Hawaii - Maui/Paradise
MAUI MAUI CHIKA BOWIE
I’ve never been to Paradise, but I’ve been to Hawaii (it’s pretty Goddamn close).
A year or so back in time, it was my birthday, not the big one, but not far off, we were smothered in SF by endless rain clouds, sniffles and snarffles. In a flight of fancy we found ourselves in Maui.
|Aloha back atcha|
One of the most striking things about Hawaii, and I felt this the first time I ever visited (for story - read here), is how big and beautiful and plentiful the flowers are. I’ve always lived in a big city so flowers were things I saw in people’s gardens and homes, or went to a park or a flower market to see volumes of them, but in Hawaii they are literally bursting out of the sidewalks, random bushes bowing down with the weight of these floral phantasms. It’s incredible, I was stopping every 5 minutes to take photos. Flowers, in my opinion, are among the most beautiful components of this earth that we live on. I can see how people point to flowers and say - was it created by a God or a ball of gas? (ball of gas with green fingers maybe).
American hotels love to fly flags, a veritable chorus line of them furiously fluttered and flapped in the ferocious wind. To my surprise, I noticed the flag of Hawaii contains the Union Jack! It is the only State flag to do so. The reason why is varied but the story I like best is the tale of a 19th century Hawaiian King receiving a present of the Union Jack from the British Army officer George Vancouver. To acknowledge the gift the King flew it above his court. His aides advised him that this might upset the Americans. The King decided to keep everyone happy and merge the two flags. The ultimate act of people pleasing, and perhaps a testament to how chilled out, friendly and peaceful these island people truly are.
|There is a Mum Street out there who is very proud right now|
It rains a lot in Hawaii. I like rain (maybe it’s an Irish thing). In an almighty downpour we abandoned our beachside refuge and drove to the nearby town of Lahaina. We loped up and down Front St, it was great, literally, it is official one of America’s “Great Streets” and has a plaque to prove it (plaques don’t lie). Busy cafes jostled with shaved ice huts among the inevitable souvenirs shops. Hawaii is known for its pearls and gems so there were stacks of jewelry stores. It was surprisingly historic for a beach town with notable 19th century missionaries houses preserved as museums. I love me a bit of history.
I was delighted to see an Arts n Crafts fair setting up under a sprawling banyan tree. Dom knew he had lost me for the next few hours.
I chatted to the carver of beautiful wooden tiki masks made from Hawaiian Hibiscus trees. He asked me where I was from and then proceeded to tell me how much he liked New Zealand people, erm OK. Despite his misplaced sales banter I was intrigued by a mask with down turned eyes which my carver buddy explained means it protects the family of the owner. Sold! (one less job for me, delegation)
With the tiki mask on duty we threw caution to the wind and motored on to the town of Paia. A friend of Dom’s had strongly advised him to check out Mama’s Fish House because they served the catch of the day straight from the fisherman’s hands. We envisioned a small roadside shack, barely containing a large Polynesian woman named ‘Mama’ who doled out the fish and poi (traditional Hawaiian starch dish).
Instead, we pulled up to a huge restaurant right on the beach. The waiter was polished and Michelin star quality with his excited descriptions of each dish. From ahi sushi to opah entrees, it was hands down the most delicious fish I have ever had in my life. I kept checking my plate to make sure I hadn’t left a single shred of it. I credit it as the start of Róisín’s penchant for fish, she wolfed into it.
After lunch we chased Róisín around the palm trees and the tiki totem poles before collapsing for a time-out into the outrigger canoe that lay pride of place on the beach. The view of the matching aqua blue sea and sky was stunning.
The soft rain started to fall again so we climbed back into our jeep. Although we were staying on the far side of the island we decided to plough a little further east and check out some of the famous "Road to Hana" (National Geographic considered it one of the best road trips in the world).
We did about 10 of the 50 miles and although we saw lush Hawaiian countryside we got the sense you had to fully commit to the journey to see all its wonders (one day we will come back to the waterfalls and black sand beaches).
We decided to turn back and visit the volcano instead. However, Google Maps screwed the pooch! It brought us careering through the rain forest! Encroaching branches, leaves and hanging vines slapped against our windscreen. I genuinely thought I might have to get out a scythe and hack our way through the vegetation, with Dom following behind in our monster 4x4 hire car. On the up side it was exciting to see the rainforest close up. Google suggested we u turn by driving into the ocean….?! The last straw came when Google jumped our estimated arrival time from 1 hour to 1 day, we turned leeward, away from the volcano and back to our hotel. We will return one day, Dom's mate Patrick has cycled up the side of the volcano so the gauntlet has been thrown down.
|Ain't no party like a turtle party|
Back at the hotel, despite a hard wind, a swim-crazy Róisín insisted we take her to the pool. Herself and Dom bopped around in the water as I chased our towels, they blew from lounger to lounger, wrapping themselves around big ladies and slapping the backsides of unsuspecting teens.
The next day the strong wind intensified, the swell at sea was a smidge short of a tsunami, the surfers were out en force. Lots of us landlubbers stood on the beach, looking wet and wild, watching the crazy surfers. Then all of a sudden I felt like I was in the movie Jaws (minus the shark - small deet). Surfers and swimmers were getting into difficulty, lifeguards were shouting into the mega phone repeatedly “GET OUT OF THE WATER”, bay watch dudes were jumping on boats and boards in hot pursuit of the flailing arms. The blood drained from me as I watched the rescue, thank God, no life was lost.
Some hardcore surfers refused to come to shore, I heard a fellow bystander declare "It's OK they are experienced" a foolish conclusion in my book. The sea has no master, it will end you without breaking its stride, if you survive it is not due to skill, it is due to foolish luck.
|Lai me down in a bed of roses|
On the morn of someone’s birthday we had a slap up breakfast, exotic birds flittered around our feet unfazed. We came up with a plan for the evening, to attend a luau (when in Hawaii). There was punch and poi, lais and laughter. Guys in traditional dress dug a hole in the ground and roasted a pig over it. Hawaii’s answer to Perry Como crooned some golden oldie numbers as rich Americans swayed lost in nostalgia. Then the hula dancers got on stage and blew everyone away with their hip shaking, grass skirt shenanigans. Is the hip joint even able to do that? the mind boggles.
With heavy hearts and cries of ‘Hawaii, you haven’t seen the last of us’ we boarded a plane back to the mainland for more adventures in the contiguous United States.