This morning the ship is docked off of Lahaina on Maui. We were up early, had a quick bite in the cafe, and caught a tender to shore. The dock is right across from the great Banyan tree in the square, and my first impression is that it is a nice tourist town, but busy and crowded. We boarded a bus to Haleakala, driven by Cousin Mitch (he said everyone in Hawaii is a brother, sister, or cousin), who was pretty good. It was a long ride, and the area changed from town to housing, to farmland. Most of the farms once grew sugar cane, but the last of the cane mills closed several years ago. There are still a few cane fields, but most are waiting to be repurposed. I’m sure that some will become shopping centers, because this place appears to be growing fast.
Our first stop was the lower Park Headquarters Visitor’s Center where we enjoyed fabulous views and looking at some of the native plants. The most interesting are the Silverswords. They come in green and silver varieties, can live up to 90 years, and bloom only once. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any in bloom, because it is supposed to be spectacular.
We continued up to the top of the volcano, where we stepped out into 68 degrees and breezy! It was AWESOME and perfect for enjoying the spectacular views. The pictures will have to suffice, because there are just no words. They actually have a few cabins and camping areas in the crater to hike in to. I believe MW’s interest was piqued. From the crater you can also see the Maui Space Surveillance System buildings, which are part of the Department of Defense. The only negative for the visit was the rude woman in the store. Her computer was down, and I wanted to buy a Christmas ornament. Instead of offering a suggestion or backup plan, she just said she couldn’t sell anything in a very stern tone. I realize she was stressed, but she didn’t need to take it out on the tourists.
After wandering around for a bit, we were back on the bus and headed to Makawao to have lunch at Cassanova’s. It was an Italian buffet that was pretty good. We finished in time to walk around the town a little bit before getting back on the bus for the trip back to the port.
Back in Lahaina, we had a couple of hours to kill before the luau. We walked around a bit looking in the shops, but it was HOT, and I felt like I was going to combust. We found a shady spot under the giant banyan tree to wait it out. This tree fills the square, and although it looks like a bunch of trees together, it is one tree that has dropped multiple vines down to root. The heat was better in the shade, but 95 degrees and very high humidity still made us miserable. (If it didn’t mean riding the tender over and back, we would have gone back to the ship to rest and get a shower.)
It was finally time to go to the luau, and we were really ready for the AC on the bus. There was a brief scare when the first group of folks got onto a nice tour bus, and the next bus to pull up (for us, we thought) was a school bus with all of the windows down. I was panicking just a little when one of the tour folks got on and talked to the driver, who was apparently parked in the wrong area. Whew! Dodged a sweat-soaked bullet there!
The luau was at the Hyatt, and the resort and area were beautiful. We were sitting outside, but there was a nice ocean breeze and it cooled off quickly as the sun went down. They ended up seating us next to Bill and Lori (from lunch earlier this week), which was fun. The food was a buffet with traditional Hawaiian fare, and it was good (although I’m definitely not a fan of poi). I was expecting a pig in a pit on a beach with dancers and such, but this was really a commercial buffet and Polynesian show…good, but still a little disappointing. (One of the locals later said that if you want to go to a real luau, you need to find a Hawaiian friend, because none of the ones tourists go to are anything like the real thing anymore. Sad!)
After a long day, we were very happy when we finally crawled into bed.
More pics from today:
Today was another early start with a quick bite before meeting for the Road to Hana tour. Our bus driver’s name was Kimo, and he was a hoot! For the entire trip (about 9 hours), he talked about his family and their land past Hana, sounding like it was a large plantation. It turned out that grandma sold off the bulk of the land, and they have 2 acres left. He constantly said “for one” as in “sugar cane for one, and pineapple for two”. He also said the Hawaiian language has 13 alphabets (instead of letters). The entire day went like that, and all of the passengers were just cracking up.
The trip to Hana runs along the coast through a rainforest with huge plants and dense trees. There were plenty of waterfalls and long-range ocean views. We stopped at many overlooks and parks along the way. Just before lunch we drove down to the Keanae Peninsula where the community and beaches were beautiful. On the way back up to the main road, we stopped at Auntie Sandy’s for banana bread, which was still warm and delicious. Then we stopped at another roadside market where I had some amazing lemongrass mint tea. (I will be figuring out how to make that later!)
At lunch time we went to Wai’anapanapa State Park, where MW and I found a bench overlooking a beautiful bay to enjoy our sandwich. We walked around the park for a bit after eating, and I went down the long stairs to put my feet in the water on the black sand beach. The rocks were hot, and I quickly put my shoes back on! At the beach there was a lava tube, too.
Back in the bus, we continued south to Hana. We made a quick stop for bathrooms, and I was able to buy and mail a postcard to Little Booger. After driving around a little bit and making a couple more stops at souvenir/fruit stands, the driver suggested “one more stop” and the woman sitting behind us yelled “Enough! No more souvenirs!” Truthfully, we had all been looking at our watches and wondering how we were going to make it back before the ship sailed. The three hours to the port felt very slow, and everyone was tired. (While this tour was great, and we saw some amazing things, it taught us that we don’t want to do organized tours anymore. It is so much more fun for us when we can just hop in a car and go with the wind.)
Back aboard, we cleaned up quickly for dinner, where we traded contact information with Norm and Victoria, our dinner partners. (Unfortunately, I missed getting information from Bill and Lori. They were really fun, too.) After dinner it was time to head up to the cabin and get everything packed to disembark. We hit the sack, looking forward to Phase II of our Hawaii visit.
More photos from today: