Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Maui Trip, Day 7 (Wednesday, January 13)

For Day 1, click here.
For Day 2, click here.
For Day 3, click here.
For Day 4, click here
For Day 5, click here
For Day 6, click here.


Wednesday was a day I had been especially looking forward to, as we were scheduled to go snorkeling at Molokini crater that day. In planning activities for this vacation, snorkeling there was my #1 top priority of things I wanted to experience, even if we didn't get to do anything else.



There are many snorkeling charters going out to the crater every day, as it is one of the most popular snorkeling destinations in the world. Typically, the cheaper charters have larger boats with bigger crowds that don't necessarily have the best atmosphere (an open bar can do that), and they also get out there later than the smaller, faster vessels that charge more for being somewhat "exclusive". After much research, I decided to book our tour with Friendly Charters, which turned out to be perfect. Not only was their price about as low as they are offered anywhere, but the boat was small, fast, out to the crater early, and the crew was true to their name and super friendly and helpful. Because the weather and waves are unpredictable, and the currents outside the protective half-moon of the crater are dangerously strong, there are never any guarantees that a snorkeling trip booked to Molokini will actually end up there, or might have to be moved to a different location along the shore where waters are calmer. While these sites are still very cool, they are accessible from shore, whereas there was no way for us to get to Molokini except through a chartered boat tour out there.


 

Having slept in a bit later than intended (6 a.m. - ish - HA!), we barely made it to the pier by boarding time at 6:45 that morning. Continental breakfast was offered on board, though my husband was not overly impressed with it because he doesn't care for bagels or cream cheese. He ended up having some peanut butter on purple rolls with some fresh fruit and juice. I think he's a bit spoiled from bacon and eggs being a staple at home. :)


You can see the whale in the background

On the way out to the crater, we spotted several humpback whales, which migrate to Hawaii during the winter months. The boat would stop the engine anytime they got very close to us, which gave us an opportunity to see many of them up close.

With the sun still not fully up, and the air cool, the vast majority of passengers (including myself) opted for wetsuits, which in hind sigh were totally not necessary once we actually got out in the water (which was a comfortable 74 degrees). One thing I had been wanting to try was SNUBA - like scuba diving, but no certification is necessary because the oxygen tanks are floated on little rafts up at the surface. Being pregnant, I was not allowed to sign up for this, something I was really bummed about. As it turned out, I was glad it didn't work out, because not only would it have cost more, but I also don't think it would have been as cool as having the freedom to snorkel about and explore by myself. There was no benefit to being able to go deeper than my snorkel would let me, because everything was right there, and the visibility under water was awesome.

Molokini crater is visible in the back of the picture




We snorkeled at the crater for a full hour. The sights far exceeded our expectations! My husband and I snorkeled side by side, and would nudge each other anytime we spotted a cool new creature. Besides tons of beautiful tropical fish, we also saw an eel, and a trumpet fish. We got a little farther from the boat than we were supposed to, but unlike other charters we saw there that day, our crew never tried to stop us, nor did they have one of their people out in the water to stop snorkelers from going outside a limited zone right near the boat.


 Not my photo, but this was taken on location. We forgot the GoPro at home, and took no underwater pics. (Source)

After Molokini crater, we cruised to another popular snorkeling destination, where sea turtles can often be spotted. Again, my husband and I ventured out beyond the group, and unlike anyone else on board with us that day, we got to see a huge sea turtle swim out right in front of us. They live in underground caves in the water, and come up briefly for air every half hour to an hour. We could have reached out and touched it, but of course we didn't because we knew we weren't supposed to. The one we saw was very large - at least as big as my husband. I also spotted an octopus.


Back on board, there was a buffet lunch of sandwiches provided, which my husband liked much better (they say hunger makes the best chef), especially the cookies. We also saw many more whales.

In all, this trip took five hours. We got back to the guest house around 1 p.m., and took a long nap until about 3 p.m. Both of us felt groggy, and like we were still bobbing in the ocean the whole time.

Since it was Wednesday, we were planning on going back to church that evening, but taking a detour along the northern shore of West Maui after not being able to drive that road earlier in the week when it was shut down by an accident. First, though, we stopped for some Hawaiian shave ice from Ululani Shave Ice, an island staple. It was delicious! I ordered a small one, which was still almost too big. My husband ordered the largest size, and added a bunch of extras, which turned out to be way too much even for him.



Along the remote northern route, which again was covered in lush rain forests, we pulled over to take pictures with a crazy cat/chicken lady. And when I say "crazy", I mean it in the nicest way possible. She was in the process of dumping tons of cat and chicken feed out for stray animals. I asked her if she lived nearby, but she didn't - in fact, she was about a half hour from home. This is just what she does every evening on her way home from work. And sure enough, the back of her truck was full of feed sacks to prove the point.



We got to Lahaina a little early for church, and stopped along Front Street to listen to a street musician playing Latin guitar. Church was once again great, and the people super nice.

After the church service, we had dinner at Roy's Hawaiian restaurant, which is also in Lahaina. Unlike the branches on the mainland, the ones in Hawaii are owned by the real "Roy" Yamaguchi. A family in our church who knew about our trip had gifted us with a very generous gift card to the place. We shared the "Canoe for Two" appetizer, then I had a filet mignon and my husband ordered the Seafood Collection. My meal was simply superb!! I love a good steak, but this one was out-of-this-world good. For dessert, we split a macadamia nut tart.





By this time, I was very tired, and slept the entire 45-minutes it took to drive back to the guest house. We arrived there around 11 p.m., and both crashed.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Maui Trip, Day 6 (Tuesday, Jan. 12)

For Day 1, click here.
For Day 2, click here.
For Day 3, click here.
For Day 4, click here
For Day 5, click here

On the morning of Day 6, we were in for a special treat neither of us had seen before: watching the sun RISE over the Pacific. My husband is from California, and we have often gone there for family vacations, so we have seen the sun set over the Pacific many times. But being on the far eastern shore of Maui, we now got to see it rise.
 


For breakfast, we had some of the leftover banana bread from the previous day, toasted and slathered in butter, which really made it taste even more wonderful.

My husband then headed out to do more cliff jumps at the bay across from us, while I went back to sleep for a while, and then read some tour guides and brochures to decide what to do on the rest of our trip. When my husband got back, we leisurely packed up to go, and made our way back to Hana one last time. Even though we were still pretty full from breakfast, we had an early lunch at the same food truck as the day before. Since my meal had been so great, I ordered the exact same thing again.

From there, we headed out to drive back to our side of the island along the southern route. Evidently, there had been a mud slide from excessive rains, because part of the road was mostly closed down, and they were moving huge boulders out of the road with a backhoe, which we enjoyed watching.

Early on this drive, there are several more popular waterfalls and pools.

 

Along one of these stops, my husband saw this roadside stand that sold conch shells. I thought they were pretty and wanted to get one, but he was not interested in buying one until he learned that they could be used to make a sound that is very similar to that of a fog horn. He loves instruments, and since blowing into the shell is very much like playing a trumpet, he was able to do it perfectly immediately (whereas I made a sound like you would expect a dying cow to make). I also bought some rings made from shells for the girls, but misplaced them somehow and have never found them since.



Since many of the curves were one-way only, and blind to boot, cars are supposed to honk before entering. My husband got to make good use of his new shell instead. ;)


One of the most popular spots on the Road to Hana are the "Seven Sacred Pools", which are actually about 30 minutes past Hana. This was the first and only waterfall/pool along this entire drive where I got into the water, because most of the ones my husband had been swimming in were too dangerous to get to when pregnant, or too cold because the rain water in these waterfalls comes from high up on the island. This water was still pretty cold (high 60s, maybe?), but I am so glad I went for a swim here.



After this stop, most people turn around and drive back the way they came, along the northern route. The southern route is said to be too rough and dangerous to drive, with parts of the road supposedly almost impassable. After talking to others who had actually done the drive, we decided to go ahead and take that route anyway. Indeed, we are very glad we did! Either some people have a strange idea what a "bad road" is, or the islanders are intentionally spreading misinformation to keep tourists from this part of Maui (which, really, was nice for us as traffic was far less than on the way to Hana).

Unlike the northern shore which gets a lot of rain and is covered in rain forest, the southern shore is fairly dry, and looked a lot more like Arizona. I think much of this is ranch land. The views of the Pacific from this side were breathtaking. 





Remember this map from yesterday?
 

  (Source)

You would think that coming up from the southern shore, there would be a road connecting it with Keoneoio, but those dotted lines are a very rough hiking trail through some stark, black, extensive lava fields that date back to an eruption sometime between A.D. 1480 and 1790. I don't know if building a road is not possible, or if they don't want to do it because La Perouse Bay is a nature preserve now, but in any case there is no connecting road there.

A few miles farther north, past the lava fields, one would then expect to find a quick, easy way to cut over from Ulupalakua or Keokea to Makena or Wailea, rather than having to go all the way back up to Kahului, and then down the shore again. Indeed, locals have been asking for such a road connecting this 4-mile stretch for at least 40 years now, but no dice. Interestingly enough, you can see such a road (Kealakapu Rd, in grey) on the above map, and it is also visible on Google maps. The satellite view shows that it is paved and well maintained, so naturally, I was wondering why no GPS system or route planner ever includes this road. Google, as always, held the answer, and it's pretty weird: Oprah Winfrey owns 1,000 acres of land right there in Upcountry Maui (in addition to 100 acres in Hana, but who's counting). Kealakapu Rd. is on her private land. She had it paved and developed for her own personal use, so unlike the rest of us mortals who have to drive an hour on overcrowded roads to cover 4 miles as the crow flies, she can jet from her estate near Keokea to the resorts in Wailea in mere minutes. You know, when she's even on the island, and not at one of her other estates in Montecito, Fisher Island, Lavallette, Douglasville, Telluride, or the island of Antigua. Sigh. For all that, she has neither spouse nor children to enjoy these beautiful sites with, so I actually pity her. She can keep that private road, and I'll enjoy the longer drive with my awesome husband. But yeah, I'm pretty sure the locals would be much obliged if she could open it up to through traffic, as many private roads on the island are. 

For dinner, we stopped back in at Da Kitchen for a great Hawaiian takeout of chicken katsu, teriyaki beef, and kalua pork, which we enjoyed on the beach. Not only is the food at Da Kitchen delicious and very reasonably priced, but the portions are so huge that even though we split a plate, and both ate as much as we wanted, there was still food left when we were done.

When we got back to the guest house, another party had arrived that we got to meet. They were staying in one of the other wings. I was hoping this would put an end to my husband wanting to get up before sunrise every day, since we didn't want to wake the other guests.



 Relaxing on our balcony

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Maui Trip, Day 5 (Monday, Jan. 11)


For Day 1, click here.
For Day 2, click here.
For Day 3, click here.
For Day 4, click here.


Driving the "Road to Hana" is on just about every single bucket list for Maui. Hana lies on the far eastern end of the island, and can only be accessed on land by traveling a narrow, winding road along the shore, typically the north shore through scenic rain forests with lots of waterfalls and pools of water.

 Not my map, but pretty much exactly the drive we took over the course of Day 5 and Day 6 (Source)


Even though the actual distance to Hana is only about 50 miles along this road, it takes a good 2 1/2 hours to drive it, even without stopping to admire the many beautiful sights along the road. But as they say, the journey IS the destination, and this is especially true for the drive to Hana. 

Because I had read that there was so much to explore both along the drive, as well as on that side of the island, I had planned for us to spend two days on this part of the vacation - one day to drive to Hana along the north shore, then spend the night there, and drive back the second day along the southern shore route.

My husband woke up at 4 a.m. that day, but I got to "sleep in" until 5 a.m. We packed an ice chest and some things we would need for the trip, and left the house before 6 a.m. We stopped to get cash and fill the gas tank before leaving civilization.

There are several audio CDs for sale that give a narration of worthwhile sights and stops along the drive. After looking into the various versions, I wanted to buy one particular one that seemingly everyone online was recommending. We tried to find it at three or four stores and gas stations without success, passing up other popular audio guides in search of this "special gem", until I finally gave up and downloaded their mp3 version that did not include the map. This guide turned out to be really cheesy and lame, something that offered my husband ample opportunities to needle me along the drive, after going to such pains trying to find it, and not settling for anything else. Maybe the other audio guides are even worse? Who knows.



 People really live here! It was in the middle of nowhere.
We held off making our first stop, knowing that we could always come back to the early parts of the drive at a later day of our vacation, giving us more time to focus on the parts that we would only be able to visit this once.
 
At mile 9.5 we stopped at the Waikamoi nature trail, where we hiked through the beautiful rain forest for about 45 minutes. There was some sort of bamboo-like plant there that smelled like ginger root - very strange. 

Our next stop came around mile 17, on the Ke'anae peninsula, where we bought a kalua pork sandwich and some seriously great banana bread at a roadside stand.


 The actually baked the banana bread in small batches in this regular oven.


We also drove to the shore here, where the waves were crashing in quite forcefully. Before we left for Hawaii, I was thinking that maybe it would be nice to go with the kids some day. When we actually got there, I was SO THANKFUL that it was just the two of us. Not only did it mean we actually got to take a break, but I would have died a thousand deaths watching the kids explore all the treacherous spots we visited. As it was, I kept worrying about what I would tell my mother-in-law if my husband were to get hurt doing his usual antics.






One of the most photographed waterfalls on the island, the "three bears", came up at mile 19.5. My husband climbed all the way down to the pool and went for a swim, but it was too steep and treacherous for me to attempt.




We made one more stop at a waterfall along the way, before arriving at the Black Sand Beach in Hana. This beach is as famous as it is popular. Most of the tour buses going to Hana stop here for lunch, before turning around and going back to the inhabited western part of the island. Accordingly, this beach was a little overrun, and I did not very much enjoy it. The black sand is not actually sand, but tiny lava rock, which was uncomfortable to walk on. I did not go into the water here because the surf was high and the shore was rocky, but my husband enjoyed swimming for a while I watched and relaxed.

After that, we hiked down to a cave at that beach, which had a pool of water at the bottom. The water was very cold, but my husband jumped into it a couple of times anyway. 

It was about 1 p.m. at this time, so we left and started working our way toward the little guest house we had rented for the night. Along the way, we stopped at the farm stand of an organic farm, where we bought some fresh fruit, as well as a little sample of organic, Maui-grown coffee for my mother-in-law. There was also a food truck in that parking lot, which the lady at the farm stand recommended, so we bought our lunch here. I had the grilled mahi with a white sauce with capers in it, over rice, plus the obligatory macaroni sald. Delicious! It might have been the best meal I had the whole time we were on vacation, and that's saying a lot because they were all awesome.




 
We checked into the guest house around 2 p.m. It was right on the shore, and the landlord told us about a really cool bay just across the street, within walking distance, that offered some really awesome cliffs for jumping off off. After getting settled, we took a walk and spent a couple of hours over there.







 That's a coconut floating in the water next to him, not the head of a less fortunate cliff jumper. 







It was not possible to get into the water here without jumping off a cliff, which I was obviously not going to do being pregnant and all (and even if I hadn't been...). There were tons of coconut palms all around, and some of the coconuts had fallen into the water, so I asked my husband to fish one out for me so I could peel/husk/shell (?) it. Not having any tools or the know-how of natives, it took me a good hour to get the coconut out of its shell, and then crack it open on a sharp rock. My husband enjoyed the fresh coconut water.




 



After going back to the guest house, we headed into Hana again to go swimming and boogie boarding at Hamoa Beach. This turned out to be one of my favorite beaches on the entire island. One side of the bay had a very gentle slope of perfectly soft salt-and-pepper colored sand. I felt safe going far out without having to worry about stepping on an urchin because the water was crystal clear. The other half of the bay offered great waves for boogie boarding.






While in town, we stopped in at the only store, which was a cool experience in itself as they literally sold everything from groceries to hardware supplies. Other than that store, there is pretty much only a one gas station and one restaurant in the entire town, plus a tiny post office. By this time, however, the town was going to sleep and everything was closing.

We took a drive around the "harbor", and then headed back to the house for a dinner of salami sandwiches we had packed, and some of the fresh fruit we had bought along the way. We ate these while listening to the sermons that had been preached at our church the previous day in our absence.






Our plan for the next day was to sleep in (for the first time ever on this trip), and then work our way back to the other side of the island again along the southern route.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Maui Trip, Day 4 (Sunday, Jan. 10)

For Day 1, click here.
For Day 2, click here.
For Day 3, click here.

For my husband's version of Day 4, click here.


We had researched churches in Maui before leaving on our trip. There is only one independent Baptist church there, Grace Baptist Church in Lahaina, but that's all we needed :) Friends of ours had been there on multiple occasions when vacationing, and had also recommended it to us. 

When we arrived to Sunday school, one of the ladies in the church had brought bunches of bananas from her garden. She gave us some, which I thought was very cool because I had only ever had bananas from a store. 

Having woken up early every morning on the trip thus far, I was really tired after Sunday School. I told my husband I needed a sugar jolt, and wouldn't you know it, the church happened to be serving some sweets that were left from the baby shower the previous day. I had a piece of cheesecake (yum!), which gave me the boost I needed to stay alert. We enjoyed both the Sunday School service, as well as the morning service. The pastor and the people at that church were all very nice. There were also lots of other visitors there that day who were going to church while on vacation. We met a nice couple from Canada, as well as several others. 

Selfie we sent home for the little kids, who were calmed by looking at pictures of us in our absence.


We had a certain budget for food and activities for the vacation, and were joking that if we kept up the dining out, we would end up with nothing but PB&Js by the end of the trip. Naturally, I was happy to be invited to the potluck lunch that the church was hosting after the morning service, in honor of sending one of their men out. The food was really good, and one of the ladies packed me a bag of fried bananas to take when she heard me mention how much I liked them.  





 After church, we went to downtown Lahaina, where we had booked a tour on the Atlantis Submarine. This trip also involved a boat ride out to the sub and back. When I first stepped into the submarine, I felt a little claustrophobic, but thankfully that subsided quickly. 

The windows on the sub were 3 1/4 inches thick!




We got to view some cool things on the ocean floor, including an old anchor, though the water was too rough that day for us to be able to make it to the sunken ship they like to tour (although we were below the surface, where it was calm, the water was too choppy for the guide boat up on top). 

 
My husband under the famous giant Banyan Tree in Lahaina.

Back on shore, we still had some time before the evening church service, so we strolled down Front Street along the beach in Lahaina. My husband thought it was a bit too touristy, but I really enjoyed looking at the little local stores. As we were walking along, a lady outside a cosmetics store stopped us and claimed she had something "to help our relationship" Not like we needed help, and definitely not from a stranger. She interpreted our brief hesitation as consent, and proceeded to smear a blob of salt scrub onto each of our hands, telling us to rub it around. We sheepishly obeyed. Just as soon as our hands were covered in this goop, she said, "Would you like to step inside the store to wash your hands?" Nice trick, huh?? I asked her if there was any other option, to which she responded, "You could wash in the ocean." So in we went to wash up, and didn't fall for any other sales pitches. 

We also stopped for some local fudge, gelato, and Dole pineapple whip, all of which we shared before heading back to church that evening. 

That evening, someone who lives on the island and had been watching my husband's sermons online for some time, happened to be visiting that church for the first time. He was shocked to find us there, as he obviously had not expected that, at all. There was also another lady there that evening who had started going some weeks earlier, after listening to the sermons online. 

We again enjoyed the service. Afterward, there was pizza and salad for everyone. I ate enough, but my husband, who was busy chatting with church members, didn't, so we stopped for pizza from Round Table on the way home. They messed up half of the pizza, so they made us a second one correctly free of charge. 

Since we were planning on leaving early the next day to drive to Hana, we went to bed as soon as we got home from church.