Monday, June 30, 2014

The Goat Ate My Shorts! ~and other tales from the Valley Isle

The guilty parties

                 Where the slogan is "Olu pua"  -- "Feeling peaceful with flowers"

I should have immediately remembered something when I bent over and heard the glasses snap in my front pocket.  That thing is that bad stuff comes in threes.  This was only the first and, it turned out, the least.

We took a mile walk to a Wawa -- we were staying in an airport hotel to be in Philadelphia airport on the following morning for our big birthday trip (for N., not me) to Maui, Hawaii -- but no reading glasses there.  So, we resigned ourselves to paying four times too much at the airport newsstand the next day (and so it proved to be, but they had exactly the same ones).  That evening in our room, it was time to get into the big suitcase, and it proved that was not going to happen, since the battered zipper was not budging.  Not only did we need things from it, can you imagine what the security people would have done with a suitcase that would not open for inspection?  Yep, sliced it up like a cantaloupe.

Thank heaven for the new iPad.  With the excellent wi-fi (thanks, Hampton Inn), we located a Kohl's nearby and used the GPS to wind our way through Chester's suburbs to eventually find a nice-sized purple suitcase.  I dispatched the old zipper with some scissors, we re-packed, and I fed the very old and now useless suitcase to the dumpster.  Up very early the next morning, we were locked, loaded and ready to go.

Not so fast:  Bad Thing #3 was up next.  N. found an e-mail that had appeared at 2 a.m. announcing that our flight was cancelled due to the crew's absence.  Now, we'd planned this itinerary carefully, in plenty of time to make good seat choices, with only one layover in Phoenix, and that three hours long to allow for the usual lateness.  Oh, no.  Now we'd have two very short layovers and terrible seats.  We remembered why we'd said we would never fly on US Air again.

Mrs. Rice went medieval on them and got our good seats back, but the short layovers had exactly the effect we had tried to avoid:  due to screwing around on the ground both in Phila and L.A., we missed our flight; the one that counted, to the green isle in the Pacific we'd dreamed about.

I won't even describe what a night in the L.A. airport is like, except that the music became insanely loud between midnight and 5 a.m. when no one was there to absorb it.  The bright lights all stayed on, of course, and the seats all had arms and were fixed, as we were, in a semi-upright position after trying out the hard floor.  Later that morning we found out they had given cots and blankets and a closed room to a number of those on our missed flight, just not us.  Nice.

So we'd gone through all Three Bad Things, and it could only get better from there.  It not only did, it got great. 

We landed in the breezy, partly open-air airport on the eastern side of Maui, the approach to which was beautiful, with all the shades of blue everyone loves in tropic waters.  Our arranged transport to the resort on the far southwestern corner was right there, and we enjoyed talking to the driver, a native Hawaiian, as pleasant and relaxed as you might imagine such a person to be.  We were eager to start learning about our new environment for the next ten days, and he was pleased to help us do so.

The resort was in the Makena area, below the ritzy Wailea, and it was just our style:  not too grand or new, but surrounded by lush nature and the crashing Pacific, quiet and at the end of the road.  The towering Haleakala volcano dominated the view from the front, and the greenery, palms and bright blue ocean was on the back side.  The western half of the island is pretty arid and looks a lot like southern California (in fact, the suburbs of Kihei we toured around in looked exactly like it), while the east is windy, wet and warmly humid.  Surrounded by golf courses, gated homes and a state park, though, the southwestern corner is irrigated and lush with flowering trees (the Plumeria was covered in fragrant white blossoms and the speading Monkeypod was on fire with red) and outside our balcony alone I counted 60 palms.

In Rome, a local once pointed out how different were the sides of the city; to the east of the Tiber, it was "about sex."  To the west, where the Vatican was, he said it was "about power."  And that was all you really needed to know.  Scrape off the American commercial veneer and cars and the overpopulation, and what Maui is about is living in the embrace of nature.  The native woods like koa -- those which are still there, as some important species like sandalwood were stripped away and sold -- are all rich and beautiful deep red and brown.  The sand can be palomino tan, black, and even, in very secluded southern coast coves, green or red.  The red-crested cardinals and mynah birds and darting lizards are fine companions -- Hawaii has no predators or snakes! Coming across the tiny Axis Deer (brought in from Asia as a gift to the King) in the evening is a treat.  I understand feral dogs, pigs and some really nasty centipedes are out in the country, more on the Big Island than Maui, but that was pretty far away.

Maluaka Beach fronted the hotel, but the three beaches of Makena State Park were just down the road, and we explored the black sand one, and both Big (it is -- huge expanse and even bigger waves, called "shore breaks") and Little, accessible over a lava ridge.  Little Beach is about the best tropical beach and view one could imagine.  There are some others on the wild south shore reserved for the more adventurous, accessed by raft, kayak or boat.  We could only go as far as our new rental Mustang covertible could, but that was more than enough.


Wish we had a view like this back home

Of course we had to do touristy things, with long breaks alternating between pool and ocean.  First we attended the last night, Sunday, of the Film Festival and saw "Cuban Fury," starring my fave Rashida Jones, outdoors at the Grand Wailea.  I tried a drink made with native P'ua Vodka, made from pineapples (they had two bars!) which I highly recommend, and it was a lovely evening.  No stars showed up (last night and all that; back to Hollywood, I guess), but those in the sky were bright and looked cool in the ocean breeze. The next day, we drove back toward the airport and the main commercial hub of Kahului, stopping in the bohemian town of Pa'ia where we made one of those serendipitous discoveries that happen every once in a while.  We had seen an episode of the cable TV show "Buying Hawaii" which featured a coconut wood home designed and built in Bali.  Wouldn't you know we were looking in storefronts and found the real estate office that was the dealership for that unusual product.  We should have stopped at the legendary Fish House, but it was too early.  From there we made a mighty effort to tackle the long drive down the twisty, narrow Road to Hana (as it's called, always in caps) but after dodging sudden rains, way too much traffic and the tension of coming head-on to trucks and minivans on half of the 56 one-lane bridges, we turned around at the Garden of Eden and headed back.  We did see the falls there and a valley looking out to the sea which was featured in the helicopter scene in "Jurassic Park," which was, I guess, worth the hair-raising trip.

Our next trip to the interior, or "upcountry," involved some irresistible baby goats who weren't quite educated on what goats should eat yet, and a visit to an astonishing distillery.

The "Jurassic Park" scene

To be continued tomorrow...


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