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. 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Maui Trip, Day 3 (Saturday, Jan. 9)

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

For my husband's version of Day 3, click here

Saturday, our plan was to explore West Maui. The island of Maui is somewhat shaped like a figure 8, laying on its side. West Maui is the western part of that figure. 

There is a winding road that goes all around that part of the island along the coastline. We were starting at the southern end, and planning to travel up and around the western side of the island. 

Our first stop was Napili Beach, where the waves were perfect for boogie boarding. As it turns out, unless they start making boogie boards with a cutout to accommodate pregnant bellies, the two really don't mesh. It was a lot like trying to balance a board across a ball, and keeping it afloat in the waves. I'm sure I was quite a sight to onlookers on shore, but it was fun. 

 This photo was actually taken at Hamoa Beach a few days later, but it's the only one I have with my boogie board. 

This was my first time going farther into the ocean than just up to my ankles, and actually going swimming, as the Pacific on the California coast is far too cold for swimming, even at the height of summer. In Maui, the ocean was a consistent 74 degrees, which was very comfortable. 

After a while, we traveled a little farther down the road, to Honolua Bay. A short hike through rain forest leads to the shore. This was our first time ever in a rainforest, so naturally, we were blown away by the beauty of it. Lush foliage and vines were everywhere, dotted with tons of coconut palms. The thing that makes the rainforests on Maui unique is that they are so safe and "tame" - if we were exploring the rain forest in South America, there would be all sorts of deadly and dangerous animals lurking everywhere, but not so on this island. The only animals we kept seeing everywhere were chickens - somehow, years ago, chickens started breeding with some wild fowl, until by now they are everywhere. It's pretty funny hiking through a tropical rain forest, and hearing a rooster crowing! :)

The shore at this beach was very rocky, which is great in that it means there are coral reefs in the water, and coral reefs mean tropical fish. However, getting in and out of the water when the surf is high (as it was that day) is a lot harder, because as the waves come in, they can easily knock you back up onto the rocky shore. I was able to find a small spot that had mostly sand, and we snorkeled here for a while. We saw some coral and tropical fish, although the visibility that day wasn't great because the water was a little wild. 

Back on the road, we continued on to the Nakalele Blowhole, which is about halfway around the West Maui part of the island. We had seen the blowhole from the helicopter, but wanted to get a better look up close. To get from the parking lot to the shore, we had to climb down a pretty steep cliff side over large boulders (no actual trail).

As I was standing at the top and looking down, trying to decide if it would be safe for me to go (my husband had already gone on ahead, not expecting me to want to do this hike), another couple came huffing and puffing back up to the top. They were both encouraging me to go, until the husband noticed I was pregnant. At that point, he changed his mind, and told me he was a physician, and that he thought I should not make the trek. I politely smiled and said I'd just start down slowly and see how it went, going "against medical advice". :)

 See those tiny people on top of the hill? That's just beyond where the parking lot was.

I was taking my time and going very slowly, since being pregnant puts my balance off, to where I could easily tip forward when going downhill if I wasn't choosing my steps carefully. It took me a while, but I made it down safely, and the close-up view was definitely worth the effort. 

Going back up actually turned out to be easier, as my balance was working in my favor going uphill. I didn't remember until we got back up the top that there is a heart-shaped hole in one of the rocks at the bottom, but I wasn't about to make the hike again to get a picture of us in front of it. 

From here, we continued down the road to finish the loop around that part of the island, but we were stopped by an accident on a one-lane stretch ahead of us, and forced to turn around and go back the way we had come. 

Since it was still early enough in the day, we drove on to Iao Valley State Park, which is in the middle of where the two parts of the island come together. This is a lush rain forest area with lots of waterfalls. It can be cloud-covered in the afternoon, but we were in luck and had clear skies to enjoy the views as we hiked the trails. 

After this, we drove back to the house, and enjoyed dinner on the balcony with this beautiful view of the sunset.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Maui Trip Day 2 (Friday, Jan. 8)

For Day 1, click here.

For my husband's version of Day 2, click here.

Since Hawaii is three hours behind Arizona time, and we had gone to bed early the night before, I expected to wake up early on our first full day in Maui, but not quite as early as we did (around 3 a.m.). I don't remember the part about "sleeping in" until 4:30 a.m. that my husband talks about - we left the house at that time, and presumably I spent some time getting ready for the day, and begging for "just 5 more minutes"... At this point in the trip, we were the only party staying at the guest house, so nobody else was being disturbed by our early morning wake up times.

It ended up working out well, since we had time to make it up to the top of Haleakala (a dormant volcano, and the highest point on the island) with just a minute to spare before sunrise. I hadn't planned on this as an activity, as my husband is not usually one to want to get up hours before dawn, but we were glad we were able to go.

From that high up, we were able to see the entire west side of the island, although the crater blocked our view all the way to the ocean on the east side.

There is an interesting plant that only grows in this one place in the entire world, the silversword. We got to see quite a few of them since we drove all around the top of the mountain. The other thing that stood out to me up there is how poorly the restrooms were being maintained in this National Park - as a pregnant mom in need of frequent bathroom stops, this is definitely something I took note of (for better or for worse) everywhere we went. 

On the way down, we drove through some lush green backroads in what is know as the "upcountry" part of Maui. Everything smelled so sweet and flowery. We had breakfast along the road, before stopping at a beach on the north shore, since we had some time to kill before our helicopter tour shortly before noon.

It was the first time either one of us went on a helicopter, and it was really neat, especially the takeoff as it happens right away, with no taxiing like on an airplane. I was a little concerned about both of us parents flying together, lest we would get killed in an accident and leave our children orphaned. So I did my homework, and decided to fly with Air Maui, who have a perfect safety record in almost 30 years of doing this, as opposed to some other companies who have killed several of their passengers in multiple incidents - eeek! Costco has great deals for a couple of their tours.

There were a total of 6 passengers plus the pilot on board. The lady right next to him kept shoving her huge camera lens in his face. He kept saying, "Wow, that's a big lens!" and "That's about the biggest lens I have ever seen!" every time she would telescope it out even further in front of his face, but she failed to catch his drift. It was kind of funny, but we were rolling our eyes about her at the same time. 

We did the 45-minute West Maui and Molokai tour. Molokai is an island right near Maui, that is still very remote and undeveloped. It used to be most known for housing the leper colony of the Hawaiian islands, and in fact, a handful of patients remain there to this day. There are only about 8,000 people on Molokai, many of whom live a Robinson Crusoe type life with no electricity, living off nothing but the land and sea, and homeschooling their children in remote valleys on the island. Pretty cool - until you need a Costco and some internet access, ha!

After the helicopter tour, we headed back to the town where we were staying, Kihei. Back in December of 2014, my husband had gifted me with a pedicure in my advent calendar, but 15 months later I still had never had time to take advantage of it. So getting my nails done was on my list of priorities for this trip. Sadly, my heels were looking so rough and cracked after years since they last been properly cared for, that I was almost afraid to even go. I felt like a backslidden Christian who had been out of church for years, and was now too embarrassed to show up again.

Sure enough as soon as the lady lifted my feet out of the foot bath, she gasped, and looked at me sternly. She was so sincere, it didn't even offend me. I told her how I have 8 kids, am on my feet 16 hours every day, and had not had time to get my heels pampered in years. She was very nice, and did all sorts of things on my feet to get them up to speed. 

While I was sitting there, my husband was going on a run, lest he be seen in a nail salon. But after about an hour (I told you my feet needed lots of work...), he came hobbling in, after having gone for a cool-down swim and having stepped on a sea urchin. The lady who was getting close to being done working on me made him sit down to assess the damage. She told him to buy vinegar at the store in the parking lot so she could soak his feet. She then prepared a hot soak for him, and proceeded to spend over an hour doctoring his foot up. When all was said and done, she refused to charge anything for all the work she had done on him. The fact that my husband was already taking a steroid and antibiotics for his infected gums came in handy yet again, as it both prevented an infection, and helped him heal up faster. Moral of the story: When vacationing with my husband, preemptively get a prescription, since he will end up needing drugs one way or another. My nails came out perfect, too - turquoise to match my flip flops and swimsuit, with white hibiscus flowers on them.

We ate dinner by the beach, and went to bed early again, very happy and tired.