Gaidhlig Cridhe

Monday, January 07, 2008

Woe is me -- our last day on Maui! I've grown much more attached to it this time, probably because I'm more familiar with it now. If someone tells me "that's in Kihei", or "that's in Kula", or "you know the Chinese restaurant down by Safeway?", I know. I remember Puamana from last time. I remember the drive from Kahului and the paved walk that connects the Ka'anapali hotels and all those beaches. I've gotten used to having an adventure every day, waking up near water, being drenched in sunshine. And maybe because things were more familiar this trip, I've let them in a little more and they've become more a part of me. I'll miss them.

We carefully packed all our shells and sea glass and stowed them in our carry-ons this morning, then had our Hana banana bread for breakfast before checking out. Byron didn't steer us wrong; it was great.

We drove through Lahaina one last time :-( , and headed south. We stopped at the Scenic Overlook (yeah, like all the other places on Maui aren't scenic...) to take pictures of Molokini and Kaho'olawe. There was a row of what looked like whale researchers along the edge of the overlook, all comfy in their lawn chairs and baseball hats. One woman was looking seaward through what appeared to be a surveyor's telescope, calling out the position of a whale. The others, with regular binoculars, confirmed her sighting. Nice work if you can get it. We left them and drove into Kihei and found Kalama Village (so much easier to do in the daylight...) for those lotions Keri needed. Success!

We had lunch at Marco's, turned in the rental car at the airport, and took pictures of Haleakala from the parking lot as we waited for the shuttle. It was surprising to see the top free of clouds. The volcano wearing a lei, instead. And before we knew it there it was, our last picture of Maui.

Till next time...!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

We got up this morning and sat through a sales presentation. A necessary evil in order to sleep on these wonderful beds.

We got out to the beach (Ka'anapali) by 11 or so. Looked for a few shells but didn't find much. Keri snorked while I caught up on my journaling, and then we whale-watched while she drip-dried. Found a playful whale over by Lanai that looked to be breeching. Later, off the southern tip of the island, we saw what looked like breeching. With the binoculars I could see it was one whale continually slapping the water with its tail. Smack! Smack! Smack! I counted 39 slaps, and am pretty sure I missed a few. Somebody got up on the wrong side of the water this morning, eh? A mama and baby swam by in the channel, keeping their distance. Wonder what that one was so agitated by. A territorial male? A female warning off a suitor? Once that show was over, we left the beach and went into Lahaina for lunch and some last-minute shopping.

Had a nice lunch at the Cool Cat Cafe. It's true; they really are the best burgers in Lahaina. And you get a great view of Front Street and the banyan tree, with sparkling water in the distance. Not a thing to complain about.

From there, we went by Ann's house to return the Hana CD. She invited us in, of course, and we sat on the deck chasing the shade for awhile. Before we left, she invited us to come to the hula dancing at 6:30, a nightly thing at the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel. Their friends, Rudy Aquino and his wife, Heidi, were having their last shows before moving off-island, so this would be a send-off of sorts. We had already planned to go to the Sheraton around 5:00 to see the cliff dive (off "the baby-hucking rock") ("Black Rock" to the rest of us) and watch the sunset, so that fit in perfectly.

The sunset cliff dive is accompanied by a nice little story told over the Sheraton Maui loudspeakers, easily heard while you're standing on the beach. The diver comes out of the hotel at an easy jog, carrying a lit torch. He runs across the beach, then climbs the black rocks, lighting torches along the way. The dramatic dive is a little hard to see since so much of the sunlight is gone, and because other swimmers are still standing on the rock. But we got a couple of pictures and I at least know what they are...

We got to the Ka'anapali and found Ann, Bunt, and the others. They quickly made us feel welcome, pulling up chairs and getting us drinks. Rudy (Aquino) and his band were onstage -- Rudy on ukulele (say it with me: oo-koo-lay-lay), Ernie on electric guitar, and Smiley on bass. They sang some traditional Hawaiian songs, some contemporary songs about Maui (like "Hasegawa's General Store"), and some songs the mainlanders would know. At one point, someone called out a request for "the papaya song". Rudy grinned at the rest of us, "I bet you didn't know Neil Diamond wrote The Papaya Song, did you? Well he did. And I bet you know it."

Sweet Caroline... PA-PAI-YAH...
Good times never seemed so good...

LOL! If only Keri's mom had been there! The biggest Neil Diamond fan ever, whose name happens to be Carol... Perfect. :-)

Rudy also let the kids (and I say "let" because it was clearly the kids' idea) do The Twelve Days of Christmas. Let's see if I can remember...

"Numbah Twelve day of Christmas,
my tutu give to me...
Twelve television
Eleven missionary (ahhh-men!)
Ten can of beer
Nine pound of poi
Eight ukulele
Seven shrimp a-swimmin'
Seex hula lesson
Five beeg fat peegs
Foah flowah lei
Tree dry squid
Two coconut
An' a mynah bird in one papaya tree!"
Then Heidi, Malihini Keahe, and an amazingly graceful male dancer whose name I don't remember (forgive me!) danced as the musicians played traditional songs. Really lovely.

Rudy also had his son, Jay, come up and sing a few songs. The first one was "Fly Me to the Moon", and I must tell you Keri and I must've looked like we were having a contest as to whose jaw could hit the ground hardest. This guy was really good! A very smooth, Sinatra-Bublé voice. Wow. If he decides to put out a CD once he retires from the Army, I'll be the first in line.

It was a great night of unexpected fun. But then, unexpected fun's the best kind!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Okay, the road to Hana!

As we left the hotel, Byron (who had brought up our bags when we arrived) gave us beach towels and encouraged us to get banana bread in Ke'ane, which we promised to do. Keri had done this tour a few years ago, so did all the driving and left me to gawk at the marvelous scenery.

My trip to Multnomah (Oregon) a couple of years ago left me a little waterfalled-out, so we looked at them on the way but didn't really stop. For me, they weren't the point of the drive. Here's where we did stop: Pa'ia (for lunches), Ke'anae Peninsula - absolutely gorgeous (and Byron was right about the banana bread...), Wai'anapanapa State Park - also spectacular (includes the Black Sand Beach, complete with little purple snails, and the islet I called "Rabbit Rock"), a little pocket beach between Koki and Hamoa which had tons of sea glass (well, um, it used to...), and of course, Hasegawa's General Store, because how could you not go there? Didn't go to Lindbergh's grave (not a Lindbergh officianado, and hadn't I been awestruck by the view several times already?) or the Seven Sacred Pools (which aren't actually sacred, unless you're working concessions).

The whole trip was gorgeous. Heavy tropical rainforest - African tulip trees, red and pink ginger everywhere, mango trees, rainbow eucalyptus (see at left - very cool!), lots of ferns and vines worthy of Tarzan, very skinny bridges!, rain, sun, mist, rainbows, pounding surf with 20' spray, grazing cows (the ones under Fagan's cross we dubbed "holy cows"), horses, and very nice people. That's one things about Maui: anyone who's rude to you is probably a tourist.

Then we stopped in Haiku at Da Factory. This is the place that makes those beautiful glass waves we saw on the first day. I'd hoped to find an imperfect one or a soft-hearted salesman who'd make me a deal, but no luck. Well, maybe next time...

Stopped by Queen Ka'ahumanu Mall in Kahului to get a couple things on Keri's "would you pick this up for me while you're there?" list. Wound up going to Kihei for something else (long story), only by then it was dark and we got v-e-r-y lost! Construction, unfamiliar territory, vague directions...all this worked against us and by the time we got where we were going, it was closed. Arrgh!

Finally got back to the hotel and made it to dinner around 9. A long day! And it's totally unreal that tomorrow's already our last full day here.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Went to Ann and Bunt's house today, friends of Keri and her mom (who's practically a Maui resident anymore). When Ann found out we were going to Hana tomorrow, she pulled out a couple of CDs and a tape. One CD was music about Hana, and the other two pieces were guided tours. The guide-CD was the one from Hana Juice Bar in Pai'a; a little kitschy, but it proved invaluable.

Then on to Sugar Beach (Maalea Harbor, north of Kihei) and looked for shells for a couple hours. I found tons of limpets, half a dozen cones, and a bunch of what Keri's mom calls "angel wings" (brown and white, almost scoop-shaped). I came home with at least a cup-full.

Then we went south to the lava fields at La Pereuse. We went farther than we had last time I was here. I still didn't take a picture of the lava that looks like huge clods of dirt (!), but I took one of the lava meeting the water and of the lava in general.

Got back to the hotel around 6 (out of habit I try to note dates and times, but really, does it matter?), got cleaned up, then went to Lahaina for dinner and galleries. Friday night is "art night" in Lahaina. Artists make appearances at various gallaries around town (and there are many), and the majority of places serve pupus (munchies) and wine. We went to The Village Gallery (where Suzi's paintings are; see her pink plumerias at left) first. One artist, Betty Hay Freeland, I really liked. Keri remarked, "Oh, yeah, she's a friend of Suzi's." Of course she is.

Went into Christian Lassen's gallery next and loved all his stuff. Found out he works in acrylics. So smooth, I thought it would have to be oils. He's completely self-taught, apparently. I got a kick out of him putting 1 pt. diamonds into some of his paintings, on the dolphin's eye, for instance. Why?? But a lot of his paintings have sparkle to them, diamonds or no, which I like.

Went to yet another gallery, Higgins---something, that had pieces by Renoir, Monet, Picasso, Anthony Quinn, Sir Anthony Hopkins... Like going to the museum! Another artist, whose name I can't for the life of me remember, had the most wonderful paintings of bears and rabbits and butterflies. Very whimsical and fun.

Next we went to Vladimir Kush's gallery. His stuff isn't quite as bizarre as I find Dali, but he has a very similar style. It was interesting to look at. Some pieces were really lovely, like the boat whose sails were completely made of butterflies. Several paintings were quasi-details of larger pieces.

Tomorrow: Hana!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Oh. My. GOD.

But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Our snorking day started early, but when all was said and done we hit the water three hours late. This time it was engine trouble. The skipper took everyone to Starbucks (their treat), which killed some time, and Keri and I beachcombed a little. It was becoming obvious that this trip was not under our control! Robert (Moss) is fond of saying, "When things start to go off course the trickster is at work, so pay attention!" We'd already been rescheduled, and now this...? So, at 10:00 when we were finally in the boat, my radar was cranked and ready.

We were in a little hard-hulled pontoon boat like this one, 28' or so. Some people left the group before we took off, so our number was down to 8. Talk about individual attention! Chad and Debbie of Maui Oceanriders were our skippers, and quite possibly two of the nicest people on the planet. Keri and I found seats on a pontoon, grabbed the rope and off we went!

Due to our late start, the AuAu channel (between Maui and Lana'i) was choppier than it would have been early in the morning. The front of the boat came out of the water and smacked back down, making sitting on that pontoon a little like bull riding; part of me wanted to throw one hand up in the air and yell, "Eight seconds!"

During the crossing, I wouldn't doubt that I was broadcasting my desire to see a humpback to every cetacean in a 100-mile radius. I was a bit frantic and I knew it. Trying to focus, I cast about for any thought that might bring the whales. A song from dreamwork came to me, "Healer of all...come blessed one..." I changed it in my head to "Great humpback whale...come blessed one..." and sang it to myself.

About halfway across, Keri, bless her heart forever, called out, "Whale!" and pointed forward. Debbie confirmed, "About 11:00?" Yep, that was right. So she turned the boat in that direction and went in for a look, idling the motor when we reached the legal distance. Sure enough, a big spout (they blow at 300 mph) shot into the air a few hundred yards away and we all cheered. Then the whale's shiny hump glinted in the sunlight as it swam diagonally, in roughly our direction.

For a few seconds there was nothing. If you see a whale's tail, they've more than likely dived and won't surface again for 10-20 minutes or more. But when there's no tail it can be hard to tell where they've gone and where they'll surface. I didn't realize I'd been holding my breath until I tried to gasp and couldn't—because there, right THERE was the whale, maybe 20 yards in front of us, close enough to see its eyes, breeching almost fully out of the water! For a split second, nobody moved. No cameras. No sound but the enormous SPLASH of water. Then everyone burst into exclamations and cheers of amazement. Then suddenly up came the whale, breeching again! BAM! Down into the water with a huge splash. Stunning. And just when we thought it must be over, UP came the shiny, barnacled body again and WHAM! a joyous sideways splash. The whale breeched a total of five times, then dived away. (note: the picture here isn't mine; I was paralyzed, remember? ;-> ) Words can't really describe it, so here's a link to a reasonable facsimile of what we saw. Picture it with a brilliantly blue sky and lots of happy people on deck...

We continued on and made our first snorking stop at Manele Bay, near where the Lana'i ferry drops you if you come across. I was only in the water for a couple of minutes before I got scared and came out. It was about 20' deep and the water was perfectly clear, but being in the actual ocean was overwhelming. Chad tried (very nicely) to coax me into going back, but I didn't. Keri saw a bunch of sleeping goatfish and a honu (sea turtle), so was very happy.
On our way to place #2 (no idea of the name, sorry), we ran into a pod of spinner dolphins, Chad and Debbie estimated about 150 of them. They were a little sleepy, but played around the boat and even jumped and spun a little. Debbie did donuts with the boat and they surfed in our wake, obviously loving it. Great fun to watch! And they were so close I could have put my hand in the water and touched them.

When we reached place #2, Chad coaxed me into the water, promising to hold onto the floaty thing (a life jacket, I think) and stay right with me. So, with him as a security blanket, I snorked! Saw parrotfish, Moorish Idols (kihikihi), humus (humuhumunukunukuapua'a...yes, really!) and milletseed fish. Chad pointed out an eel hidden in the coral, then dove to get a sea urchin to bring back to the boat. He later brought up another kind of sea urchin and a big multi-pointed starfish for us to hold. All were safely deposited back onto the reef before we left.
On our way back we stopped at Shark Fin Rock (on the right side of the picture). Debbie wisely didn't tell us the name until we got back into the boat! She laughed and promised that it was named "for the feature, not the creature!" Water was about 20' on the west side, then dropped off to 70'+ in front. Keri went with me this time. We saw more Idols, tons of triggerfish, and bright yellow tangs. (parrotfish, tang, and 2 triggerfish [dark blue/black] in the picture; don't know what that white guy in the middle is!) I came in after one trip to the end of the rock and back. Keri went out again and went to the deep part and saw what Chad called the "creamsicle" fish. I don't remember the real name, but they're orange and white and are usually found in 300' water except for here around Shark Fin, so it was quite a find to see them.

On the ride back, a pod of dolphins (very possibly the same pod we'd seen on the way out) came out of nowhere and surrounded us as we sped along. Great fun and lots of spinning!

Crossing the channel back to Maui we had to put raincoats on; it was so choppy that the boat was really getting tossed around and the spray was drenching. (But no, not as wet as Monsoon Monday.) We saw probably half a dozen whales, but all at a distance and no breeching. There were rainbows over Moloka'i and western Maui.

No one came away from this trip disappointed, least of all me! I'm glad Chad talked me into snorking, and thanks to that whale I can pretty much die happy.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Wow, what a change to be at the Westin. I'm not a resort-type of person; the 15' waterfall and flamingos in the lobby don't lure me. But the bed... queensize, all white linens and duvet, pillow-top... oh yes, I'll sleep on this bed anytime!

Had lunch at the Hula Grill (Whaler's Village) and got my first Lava Flow since being here four years ago. I don't know why they're not available on the mainland, but no bartender I've asked (and admittedly, that's not a big number) has known what I mean. They're coconut and strawberry with a hint of banana. I'll stop there so I don't drool on the keyboard. I think bars in the Lower 48 are missing a potential piece of the market by not accommodating we of the Hawaiian sweet tooth.

Stopped in Barnes & Noble and found a really cute "Stop and smell the plumerias!" sign. I didn't buy it, but did file it away in my head as something to paint one day. However, I've finished The Kite Runner, so I picked up Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I saw her speak on Oprah a few weeks ago and found her warm and restful. From all the talk I've heard, I'm guessing I'm going to be one of the last in the country to read this one. Looking forward to it.

Walked down to the Hyatt and saw penguins. Why on earth did someone think it was a good idea to put penguins on display in a Hawaii hotel? (So tourists like you will come to the hotel and take their picture, Lisa...) I can't imagine they're comfortable. They were out in the open, not in a cold room or something. (not that being stuck in a room would be that much better, but you know what I mean) They're cute, but they'd be cuter in Antarctica.

Walked back along the beach and found lots of shells. Stayed out there to see the sunset. Then it was back to the hotel for dinner, our one night eating in the hotel itself. Macademia-nut encrusted chicken with a side-sauce to die for, and the cutest little waiter. He really tried to talk us into dessert and wouldn't be put off. With a big smile he said, "You no worry. I bring little ones." He showed up with tiny tiramisus and chocolate mousses. I've seen these at other restaurants, but the delivery made them irresistable.

Up at 5:30 tomorrow for another try at snorking. No rain, please!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Went into town and got a couple trinkets for friends at Hilo Hattie's. What would a visit to the island be without a free shell lei?

After a couple of other errands, we walked home along the sea wall, stopping at Foodland to get fish and groceries for dinner. I'm lucky to be traveling with a good cook, which means all I have to do is wash up after a good meal. Before dinner, we sat on the lanai and read and watched for whales. No spouts in the distance, but found this little fellow perched on the wastebasket feasting on flies. (Hard not to imagine him standing up and explaining to me in a Cockney accent why I needed to change my car insurance.)

Saw 'Ulalena tonight. Good way to start the New Year! Costumes and music were really fun. My favorite part was toward the end when several of the dancers lay under a large piece of silk and moved it up and down sporadically; that and the changing blue-green lights really made it look like ocean!

Tomorrow we go to the Westin. Sad to leave our little beach front place, but will being in a more controlled climate will let my feet get back to normal?? Maybe I should travel with a gecko so he can have first crack at whatever's been eating me...