Jul 302008

(All the pictures of my trip can be found here: Maui 2008. They're all in chronological order, captioned as a kind of narrative, and most are marked on the accompanying map on Flickr.)

Because of a planned two-week summer shutdown at work, I decided to visit my sister and her family near San Antonio for a few days. Our phone conversation went more or less like this:

Me: Hi!
Her: Hi!
Me: I'm off work for two weeks starting July 4th, how about if I come visit you for a few days the first week?
Her: Oh. We'll be in Maui.
Me: Oh.
Her: You should come with us!
Me: …
Me: I can't come to Maui.
Her: Why not? You're off work and you'll only have to pay $350 for 7 nights at the Hyatt.
Aaron: And I have enough frequent flyer miles to get you a ticket.
Me: I guess I'm coming to Maui!

So, I went to Maui from July 5th to the 12th. Mollie's gay surrogate baby daddy, David, and his partner Michael had planned a trip for about six people, including Mollie and my brother in law John, which escalated into about 18 when David and Michael decided they wanted to get married on a beach there.

Day 0.5: Arrival and Introductions

The flights to Seattle and Maui were long but uneventful, and I got an entire row to myself for the second leg. After 9 hours in the air I landed at Kahalui airport. David and his friend Grace met me at the luggage carousel, and we waited for Molllie and John, who showed up a few minutes later since their flight was delayed for 3 hours in Salt Lake City. Mollie is literally half the size she used to be since the lap-band surgery. She looks fantastic.

David bought us all food for the drive to the Hyatt, and we got a look at some of the other nearby islands on the way: Molokai and another one that he and Grace couldn't identify, even though Grace grew up on Lanai. I got into my room and met my bedmate Alex, as we were all sharing rooms. The other couple, Aaron and Mark (Alex's producer), hadn't arrived yet. Alexander is a world-traveling DJ, though since I haven't been to a circuit party in 8 years I have no idea who he is. He's Cuban (but no accent), cute, and a nice guy.

I went down to the pool with David, Grace, Monique, Terry, and Alex. The pool is huge, with multiple waterfalls, a cave with a swim-up bar, a water slide, and childrens' area. After we all wandered through the pool to the jacuzzi and back we were joined by Kevin, Eric, Rodrigo, and Alvin, all of whom have perfect bodies. Kevin is 41 and still chiseled with no body fat. He's given me a boost of inspiration for sticking to my workouts. LOL Alvin and Kevin were wearing shorts like mine, but Rodrigo and Eric were wearing skintight square-cut Speedos that looked VERY good on them, the bitches. Kevin had a cold so he begged off early, then everyone else drifted off: David, Grace, and Alex to pick up Mark and Aaron, the others to various places or bed. Alvin and I sat and talked at the pool for awhile. He's 36, a personal and public accountant, born near San Francsico but grew up in the Phillippines. 3/4 Spanish, 1/4 Filipino. Seems like a nice guy and was all about me pretty quick. He dropped hints about hanging out after we left the pool, and even showed up at my room after my shower, looking for Alex. He lingered, almost subtlely, but I politely didn't take the bait. A bunch of folks were going to try to be up and out at 3:30am to drive up to the peak of Halekala to see the sunrise. I wished them good luck and took an Ambien to reset my body clock. The next day I found that no one had made it to Halekala. hehe

I barely finished sending myself an email of the day's events before the Ambien made everything swimmy. I woke up enough to meet the new roommates, Aaron and Mark, then again when they all came to bed. Mark was snoring pretty bad that night, and Alex and I threw pillows at him a couple times (they were very light) to make him stop, one of which he actually reached up and caught in his sleep! Creepy.

Day 1: Little Beach and Luau

I woke up at 7:30 a.m. to everybody snoring and, after nudging Alex a few times to make him stop, gave up and went downstairs to find Mollie, John, and David at the hotel's outdoor Starbuck's. A friend of David's, Michael ("Miss Rose"), works the Starbuck's, so we got everything for free. He and his partner Jona came to the wedding ceremony and dinner the following day. Had some coffee and a banana, hung out a bit, then when the Buff Boys came back from the gym all pumped up and sweaty, I was motivated to go myself.

Afterward I took a shower and planned to go with the boys to Little Beach and Big Beach, one of the more popular public beaches. Mollie and John took off to a free snorkeling class and excursion, while I wandered around taking pictures around the hotel, including of the macaw, the penguns(!), and the African crowned cranes. The luau was scheduled for 4pm that afternoon, but that was the only scheduled event for the week other than Tuesday's wedding and reception dinner.

Alvin, Eric, and I took the rental Navigator and drove down to Big Beach and Little Beach; about an hour drive each way. The speed limits around the island range from 30 to 45 mph, and everyone seems to obey them. Very unlike Detroit.

Little Beach turned out to be a mixed-crowd, clothing-optional spot, not strictly gay nude as we thought. It was a very popular place, with the whole spectrum of ages, genders, and orientations represented. After about 10 minutes of hesitation I said, "Why the hell not?" and stripped down to my blinding white glory. Between the coolness of the water and my nervousness, the shrinkage was severe. I think my PA ring was the only thing keeping it outside my body. Alvin stuck to a Speedo, but Eric joined in, and looked far better naked than I did, the bitch, and he's 3 years older! I had been concerned about burning my butt, but it was so white it just reflected all the sunlight back into space, so I did my part to help reduce global warming. Yes, there is a photo of me au naturel, and no, I'm not posting it here. My mother reads my blog. :oP

There were some decent waves there and, while it wasn't really a big surf spot, the three of us had fun bodysurfing. We stayed for almost two hours but had to get back for the luau. After a quick shower and change, all 18 of us met up at the luau area of the resort, had some group and couples photos taken, and joined the throng. The place was packed, and the whole thing was a lot of fun. The food was great, and the various shows gave everyone a taste of all the various Polynesian cultures.

When it was over the group split up. Some went back to their rooms, some to the pool, some to nap. I joined Mollie and John in their room for a couple drinks, then we went over to David and Michael's suite where a bunch of them were playing Wii sports. I hung out for awhile then called it a night.

Day 2: Black Rock and Wedding

The next morning after coffee in Mollie's room, seven of us met for breakfast at the hotel's buffet, which was  outstanding. Luckily we had a bunch of coupons, courtesy of "Rose", so we didn't have to spend $28 a person.

After breakfast we let the food settle for a bit. Mollie went to a hula lesson at noon, while John and I went snorkeling at a spot called Black Rock up at the north end of the beach, about a half mile walk away. Black Rock is a very popular spot for snorkeling, and jumping off said rock into the water, which meant it was covered with young guys showing off their diving skills. It looked like fun. The snorkeling was fantastic, with lots of shallow coral reefs and bright tropical fish. We had a brief staredown with a trio of cuttlefish, saw a small moray eel peeking out of its burrow, and got right up to a sea turtle about 2 feet across. John petted its shell, but I was just out of range before it dove down under the reef.

We were out there a good two hours before dragging our tired asses back to the hotel. My face and back were a little cooked after two days at the beach, but I was very careful about keeping lots of sunscreen on. I showered, shaved, and sat on the balcony to chill before David and Michael's commitment ceremony.

We all piled into the SUVs and gathered at the Sheraton's golf course, just above the beach, where Joann, the officiating priestess, was already waiting. The photographer and videographer got everything into position, the ceremony was read, and the deed was done. Afterward we took over one of the Hyatt's restaurants, which had been opened just for us, and had a fantastic dinner. It's good to be rich, apparently.

Joann blows Conch 2Reading the ceremonyReception Dinner

Day 3: Iao Valley

During the reception dinner, Jona had mentioned that he grew up in the Iao Valley, which his extended family owned much of, and that it was a great place to do some hiking. Later, Grace mentioned that she didn't recall any water being there, just jungle, which turned everyone else off of going. Mollie, John, and I decided to go there anyway, which turned out to be a good decision. The next morning we drove around to about the center of the island, just west of Wailuku, and took the mountain road up to the state park entrance.

We went over the bridge into the main part of the park, declared the paved paths to be short and boring, then struck out into the jungle along the many dirt paths (game trails, actually) that followed the creek. Walking among the banyan and mango trees, with sunlight filtering through the leaves and the sound of the creek to our left, it felt like we were in an Indiana Jones movie. We were startled by small thumping noises around us during the hike, until we realized it was ripe mangos falling from trees and hitting the ground. We also discovered that the stench of mangos fermenting on the jungle floor is quite vile.

Once we got about a hundred yards in we decided to go down to the creek and follow it back. It wasn't very large in most spots but had many small rapids and pools perfect for wading and soaking, if you were careful of the very slippery rocks. Other visitors had other ideas, and we passed a woman bathing topless in one pool and not one, but two young straight couples: one having sex and one just finished (or about to start, it was hard to tell). We gave them all a wide berth for the sake of privacy and continued upstream. We found a near perfect spot by a huge boulder under an equally huge tree to chill out and wade around for awhile. John decided the next pool upstream needed to be deeper and set about trying to dam it up a bit more with rocks. It didn't cooperate very well, however. After four or five hours, we reluctantly headed back to the car to make the trip back to the hotel.

Jungle Trail 2Creek poolCreek rapids

 Day 4: The Road to Hana

The next day Rodrigo and Kevin joined the three of us to make the trip to Hana, a town on the eastern edge of the island. Hana itself doesn't have much to recommend it; it's really about the journey, not the destination. The five hour drive passes hiking trails, waterfalls, forests, plantations, roadside stands, and incredible views everywhere. It's also a bit of a white-knuckle drive, as the road is only two lanes cut into the mountainsides from Kahului to Hana, and many bridges that are only one lane, where drivers have to stop and take turns. Every time we went around a blind curve, I fully expected to get smashed head-on by an oncoming car, so when we got back to the hotel at the end of the day I went straight to the bar.

Once we got out of Kahului, we popped in the tour guide CD we'd bought and followed along, learning all kinds of interesting things about the island and the drive, which I've completely forgotten by now. Our first stop was a roadside park with hiking trails back into a beautiful stretch of jungle. For any World of Warcraft players reading this, it looked almost exactly like Feralas. Without, you know, the hostile monsters. We wandered around for about an hour, then got back on the road.

Sunlight through TreesInto the jungleReally Big TreeOld Steps

On the way to Kauhamina Wayside Park we stopped at the first of the roadside BBQ shacks we'd been told to sample. Unfortunately the woman running it had just fired up the grill, so there was no BBQ for us. Rodrigo was quite sad. We put our rumbling bellies back in the Navigator and continued on to Kauhamina and it's stunning view of Keanae Point in the distance.

Keanae Point forms the eastern arm of Honomanu Bay, and appeared to be an old lava flow, forming a huge shelf out into the water. The inmost part of the bay is still volcanic rock, and we found the remains of several axles and an engine block embedded in the stone, rusted, but very smooth, as if it had been slightly melted. Note to self: never park cars near an active lava flow.

Keanae Point 3Melty car goodness

After climbing around the rocks for a bit, we pressed on. Most of the rest of the drive was more of what I described above: jungle, waterfalls, fields, etc. We had all been on the lookout for a good waterfall to swim in, if possible, but had struck out for most of the trip. Then, about half a mile west from Puaa Kaa Wayside Park, Kevin spotted what turned out to be probably our favorite spot of the whole trip: a large waterfall way back in the jungle, just barely visible from the road.

We pulled into a patch of concrete at one end of a bridge over the stream, just large enough for three cars end-to-end, and surveyed the spot. The CD said that most of the waterfalls were the property of EMI (East Maui Irrigation Co.) and not accessible to the public, including this one. There were no posted signs saying otherwise, so we looked for a way back. There was a corrugated tin shack on the upstream side of the bridge, and it was obvious from the curve of the back corner of it that over time many people had pulled the wall away just enough to slip behind the shack to reach the trail leading inward. We followed suit and hiked very quickly out of sight of the road. I had a brief scare when a small pickup truck with a Parks and Rec department logo on it went right past us, but the driver ignored us and kept going.

We reached the first in a series of pools and falls. The first falls was a wide shelf that reached about three feet above our heads, with no obvious way to get up and reach the big falls just above it. Luckily John spotted a nearly vertical trail to our right that led up onto the ridge. We all scrambled up, made our way over and down the small cliff, and were rewarded with this:

Swimming in a waterfall pool just like this has been on my "List of Things to Do Before I Die" for years, and this was absolutely perfect: tropical and secluded. John changed to his swimsuit while Rodrigo, Kevin, and I just stripped to our undies and jumped in. Mollie stayed on the rocks and took pictures. I found a narrow U-shaped shelf right under the main stream of the falls (on the right above) which made a perfect bench to sit on, and although I bashed my knee on the rocks below it pretty hard, it was worth every drop of shed blood just to be there. We joked that the place was also a perfect setup for a horror movie, and wondered when the tentacled monster would start yanking us under the water.

We paddled around happily for a good hour or so, despite a couple of scares from passing sightseeing helicopters, which our paranoia convinced us were cops called in by the truck driver on the bridge. Then a couple of beary guys appeared behind Mollie, scaring the shit out of her, but they were just hikers like us. Eventually we very reluctantly got dressed, returned to the SUV after a hair-raising descent back down the lower falls, and moved on.

We finally found a roadside turnout that had food: tacos and burritos stuffed with kahlua pork, beef, or fish; boiled sweet corn, and a coffee & drinks stand. There was also a small art gallery, of all things, but since we couldn't eat anything in it, we ignored it. I had a kahlua pork burrito which was as good as I'd been told, and the corn was some of the best I've ever had. We each bought a second ear of it from the almost too-polite owner, and nearly ate the cobs when we'd devoured all the kernels. We didn't even slow down enough to speak, just grunted at each other when necessary.

Food at lastSweet CornGallery

When almost to Hana we made another side trip to one of the only black sand beaches on the island, and spent a good two hours swimming and climbing in and around the lava tube cave next to the beach. We also got out the masks and snorkels, but the surf was too rough and there was little to see. I did manage to slice my middle finger on a sharp point of coral, bringing my vacation injury total to three. The third time was the charm, I guess, and I remained unscathed for the rest of the trip. There are pictures of the beach, but they were all taken with Mollie's camera, and she hasn't had time to send me the full-sized files yet.

We finally rolled into Hana and discovered that, while a nice enough town, it didn't really have anything to recommend for tourists, so we rolled right back out and spent the next four hours driving back to the hotel. We had dinner, a couple drinks, and then went right to bed since the five of us had a snorkeling trip scheduled for the next day.

Day 5: Molokini and Lanai'i Snorkeling

Bright and early the following morning we drove down to Maalaea, on the south central side of the "bridge" that connects east and west Maui, and took our place in line at the Pacific Whale Foundation for our snorkeling trip. There were about 90 of us altogether on board the Ocean Voyager and, after the cute captain and crew got everyone settled, we headed to Molokini: the semi-circular rim of an extinct volcano, now a bird sanctuary above, and coral reef preserve below, the water. We spent about an hour in the water where, in addition to the usual array of parrotfish and clownfish, I happened to see a 4' moray eel slither through the water and hide under a rock. Further away from the atoll, in about 30' of water, a 2' reef shark was sitting on the sandy bottom, totally ignoring all the snorkelers circling above it taking pictures and trying to dive down closer. Once our time was up, we all got back onboard for the 20 mile trip to Lanai'i.

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