Saturday, February 11, 2017

Not Like It Used To Be

I’m either getting old or we’ve been to Kauai so many times, it’s become common place. Consider this. When we first came to the Garden Island, we were given directions to our resort. The lady said” Go to the traffic light and turn left, follow the signs for Poipu until you reach the gas station, turn left and travel about 2 ½ miles.

Well, it’s not that way anymore. There are countless gas stations, traffic lights and shopping areas. Hundreds of thousands more people come to sample this little gem in the Pacific bringing with them traffic jams, pollution and the inevitable trash along the roadside. The song says “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot” and that’s just what they’ve done in a manor of speaking.

Anyway, the northern end of the road is a mere 30 miles from where we are staying and the beach there is a beauty, photographically speaking. So, we picked a day that was sunny but with a high surf warning on the north shore. After two hours of red lights and slow lanes, we were still only about half way. At this rate, with the narrow roads and one lane bridges ahead of us, we wouldn’t return home until well after dark. It was at this point I suggested we head back to the unit.

On the right was an interesting looking Botanical Garden, named Na Aina Kai so we decided to stop. We were greeted but then told unless we had a reservation for a tour there would be no way to view the grounds. They gave tours Tuesday through Thursday and the tours were full for this week. We wandered through the gift shop, beautiful in it’s own way and then left through a lovely courtyard manicured with all sorts of flowering plants and lush greenery. If that was a sample of what we missed, we missed something truly beautiful. So I mentally added this stop for another visit to the rapidly crowding island.

Tomorrow Carl will be going fishing even though he’s come down with a cold while I pack the suitcases. After lunch we’ll be moving from Lihue, near the Cruise Ship Harbor, to the south side of the island and our time share unit we own at Lawaii Beach Resort.

On Monday, we’ll be headed out on a snorkel / sightseeing trip to an island called Niihau, which is privately owned and only native Hawaiians and their invited guests are allowed there. It’s called the forbidden island and that makes it all the more desirable to go there. The reefs are pristine and the snorkeling and fishing is said to be second to none. We’ll spend the day watching for whales, taking photos of Na Pali coastline and avoiding a sunburn during the 7 hour trip.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Wow Just Sums It Up

One of the top 5 items on my bucket list was to see red hot lava running in some shape or form during one of our trips to Hawaii. We were so close in 2008. We drove the Chain of Craters Road, walked in to the furthest point allowed and stood there peering into the distance for some hint, a glimpse of red to indicate there was lava flowing. If there was, we never saw it and returned to the car with our hopes dashed.

Pele didn’t wait long to show off her colorful display to the world. The plane was on the taxiway when the announcement came from the cockpit about an eruption in the Kilauea Caldera. I looked at Carl and he at me, just shaking our heads. Just our luck.

Fast forward 8 years and you can well imagine my excitement when Carl returned from the lobby a few days ago with the news of another collapse of the partially cooled lava bench. You may remember hearing of a 26 acre piece of new real estate collapsing into the ocean on New Year’s Day moments after Park Officials convinced people to move from the area. Now, a steady stream of lava called a fire hose, by the media, had begun to flow. The most in years one reporter claimed. From the moment I saw the video, with mouth agape, I knew what I had to do. Web search for lava boat tours coming up and then 15 minutes later, I was booked on Lava Ocean Tours for Saturday, the 4th at 4:00.

On Thursday, the media talked about the geologists who narrowly escaped injury or death while trying to set up cameras to monitor the formation of other cracks.  Those cameras captured footage of the latest bench collapse and at that moment, it was believed the lava had all but stopped flowing. Just my luck again. It was as if Pele was torturing me for some slight. I even thought about buying a nip of rum as an offering. My religious beliefs frown on that sort of thing but, hey, when in Rome… right?

Cut to Saturday, the 4th, at 4:00 PM. Captain Shawn arrived to call the roll, give a mandatory Coast Guard briefing and to explain how the trip would go. He also called all 60 + aged people together, gave them a warning about back, neck and leg injuries before allowing us to board.

The boat, situated on it’s trailer measured over 40 feet long and it was 10 feet to the gate in the railing. All of us boarded by way of a 10 foot step ladder while the boat was still on the trailer in the parking lot. The crew of 40 did a once around the park and arrived at the boat launch with a fair number of spectators lining the shore to watch as the truck backed us down into the narrow harbor.

And then we were off,  running parallel with the shore line and fairly skimming over the waves, each of us strangers wrapped up in our thoughts. Questions plagued all of us. Would the boat ride be too rough, how wet would we get, will the electronic equipment be safe, would we really get a chance to view one of natures most spectacular shows?

45 minutes into the trip, we began to see steam ushering forth from the ocean’s surface. 10 minutes after that, we saw a red glow through the clouds of moisture and then we began to feel the heat from 200 feet away.

And then we were there no more than 50 feet from the almost surrealistic site. A  glowing fire fall of 2100 degree molten lava endlessly cascading from the miniscule appearing vent, a pipeline the Hawaiians would say came straight from the goddess herself.

All of us, as if we were one, began snapping photos with cameras, recording various lengths of video to try to show those who were not there just what it was like at the bottom of the ever changing stream. At times, the flow would be bright orange and full as it cascaded into the ocean while at other times, the white hot ribbon narrowed and as the gases within mixed with the overly warm sea water, it sent ejecta outward, sometimes the height of the falls.

It took some effort for me to stop taking photographs with both my cell phone camera and my Nikon D200 but I forced myself to sit quietly and just watch. Every once in a while I would hear myself say, “wow!” That was about the only word that came to mind. And still is.

I sat for hours afterwards, studying each and every image,
watching the videos over and over with that very same word
 coming to mind. We were back at the harbor about 7:00,
 home by 8:00, but unable to sleep until almost midnight.
Even now, I have to pinch myself and say, “that was real
and I was there first hand. Wow!”  

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Tidbits And Trivia

Europeans brought sugar cane production to Maui in the early 1800’s but due to economic reasons, plantations have been closing in recent years. Hawaii’s Commercial & Sugar was the last company to produce sugar in the islands. Sadly, it too closed in December of 2016. Diversified agriculture will take its place.

Maui pineapple industry started in 1890 and that too has been phased out over the years. The mainland receives pineapple from South America at a lower cost.

From the beach across from our resort you can see the island of Lana’i just 8.8 miles away and the island of Moloka’i a mere 8 miles away. On a clear day you can also see the island of Hawaii ( the big island ) 32 miles away.

Ka’anapali is the first master planned resort in the United States. The first hotel opened in 1960.

Lahaina was the original capital of Hawaii. It was moved to Honolulu in 1845. A major fire in 1919 destroyed most of Front Street. The fire was started when Bubonic Plague was discovered amongst the Chinese section of town and it quickly got out of hand.

There is only one tunnel on Maui. It was deemed to be too environmentally destructive to blast the mountainside away so the construction of Rte 30 went through instead.

These are some of the fun facts we’ve learned this week. Today we visited the aquarium I mentioned and then took a sunset dinner cruise on the Quicksilver out of Maaleaa Harbor. The sunset was a flop, the meal was only so so, the crew was great and we saw whales.

After the cruise, we headed home to pack. Our time on Maui is up and we head to Hilo tomorrow to stay at the Kilauea Military Camp inside Volcanoes National Park.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Road to Hanna Once More

Today, we decided the weather looked pretty good so after lunch, we headed over Route 36 towards Hana. This time, with Carl at the wheel, we were able to stop several times to take photos.

Some of the photos are of the bridges, most of them built between 1910 and 1920 while others are of interesting trees and foliage. But the real reason we traveled the fifteen miles to Ke’anae Point was the waves. On Sunday, the surf was roiling and crashing on the huge chunks of lava piled up in the bay. Sadly, the rain kept me from really being able to enjoy the scenery.

Today, thanks to three days of high winds, the waves were much higher. Much more dramatic and my only complaint, photographs do not show the power and magnitude of what God produced before my eyes. Even a video pales in comparison to what was before me. We saw evidence of much stronger surf and erosion as much as 15 feet from the shoreline. The power of water is sadly ignored. It can move mountains, wash away buildings and erase roads. The Hawaiians have a piece of information for us tourists, “Never turn your back to a wave”. It’s a valuable piece of advice.

There was one other piece of information passed to us by Tom, the driver. He told us there was only one snake on Maui to be concerned about, the Maui Black Arrowhead. It wasn't long before we spotted one.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Around The Head

If you look at a map of Maui, you might imagine the profile of a woman laying face down. So following that mindset, we traveled the head today. In more plain terms we drove Route 30 from our resort heading north to Kapalua and beyond. The driving guide handed out by the rental companies states “ The road around the north side of Maui is desolate, but ruggedly picturesque. It also has a very narrow section of road with a sheer cliff and no guard rail before you reach Kahakuloa when driving from Kapalua. “Drive at your own risk.” They weren’t kidding. In fact, after driving the road, Carl thinks it may have been worse than the road to Hana. It wasn’t as rough but it was even more narrow in many places.

Once we left the hustle and bustle of Lahaina and Kahana, we followed the rugged coast line finding numerous spots where the locals congregate for surfing. We stopped at a few of these places and watched as each took their shot at riding the 5-6 foot rollers. I have never attempted this sport. To me, it’s crazy dangerous and way too easy to get pounded by breaking waves or slammed into the sea floor. I understand it’s even common to reach the surface only to be pushed back down again. Competent surfers drown each year but not today.

Along this drive, even the beaches eventually disappear and all you are left with is the intense concentration it takes to maneuver the narrow twisted road. It’s all paved but that’s all the good I can say about the road. Would I recommend you drive it? I have to refer you to the driving guide handed out by the rental car operators.

The tiny village of Kahakuloa is nestled in a narrow valley literally in the middle of no where. From a high vantage point, we can count no more than 10 houses and 2 churches. One of these churches may fall down during the next big wind. We see utility poles and electric lines snaking their way up on rugged hill and down the other side so we assume that most homes have electricity. We see a few houses with solar panels on the roof but what is most prevalent  are the satellite dishes.

Carl has been keeping an eye out for an interesting food truck and finally found a small collection on the side of the road about 20 miles from our resort. We settled on the shrimp truck although I was glad they offered a steak plate in addition to the seven or eight shrimp offerings. Both of us enjoyed the food but just like everything else on the island, two plates of food was $27.00. No drinks.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Now, I'm A "Groupie"

No travel scheduled today so we lounged about until Happy Hour at the Beach House across the street. $5.00 well drinks, $3.00 beer and a selected bar menu of munchies. We each had a Pina Colada while I munched on three burger sliders and Carl had a hot dog and fries.

The bus to the Elvis tribute picked us up at 6:30 with “Elvis” himself, Darren Lee on board to greet us. He indulged us by answering a few questions, explained a bit about the show we would soon experience and spent a few minutes talking about how he came to be Elvis. We also found out his father looked the part but couldn’t sing while his brother was playing the part in Canada.

When we arrived at the Theater, Darren escorted us through the side door where we could wait while he went back stage to transform himself into the King. Our seats in the second row, center stage were awesome. While “Elvis” sang Teddy Bear, he tossed a stuffed bear to one of the ladies on our bus and during his rendition of the Hawaiian Wedding Song, another lucky lady from our bus was on stage with him holding his microphone. Afterwards, he presented her with a frangipani lei from around his own neck.

Towards the end of the show, Darren came off stage and shook hand with everyone in the VIP section and several others in the audience. All told, Darren sang 31 of Presley’s songs, made 11 wardrobe changes and told us little bits of trivia about Elvis and the 3 visits he made to Hawaii during his career. And when it was all over, Darren came off stage, sat down among us and asked if there were other songs he might sing for us while playing his acoustic guitar, answered questions about his life and what his plans for the future might hold. One of the cast members handed out Cds which Darren signed for all of us. And then our VIP night was over. The bus returned us to Kahana Falls, each of us quietly humming our favorite tune.  Carl was able to fall asleep immediately. It took me a bit longer.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Road To Hana

Yesterday, we enjoyed a continental breakfast during a brief orientation on the resort. It was meant to inform us on where to find necessities but it also described multiple activities designed to keep us entertained as well as separated from our money. After much deliberation, also known as salesperson’s pressure, we settled on a sunset dinner cruise after winning one ticket, a night out at an Elvis tribute called Burn’n Love, and an all day guided trip to Hana provided by Valley Isle Excursions in a 12 person van complete with driver/guide and stand up comic.

Normally we would pack a lunch, bathing suits and camera equipment and head to the car but this road is very different. It contains more than 600 wicked curves and fifty six one lane bridges. Each twist in the road so narrow vehicles need to be aware of the last or next place which might provide safety while allowing traffic to get by. Our driver, Tom, filled us in on all things Maui, enlightening us with such useless trivia as the Hawaiian word for beef which is Pi Pi (pronounced pee pee). He continued by adding Chinese appetizers are called Pu Pu which we had all heard of. What we didn’t know is that you will never hear of Pi Pi Pu Pus. I mean it just isn’t done and no one would have it anyway. Oh, yes, and the number of residents in Maui county which is 144,000.

It was raining hard when Tom picked us up at the hotel and it continued for most of the morning. Remembering that water and electronics should never mix, I was just plain miserable. I don’t mind getting drenched but I had to protect the camera. There were so many places where I would have loved to jump out, grab a few shots and continue on our way. But let’s face it, the schedule or the road just couldn’t accommodate 12 people piling out of the bus every few minutes. Carl assured me he won’t mind driving part of this road on another dryer sunnier day. We had a lovely lunch at Verge’s Flower Farm and then we were off once more only this time the sun played peek a boo with us until finally burning off the clouds and brightening the rest of the day for us.

With more than 100 miles behind us, the terrain changed from rain forest to tundra and just as quickly even that low grassy scrub turned into desert conditions. We finished our tour on the dry side of the island  after being shown the youngest lava flow on Maui. 800 years seems like a long time but lava is tough. Wind and rain must begin the breaking down process before seeds can take hold. It must survive  long enough to put down roots. Our last stop was at a farm stand selling Macadamia Flower Honey and Maui coffee which they wisely offered samples. And then it was all over. We were returned to our resort none the worse for wear with a small honey bear in tow. The camera survived. I dried out and we have lots of memories.