Sunday, November 12, 2006

11 November 2006

We are sitting around in the living room at Peace of Maui solving world problems with Nicole from Oregon and Gary from Nova Scotia. It’s always interesting to get the benefit of other’s perspectives. I realized that I missed yesterday’s entry. While it seemed like we spent the day at the airport, it actually went pretty quickly. The flight from Oahu to Maui was smooth, but we sat on the wrong side of the plane (the right side) to see much of the islands. We got in to Maui after a 40 minute flight at about 10:30. By 11:30 we had our baggage and rental car and were on our way.

We decided to visit the south shore of Maui before going to the hostel, so we drove along looking for a great beach. We had heard a lot about Big Beach in Makena State Park, so ultimately we were heading there. We stopped at a roadside stand for hotdogs and drinks and pulled into the nearest turnoff toward the shore to find someplace to eat. We found a nice parking area with a nicely paved access to the beach which had restrooms and showers. It was a great place to have lunch, but we still wanted to see what this shoreline had to offer so we continued to head along the coast.

When we got to Big Beach we found a very full, very long parking area which was quite a ways from the beach. We lugged our beach and snorkeling gear down to a very long and wide crescent of a beach which had a lot of people, but also had plenty of space to put them on. I can understand why people like this beach, but we found it too big. We parked our stuff in the shade, which was quite a ways up from the water. There were no facilities, other than a few port-a-potties, so changing into our suits was going to be a hassle. The beach also had no place that looked like it would be good for snorkeling. I checked out the smaller beach next door which was supposed to have good snorkeling and be on a smaller scale, but being one of the few “clothing optional” beaches on the island, it was packed and we didn’t feel comfortable.

We ended up going back to the beach where we had lunch, which I believe is Polo Beach, and had a great time. The reef is very close to the shore, so we had a good time snorkeling. Along with a lot of very colorful fish, got to swim with a rather large green sea turtle. I had heard that it is best not to approach them too closely, but instead sit back and let them come as close as they are comfortable. It happened that the way the waves were I drifted over to within about ten feet of him (or her?). Then he swam down in between two coral heads and stared up at me. I thought I might be making him uncomfortable, so I moved on.

After swimming we headed to our lodging and Peace of Maui, which is up-country from the north shore. The hostel has seven bedrooms, two bathrooms, and three showers along with a common kitchen and living room. After dropping off our stuff we headed down towards the coastline to Pai’a which is a bustling little town with lots of shops and eateries. We did a little window shopping in some of the art galleries and had dinner at Café Mambo where Julie had a hamburger and I had a duck burger. Then we stopped at Mana’s grocery store which was very crowded with a Friday evening crowd. We bought enough groceries for our stay on Maui and headed home to relax.

This morning we considered getting up early and heading up to the top of Haleakala, which is the dormant volcano which makes up the eastern side of Maui. It would take an hour to get to the top, which would mean leaving before 5:00 to get up to the top. We decided to take the advice offered in The Birdwatchers Guide to Hawaii and get up there a little later after the crowds had left. There are a lot of bike tours that start at the top of Haleakala (at 10,000 feet) and coast down the 38 miles to the bottom. We ended up getting to the summit around 9:00. We had brought warm clothes specifically for being on top of this mountain, and we were glad we had them. While it was 60 degrees on top, the wind was fierce. The terrain makes you feel like you’re on Mars, with lots of reddish rubble and little to no plant life. On the way back down we stopped at several areas to hike along the ridge or into the “erosional valley”, which is where the crater used to be before it eroded away. It was very dramatic. Near the top we had lunch in a parking area with a Nene Goose looking on. Then we drove down to Hosmer Grove where there is a nature trail which was supposed to have many of the native birds. We spent a good part of the afternoon birdwatching on the short nature trail and learning some new birds. We sat at one overlook which had an informational sign identifying some of the birds and saw almost everything mentioned. It included the red, endemic birds (the I’iwi and the Apapane) and several Amakihi. While we were watching and fretting over whether or not we were seeing enough to be sure of our identifications, a Pueo (short-eared owl) soared over the opposite crest and down through the valley in front of us. It took our breath away. Pueo are one of the few owls that are active during the day, so it was the best look that we had ever had of a wild owl.

As we were leaving, the clouds were coming in which was an experience in itself. There was a wall of fog that was thick enough to limit visibility to about 30’, but next to it was completely clear. Driving down the mountain with the fog was a little treacherous, but we were glad that all of the bikers were off the mountain by the time we left. We managed to catch the sun just as it dipped below the horizon as we neared the bottom of the mountain.

Since we weren’t quite ready to head back to the house, we went to Makawao and checked out some more art galleries. There are some very creative people who live in Maui. I hope that there are enough buyers visiting the area to keep them all on financially solid ground.

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