had to spend a certain amount in the store for your free gift.  There, you got a t-shirt.  It wasn't fancy, but there were several choices and they weren't bad.  So we chose a couple souvenirs from the aquarium gift shop and turned in our coupons.  It turned out the free item there was a luggage tag in the shape of assorted sea animals.  Not terribly exciting, but we chose one each and called it good.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Snorkel and Luau, Sept 27, 2012

Today we went snorkeling.  It was my first time ever and I was a little nervous.  We went to Polo Beach and walked out into the surf.  We'd managed to find snorkel masks that had corrective lenses, so we were set for a good session.  We pulled on our masks and flippers and floated out.  The idea is to just stick your face into the water and look down, but whenever I felt the water over my mouth and tried to force myself to breathe I would panic.  I knew my mouth was under water and if I breathed in I would fill my lungs with salty sea-water.  I contemplated calling it quits and just hitting the beach with my Bill Bryson travel book, but I wanted to push through.  'I am in a glass bubble filled with air,' I told myself, and put my face down and forced myself to breathe through my mouth.  And I finally got it.  I could breathe with my face in the water!  And I could see!  Unfortunately, all there was to see at that particular spot was sandy water.  We found one place where there were some rocks and little fishes, but it was pretty small.  There were black lava rocks on either side of the beach, but I was nervous to head over there because of the surf.  The waves were pretty strong and I could just imagine being dashed into sharp unfriendly black rocks while trying to look at the fish through my prescription goggles. Kip wanted to play in the waves, but I get dizzy from the up and down of it all, so I headed to the beach.  It was a hotel beach with hotel-owned lounge chairs that I technically couldn't use.  I didn't feel too restrained.  I found a vacant lounger and asked the lady next to it if I could sit there.  She was fine with it.  Plus, our white beach towels almost matched the hotel-issue ones the residents all had.  I didn't feel too conspicuous.  I got some good reading done and Kip tried to perfect the art of body-surfing without a board.  He did pretty well--maybe it helps to have a long body.

Tonight, we had our luau at the Grand Wailea.  We got there a little late, but had reserved front seating and were in the second row at the front of the table.  It wasn't bad.  Our table had a couple from Vancouver BC, Seattle, Brazil, and a mom and daughter from here.  Everyone was very friendly.  I think when you visit, you must temporarily adopt the Hawaiian friendliness.  We all introduced ourselves and talked about why we were here. We took pictures for each other.  It was fun. The food was pretty good, but after finishing the buffet, I was hit with a migraine.  Was there something in the food?  It just seemed odd to hit so fast after a pretty relaxing day.  I took excedrine and watched the show.

I thought the show was pretty good.  The dancers are so smooth.  Their hips and feet move and their upper bodies stay almost motionless.  It looks pretty cool.

There was a rain goddess who did a dance on ribbons.  I'm not sure that's traditionally Hawaiian.  But it was very neat.

The best of course was the fire dancer at the end of the show.  He was amazing, throwing his fire stick all around.

Although the boy dancers doing the sit-on-fire dance were pretty funny, if not quite as impressive.

We ended the night with a group photo for Casey, the local girl there with her mom.  Kip and I get to email it to her because her phone camera didn't do a good job of it, so we took it with our camera.  I guess we made a friend in Maui!

Traveling in Hawaii, Sept 26, 2012

In honor of the fact thatwe're traveling and this blog was originally created to chronicle our travels, I thought I'd post some of my journalings from our current Maui trip. I'll add pictures later since we don't have the connector to get them from our fancy new camera onto my iPad. We're in Hawaii!  Wailea, Maui. I had a tough night.  I didn't put on enough sunblock yesterday and managed to burn.  My right shoulder is the worst.  Then there's a bright red V down my chest.  There's some blotchy paler areas from where I did manage to put some sunblock on in the middle of my chest, but some areas are definitely red, hot, and burned. In honor of my weakened physical state, Kip and I opted to hang at the condo for most of the day.  It's a pretty posh place to hang.  It's got a direct view over the rest of the neighborhood to the ocean.  Sunsets are amazing from the lanai (what the rest of the world would call a balcony of course).
The interior is very modern/island/comfortable.  Everything is recently totally remodeled and in pretty  close to perfect shape.  The bathroom is a work of art.  In fact, there is so much art on the walls that Kip and I let ourselves wander into an art shop in Lahaina. We both fell in love with a giant poppies painting that would have cost us $7k for an artists edition. Funny. So hang out we did.  Kip made us mexican omlettes with the leftovers from our first night here (last Saturday). They were good.  We played a little Milles Bournes. I cheated so I could win handily.  Oops.  I didn't mean to. Kip made his special jalepeno poppers on the lanai grill. He dropped one down on our neighbors porch and they had a good laugh when he went down to clean it up.

We had to be in Makena at 3:45 to catch a boat for the sunset sail we had scheduled. The weather had High Surf alerts, which made seasickness a concern since motion sickness in our family isn't entirely limited to Becca.  But we gave it a go. The boat sails from a super fancy hotel and golf course.  There was supposed to be free parking somewhere, but we stumbled on the valet option first and went with that.  The friendly valet gave us directions to the launch site and took off with our red jeep. (Anytime you see a jeep in Hawaii you know it is a rental.) We walked through the hotel and manicured gardens down to the beach.  There we found a little hut selling drinks, renting snokle gear, and offering expeditions to swim with turtles or the like.  A super-friendly girl behind the counter told us we were in the right place.  

Watching her greet all the people, I realized something about people in the tourism business in Hawaii.  They are extroverts.  They greet everyone like they just met one of their best friends.  Well, actually I realized later that some of the people on this particular cruise really were tour-guide-Amy's best friends.  But either way, the general feeling we've gotten from people here is one of immediate friendship.  Take the girl who rented us our snorkel gear yesterday.  We learned all about her and her 4 kids and her honeymoon in Vegas (a real one, not the show).  And we told her all about us and our kids and this being our tenth anniversary trip.  She drove by on her way home while we were eating pizza next door and we smiled big and gave each other a friendly wave.  And we really meant it.  It wasn't just, oh, she saw me looking, I'd better wave.  It was, hey, she is my friend now.  I'm glad to see her again.

So, sunset sail hostess Amy totally fit the friendly persona I've come to expect here.  She stole all our shoes (it was a barefoot cruise, of course) and met us down on the beach when everyone had been checked in.  The boat pulled as close to the shore as possible and had two fold-down staircases for us to run up onto the deck.  The choppy waves from the high surf came crashing under the boat right at the foot of the stairs.  Amy stood there holding the railing and told us when to run for it between the big ones.  Kip and I got on pretty quick and didn't get too wet.  When we were all on, Amy and the friendly bartender guy from NY/Houston pulled up the stairs.  We had a little safety talk in the cabin and were let loose.
The boat was a rectangle with big pontoons on either side and a deck all around the outside. The deck surrounded the step-down cabin with seating and The Bar.  The free alcohol was quite the hit with most of the crowd.  There were probably 20-30 of us on board and it was very comfortable.  Not overcrowded.  The crew said it was less bumpy at the back of the boat, so when they set us loose, Kip and I got sprites (wahoo--free drinks Mormon style!) and went back there.  My drink went down OK and my stomach felt good, so we moved to the very front and sat on the deck (there weren't many seats outside of the cabin) with our feet in the nets between the pontoons and the stairs.  It was a bouncy ride, but we both enjoyed it.  Every now and then a wave would smash into the boat and splash us.  I was glad I wore my swim suit.

Eventually the crew put the sail up and appetizers were brought out.  We moved to seats against the cabin windows when everyone rushed the food and talked with the barman for a while.  Down in the cabin I snatched the last shrimp (sorry, Kip!) and made a plate full of veggies, fruits, and cheese and sat down to eat.  We got into a conversation with some of the passengers and learned how Amy really was already friends with them and that this was by far the best sunset sail in Maui and that some local music celebrity was singing at a nearby Irish pub that night.  Then, the seasickness hit me.  It must have been that last piece of cheese.  It was perr-jack and I was expecting something mild and creamy. I headed out to the back of the boat and thought about asking for some of the natural seasickness remedies the captain had mentioned during the safety breifing.  It was just coming into sunset time and the captain stopped the boat so the back right side, where I was holding in my stomach was facing the view.  
My quiet area was suddenly invaded by 20+ people in varying stages of sobriety carrying foul-smelling alcoholic beverages that make me nauseous on the best of days.  Things got pretty tense.  I wasn't sure I would make it.  Luckily, I did, but I have to say I have a new appreciation for Becca and her carsickness after tonight.  After the sunset event finished, we got our disembarkment instructions and headed for the shore.  Again, Amy held the railing and the waves crashed under the boat.  I ran down and broke the rule about not jumping off the bottom because I couldn't see the last step.  I didn't bonk my head and I was thrilled to feel solid ground under my feet. So now we're home.  Kip's asleep on the couch and I've spent far too long writing about this.  I think it's time for another layer of aloe vera on my flaming red sunburn and bed.