Sunday, November 20, 2005

Hawaii part two

I thought I'd record our island itinerary for posterity, when I became distracted. I was going to beginning my sentence with "Sunday" but then I realised it's impossible for me to begin a sentence with a day of the week without thinking:"'Sunday,' wrote My Kipling..." Mr Kipling always began his journal with the day and ended it with a summary of his findings regarding an exceedingly good cake of some description. I don't think I ate any cake in Hawaii, but I doubt whether it would have been exceedingly good. Still, it would be a mistake to write off the place on that basis.

Hawaiian society seems to be divided into four distinct classes:

  • Wealthy tourists and honeymooners.
  • The exceptionally friendly remnants of a noble island race, remarkably cheerful, all things considered.
  • A very small proportion of world class surfers, wind-surfers and associated glamorous young set; like a crusty version of "The OC" with more tattoos, piercings and dope than you can absent-mindely waft a stick towards.
  • A significantly larger proportion of ex-surfer burn-outs, clearly jonesing for their next rock.
Sunday took us to Paia (a hippy/surf town on the North Shore) and Lahaina, which is the largest seaside town and is pretty much wall to wall tourists. Most impressive to me was the enormous Banyan tree which took up an entire city block. For refreshement there is always shaved ice with one's syrup of choice. As we were sharing this one it's not blue, as Rachel would have preferred. Never eat anything blue is a fairly good rule to live by, I think. We spent most of Monday in and around Kihei, on the beach and around.

On Tuesday we took an organised trip to the top of the taller Volcano (Haleakala, 10 000 feet), from where you can stare out on a very impressive caldera. At least you could if it wasn't lost in the cloud, the rain pouring down and visibilty reduced to about fifty feet. In any case, we mostly went up so we could cycle down - 25 miles all downhill to the shore!

Which was fun. On Wednesday we took "the road to Hana." Hana is a village on the east side of the island that is only accessible by a very narrow, winding road through the rainforest. In actual fact this turned out to be no worse than at least half the roads in Sussex, but with more exotic scenery.

a black sand beach on the road to Hana

...and a sea cave

On Thursday we were going to take a boat trip but it was a little rough out there so we went to the aquarium instead.

A little fishy. No, I'm not Jacque Cousteau - I took this one at the aquarium.

We also visited this winery on the volcano's southern slopes. They make a great medium-dry pineapple wine that my parents will be fortunate enough to try for Christmas, so long as they get me a decent present of course. And we took a trip to Iao Valley; it's the site of an early Hawaiian settlement and is a beautiful, eerily spiritual place. It's also full of feral cats, so Rachel and I dubbed it Meow Valley.

Iao Valley

and one of its residents

On Friday it was a little calmer and we took a boat trip out to the submerged crater of Molokini and the island on Lanai for some snorkelling. There was a bit too much of a swell for me to feel comfortable in the water, but Rachel had a great time. Also some spinner dolphins followed the boat for a while, and we also saw some giant turtles.

On Saturday we did very little until the Luau, which I was talked into by Rachel. The Luau was a probably a great knees-up back in the day, but now it's just an opportunity for hotels to fleece tourists by paying locals to dress up in costumes, dance badly by torchlight and roast a pig, meanwhile serving watered-down Mai Tais. The best bit was the super cheesey "host with the most" lounge singer of yesteryear, although unfortunately only I found him funny. One thing to be said for the Americans is that they have a much easier time with earnestness (and acts of sincerity in general) than the more postmodern british. When the MC encouraged all present to turn to their partner and tell them how much they loved them, most everyone ponied up, which was at once touching and amusing and vaguely creepy. We left pretty much as soon as the bar shut.

The Luau at the Maui Prince Hotel. Tawdry.

A palm tree, a beautiful sunset and a crescent moon. Sadly, we had to go home the next day...

Monday, November 14, 2005

Hawaii part one

In a valiant - and indeed successful - attempt to avoid the swathes of trick or treaters liable to wash up on our front porch, Rachel and I cashed in those precious hours of earned vacation for a week's holiday in Hawaii. Or Maui to be more precise. To anyone British of about my age, Hawaii forever basks in the unwordly glamour bestowed upon it by Hawaii-Five-O ("book him Danno - murder one") and subsequently by the hirsute Tom Selleck of Magnum PI. Yet despite the fact I only know it from crime dramas, I still fancied a trip there. Also, its one of the few places within easy reach of Portland where you can be guaranteed a bit of sun in November without hurricane interference. Of course, a tsunami would have been possible, but as luck would have it that didn't happen.

Maui's a five hour flight from Portland. This is a far preferable means of conveyance than the twin hulled canoes which apparently carried the original settlers from Polynesia, although there was a bit of turbulence.

I think Janis Joplin said something about paving paradise and putting up a parking lot and by all accounts this has become the state's anthem. I would say the project is about 50% complete on Maui. Oahu has finished the task and the other islands are lined up on a Gantt chart somewhere in Honolulu. That said, I wasn't about to turn back the tide of history single-handed and instead we got stuck into a bit of anti-eco-tourism by picking up a convertible to fluff around in for the week. The white Chrysler Sebring wasn't quite Magnum PI, but with the top down and raybans on, one can at least "live the dream".

Maui is essentially two volcanoes with a valley (isthmus - geography fans) between them. The volcanoes slope steeply so everyone lives in the valley or along the shoreline. Our hotel was in a small town called Kihei on the western shore of the larger volcano. The temperature swung between about 70F at dawn to 85-90F in the early afternoon. It was mostly sunny; being a tropical island there's always a bit of rain, but it usually sticks to the tops of the volcanoes which are almost always lost in the clouds. Surf, sun and sand seem to be the main attractions, but I was mostly drawn by the tropical flora the like of which I had never seen before, except in the supermarket of course. But there they were, coconuts and guava fruit growing on the trees. And pineapples not growing on trees, but on the ground - who knew? And orchids the size of your head. Well, I think they were orchids - judge for yourself below. Meanwhile Rachel was having fun with the exotic fishes thanks to some snorkeling apparatus. Rachel is a fantastic swimmer, but I am rubbish, so I didn't do much of that myself; nevertheless it was certainly amazing to see tropical fish swimming right next to you!

Some photos below, more soon...

Ursula Andress / Rachel emerges from the tropical waters.

A nice paddle in the Pacific. Better than Brighton.

Rachel enjoying the beach.

A lovely bunch of coconuts. You definitely don't want to be standing underneath when one of these drops to the floor. Did you know that the coconut you see at the supermarket is actually the bit inside an incredibly tough yellow/green jacket? I am fairly certain that ancient man must have burned more calories getting into the thing then he ever got out.

A fairly amazing looking flower.

And another one.