Wednesday, February 1, 2017

West Maui

Taking the Road to Hana back to Lahaina was an entirely different drive, even though it was the same route in reverse. When we went it was a clear day and on the return it was pouring rain. The tropical jungle was such a powerful green I could almost feel myself changing hue. Rob and I got an early start so traffic wasn't too bad, although we did meet batches of oncoming cars in places on the twisting road. During our travels here we've seen t-shirts, "I survived the Road to Hana." It is a bit harrowing, sometimes threatening falling rocks and mud slides, but the main danger is really other drivers barrelling toward you on narrow roads, when you've nowhere to go. So lighter traffic during a rainstorm was welcome.

Mokolea Point (Hiway 30
past the 38 mile marker)
So far we've planned our trip mainly off the beaten track. Arriving in the more popular destination of Lahaina was a bit of a shock, with its hard to find parking, traffic detours and longer than expected commutes. There was even a cruise ship parked in the harbour for the day, waiting for evening before turning on their sparkly lights and sailing away.

Lahaina has been a popular destination for centuries. First with the Polynesians, who made this their royal capital, then with whalers, who found it a perfect port, and with missionaries determined to save souls and increase literacy. Now tourists visit from all over the world.

Humpback whales come in the thousands to Maui Nui to breed and calve in the shallow warm waters. The whales have probably been visiting here long before the Hawaiians built their villages. The trip from Alaska takes 4-6 weeks, and the whole time they travel and stay they don't eat. The best time for whale watching is December - March, with February the peak time.

This 100 year old banyon tree
occupies a whole block in Lahaina
Although we've been able to spot whales from shore we wanted a closer look, so joined a whale watching tour. The captain explained to us that the boat would follow the humpbacks no closer than a hundred yards, because following any closer can cause them stress and eventual death. Ideally, the whales would come to us when we turned off the engine at a respectable distance. Come they did! I bent over the side of the boat and could see two whales about twenty feet under the water, right beside us. We got an excellent view of several males in a competition pod, slapping their tails, sounding and breeching. The naturalist put a hydrophone into the water so we could listen to the whale song. Each year the song changes, with each male singing the same tune. Marine biologists are of the opinion the females don't sing, I just think we can't hear their music.

While visiting Maui it has been windy and about 22/23 degrees, not very hot, but we spent time on the beach most days. There was the Front Street beach in town, Baby beach around the corner, and short drives to Napali, Kaanapali, and Kapalua. The sand on these beaches was the texture of brown sugar and felt great on bare feet. Blue, blue water and white foaming surf. What's not to love?

Napili beach

Jodo Misssion is also located in Lahaina. A historical account shares the Buddhist mission rented a private house in order to propagate in Lahaina in 1912, and then moved to its present location in 1931. Just down the street from where we were staying, the missions was right on the beach, with a Japanese cemetery located across the road. The Japanese first came to the island to work the sugar cane fields and make enough money to return to their villages as rich men. Now there are 4th and 5th generation Japanese Americans calling Hawaii home. 

Standing on the beach in Lahaina
As the sun's crimson shaft
Settles down past the distant isle
- Shinko Kishi, Archbishop of Jodo shu

The beach at night is magical and one of the highlights for me was the Feast at Lele, where we had front row seats to watch canoes come to shore at sunset, with dancers coming out to greet them. This was a gourmand's feast of five courses and a musical and culinary journey to Hawai`i, Aotearoa, Tahiti and Samoa. Leis and open bar with wine and beer pairings. I had mentioned it was a celebration dinner, they added a special touch to the dessert, a chocolate wafer saying Happy Anniversary.

Feast at Lele

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