Friday, May 7, 2021

Maui, Maui - 3 of 3

Honolua Bay

It's a little funny that I don't have even one picture of the actual bay at Honolua Bay. I was much more mesmerized by the trees.

We parked in a small, dirt parking lot and then walked toward the water along wooded paths through a quiet forest. 

All along the way there were signs asking us to stay on the paths to respect those spirits of the ancestors who were buried within the forest.

The path was so, incredibly beautiful that I didn't have any problem at all heeding the request to stay on it.


In fact, I think I would have been happy to have built a small shelter to have lived on that path forever.


Ho'okipa Beach

This was the coolest beach we visited. I was glad we got to it - even if it was during the very last hour of light on the very last day. 

The sea lions seemed to agree that this was the best beach, too. As did the turtles.

Goodnight, Maui.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Maui, Maui - 2 of 3

Snorkeling at Molokini Crater and Turtle Town

One morning we awoke before the sun and boarded a boat that would take us to Molokini Crater for some snorkeling. 


I wouldn't say it was my favorite thing of the trip. But even though I'm not what we'd call an early riser by nature I did love watching the sun come up over the mountain. And even though I don't fancy snorkeling (sharks are scary and if you have your ears underwater they are more likely to get you #irrationalfear) I did love swimming in the water. And even though navigating a multi-level boat on crutches was a bit difficult, people were very kind and cleared the small staircases for me as I crashed and teetered up and down them.

For those who wanted to push their snorkeling limits, SNUBA was available. Snuba is a fancy word coming from a blend of snorkeling and scuba and, essentially, that's exactly what it was. One end of a 15 foot rope was tied to the Snuba-er and the other end to a floating raft. They put scuba gear on you, taught you how to breathe underwater, gave you tips on how to regulate the pressure in your ears, and then took you 15 feet down through the water to explore a tiny bit closer to the ocean floor. Neither Allison nor I had any desire to do it, but Brian and Raymond did.

Here's Brian with his cute little raft, getting the instructions:


And here Brian and Raymond are practicing their breathing underwater technique without really going underwater. 


Soon they both disappeared from the surface of the water and all we could see to indicate their position was the raft. They had a pretty great time, actually, and Brian came up so excited about the clear call of the whales he could hear at that depth.

While the guys were immersed in the water listening to the whales, Allison and I were snorkeling around on the surface of the water... well, mostly I was just swimming and splashing with my pool noodle. I don't know exactly what it is about snorkeling that gets to me - I just end up feeling all of this anxiety when my ears go under the water. If the water is crystal clear with a plethora of colorful fish and turtles, then the beauty and my interest can override that anxiety... but if the water is kind of murky and the fish are small with muted colors, no thanks. I'd rather just swim around. And this experience was the latter. Plus, since I couldn't wear a flipper on my bum foot (or even flap it against the resistance of the water), my 'chasing fish' looked quite a bit more like 'spinning in circles'.

Anyway, in my opinion, the coolest thing of the whole excursion was on the way back into the harbor. An albino whale literally came up for air right in front of our boat! Close enough that she almost touched the metal siding. I wish I had been able to get a picture of her. There were hundreds and hundreds of whales just off the shores of the island and we saw them all week long spouting and jumping and slapping the water. But that albino whale, swimming right alongside her jet black companions, was incredible.

Up the Volcano, Haleakala

Volcano. It just kind of gives me a little thrill to say it. Volcano. Such a cool and powerful sounding word for such a cool and powerful force of nature. I mean, glowing, molten rock from inside the earth shoots. out. the top. of a mountain! (I get that the volcano on Maui is not active anymore, which really makes it not all that different than a regular mountain, but still! Vol-ca-no!) 

You can drive all the way up to the very top of Maui's most famous volcano, Haleakala, starting at sea level and rising higher and higher until you drive through the clouds and pop out above them, park at 10,000 feet, and snuggle down against the chilly air to watch the sunset.

Sounds. Freaking. Magical.

It was our top thing to do.

Here we are, embarking on our journey at sea level:

The drive itself was most incredible.


And watching the clouds go from above us, to around us, to below us was my favorite. 


Less favorite was feeling the temperature go from warm, to cool, to cold, to freezing in that same timeframe. We had been warned that it was cold up on top of the volcano so we had packed our coats and hats and gloves, but oh how we f.r.o.z.e as the biting wind whipped around our bodies. None more than poor Raymond and Allison in the backseat of a convertable with the top down. At least Brian and I had the windshield to protect us a little bit. You might think that it would have been smart to pull over and put the top up on the convertible, and now, three months later, I really can't remember why we didn't. But I do have four ideas: number one, there really weren't all that many pull-outs along the way up the mountain. Number two, we had miscalculated the time and were slightly concerned that we might not actually make it to see the sun set below the horizon, so we feared that there were no extra minutes to spare. Number three, it was quite windy, and we were concerned that the gusts would rip the top right off before it latched completely. Number four, there was a whole lot of joking and laughing about it, and it sort of kind of almost made it more fun that way...

Anyway - for whatever reason or for all of them, we didn't. 

I thought I was getting the full brunt of the weather as we drove, but when we finally reached the top we opened the doors and stepped out into the fiercest, coldest wind I can remember ever feeling. It ripped the air right out of my lungs! I had brought an extra pair of pants, gloves, and a hat, and it was all I could do to stand outside of that car to put them on.

There was no time to spare. The sun continued setting and cared not if we were warm. Brian pulled out his black gloves and realized, quite unfortunately, that he had grabbed a rolled up pair of black socks to bring along instead. But being so cold, he opened them up and put them on his hands anyway - while we laughed. 

We climbed the last few feet and found a spot behind a mildly protective rock to sit, 10,000 feet above sea level. We had towels for blankets and sat to watch what was left of the sunset.


It was beautiful, but I'd be lying if I said that we were able to enjoy it much because of the sheer misery of the weather. Brian mustered up enough courage to unveil one of his socked hands for a photo, though. 


A friend had suggested that we stay until after the last light in the sky had disappeared, because the stars up on top of this volcano are breathtaking. In fact, they have a whole star observatory set up up there. We tried to stay outside as long as possible, but after the sun went behind the horizon it got so much colder and we couldn't even wait for the last of the colors to fade in the sky before hightailing it back to the car for some warmth. We carefully put the top up for insulation, blasted the heater, drove to a better spot for stargazing, and waited for the rest of the light to disappear. It was much more fun to sit in the warm car, but it wasn't quite as beautiful.



We passed the time telling stories and jokes while the hunger pains intensified. I think all of us probably wondered if it was worth it to wait up there - even me - who generally would move heaven and earth to catch a glimpse of an incredible night sky. It was just so dang cold! No one wanted to open a door or roll down a window because of the whipping wind, so we sat in that tiny car until we felt it was probably appropriately dark enough to put the top down for a few minutes to enjoy the stars. And as the top went down - oh my gosh!

The clouds had come in and covered the entire sky.

So there were no stars. Only cold. We grunted in frustration and decided we had waited long enough. It was time to go back down to tropical weather and some pizza.

Whale Watching on a Kayak



The next morning we, again, awoke before the sun but this time it was to go whale watching on a kayak. Apparently, the best time to watch whales from a kayak is early in the morning because the winds kick up later on in the day and the kayaking becomes much less fun.

Is it weird that selfies with a mask feel normal now-a-days?


I remember taking selfies with masks early on to document the strange times, but now we just take selfies and sometimes we have masks on because... well... that's just the way we look.

The water was calm and beautiful and I was reminded again about just how much I like being awake during the early hours of the morning. If only I didn't have to get up early in the morning to be there.


Our guide... well, he tried hard. He was young, and the thick self confidence he portrayed was most likely covering a bed of deep insecurity because, while he spouted off all of his accomplishments and credentials (over and over again), he sure needed a lot of reassurance that he was doing a good job.

He wasn't doing a bad job, but we all agreed that we probably would have seen a bit more whale action if we had been out there with someone else. The other kayak groups seemed to have much better 'luck' all morning, and towards the end, even I (a whale watching extreme novice) started questioning the guidance of our guide and would have gone a different way.

But, we did get to see some tails out there, and I didn't have to zoom in too far. (Notice the other group sitting right. there!)


More than that, it was just beautiful to be out on the water.


For most of us anyway. One of us got a bit seasick at the end and stopped having much fun. Poor guy.



The Grand Wailea Resort


For a couple afternoons we simply stayed put. How could we not take advantage of such a fun resort?! A giant lazy river, waterslides, and relaxing with specialty drinks and a good book. Yes please.


It kind of made me feel like a kid. And it helped me forget about my foot for a while because bobbing along in a lazy river is something I can still do. And boy I do it well!


This next picture doesn't look like much, I know, but it really is. As Brian jumped up like a hot kernel of popcorn to fix the flapping umbrella so the sun wouldn't cast the tiny little sliver across my face, I thought, 'This is Brian'. 


It hadn't been bugging me, but the second I laughed out loud and pointed it out, he was up and fixing it just to make me more comfortable.

Always.

And here's a little picture to represent the craziness of life right now. Full-sized posters reminding us to wash our hands, wear a face mask, and follow the social distancing guidelines.



Sunsets


Sunrises and sunsets are probably my very favorite thing about this world. Especially when we're on or near the water. 


Whenever we travel, I try to structure our days around being outside for the magical sunset hour. I hate to miss even one.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Maui, Maui - 1 of 3


Covid did its best to keep us from Hawaii this year. (Well, not really... it did try, but it certainly could have tried harder.) 

In order to be able to board a flight to Hawaii during this pandemic, there are two main obstacles. 1) You have to test negative for Covid, and 2) you have to find a Hawaiian approved testing place that can test you and have results within a tight, 72 hour window.

We had solved for the second obstacle with a little asking around and a lot of Google searching, but coming down with Covid just a couple of weeks before we were supposed to leave made clearing the first obstacle quite impossible.

People who get infected with Covid can test positive for a loooooong time after symptoms are gone, and even after the threat of spreading it disappears. Apparently, a person who has weathered a mild case, as we did, does not spread live virus after the first 10 days (meaning he is not contagious), but he still could have enough dead virus in his system to trigger a positive test result for a while - sometimes for months.

And we did, indeed, test positive.

But we had heard through the grapevine about an exemption route that we could explore which would allow us to fly even with a positive test result. Of course, we had to meet some very specific criteria and fill out much more paperwork to make sure we were safe (criteria involving time between a positive test result and the departure date, and a signed letter from a doctor stating that we were symptom-free).

You'd think that it would have been an easy decision for me whether to go or not to go to the beautiful island of Maui with my favorite person, but it turned out to be one of the more difficult decisions I've made recently.


Even if the exemption route made it possible for us to go, it would cut two days off of our vacation - was it still worth it? Was it really responsible to get on a plane and fly during this pandemic in the first place? And would things be open enough on Maui to enjoy our time there? And the biggest question for me, how would I get around the island without a properly functioning foot? Would I be too much of a burden? If it had just been Brian and me I wouldn't have had so much anxiety over that part of it, but it was not just Brian and me. We were supposed to be going with Brian's partner, Raymond, and his wife, Allison. And while we have traveled with them before and really like them, I didn't know how they would feel about me holding them back and was honestly quite embarrassed about the whole thing.

It took Brian and I a week of back and forth and back and forth and a few gentle nudges from both Brian's mom and mine (Lindsay - I really think this would be good for you... it's been such a hard year with homeschooling and your foot... I think you need this) before we hesitantly decided to sink our hearts into going. 

We're so weird.

In hindsight, of course going was the right decision! It's Maui!!!

So we jumped through all the necessary hoops to be cleared to go (as I mentioned, we did have to push our departure date back two days to qualify for the exemption route), packed our swimming suits, my crutches, and a knee scooter, and landed in the land of blue and green late in the night to find our rented convertible, shiny and red, waiting to take us to the Grand Wailea Resort.


A favorite from that first night was trying to fit my knee scooter into the trunk space of the red convertible. I'm kidding - it was the opposite of a favorite, and I even ended up in tears after thirty minutes of trying to Tetris our way into the tiny car with all of my bulky foot gear... something about the dark garage, combined with the late night and lack of sleep, combined with the manifestation of me being a burden I guess.

I do wonder what the garage attendant thought as he saw me wiping tears from my cheeks. He came over and offered for us to take a slightly bigger convertible that had more trunk space.

Wait, that's an option?

Yes. And it was parked right next to the one we had been trying to cram into.

It was a much better idea, and the knee scooter and crutches slid in without much of a fight. I still drove off that night wondering if we'd made the right choice in coming at all. 

But do you know what happened the very next morning?

The sun came up and touched the ocean and the sand and the trees and the mountains - and my heart expanded in a way that felt a little bit life changing.

We changed into our swimming suits, tucked my crutches underneath my armpits, met the Theodosises down by the pool, and started what would become one of the most memorable and treasured vacations.

A few of our favorite things:

The Nakalele Blowhole



Nothing makes you feel quite as small and powerless as standing at the mouth of a giant blowhole that sprays water a hundred feet into the air. This was one of two places I'd budgeted into what I called my Foot Budget. I had to leave my crutches behind, and we hiked (s.l.o.w.l.y) down boulders and rocks to get to this point. I could have stayed down there for hours watching the rhythm of the waves spray through the blowhole, but the sun was setting, and we had a dinner appointment to make. So up we went.




Mama's Fish House



Mama's Fish House served up one of the best dinners I've ever had. So good, in fact, that right after eating there on the first night we hopped right back on the website to reserve another slot for later on in the week. We were told that getting reservations to this Fish House the week of was almost impossible - so we felt pretty blessed that we were able to get not just one reservation, but two. A Covid-perk for sure.


Road to Hana


What an absolutely amazing adventure!


At almost every turn there was something incredible to see. Beautiful waterfalls, impressive caverns, and mountains and mountains of green.


We tucked my crutches into the space between the seat and the door, put down the top on the convertible, and cruised like kings down one of the most beautiful roads in the world. 

We stopped at every spot we wanted to and passed by those we didn't. It was the first time we'd ever done it but from what we understand, during non-Covid times, the road is incredibly crowded and can take many more hours to travel than it did for us. We felt so grateful for it. 

At one stop, Brian, Raymond, and Allison wanted to run down a path to see some kind of amazing tree - but that wasn't part of my foot budget, and I felt like it was a bit too far and cumbersome to get there on crutches, so I stayed back on the road with a giant leaf and had a delightful time.


Just as I put the leaf down the rain started falling, so gently, through the vines, and the sunlight hit the raindrops in such a way that the raindrops both reflected the bursts of golden light and showcased their own transparency. I stood there mesmerized by the sheer beauty of it.

Another beautiful thing along the Road to Hana, this tree. It's my favorite of all the trees.


And it was found on the most beautiful beach.


Also along the road: a black sand beach.


Did you know that there was a thing such as black sand beaches? I didn't. I don't quite know what I was expecting here, but, truth be told, I was a little underwhelmed. It was just kind of like... sand... but black.


But do you know what is cool? Black sand caves. Caves are cool. 


The black sand comes from black lava rocks that line the beach. And the whole thing really does have a beauty to it.


At the end of the road came the Haleakala National Park and in it was a hike that I was dying to take. It was the second and final thing I had planned for in my foot budget, and I cherished every single step of it.



Traveling with the Theodosises is fun. Hiking with them, driving with them, eating with them... Allison is strong and sharp, Raymond is hilarious, and when we came upon this remarkable tree along our hike, it was no surprise that we stayed for 20 minutes climbing and laughing and swinging from its branches.



The thing I was most excited about along the hike was the rumored bamboo forest. And boy, did it not disappoint!
 


Thousands of bamboo trees lined the paths!

It was at this point my foot decided the rest of the group should go on to the waterfalls without me and I found the most amazing spot to sit and relax in the bamboo forest. And, apparently, when I get left alone I take selfies. 


I hate taking selfies. Brian teases me all the time about being a millennial, which is either true or not true depending on which website you're reading. I prefer to think of myself as a Xennial, caught in the middle between Generation X and the Millenial generation (also, if you blend those two words together another way you might end up with Gennial - and I do not recommend you make that mistake in public. Ask me how I know). Anyway, like I said, I feel very uncomfortable taking selfies, which strengthens my argument about not being a millennial, right?

But there came a point in my life when I realized that no one else was going to take pictures of me, so if my children and grandchildren wanted proof that I was involved in any of our activities, I'd have to learn how to point the camera at myself every once in a while. And I do. Which weakens my argument about not being a millennial, right?

Anyway.

After my soul was filled in the bamboo forest, I decided to start daintily stepping my way back down the mountain with the hope that I would be close to the end by the time the others caught up with me so it wouldn't feel like I was holding them back too much.

But, it turns out that when I'm alone my foot is not the main thing impeding my speed. It's my camera. I couldn't stop stopping to take pictures of all the beautiful things.



And, luckily, everyone seemed happy to see me when they caught back up and no one grumbled even under their breaths about having to slow down. And in that moment on that beautiful trail my thoughts changed, and my mind relaxed, and I began to see that my foot would not have the power to ruin this vacation after all.