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.
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.