Hawaii, October 2010
Hawaii: One of those places you hear about all the time, but never quite zero in on. At least I never did. But I will take any chance to travel, and along came a wedding invitation for Becky Kern – in Maui! Bless those folks who conceived of “destination” weddings. Becky is Susan Kern’s daughter. Mike Zelinski, her step-dad, was a fellow Peace Corps volunteer in Oujda, Morocco with us from 1971 to 1973, and we’ve stayed in touch since.
So, besides the fact that I’ve always enjoyed Susan Kern, who writes the funniest stories, and that we’ve met the family at Disneyland, have gone to Ashland, OR with Susan and Mike, and had the four of them (Becky has a brother, Josh) visit us in Bakersfield, now we could celebrate Becky’s wedding in Maui. A year before the event, we were in.
The hard part is planning. Mark and I operate under the assumption that while we’d like to be relaxed and play the whole thing by ear, we know we probably won’t be back because there is so much world to see. So we have to plan to a point. This trip turned out to be well planned, but it was last minute. The only thing I did early was air tickets and condo rental. Guidebooks – I started the weekend before we left. I seem to be incredibly busy although a list of my activities wouldn’t sound so very time-consuming, but I really opened my Maui travel guide, one I had purchased a year ago, the weekend before we went.
October 6, 2010
It’s Wednesday, and for the first time we don’t have to get up at 4:00 AM to be at the Bakersfield Airport at 5:00 AM. We only have to arrive at 10:30, fly to San Francisco, make a connection an hour later, and board the five-hour flight to Hawaii. All in the daytime. We arrive before dark. Amazing.
Car rental companies – oh joy
Baggage arrives, hooray. We take the shuttle to Budget rent-a-car and find out, as usual, that the type of car we rented is not available even though we’ve had the reservation for months. But rental cars are such a racket. First thing the rental lady does, before she tells us our request is not available, is ask us if we’d like to upgrade to a bigger car? No, we wouldn’t. We reserved the Ford Escape or a like vehicle because that’s the type of car we wanted to drive. So no, we don’t want to upgrade. Would we like the insurance? No we would not. Car lady gets a slightly worried, caring look that she has perfected, and says surely we want to get the lesser insurance at least, so we can have roadside assistance. No we would not. I mean, the company provides roadside assistance as part of the whole rental deal! We are not her favorite customers now, because she isn’t making much of a commission off of us.
So she calls for the car, and wonder of wonders, there are none available of the type we wanted. She has to upgrade us at the same cost as the lesser vehicle. As if she didn’t know that at the very beginning! So we are in a Dodge Journey or something like that and it’s more like a station wagon than a van even – sort of a squashed van. We aren’t sitting high up like in the Escape and I honestly can barely see over the dashboard. I’m not happy at all and on the drive to Lahaina, where we are staying, I turn this car thing over in my mind.
There is a Costco right by the airport, so we stopped there to buy water in quantity, Gatorade, and a few other things that would be cheaper there, and proceeded to the condo.
One of the Hawaiian Islands, Maui is not very big. From one road you can see the ocean both ways. Before 450 BC, Maui was settled by three waves of immigration: two from the Marquesas and one, a little later, from Tahiti. The governing structure broke into a system of chiefdoms, one for each of three sections. This coalesced into kingdoms until November 28, 1778, when Captain Cook saw the islands. He actually never set foot on them, but he did see them. The first European was a Frenchman, La Perouse. I’ll talk about that later. Anyhow, things went downhill from there from the point of view of native Hawaiians, and in fact, one of our greatest gifts – disease- almost finished off the Hawaiian population.
The islands went through the typical continuum from conquest to the introduction of Christianity to building up of government and industry, and in Maui’s case, tourism. During the development of the sugar cane and pineapple industries, workers were imported from Japan and other Asian countries.
Now Maui is divided into six sections, and we got to know all but the northernmost coast of West Maui. West Maui has a zillion resorts, gorgeous coastline, and the town of Lahaina is there. We stayed in Ka’anapali and the only reason for our choice was the proximity to the Ritz Carlton where the wedding would be held.
There are two sets of mountains, and between them is Central Maui. It’s very commercial and industrial – I suppose it can’t all be paradise. The South Shore has upscale resorts plus Big Beach, also to be mentioned later. The North Shore has small towns and surfing beaches. East Maui is a rain forest, and that’s where Hana is. The feel of life is quite different there. Upcountry is volcano country. Farms and ranches are here. So it’s pretty simple, and when I say we got to know the entire island, I don’t mean we were in every town but we knew the structure and where we were going.
My Biggest Impression
Maui is small. For some reason known only to my mind, I kept returning to the thought that the island was a very tiny speck in the great ocean. That seemed significant in ordering our place in the universe.
I found a condo on VRBO – Vacation Rentals by Owner, which I’ve used successfully several times before. I couldn’t afford the super plush places but I did want to be on the water. About a week before we left, the owner emailed me and said she thought we should know the balconies were going to be reconstructed while we were there and there would be lots of noise during the day. I told her that it seemed like we were stuck, even though noise is one of my least favorite things. She offered us her condo at Papakea Resort for the same price, which was very nice. We took it. J-104.
We arrived in the dark, so all the directions about passing the new Westin Ocean Resort, counting three lights from there, going past the pink building that used to be the Embassy Resorts – well, they were rather useless. We did manage to find it. You know how it is when you arrive tired and hungry? I stuck the Costco pizza in the oven and we settled in. I didn’t think I was liking it but kept telling myself to wait until morning and I could see things. It was hot, too, since the condo had been closed up all day.
Day One – we visit Lahaina
Morning came and it turned out that right outside our patio door there is a koi pond that has an amazing variety of water lilies. There are some where the lily pads have little sides that turn up, like little rims. And looking farther, we could see the ocean.
Looking out the door, this is what I see.
Amazing lily "plates"
I think I’ll call the above lily pads, lily plates. And how about this next?
I could have been in France. Where’s Monet when you need him?
So that’s my lily pond, and here is my beach.
Those shadows are Mark and I looking at the clear water. We also relax at our beach. In fact, We’re on the first floor, which I usually don’t like because it isn’t very private, but soon decide it’s so much nicer to just walk out the door without messing with elevators or stairs. It makes it quicker to walk a few yards and relax. And relax we did, sitting on lounge chairs doing nothing. Well, Mark napped, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the ocean.
And one other thing about this condo – the furniture is comfortable, as are the beds. We’ve stayed in places where there was nothing comfortable at all to sit on. Plus, here we could see. Some property owners have taken low lighting to a new (lower) level.
We want to take it easy the first day, so we drive down the road to Lahaina to do the walking tour. And the first thing I see is Hilo Hatties! Hooray – it’s awfully hard to find Hawaiian shirts in my size so this was a propitious start to the trip. Hilo Hatties has the biggest selection of Hawaiian clothing anywhere. But Hilo Hatties has more than clothes. Did you know that Hawaii has the largest per capita consumption of Spam? I draw the line at Spam macadamia nuts.
There are no knock-out drop dead sights in Lahaina, but there are a number of interesting ones. The Wo Hing Museum was built in 1912 and originally served as a meeting hall for a Chinese benevolent society. Hawaii is a jumble of nationalities and Chinese immigrants are among them. There is a tin-roofed cookhouse on the property where they continuously run movies by Thomas Edison – yes, shortly after he invented the movie camera he came to Hawaii and shot film in 1898 and 1906. It’s grainy but what a good record of early Hawaii.
It was hot and humid but I learned my lesson in Florida and I drank lots of water. It certainly wasn’t as hot and horrible as Florida, either. In fact, we stopped noticing the weather at all. It was 84 almost every day. It was perfect. The water was the same as the air – we could walk right into the pool or the ocean without even a twinge.
We walked to Waine’e Church – the first stone church in Hawaii, built in 1832. Over the years it was rebuilt due to the belfry collapsing, fires, and storms, but the 1953 version seems to be there for the duration. The cemetery was interesting. We didn’t see the most important graves because a wedding was in progress and they were taking photos on the lawn, but what we wanted to see was the grave of Queen Ke’opuolani, the wife of Kamehameha the Great, and the mother of kings Kamehameha II and III.
I like old cemeteries because looking at the headstones is like piecing together history. You can see patterns of illness, how often babies died in the early days, how life expectancy changed, and so on. For example, this person lived to 104 which must be unusual for that time period.
And so far in Lahaina and Hana, we have seen cemeteries literally everywhere – behind houses, in parks, at beaches, and many are in rubble because of erosion over the years. The Puupiha Cemetery, built actually in sand dunes by a local beach, has suffered some rearrangement as you can imagine. The actual name is Man Fook Tong Chinese Cemetery.
Birthing in the ocean
Down by the waterfront we saw the Hauola Stone. It’s in the water and looks like a chair (using your imagination), but the ancient Hawaiians attributed healing powers to this stone, so royal women, back in the 14th and 15th centuries, gave birth there. I wonder, did they time the births to low tide? See if you can pick out the Hauola Stone. It’s there – center back.
Also of interest, to me anyway, was the Lahaina Jodo Mission – a Buddhist mission that has the largest bronze Buddha outside of Japan. Installed in 1968, it celebrated the centennial of Japanese immigration to Hawaii.
The most amazing site and sight is the Banyan Tree – the largest in Hawaii, planted in 1873. I did not know this, but Banyan trees send out branches that then root and become ancillary trunks. Here’s some interesting information from the internet.
This Banyan Tree was first planted in April, 1873, and marked the 50th Anniversary of Christian missionary work in Lahaina. The tree was imported from India was only 8 feet tall. It now stands over 60 feet high, has 12 major trunks in addition to a huge core. It stretches over a 200-foot area and shades 2/3 of an acre.
All one tree with 12 major trunks! You should hear the hundreds of myna birds that gather in that tree at dusk. It’s musical, not annoying.
Mixed Plate Lunch
We ate lunch at the Aloha Mixed Plate on Front Street, right on the beach. The Mixed Plate tradition began with immigrants working on the sugar plantations. A Filipino would bring something for lunch, a Chinese something else, and so on. The workers started sharing and the mixed plate became a tradition. I got the mixed plate with the kalua pig, lomilomi salmon, and poi. If someone can tell me why poi is tasty, I’m willing to listen. Because it’s pretty horrible. It’s made by mashing the taro root and is a staple of the Polynesian diet. I suppose one can cultivate a taste for it.
Mixed plate lunches have evolved to always include two scoops of rice, macaroni salad blessedly made without vinegary stuff, and the entrée you choose – pork, teriyaki chicken, etc.
It was delicious, especially since we could eat almost on the beach.
The Pool and dinner
Our leisurely first day actually turned out to be pretty crowded and tiring. There was the time change to deal with of course. So we came back and went in the swimming pool which was about the same temperature as the air. We sat in lounge chairs at ocean’s edge and relaxed. You get lulled by the ocean and the balmy air and don’t much feel like moving. But dinner beckoned and I am determined that we will enjoy some mild night life, even if it does occur at 6 PM. So we took ourselves down to Mala, which is Lahaina’s new hot spot, and had a couple of mai tais and a salad. I was determined to have a drink with an umbrella.
Someone came through selling leis, Mark bought me one, and our condo was fragrant for days. Well, the condo, then the car, then our place in Hana. Have lei, will travel.
Dinner eaten, we went to sleep about 8.
Sleep at 8?
Yes, that’s right. I had a small battle with myself but I lost and went to bed. I did have to put earplugs in to shut out the ocean. I always have that trouble – I like the sound of the waves, but then I want to flip the off switch, but there isn’t one. So I use earplugs.
There was an additional sound – frogs from the pond. They go all night in big strings of croaky noises, and each night we looked forward to getting back and hearing the frogs. We saw one on the lawn, too. Bigger than ours at home. Since we moved into out house with the pond on the golf course, frogs seem to have taken on importance in our lives.
Coming up…the Road to Hana