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