A view from heaven at Haleakala

I’m on another spontaneous road trip, the only kind worth having by the way, with my sister Bree visiting from Chicago and my boyfriend Jon. He’s a good travel partner because we go wherever the wind blows us. This time we’re heading all the way up to the 10,023 foot volcano summit of Haleakala on Maui.

We’re toward upcountry Maui from the center of town. We’ve already visited a bird sanctuary that was less than spectacular and a huge African tortoise named Freddie at the Maui humane society. Our original plan was to head toward Paia, but one wrong turn starts us on an incredible adventure.

Bree and I sit like dogs, our heads hanging out the window, smelling the woodsy air as the climate cools and outside is so reminiscent of fall, it’s hard to believe an hour ago we were sweating at the beach. I think the most surprising thing about Maui and the Hawaiian islands in general is the diversity of landscapes. You can from sea level to 10,000 odd feet in an hour. People who scuba dive aren’t allowed to do in the same day. You’re head might explore, or something.

Our minds are being blown as Jon drives up the mountain, twisting and turning, going up and up. The drive becomes nerve wracking and surreal:  I can’t believe we’re driving this close to the edge of a mountain with no barriers or guard rails. Another thing to love about Hawaii is that you can do just about anything at your own risk. Want to hike to the lava flow in the middle of the night on Big Island? Go for it. There’s no gates holding you back. Want to scale a cliff? It’s all you. Climb a triple-tiered slippery-as-hell waterfall? If you can hack it, why not?

Going up!

This time Hawaii beckons us up toward Haleakala’s summit, part of a national park. Just when I think we can’t possibly go any further up, since, jeez, we’re already in the clouds, we pull up to the booth to pay the ranger our $10 admission fee.

“Welcome folks. The visitor center is just ahead and it’s about another 40 minutes to the summit up the mountain,” the ranger says nonchalantly.

I’m usually not a nervous traveler. I’ve gone ’round the world solo, but somehow driving on the edge of the world, and on the edge of reason, along this 2 way road full of dangerous, sometimes blind switchbacks, above the clouds is enough to make me sit on my hands and sweat.

What is this place?

Jon takes the opportunity to pretend at each curve that he’s going to go straight off the mountain. I’d hit him except I’m afraid one false move will send us plummeting off the cliff to our imminent deaths.

I envy the cars coming down. No one looks as scared or nervous as I feel. I calm down remembering that the views will be worth it. We see some hiking trails and a few nene (Hawaiian goose) crossing the road.

Soon we are truly above the clouds. We’ve traveled 1/3 of a commercial airline’s cruising altitude…by car. A little short of breath and freezing (since impromptu road trips to different climates rarely means being prepared with hoodies or fleeces), we get out of the car and observe Mars.

The crater

Haleakala hasn’t erupted since 1790 and technically lies dormant. The mountain itself comprises 75 percent of Maui’s total landmass. The past few years there have been earthquakes and there’s rumors that the sleeping “House of the Sun” (Halekala’s translation) may rouse and flow once more.

We traveled there around sunset which was a fantastic view, the clouds painted the beautiful colors of twilight. Sunrise is a very popular time, and some heighten watching the sun rise from behind the clouds to a religious experience.

The descent

Either way, sunrise, sunset, to see some nene, roaming cows, feasting your eyes on a veritable alien landscape, or just to say you survived the drive, Haleakala is one of the must-dos on Maui.

Ten things I love about Hawaii

It’s no secret that basically all I do is gush about life in Hawaii. Is it really THAT good? To me, yes! Everyday I have a moment of blissful adoration for Maui, whether it be an amazing sunset I catch, a view of the mountains at just the right light, or a “Try Go Slow, Kids at Play…Mahalo” sign. What is it about this place that is so special?

It’s probably the food.

Among other reasons, I’ve comprised a list of 10 things I absolutely love about Hawaii, in no particular order. I know I can come up with many more…perhaps this will become a series of posts to come.

1. Always having dirty feet: No matter what I do to try to keep my feet clean, they always end up tracking some dirt or sand into the house. I think my heel is permasealed with dirt. Hey, in a place you can go practically anywhere barefoot, it’s liberating to go sans-shoes once in a while!

2. Wild chickens, roosters and peacocks roam around everywhere: I thought that chickens just lived in the country, but it turns out that even the suburban areas of Maui  have roosters crowing at the crack of dawn, running across the street whenever they want and basically just living the chicken life (aka the goooood life) here in Hawaii.

3. The Hawaiian tradition to remove your slippahs and shoes before entering the house: This is one of my favorite Hawaiian traditions brought by the Japanese plantation workers back in the day. You know the party is bumpin’ when you see a pile of 30 plus slippahs (sandals) and shoes outside the door. While house hunting, I met with a realtor who took off his dress shoes before entering any of the properties he showed us. That’s life in Hawaii…respecting your living space and leaving the outside outside (as much as possible since you’re likely to have dirty feet).

4. It’s legal, acceptable and FUN to ride in the back of trucks: Some of the most fun I’ve ever had was hitching rides in the back of pick-up trucks…Windy, rainy? Who cares? Sitting on a wheel well, cruising in the back while you’re being driven through a winding gulch is better and more beautiful than any roller coaster I’ve ever been on. Sometimes you see kids just chilling in the back of trucks or people parked up at the beach sitting in their beach chairs in the back of their trucks watching the surf. The back of a truck is a local hangout!

I’ve probably used this photo 100 times, but c’mon..look at this fun group of hooligans! Five people, one truck.

5. Plastic bags at grocery stores have been OUTLAWED! Paper & reusable bags only: My heart melts for this one. A place that’s actually environmentally friendly enough to BAN plastic bags? Rock on! Hawaii’s unique circumstance of being surrounded in all directions by thousands of miles of open ocean means that a lot of life here depends on keeping the oceans clean and healthy. Unnecessary trash and debris, especially plastic bags, threaten to ruin our most precious Eco-system. Plus, it’s just good practice to keep reusable bags in the car.

6. There’s a huge movement to buy local, farm-fresh produce: There’s a reason I wear a trucker hat with an emblem of the Hawaiian islands, a taro leaf and a recycle symbol signifying a movement for a sustainable Hawaii. Those that live here know expensive produce and food in general is because it’s shipped from the mainland. Those that are visiting usually can’t believe their eyes at our prices in the grocery stores. Who can blame them? Luckily people are in favor of buying local, organic, supporting the farmers or even starting their own farms. I’m in the process of weeding my yard so I can plant some herbs, veggies and fruits. Though right now I’m not in the position to live off my garden, I’d love one day to only supplement my diet at the grocery store rather than rely on it.

7. The availability of good food is mind-blowing: There’s sushi happy hours everywhere, ahi poke (raw, cubed ahi tuna dressed with sesame oil, soy sauce, sea salt, green onions, Maui onion, limu seaweed and chili pepper), plate lunches with mac salad, teriyaki beef, white rice, fresh Maui Gold pineapple, huli huli chicken (BBQ chicken), garlic shrimp, korean tacos, lau lau (pork steamed inside taro leaves)…The food alone is reason to live here, to be honest.

Lau lau and all the fixings. You haven’t lived ’til you’ve eaten ono (delicious) Hawaiian food

8. Hawaii’s a cultural melting pot: I can’t get over the cultural diversity here. I love it. There’s Hawaiian, Caucasian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Portuguese…what a great place to live! I get exposure every day to new customs, traditions and most interestingly, recipes from all these different cultures. It’s also awesome to think that I’m just as close to Asia as the mainland, so if I ever want to vacation to Asia, it’s not an arm and a leg away. Score on all accounts.

9.  The lack of materialism: You would hardly know who’s a millionaire here and who is a beach bum. Dressing up in Hawaii is an Aloha shirt (you’ve seen ’em..typical floral print shirts) and khakis. Professionals only sometimes tuck in their shirts. You won’t be looked down upon if you rock a sarong and slippahs or drive around shirtless (guys). As far as I can tell, everyone is treated as an equal.

10. Having respect for the ‘aina: This is an essential for living in Hawaii and something I learn again and again here. To get respect, you have to give respect: for people, animals, plants and the precious land. Leave only footprints and make only memories is a phrase I hear often here.

 

On moving to Maui and hunting for home Pt. 2

There’s a magic associated with the Hawaiian islands. It’s said that if you’re meant to be here, things will coalesce serendipitously in your favor. Circumstances will iron themselves out in such a way that you, without a doubt, believe the fact that you are meant to be here. The spirit of aloha will touch you, envelop you, and deliver to you what you’ve been looking for, if you’re wise enough to recognize it, that is.

It’s been a while since my last post, chronicling the weird and wonderful tales of trying to make a home in Maui. I was on my own, putting my feelers out there and searching for direction in any sense of the word. I was tied up doing a job that wasn’t “me” and I was living on a part of the island where I thought I’d have a hard time meeting people. I felt far removed from my goals and intentions for coming here.

Then it happened: I met a guy.

This could very well be a gag me moment, but I’ll try to spare the ever-so-sweet details that might have you throwing up in your mouth a little bit. Just suffice it to say that Jonathan entered my life and helped me find focus and direction.

Jon and I on top of the world- Haleakala Crater, Maui

As most relationships happened, we met and started off friends. We were both in similar boats, just having moved to Maui, him from Utah and me from the Big Island. Thus, we began a job hunt together. We’re both in the hospitality industry, so we spent hours combing Craigslist and dropping off resumes, fishing for leads and crossing our fingers for work.

In between looking for work, we’d traverse around the island getting to know our new home, driving some amazing cliffs, playing in the ocean, enjoying countless meals out, sharing wine and strawberries at the beach…it wasn’t long before a romance developed!

Salty kisses and black sandy feet

Fast forward about a month and here we are, living in north Kihei in a green little Ohana (detached home on a shared property) right near the beach. Life has a funny way of working itself out!

Jon is a local boy, having grown up in Oahu. Meeting him was clever luck because he has this inherent island sonar that allows him to know most of the secret spots, where all of the good food and manages to talk story on a personal level with everyone we meet. What a great catch!

With his help and my determination, I’ve made a home on Maui. I found a 1989 Jeep Comanche Maui cruiser AKA Da Beast, a job, a house and a man. Somehow this all transpired for me in what seemed like the blink of an eye.

DA BEAST!

I even had a chance to visit Oahu for the first time, which was incredible. I’ll be posting more about that later.

In other words, things have come together for me. Though I’m still settling in and trying to find a groove, keeping my eyes peeled for new friends and volunteer opportunities, I have a lot to be thankful for. I know Maui has welcomed me with open arms, providing plenty of amazing things all at once, giving me reasons to stay and make a home.