Saturday, February 22, 2014

dear Maui: it's not you, it's me

Maui is an incredibly lovely island, bursting with colours and sounds and textures that I have never experienced elsewhere. Which means, obviously, that it is totally wrong for me.

It's not even the fact that Maui is an island (because we all know how freaked out I get by islands) or that the sun is 3.7 million times stronger than I expected it to be. Oh no wait, that was partly it, actually. This is not the ideal spot for a person with sun allergies.

I did manage to find a few lovely shady locales, among my favourite being the lobby of the hotel. Which isn't as pathetic as it sounds - it is a stunning lobby, all open on one side, built onto a pool with a waterfall. Small rounded peninsulas jut out into the pool, each appointed with two deep plush chairs and a table with flowers. I wasn't the only person who sat there regularly, watching the resident pelicans and the black swan duke it out with the rather pedestrian (by comparison) mallard duck. From my vantage point, I could also watch the human stream flow by along main traffic area of the lobby, perpendicular to where I sat. I always kept an eye out for the 90-year-old who roamed the lobby in her bikini, clanking her cane whenever she stopped to chat to the regulars. I still regret not taking her photo when I had the chance.

I also missed getting a photo of the slightly younger fellow (by perhaps five years) who hung out at the adult-only anything-goes pool. I really wanted a shot of his bathing trunks, the ones with SPANK written across the ass. When you are in your eighties, you can wear whatever the hell you want.

Perhaps if I hadn't gotten a blister on the bottom of my foot on the first day there, a blister which took a turn for the worse after my fight with the undertow and my subsequent panic-stricken scramble-climb out of the ocean - requiring me to wear shoes and socks for the rest of the week - I would have felt a little less out of place. Not enough to ever go swimming in the ocean again, perhaps - or at least not at a part of the beach where the land drops away sharply and the waves keep knocking you over while the undertow prevents you from standing up again - but at the kiddie beach, maybe. 

Just kidding, there is no kiddie beach. This is not Disneyland. This is a real ocean, fraught with dangers, requiring your respect. There is a reason there are warning signs every 20 metres along the beach. Do not fuck with this ocean.

Not being a beachy person, and not seeing any record shops or book stores in the vicinity, I loved that we went on side trips during which I learned about things I didn't even realize I knew nothing about. Things like pineapple growing, things like coffee production, and the fact that Hawaii only grows 10% of its food and that if it were suddenly cut off from external food supplies, Hawaii would run out of food in two weeks. 

I especially loved the whale watching we did late one afternoon, during which we saw several pods of whales up close and all slappy-fighty. Even better was that dinner that evening was held at the nearby Maui Ocean Centre and was preceded by a tour through the aquarium, complete with appies and drinks, and extended chats with some really knowledgeable and enthusiastic marine biologists. Ever the know-it-all,I even managed to impart a little octopae culture (about Paul the soccer-prognosticating octopus) to one interpreter.

We went to a luau on our last night, along the beach in the harbour town of Lahaina. There were 160 of us, so it was a sitdown meal, rather than the pig in the ground type of luau. The food was interesting and odd, while the entertainment - which featured stories and dances from around Polynesia - was spectacular, particularly against a backdrop of the setting sun over the ocean.

I ate a lot of mahi mahi in Maui, which was to be expected, as it is a delicious fish. Less expected was the amount of eggs benedict and bacon that I managed to consume. Curse you, buffet breakfast!

I have never had pineapple quite like the absolutely perfect fruit we sampled at the Maui Gold pineapple plantation. Apparently the hotels will often buy under-ripe pineapple under the mistaken impression that it will last longer. However pineapple doesn't ripen after it is picked, so it remains hard and pale. Not the same animal at all!

After my infected blister healed, I enjoyed one glorious day of feeling free and islandy (albeit with a steady supply of bandages) in sandals. We hung out at the upper pool at our hotel during the afternoon, in the deepest shade we could find, taking an occasional dip in the adult-only anything-goes pool, sipping on tropical drinks and judging sunbathers harshly. It was glorious. Especially since that night, as the luau drew to a close, I was slammed with a head cold that instantly turned my noggin into a solid wall of snot.

With little sleep that night, the next day spent waiting for our 10:30 pm flight, was tough. I sat in the lobby, mouth-breathing, until we remembered that there was a small whaling museum in the Whalers' Village shopping mall next door. Not only was it a fascinating look at the difficult life faced by early whalers, but I got a senior's discount on my admission. 

It was the perfect way to end our island trip, before the lengthy shuttle bus ride to the airport, followed by passing out on the overnight flight, aided by Nyquil. Much better than on a whaling boat.


Conky said...

I am very attracted to these places but my loathing of the sun and heat make it pretty impossible to imagine i could really ever truly utilize such a trip to make it worth the dough. My boner for Cuba in particular...not sure I will ever convince myself that is a good idea...but I would desperately love to wander around Havana, soaking up the history...SIGH. Thank you for showing me a pineapple in its natural state! :)

Dale said...

Lovely photos and account of your travels and travails Barbara! I'm not a beach fellow at all but the human traffic is always eye opening! I'm all about the side trips too. Ah, travel.

Eugene Knapik said...

Tuffy P and I aren't exactly the beach vacation demographic either. In fact, we've never actually gone to a hot climate beach vacation destination. Sometimes I try to convince myself into thinking we ought to do it one of these days just because, but we're happiest with roadtrips, cities, music festivals, museums and a heaping helping of history.

Moxie said...

It continues to irk me that I've lived in CA for nearly 14 years and have yet to visit Hawaii, which seems to be a rite of passage for most folks who live here. Always love your posts about your experiences while traveling.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I would love to see Havana as well, Jen. That place just drips with architecture and history.
Did you know that pineapples don't grow on trees like coconuts do? I didn't!

It's especially great going to places with many octogenarians, Dale, because they do not give a shit.

I think it's wise to stick on the path that you know you will love, Eugene. Cities with museums, art galleries, coffee shops and record stores for me, from now on.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

You could practically kayak there, Moxie! Although it's rather paradisy where you are as well (at least for us northerners), so perhaps there is no need.

mardel said...

I seem to have acquired a weakness for heat rashes over the last few years which has forced me to give hot climates their required respect. I now treat them with a great degree of caution and reluctance. Lately I find myself suggesting, to my heat loving husband, travel destinations that require a jacket ... he has yet to warm up to the idea...

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I understand Iceland is lovely, Mardel, and how could he possibly resist Scotland? I feel for you on the sun/heat issues, though, especially as I know how you are drawn to those tropical places.

Allison said...

I'm not a beach person, but I do love the water. From the shade.

I so wish you had gotten a picture of the gentleman in the "Spank" bathing shorts.

I didn't know that about pineapples -- I suspect a lot of places are guilty of buying underripe ones.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I love the water from the shade as well, Al. That's probably why lakes, in general, work better for me.