Papaduck's Stir Fry

The Maui Journal

After years of being armchair travelers it was time to really go somewhere.  But where?  I’d always imagined going to the Caribbean, Mexico or Central America.  So much to choose from.  Everything from dry and arid uplands to sandy beaches to lush rainforests.  Colonial influences that include Dutch, French, Spanish, English and of course American.  Thanks to the internet, travel guides and opinions are easy to come by.  Many evenings were spent trying to decide which Caribbean island to try.  St. Lucia?  Martinique?  St. John USVI?  One thing soon became apparent.  Air travel could mean an overnight flight and there could be several hours of time change to adjust to.  A layover in Atlanta, Miami or Houston to try and avoid an early trip burnout would add an additional day.  But then the unexpected happened.  Traveler #2 put her foot down and said there’d be no vacation unless it was on a cruise ship.  Heavily influenced by friends and sister, and with concerns about health issues, it seemed final and disappointing.  This disagreement had been going on for years.  Do you spend most of your time on a giant floating resort only visiting the ‘destination’ for short tourist outings?  Or do you choose to experience the culture and environment in a more intimate way.  No question where I stand on that.  So do I dig my heels in and go somewhere without her?

I didn’t have a strong desire to go to Hawaii.  Too expensive, too commercial, too pedestrian, it wasn’t high on my list of places to see.  But with the impasse over the form of travel I knew one thing:  a trip to The Islands would not be refused.  Jenny had always wanted to go there.  So after a half-hearted attempt to make our trip into a cruise that visited all the islands, it was agreed.  We started in early January looking at Kauai.  Airfares, packages, resorts, cottages, b&bs, travel books.  It spread to Maui.  Maps, activities, restaurants, rental cars.  Late in January with airfares for the shoulder season appearing to rise, we booked flights on United to Maui.  That same weekend reservations were made at the Outrigger Aina Nalu in Lahaina.  The dates were chosen not only for the lowest fares but also to coincide with a concert by the band Hapa.

Two and a half months is a long time to wait.  It led to obsessive over planning.  Google street view walks around the area near our hotel led to reviews of restaurants and shops.  Reading about snorkeling led to purchasing water shoes and a waterproof wallet.  I knew where to rent beach chairs, where to buy groceries, where to find a bank machine.  New beachwear was bought along with a suitcase, mini tripod, and netbook computer for email and Facebook posts.  Tanning sessions were paid for so we had pre-tans for sun protection.  Finally on April 14th we were ready to go.

John picked us up at 8 AM and dropped us at the airport.  It was a clear day on the West Coast with no worries about flight delays due to bad weather.  I felt strangely calm sitting in the airport in Eugene, Oregon.  Nothing left to do but enjoy this journey.  Don’t lose your boarding pass and everything will be fine.  Then we were on our way.  It’s always interesting flying in and out of San Francisco.  Picking out the familiar landmarks, getting closer and closer to the water and then suddenly touching down.  We had lunch during our 1:20 minute layover and then boarded for Maui.  By booking early I’d reserved seats behind the bulkhead one row back from the emergency exits.  These proved to be comfortable with extra legroom but with no place to stash a carry on under a seat in front.  Our flight attendant observed that he always loves the flight over because everyone is happy and in high spirits.  Two different wedding parties were onboard.  We encountered increasing turbulence as we neared the airport in Kahului and arrived to cloudy and windy weather.

I had worried about the next step.  We’d rented a car from Aloha Rent a Car and had a tight connection.  I called them from a pay phone at 4:40 and they closed at 5:00.  Jenny had to collect our bags while I waited for the white PT Cruiser.  I was picked up and sped back to the rental lot to do the paperwork, then had to find my way a couple of miles back to the airport.  High excitement now.  Jenny was waiting with the bags and we took off after a scolding for double parking in the bus lane.  Hadn’t gone a mile before Jen helped me make a wrong turn and we were lost in heavy traffic.  I recognized an industrial dust collector near the car lot and then we were back on track.  It was a foreign and awesome landscape.  The verdant old volcano Pu’u Kukui, with deep rifts cut into its slopes filled the background.  As we drove, sugar cane fields gave way to the rubble of old lava flows where cactus grows.  I had absolutely no bearings while heading across the isthmus and was at the tunnel east of Olowalu before I had any sense of where we were.

West Maui Mountains

We found our hotel easily enough.  The weather was warm and humid although overcast and windy.  We checked into a nice room with a view of the West Maui Mountains.  It was quiet and on the second floor as I had hoped.  It had slate floors in the kitchen and bath, new cabinets with granite countertops and vaulted ceilings.  We were so excited.  I took our first picture and we started unpacking.  Later we walked across the street and around the corner to Penne Pasta for a light dinner.  Our pizza was a flatbread crust covered with sauce and melted cheese and topped with ceasar salad garnished with proscuitto.  It was delicious and only $10.  We each enjoyed a big glass of Zinfindel and observed the mix of locals and tourists.  We walked down the street after eating and I immediately got ‘gift shopped!’  We hadn’t been here much more than an hour and I was being dragged into a boutique gallery.  I took a deep breath and admired some nice handicrafts and children’s clothing but had some apprehension about how many more times I’d be doing this.  Walked on looking for a place to buy some milk, wine and snacks and found an ABC store right away.  Tried to find a different way back to the hotel and got lost.  Finally settled in and went to bed late.

Thursday, April 15th

Maria Lanakila Steeple

Up at 6:30 local time after much tossing and turning.  Our condo was near the highway and every morning the trucks and commuters sounded my wake up call.  It looked stormy  and I felt some dismay until I went outside.  It was warm, breezy dynamic weather.  Damp clouds over the mountain broke up as they passed over us revealing blue, blue skies.  Elated to be here I grabbed a camera and went outside for pictures followed by a swim in the small pool.  The grounds of the hotel are beautifully landscaped and the ginger, hibiscus and plumeria were all in bloom.  Did I mention the obsessive planning?  I’d packed granola, instant oatmeal, instant Starbuck’s coffee, Cliff bars, even sugar packets in preparation for that first breakfast.  After eating we walked down to the harbor noting the historical sites that surround the hotel.  We checked out the ocean excursions and watched some surfing.  We waded across a broken coral shore to a sandy beach where an outrigger canoe is displayed.  Jenny talked with a woman from the canoe club while I picked sharp coral from my sandals.  On the way back to our rooms we took what would become our standard shortcut through the Wharf Cinema Center stopping to admire some bowls turned from Koa and Norfolk Island Pine.

Small Pool at the Outrigger Aina Nalu

Time to get provisions so we went out in search of Safeway.  Got lost, but did stumble onto the Maui Brewing Company in a ramshackle building behind one of the shopping malls.  A chalkboard read:  Happy Hour 4 to 6.  We made a note of that.  Continuing on we found Lahaina Farms, a grocery much like our own Market of Choice in Eugene.  Everyone was helpful as we stocked up on supplies and Island produce.  Maui bananas,  pineapple, oranges and onion, summer squash from Haiku, cherry tomatoes from the Big Island.  I bought a small container of Ahi Poke.  Spicy raw Ahi blended with lime juice and avocado.  Then it was back to Aina Nalu for lunch.

Still getting set up we then went to West Maui Sports & Fishing Supply to rent beach chairs and got lost trying to find it.  Once we did, they recommended we check out Baby Beach nearby as a beginning snorkel spot.  Got lost and never did find it until our final day.  We drove up the highway in search of beach access passing one high rise resort after another.  We found Kahekili State Park named after Maui’s last great king and locally known as Airport Beach sandwiched between the Westin and Maui Ka’anapali Resort Villas.  Sat for awhile enjoying the scene but the breeze was a bit chilly and there was a rowdy group of young people there, so we walked instead.  It’s a long, curving and beautiful beach and as we walked we noticed whales spouting and surfacing offshore.  To the south we saw the promontory of Black Rock, a place holy to the original Hawaiians.  Kahekili often showed his courage here, by diving off the cliff into the sea.  Now the Maui Sheraton stands there conspicuously.  Eventually we returned to our chairs and watched the whales.

Keka'a Beach near Kahekili Beach Park

We got lost trying to get back to Maui Brewing Co. but  eventually got there and went into their seedy tasting room.  It had 4 or 5 stools, a couple of tables and looked out on a cyclone fenced parking lot decorated with pallets and overgrown weeds.  We ordered a couple of pints from the rough looking bartender and just kicked back.  Before long one of the brewery workers came in and engaged with us.  He found out where we were from and told us that Scott, the brewmaster, was also from Eugene and had worked at the Wild Duck Brewery.  A young couple from Portland who knew everyone came in followed by the brewer himself and now it was a party.  Tried a pint of the delicious Coconut Porter and enjoyed some lively conversation.  Leaving the tasting room well toasted we turned to each other and agreed that had really been fun.

Ironwood Tree and Steeple at Sunset

Back to our condo to relax and make a tofu, veggie and noodle stir fry.  Later, went out to take some pictures of the Maria Lanakila steeple at sunset.  Across the street from the Outrigger Aina Nalu, it’s the site of the first Roman Catholic Mass in Lahaina in 1841.  It’s an historic place with an active congregation.  There was an event going on there every day.  While we were out we met two couples from Canada who invited us to watch Survivor with them at the hotel cabana.  Over the next few days we talked with them often.  Finished up the day soaking in the hot tub and swimming in the salt water pool.  A mother and daughter from Japan, two women from Spokane and two more Canadians joined us.  A nice day sharing a common humanity with travelers and locals alike.

Friday, April 16th

A good nights sleep and a relaxed morning.  Edited photos, got connected to the wireless network, sent email and posted to Facebook.  Hung around the pool and chatted with the new friends from Edmonton.  Eventually we packed up some fruit and Cliff bars and headed north to find D. T. Flemming State Beach.  Written up in all the guidebooks as one of Hawaii’s best beaches it had been on my itinerary since the start of planning.  We drove north past Kahana, Napili and Kapalua expecting to see a sign on the highway.  Kept driving, eventually admitting we were lost again.  Stopped at the Ohai trailhead, hiked and took some pictures of the rugged scenery.  Checking my map for the first time I could see that milepost 40, where we were, was way past the intended beach.  We turned around but soon stopped at a deserted looking fruit stand advertising pineapples and coconut.  Jenny wanted to sample some coconut juice and the Hawaiian woman we found working there punched a hole in one and gave it to her with a straw.  She then expertly broke it up and cut out the meat.  She was friendly and we talked for a bit, bargained for some trinkets and then moved on.  We stopped again after about a mile at a makeshift shack selling new jewelry made from old and assorted junk.  Jenny bought some treasure there.  We hung out quite a while talking with the artist Mel, a big, gregarious   man originally from Texas.  Mel said he’d been partying non stop since the 60’s.

The North Shore from Ohai Trail

'One coconut with 2 straws please'

The next stop was an unmarked trail and parking area we’d seen on the way up.  It looked like a hike into a rainforest.  This turned out to be the way into Honolua Bay, a famous surfing and snorkeling spot.  There were a number of people on the trail coming and going.  The scenery was fantastic.  Lush vines climbed up enormous trees, some with aerial roots hanging like curtains.  I thought I heard Neytiri’s cry as roosters ran amok in the dense understory.  Eventually, as we came near the shore there was a travel trailer and some plastic tarp awnings set up near a collection box.  Also displayed was a newspaper article.  It seems that a native Hawaiian man had made an ancestral claim to the property leading into the bay.  The courts had upheld his claim.  Permission to pass through that land was being allowed by him but donations were expected.  He had a nice garden growing there and considered himself to be the protector and caretaker.  He was a big and formidable looking guy.  Some people turned around before they had to pass through his camp.  We walked on down to the rocky shore and had our lunch by the waters edge, and of course left a donation.  We shared our meal with one fearless rooster.

On the Trail to Honolua Bay

The northern end of the island is sparsely inhabited.  Just below Honolua Bay the developments start again and there, coming from this direction we saw the sign for D. T. Flemming State Beach.  The wind had picked up now and must have been 40 miles an hour.  The lifeguards had posted high surf and no swimming signs.  We took a quick look and got back in our car.  Stopped at Safeway in Lahaina for more supplies and then back to our refuge.  Jenny cooked a delicious risotto dinner.

Friday nights in Lahaina are all about Artwalk.  The shops and galleries are open until 10 PM with some serving wine and finger foods.  From tourist T-shirts to high end artwork, it’s all for sale.  We started at the Lahaina Gallery with reasonably priced work, and purchased a boxwood netsuke depicting a mermaid sleeping in a clamshell for our daughter.  Next we visited two different photography exhibits by artists who have  solo galleries in NYC, London, Tokyo and Dubai among other places.  Mind blowing and expensive work.  The Wyland Gallery caught our eye.  Known for his paintings of whales and underwater sealife, Wyland also represents several other artists.  I showed some interest in an oil on gold leaf painting of hummingbirds by the artist Gabriel, which led to it being displayed under various lighting in a viewing room with a glass of wine.  Curious, I asked how much this piece was selling for.  $3500.00 I was told by the attractive and charming young saleslady.  After more conversation she came close, fixed her bright blue eyes on mine and said, “I know you want it, you should buy it”.  It was time to head for the door!  I should know better than to flirt with artwork I know I can’t have.

Artwalk on Front Street in Lahaina

After a visit to a jeweler specializing in black coral and a shop selling scrimshaw and ivory netsuke, we found the Lassen Gallery.  Spacious and busy, it looked safe to enter.  Before long we found ourselves in a discussion with the owner and his featured artist Roy Gonzales Tabora.  Born on Guam, with an art degree from the U of Hawaii, Roy does beautiful seascape painting with a translucent, ethereal quality.  Opening a fine bottle of $5.00 Korbel Champagne and pouring us each a glass, the owner took Jenny on a tour.  As I talked with the affable artist I happened to notice the piece we were standing in front of had a $75,000 price tag!  Jenny soon came back enraptured with one of Roy’s paintings and there we were again on a couch in a viewing room admiring the art under varied lighting.  A limited edition giclee on canvas it was selling for $1200.  Again, we excused ourselves saying we hadn’t decided what to bring home with us just yet.

Went in a couple more galleries being careful to avoid any salespeople then it was closing time.  We walked back towards our hotel and stopped at Lahaina Coolers for a nightcap.  The place was jumping with locals and shopkeepers winding down after Artwalk.  Jenny ordered a Mai Tai and I had a Lava Flow, a sort of alcoholic pineapple coconut slurpee.  We later found out that rents for Front Street galleries can run $20,000+ a month.  No wonder they were working so hard to make a sale.  After a big day we ritired to our rooms at the Aina Nalu.

Saturday, April 17th

Saltwater Pool at The Outrigger Aina Nalu

Up early again, but moving slowly from all the fun and fruit of the day before, I walked down to the docks to find out about sailing this morning.  The America II is a former World’s Cup racing sloop retrofitted for passengers.  No diesel catamaran ride for me.  I’d been hoping for this exciting ride for months, but the only time they’re going out today is in the afternoon and that won’t work.  Low tide stranded the boat in the channel the day before with 19 passengers and they aren’t taking any chances today.  Feeling a bit let down I went back to the hotel and hung around the pool.  Our Canadian friends were preparing to leave and we found out that they had lost their 17 year old son a few months ago after a long battle with leukemia.  This was a vacation they had hoped to take with him.  It was a tearful goodbye.

Later in the morning we strolled down to the Banyan Tree.  A famous landmark, this huge tree shades almost an acre in the heart of Lahaina’s historic district.  On the weekends artists and craftspeople set up their wares like Saturday Market in Eugene.  We bought some more gifts for the family and took photos from inside the old courthouse and museum.  Then we went back to our rooms to have lunch and rest up for the Hapa concert.

'Iao Needle

We started for the other side of Maui at about 2:30 taking Highway 30 into Wialuku.  I drove around the downtown area which looked old and downtrodden, then climbing higher on the hill through a middle class residential neighborhood we came onto the road to ‘Iao Needle.  A sacred place for the original Hawaiians, the name means ‘Supreme Light’.  A famous battle was fought here in 1790 when Maui’s King Kehikili was defeated by King Kamehameha, who went on to conquer and unite all the Islands.   We circled the packed parking lot until a space opened up and then walked the trails above and below.  The sun intermittently broke through the threatening clouds while we took lots of images.  The steep uphill walk to the picture postcard view felt good.  Then we drove back down and found The Maui Arts & Cultural Center so we would know the way later.

Now we drove out Hana Highway in busy traffic to the town of Pa’ia.  This is windsurfing country here with an interesting mix of boarders and old hippies.  This side of the island has a much different feel compared to Lahaina.  We walked around town and decided to have dinner at Cafe des Amis which serves French and Indian cuisine.  We ate outside in a funky, breezy courtyard.  Jenny had a ham and cheese crepe and I had a shrimp curry and coconut rice rollup.  We chased down our under $10 entrees with bottles of Aloha Beer from Honolulu.  After this delicious light meal we walked up Baldwin Avenue to The Pa’ia Dharma Center, a Tibetan Buddhist retreat.  It was open to the public and featured a large walking prayer wheel inside a lovely temple.  The inner walls were adorned with paintings of The Buddha and I walked several revolutions improvising a simple prayer for inner peace.  The influence of Eastern cultures is seen all over the Island, and being able to experience some of that was profound during our stay.

Prayer Wheel at the Pa'ia Dharma Center

Walking back downhill we bought pastries for the morning at a bakery and coffeehouse and then decided to check out Mana Foods.  Looking quite run down on the outside with no windows and an old wooden door we were amazed when we entered.  It was the largest natural foods store I’ve ever been in, and crowded with people.  We made a beeline for the produce isle and looked at the abundant selection of local fruits and vegetables.  Bought some Kula strawberries and dark chocolate after checking out the huge selection of goods.  This must be the place to shop if you live Upcountry.  Full of anticipation now, we headed back to Kahului for the Hapa concert.

We arrived 45 minutes early and got one of the last spots in the parking lot.  In the car we furtively changed into our nicer clothes, then picked up our tickets at the box-office and entered to find a stage set up outside.  Had we known, we could have had dinner here.  We bought glasses of wine and sat watching a wonderful hula performance.  Hawaiian musicians and a warm breeze accompanied a very accomplished hula teacher and her beautiful students.  And the magic was just beginning.  We found our sixth row seats in the spacious auditorium and soon the show began.  Hapa was wrapping up a 30+ city tour with this homecoming concert.  It felt like they were playing for friends and family as the 3 1/2 hour show progressed.  Bonnie Raitt’s base player of many years, Hutch Hutcherson, joined the band.  Jeff Peterson, a brilliant slack key guitar player did some solo work as well as collaborating.  As always, Melia Peterson danced many graceful hulas.  Local legend Gail Swanson joined in playing flute, and the woman we had seen dancing with her pupils also performed.  With traditional Hawaiian chants and folksongs to jazz and rock and roll, there was something for everyone.  Jenny loves Hapa, and these tickets were especially for her.  I hadn’t become a big fan after seeing them at The Shedd in Eugene, but this time was different.  It was inspiring, personal and like I said, magical.  We had purchased their new cd on the way in and could have stayed for autographs when it was over but we were tired and had a long drive ahead of us.  Exhausted, but in high spirits, we called it a day.

Sunday, April 18th

Boarding the America II

Slept in this morning, and then experienced some frustration trying to upload images to Facebook.  The downside of a new computer I guess. I put it aside and we walked down to the wharf to try booking the sailboat trip again.  Jenny had been unsure all along about doing this, and I expected to go alone, but this time she agreed to do it.  We walked around a bit and then went back to The Aina Nalu to have lunch and prepare.  I was very excited, looking forward to an adventure.  It was a warm, clear day with a good wind for sailing.  We bought a one-time use waterproof camera and showed up at slip 6 where America II was moored, dressed for a soaking and slathered with sunscreen.  Everyone was asked to take their shoes off and leave them at the dock.  We had our picture taken and took seats in the stern.  Nineteen people were aboard and two young crewmen.  The captain was a well tanned, muscular blond guy with a well rehearsed routine.  He had a clever comeback for any question or comment.  We were told where the life jackets were stowed and then we cruised out of the harbor by motor.  Once we were out beyond the buoys the sails were raised and we turned into the wind and took off.  All at once the boat ran fast and at a steep angle.  Water sprayed everywhere.  Jenny was frightened at first and moved to the center bench where she held on for dear life.  She was helped by a friendly woman with sailing experience and soon got past her fear.  I sat on the side near the water and was drenched in no time as we cut through the waves.  As we got further out into the channel between Molokai and Maui the sea became rougher and the ship pitched up and down in the swells.  No problem for the confident captain as he steered with his feet.  It was so exhilarating!  After about an hour we had to turn around and head back, it was only a 2 hour excursion.  It was calmer sailing on the return trip, the wind pushing us along smoothly.  We were fortunate to come close to a mother humpback whale and her calf who rolled and showed her flipper and dove throwing her tail in the air.  I held the camera over my head while shooting so I wouldn’t miss seeing them.  Everyone aboard was quiet with awe afterward appreciating the encounter.  Mid April is at the end of whale season in the Islands.  By the end of the month most will be gone to their summer waters of  the coast of Alaska.  Jenny and I snuggled and had someone take our picture.  I was so glad that she had come along and shared this adventure.  Too soon, we were back in the harbor.  I tipped the crew $20, telling them how much fun it had been.  We received the photo taken when we boarded, and feeling very satisfied we went to our rooms, showered and changed.

No driving today, so we walked down Front Street looking for Foodland.  This large grocery store seemed to be a favorite with the natives.  No Haolies but us in here.  On the way back we decided to have drinks at The Mai Tai Lounge.  This place was voted Best Mai Tai on Maui by the locals and sits right on the ocean.  Our waiter was disappointed that we weren’t having dinner, not noticing the two packs of ramen showing through our Foodland bag.  I ordered a Fog Cutter for $10 and Jen had the specialty and we watched the boats and the setting sun.  We left with barely a buzz from this tourist favorite and watched the sunset from the street.  Had yet another stir fry at the hotel and then enjoyed the pool and hot tub under a clear and starry sky.  Finished the evening like many others, reviewing and editing photos.

Monday, April 19th

Ho'opika Beach

Rumor was that a cruise ship was anchoring off Lahaina today and hundreds of tourists would be ferried into town, so we chose this day to explore Upcountry.  I was up early getting organized and solving my image upload problem.  Went to The Bank of Hawaii for some cash and then headed to the other side of the Island.  Out past Pa’ia, on the way to Ho’okipa Beach we passed an island girl pedaling her bike down Hana Highway with her surfboard strapped on the side.  This beach we were both heading for is a favorite with the windsurfers who prefer this side of the island because of the strong winds.  It was a Kodak moment as the surfer girl coasted down through the parking lot, but I couldn’t get my camera together in time.  With no condos or resorts it’s a beautiful spot here, with exposed tide pools this morning.      We saw some large shellfish and many anemones.  Only a few boarders were on the water, with others waiting for the winds to pick up in the afternoon.

We then drove further out toward Haiku.  When we began planning this trip I spent a lot of time trying to find a rental on this part of the Island.  Here on the lower slopes of Haleakela the rolling hills are dotted with farms and estates.  I kept an eye out for a cottage I’d tried to book as we drove on into town looking for Kopa Haiku.  During Eugene’s Asian Celebration in February I talked to a man selling high quality soaps, lotions and fragrances who is from here.  His booth had lured me in with the exotic aromas of the Islands.  We had a friendly conversation that day and I said we’d look him up when we came over.  We found his shop in an old cannery building.  Gary Gray is a native Hawaiian and former Oregon State linebacker who played football under coach Dee Andros in the ’60’s.  He recalled how he had left 80 degrees and rainbows for 40 degrees and overcast when he came to Eugene.  Gary took time out of his busy day to talk with us while we loaded up on gifts and products for ourselves.

We continued to wander up on winding roads to the town of Makawao.  Famous as a Hawaiian paniolo or cowboy town with an annual rodeo, it’s also home to yoga studios and hip galleries.  Our first stop was Jewels of the White Tara, a shop selling clothing and artifacts from India and the Far East.  Sitar music played softly mingling with the sweet smell of incense.  One room was devoted to gurus, saints and teachers from Parmahansa Yogananda to the Dali Lama.  Feeling the vibe here I bought an image of Krishna and Radha and a book of love poems by an author from Kauai.  Moving on we noticed the work of Kristen Bunney.  Her whimsical watercolors of island life are just the style I like to collect.  We bought an inexpensive, brightly colored print depicting two tropical fish swimming beneath a volcano.  Perfect.

Protea on the Slopes of Haleakela

On down the street is Hot Island Glass.  This glass blowing shop is known all over Maui as the place to buy art glass.  No demonstrations today but a nice sale going on.  Prices for arts and crafts are generally lower here than in Lahaina, and this is where we had planned to buy the souvenir of our journey.  We chose a lovely vase and had it shipped home.  Time for lunch so we split a chicken salad sandwich at a deli and sushi bar.  We then drove higher up the slopes of Haleakela looking for Kula Botanical Gardens.  Sitting at 3300 feet above the ocean it’s comprised of 6 acres of identified tropical and semi-tropical plants and trees.  It’s a great place to take pictures, with many flowers in April.  My favorite shots were looking up towards the summit of the old volcano with flowering protea in the foreground.  After an hour of strolling and shooting images we descended to The Kula Lodge.  Pictured in every guidebook to Maui, it has an incredible overlook of the isthmus from its dining room.  The isthmus is the land that formed over time between the two volcanoes that built the Island.  You can see the bay at Kuhului on the right and the bay at Maalaea on the left.  I ordered a Maui Brewing Co. Coconut Porter and we enjoyed the sunny afternoon view.

Driving back to Lahaina past Olowalu we caught sight of an enormous cruise ship anchored off shore.  We both agreed it spoiled the view.  We ate a snacky dinner and sat back starting to feel worn out from the activities of the last few days.  Later, we walked down to Lappert’s Ice Cream and were serenaded by an engaging street musician who played for tips.  He was a Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan fan so Big River and Don’t Think Twice were our selections.  A child of missionaries, he’d started performing on the streets in Argentina when he was only 8 years old.  I couldn’t help noticing how all the tourists passing by ignored the three of us.  Finished off the day with the usual swim and hot tub.

Tuesday, April 13th

Sitting Buddha at Lahaina Jodo Mission

If there was one thing that everyone said we had to do in Hawaii it was snorkel, and today’s our last chance.  It was also our last chance to visit the Lahaina Jodo Mission.  Situated in a quiet corner of town just off Front Street, it features the largest sitting Amita Buddha outside Asia.  The huge bronze sits looking serenely west toward Japan, and honors the Japanese workers who began coming here in 1868.  I took many images here in the morning and had a beautiful sky as a backdrop.  Pagoda style buildings and a large temple bell completed the scene.  I chased a butterfly all around a bougainvilla trying to get a photo for Jen, finally succeeding.  Just down the lane we noticed beach access.  It turned out to be unmarked Baby Beach, the one that we couldn’t find on an earlier day.  Calm and shallow, it’s so named because it’s safe for little keiki.

Then it was up the street to West Maui Sports & Fishing Supply.  This is a real outdoor outfitter with everything from spear fishing gear to boogie boards.  It reminds me a bit of the old time sporting goods store I worked at in Burlingame, CA when I was in my early twenties.  Their rental snorkel gear was clean and well organized, and the owners were very friendly and helpful.  We had decided the day before to go to Milepost 14 south of Olowalu, a shallow reef with a long sandy beach that’s good for beginners.  I knew that having a beard and mustache was going to be a disadvantage and it was true.  I immediately had a nose full of saltwater.  It took a few tries to become comfortable breathing through the tube.  Jenny did quite well and never had a problem with the mask but hated the fins.  We were both amazed at how close to the beach the fish were.  They seemed almost oblivious to us as we swam through the shallow channels of the reef.  We later identified Tang, Wrasses and the state fish Humuhumu-nukunuku-a-pua’a.  We spent about 2 hours here getting the hang of it.  It was a blast and now we understand why it’s such a popular activity.  I hope we get the chance to do this again.

After lunch we returned our gear and caught the scent of an outdoor grill.  Located across the parking lot is Aloha Mixed Plate.  We checked the menu, discovered it was economical and decided to come back for dinner.  The next stop was Hilo Hattie’s to complete our gift shopping.  This is favorite souvenir destination for tourists.  Buses stop here, unloading shoppers off the cruise ships or from the big resorts.  They lure people in with the promise of free necklaces, sarongs and coffee cups.  Big and cheesy, they none the less have a great selection of macadamia nut treats, even Spam flavored, but this was one stop we could have missed.  Later we returned to Aloha Mixed Plate and found a shaded table with an oceanfront view.  We enjoyed some ‘authentic’ Island fare served on paper plates with plastic cutlery.  There were many delicious sounding entrees and we ended up with grilled mahi mahi, teriaki beef and chicken served with fries and coleslaw.  The day after we returned from Maui, Rachel Ray featured this eatery on her travel show.

Sunset from Kamehameha Iki Park

After dinner we walked down to Kamehameha Iki Park for our last sunset.  This narrow, little used park sits across the street from what was once the home of Maui royalty that included a freshwater pond and private island.  None of that remains.  What’s there now is a public park with tennis and basketball courts and a baseball diamond.  We sat under kukui nut trees while young Polynesian dancers performed at the ‘Feast at Lele’ down the beach and watched the sunset framed by swaying palms.  Walking back by a different street we heard a bell being struck rhythmically.  As we approached I saw one of my most enduring images from our visit.  Standing at the top of a broad stairway was a monk in his saffron and yellow robes striking a call to prayer in the twilight.  Inside I could see an elaborately decorated altar.  In this historic plantation style building is the Hokuji Mission Shingon Buddhist Temple.  It would have made a nice photo but I didn’t use my camera out of respect.

As we neared our hotel we decided to put off our packing for a while and make one last stop at Lahaina Coolers.  We drank Mai Tai’s and Coconut Porter while the bartender and his buds watched an NBA playoff game.  We were the only other patrons and had a long chat with our server about living in West Maui.  Then the inevitable had to take place and we went back to pack.

Wednesday, April 21st

West Maui Mountains from The Aina Nalu

Up early pacing and packing, feeling utterly exhausted.  We scraped together a little breakfast and then Jenny gave our remaining food to a resident of the hotel.  We took one last walk around the grounds of The Outrigger Aina Nalu and then checked out.  We filled up at a gas station and drove to Kuhului to return the car, getting lost one last time.  After we found Aloha Rent a Car their shuttle took us to the airport.  It was an anxious check in and long walk to our boarding area.  We got snacks at a Starbucks and waited to board the enormous Boeing 777.  We shared the five seats behind the bulkhead with a friendly couple from Germany who had come to Maui to windsurf.  They were flying on all the way to Frankfurt with only short layovers.  When we were getting off the plane in San Francisco a young man sitting behind us mentioned he’d sat across from us on the way over.  He works as a carpenter in Makawao and I felt I’d missed an opportunity to talk with him about living and working on the Island.  Then it was on to Eugene, sharing a cab ride home, and being greeted by our cats.

Jen at Baby Beach with Lanai in the Background

It turns out that we are good travelers.  There was never a moment when we felt uncomfortable or out of place.  In fact, from the moment we arrived we were relaxed and  at home here.  We’re both outgoing and trusting by nature so we met all types of people.  Best of all, we both got along beautifully.  Leaving behind the issues of work, household and family we were in the moment, enjoying our time together, remembering to be in love.  For me the journey was also a spiritual reawakening.  Maui is a mystical place.  I’m not sure when it kicked in, maybe the day of the Hapa concert, but I got really high here.  I cherished the feeling, not wanting it to end.

Visiting Maui required looking past the commercialization and exploitation that has taken place  for the last 150+ years.  It is America after all, and that means capitalism and consumerism, but the beauty of the land and climate and the ‘aloha spirit’ of the people supersedes that.  The language and customs of the original Hawaiians were all but gone a few decades ago.  Now that history is valued and honored as it should be.  Lahaina is a good place to stay for that historical perspective.  From the missionaries, whaling and plantations of the American and European settlers to the traces of Hawaiian monarchy to the temples and influences of the Asian immigrants it’s all here in one place.  Maui itself is also a magnet for creative people.  Artists, musicians, writers all experiencing the muse that is Hawaii.  It was a great vacation.  So, where to next???

9 Responses

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  1. Kim said, on June 7, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Nice view of your trip… I felt like I was there…thanks soooo much guys… love you. k

  2. Jeanne Scott said, on February 13, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    Wow I really enjoyed reading this. It brought me back to my own trips to that beautiful island. Only thing is it really makes me want to jump a plane and go. I think I will look through my own pictures and remember when we could afford an island getaway. Thanks for sharing and especially for adding the photos. You guys look so healthy.

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