Thursday, September 16, 2021

Happy Hawaiian Holiday - day 12 - our B&B on Maui

Today is our last full day on Maui. We went to Wailea Beach (see photo in previous post), truly one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and it is a public beach (all Hawaiian beaches are public, even if in front of a private residence or fancy hotel). Our B&B provides beach umbrellas and chairs and a cooler. The beach is less than a mile away as the crow flies, and less than two miles by car to ample parking. The beach crowds have been very light (school is in session and the pandemic has reduced tourism).

Our B&B is overall very nice, here are some outdoor shots. It is nice enough inside, just be sure to jiggle the toilet handle (and no one spends time in a hotel room when in Hawaii, anyway). There is a putting green and a saltwater swimming pool, although we have not used them.

There are a bazillion chameleons or geckos or whatever they are. They are not skittish, easy to get photos. Assuming these photos are of the same species, notice the green color on the plant and the brown color on the concrete.






Happy Hawaiian Holiday - day 11 - Hawaiian shopping mall

It was a slow day today. Slow is good, we're on vacation. We went to a shopping mall where they have an actual, open Sears store. I haven't been in a Sears store in a few years. There is a non-profit bookstore at the mall and I bought a used book, a novel about a mainland couple transplanted to Hana. The book is signed by the author. Could be a first edition because I doubt there have been many editions.
 

For dinner, we went to the Lava Rock Bar & Grill. We could not get a reservation, but we got seats at the bar right away. We both got steaks. They came out on wooden platters with a sizzling hot flat hunk of iron. We raised the temperature of the bar a few degrees as the steaks continued to cook.

Tomorrow is a beach day. How exciting can one vacation be?

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Happy Hawaiian Holiday - day 10 - Lahaina


Lahaina is on Maui's northwest coast. This picture shows some boats on the water and the Hawaiian island of Lanai.

The drive from Kihei is about 25 miles. It is pretty much bumper to bumper, 50 miles per hour, mostly one lane each way. The road is well maintained, but busy. The road runs along the coast with great ocean views, but for all the traffic, there are practically no services between Kihei and Lahaina. No gas stations, no drug stores and no banks. We were looking for a bank to get quarters for the B&B's washer and dryer. The traffic lights near the towns are agonizingly long. Near the towns there are two lanes in each direction, and by the time a light turns green, there are 30 cars backed up in each lane.

But, we made it to Lahaina, which has a long strip of stores selling artwork (Susan loved the art galleries and bought a couple prints), clothing, food and drink, etc. We found a Tommy Bahama store with a bar, with a stunning view. The photo was taken from across the street, but this is pretty much the view from the bar. Men's Hawaiian shirts sold for well over $100 and I did not buy clothes, but I have been planning to buy a shirt in Honolulu. A young woman "Cassie" was singing lounge music, and she reminded me of Buffalo native Ani Difranco ( https://www.righteousbabe.com/ ), so I passed Ani's name along. Any up-and-coming female singer should be familiar with Ani.

We had dinner at Fleetwood's, owned by Mick Fleetwood. Mick was not present. Great seafood, lobster tacos, kanpachi and stuffed prawns. Like all places we have been, the crowd is well spaced due to Covid restrictions.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Happy Hawaiian Holiday - day 9 - Wailea Beach, 100% Maui coffee, vegan food

In the morning, we visited the famous Wailea Beach. All beaches in Hawaii are public. In this case, this white sand beach is partly in front of the Four Season resort, one of the world's great resorts, but there is no charge to use the beach. Our B&B provides beach umbrellas, which are really helpful in the (almost) equatorial sun.
 
I spent last night souring the internet for coffee farm tours on Maui. I found one, an elaborate tour with breakfast or lunch at O'o Farms. I had hoped to see another farm, but I previously blogged about visiting a farm in the Kona area on the big island. The Maui-based O'o tour costs $94 per person, and that's more than I want to spend. In my searching, I found MauiCoffee.com, which mainly points to their "The Coffee Store" retail shops. However, they have a roastery in northern Maui, in the upcountry. near Haleakala. The web site says to contact them first, but they also showed operating hours. I sent a Facebook message but did not wait for a reply. The distance was about 25 miles, not really all that far. 

A GPS always helps, but in this case, it was crucial. We set off from Wailea and veered off the main road toward the little town of Haiku. This roads were good but winding and we eventually got to an altitude of about 1200 feet. We turned a couple times in the Haiku area and the GPS insisted we make a left turn off the paved road and travel another 0.2 miles. We found the loose stone tire tracks and proceeded past a rooster farm. Yes, at least a hundred rooters were pecking around little triangular shelters. We found out from the coffee guys that this farm (unaffiliated with the coffee) was involved with the cockfighting industry. Cockfighting is illegal in Hawaii (if only a misdemeanor), but raising fighting roosters is not illegal. Most likely, the roosters are exported, probably to Guam.

So anyway, we proceeded down the tire tracks to the end, in front of a barn and residence. We got out of the car and saw a business registration sheet on the window for "The Coffee Store". We looked into the doorway, and two men were in the room full of equipment and supplies. Jordan and Jay greeted me and then Susan came into view. Jordan's wife had just mentioned the Facebook post, so they had some warning and I confirmed my name. Jordan was actively roasting beans, and while we were there, he opened the oven and poured out hot, roasted coffee beans. The aroma was amazing. In this case, he was roasting Mokka beans, a specialty bean found on Maui.

Pure, 100% Kona coffee from the big island is the most expensive Hawaiian coffee, usually $40 per pound or more (retail, roasted). Pure, 100% Maui coffee is a bit less expensive, $30-35 per pound. South American and African coffees sell for about $20 per pound. Hawaiian coffee is good, but I doubt anyone would says it's twice as good. The higher price is apparently due to high labor costs and presumably environmental regulations and taxes.

This roastery acquires beans from Hawaiian and South American areas and roasts various pure and blended products. We purchased two pounds of Maui beans, a standard pure bean and a Mokka Peaberry blend (but 100% Maui).

We drove to a nearby vegan restaurant.


Pictured are the owner, Cindy, and Gary. We went to the same high school in Liverpool, NY. I have met Cindy's bother, so it was nice to get a chance to stop by. We bought a couple salads.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Happy Hawaiian Holiday - day 8 - church in Maui, a little more about Hana

 

I attended the Sunday service at Trinity Church by the Sea Episcopal church. The islands are well populated with free range chickens. This guy was very vocal during the service, probably related to the cock that crowed after Peter's denial of Jesus. The Gospel reading from Mark 8 included, "...let them deny themselves and take up their cross," so there ya go.

This church holds services outdoors year round (see the altar in the center of the photo), which has helped during the pandemic. Maui is instituting new restrictions on gatherings this week, but institutions (restaurants, churches) are still at 50% capacity, so I think this won't impact the parish. The new restrictions are aimed at private gatherings, since most spread is "community spread" and generally not from tourists who jump through a few hoops to get to the Hawaii in the first place.

From day 7, here are a couple more photos from the Road to Hana tour. The first is a bamboo forest, and the second is from inside a lava tube, looking at the ceiling at lava stalactites, sort of like upside-down Hershey's Kisses. There were also stalagmites, but my photo is unclear. There are some living creatures in the tube, mostly insects. We saw a pretty cool cockroach, but I don't have a photo.




Happy Hawaiian Holiday - day 7 - Maui's Road to Hana

 

The Road to Hana is a generic term for exploring the eastern half of Maui along the north coast. The route is about 64 miles. Considering the distance, there is not a large number of separate things to do. Anyone can drive along the route, but we hired a driver due to the winding, narrow nature of the route. This is a magnificently scenic winding road through bamboo forests with ocean views. There is a lava tube (like a cave formed by cooled lava) with lava stalagmites and stalactites and ancient, rock eating bacteria that are one of the first life forms on earth. There is a black sand beach (lava cinders) and great banana bread.

Along this route can also be found a high concentration of locals who are tired of the ways in which heavy tourism can impact the human and natural environments. Of course, somewhere along the line, someone has to cut down a few trees to become a local, but without question, Maui struggles to deal with the constant swarms of tourists, even as tourism drops due to COVID-19. We saw a couple instances of locals indicating displeasure with tourists, including some gesturing toward our marked tour van.

The high point of this drive is to find a waterfall pool in which to take a dip. The waterfalls are not necessarily huge, but the attraction is to be one with the natural environment. However, the road is barely two lanes wide with no shoulders, so parking is limited to small pull-offs near the accessible waterfalls. By accessible, I mean, the ones visible from the road to which one can walk without too much trouble.

Recently, Maui has posted "no parking" signs near the known waterfalls because otherwise, careless would-be swimmers cause gridlock. There just isn't enough room for all the vehicles wishing to stop. The police write costly citations. We drove past people taking photos of their vehicles parked in front of the signs.

So, how did we get that photo? That's Gary in the middle of the pool next to Susan, with Lauren on the low ledge in the back about to jump, and our tour guide on the right (Dan took the photo). According to our guide, he and his boss explored streams along the route and found a hidden waterfall, unknown to most people. Apparently, there is no definitive guide to waterfall pools along the route. This spot had no parking restrictions. The guide said that occasionally, other tourists will follow his groups to the water, but the spot remains uncharted. We were at the spot for about a half hour with no other visitors. I tasted the water coming down one of the trickle falls on the left side of the photo. It was magical.

In all seriousness, tourism can be damaging. A local guide can help to minimize the footprint, but not everyone can afford a guide. My group is not rich, but we are privileged enough to have been able to hire the guy who could legally and safely show us the way. We left no trace aside from a few shifted rocks and a footprint or two through the bamboo forest, but only a few people will ever get to do this. Eventually, this swimming hole, too, will become popular and then restricted. Gary can provide details privately.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Happy Hawaiian Holiday - day 6 - thoughts on Big Island

 

Certainly nature's handiwork, but not exactly the picture that comes to mind when mainlanders think of Hawaii. The photo above shows an area of lava rock with tufts of grass. This is porous and rough lava rock, with little visible soil. As I understand it, a volcano erupts and pours out lava across a wide area. It's not just a river of lava that runs to the sea, but an area of many square miles "flooded" with feet of lava. On the Big Island, one imagines these areas are generally not developable because of the risk of future eruptions. (Then again, people in hurricane zones don't seem to be deterred by losing everything they own every twenty years or so.)

On our last day on the Big Island (the island of Hawaii, part of the state of Hawaii), we drove to Kailua-Kona (near the airport) for breakfast. A wall on one side of the street caused lots of splashing. Greg got a good shot of Gary.

We then went to the airport. Greg left for home while Dan, Lauren, Susan and I went to Maui. Inter-island travel is pretty smooth, especially with TSA pre-check. Hawaiians are pretty conscientious about wearing anti-virus masks. We found the Krispy Kreme, the doughnut chain no longer available within a hundred miles of Rochester, NY.

Maui is not covered in recently hardened lava fields like the big island. However, the drive from the airport to our B&B was two-lanes each way, bumper to bumper, at 45 MPH. Again, apart from nice views from specific spots, Hawaii doesn't look like I thought it would look.

Gas is over $4 per gallon.

We arrived at our B&B and tried to view the sunset over the ocean, but distant clouds blocked the view.



Friday, September 10, 2021

Happy Hawaiian Holiday - day 5 - beach, stargazing

 

The background almost looks fake, but it's real, me and Susan in a beach cabana at Hilton Waikoloa Village.

In the morning we used up the breakfast food in our suite, with Sue making her feta scrambled eggs . Then for dinner, Greg grilled steaks by the hotel pool.

In the evening, we drove to Mauna Kea where there is an astronomical observatory and research station. Only true four-wheel drive vehicles are allowed to the 13000 foot summit due to the steepness of the road, so most visitors stay at the visitor center at 9000 feet. It was drizzly at sunset at 6:40 pm, but we waited, and the skies cleared around 7:15, and we saw the milky way and a shooting star, and of course, lots of other stars.

Finally, we packed for tomorrow's flights when Greg goes back home and Dan and Lauren and Su and Gary go to Maui.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Happy Hawaiian Holiday - day 4 - Hilo, volcanoes, silly jokes

The photo above is from the end of Chain of Craters road. See below for more info. Also, some comments at the end about car rentals.

We left the resort at 7 am for Hilo, about an hour and a half drive. There is an outdoor marketplace (crafts, farmers' market, etc.). We saw wild goats and wild pigs on the road, and lots of dried lava fields. Huge areas are covered with black, pumice-like rocks. From the car the areas look like roughly tilled soil, but it's all rocky, no soil. Tufts of beige grass grow in these areas, that's about it. The Waikoloa area has been dry and there were some wildfires about a month earlier, but we saw no signs of fire.

We proceeded to Volcano National Park. Greg, Dan and Lauren hiked down to the lava lake at Kilauea Iki, which is a hardened area of lava left after an eruption. The shrubs in the photo are people-sized, so this is a large area. Kilauea erupted in 2020, but there are currently no active lava flows in Hawaii. The hike is 4 miles round trip with an altitude change of 400 feet, and the air temperature on the lake was 85 degrees plus in direct sunlight, so Susan and I did not do that hike.

Susan and I took the road trip down Chain of Craters road to see several areas of previous eruptions and hardened lava flows. The beginning is in a rainforest, and the road runs to the ocean where lava has hit the water. After the lava cools and hardens, the crashing waves erode the rocks and sometimes cause holes, including the arch in the photo at top (you'll need to enlarge the photo to see it). Here is a stitched panorama of Laumanu Crater.

We then visited the Thurston lava tube, which is a tunnel high enough to walk through. This was the site of a lave river that partially hardened, followed by more lava, and then more hardening, but resulting in a tunnel. Also, we visited the Punalu'u black sand beach where sea turtles poke around in the shallows.

Around this time, Greg's eyeglasses case disappeared containing his regular glasses (not sunglasses). After much searching, and even phoning the park visitor center to check the lost & found, Dan found the case under a car seat. But, leave it to the Gocek boys (all three of us, Gary, Greg and Dan) to find an excuse to make a joke about butts. I won't try to repeat the exact jokes because "you had to be there", but Lauren found out the hard way that one never tells another butt joke in front of the Gocek boys, because it only encourages us. Trust me, it was a a series of funny family moments.

We finished the day with dinner at the Kona Brewing Company and a chocolate shop.

Regarding car rentals, I looked a couple months ago for a car on Maui. All cars at the airport offices were booked for all companies, but I found an Avis office near our B&B with a Mustang for about $90 per day. Dan noticed today (during our trip) that Enterprise had cars at the airport office for about $50 per day (for a Corolla), and I was able to cancel Avis and switch to Enterprise. We could only imagine there was a steep drop in reservations due to Hawaii's discouraging remarks about travel, so cars became available at a lower price. (Avis had cars but at the same price,)

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Happy Hawaiian Holiday - day 3 - golf and luau

 

Greg and Dan and Gary played the Beach Course and Lakes Course (total 18 holes) at Waikoloa. Above is the beautiful 6th hole on the Beach Course with a view of the ocean. We each had good shots and bad shots and we almost ran out of balls. The weather was beautiful but pretty warm, so we definitely felt tired at the end, but it was great to be together.

In the evening, we attended the Hilton resort's luau. Luau events are part traditional food, part traditional music and part traditional storytelling, but some people fault luaus for being expensive and crafted for tourists. But, we enjoyed the food and show. The pandemic has reduced the capacity of practically everything, but good for us since there is more space and shorter lines. The final item below is a video clip.




Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Happy Hawaiian Holiday - day 2 - oceans of coffee

 

Pictured above is a 100+ year old coffee tree stump with new branches sprouting, at Greenwell coffee farm in the Kona area of the big island, Hawaii. Maybe the most interesting part of the tour for me was talking with the guide (a regular worker on the farm) about a destructive beetle. I asked him if the beetle was native and he immediately exclaimed, "No", and we commiserated about invasive species, like the ones endangering my own ash trees. But the coffee samples were great. I'm still not sure why Kona and other Hawaiian coffees cost twice as much as South American and African coffees, but labor is a huge cost, and maybe the guide was just hesitant to tell us that most coffee workers in the world aren't paid as much as American workers. There is also a geographic aspect that makes some Hawaiian coffee hard to harvest. But still, the cost difference is huge. Kona coffee is good, but not twice as good, just twice as expensive.

Earlier, Susan got a massage at the spa which was apparently extremely great, while I got my first Kona coffee pourover. We checked out the ocean beach.

Rochester, NY residents think Florida is nice, but Hawaii is at a different level. It just "feels" great.

Later Susan, Dan, Greg and Lauren went snorkeling. I don't do much in the water, so I went looking for shabu shabu joints. This consists of thinly sliced beef that is swished around in hot oil. Although shabu shabu is popular in Hawaii, the only place I found, "TK Shabu Shabu" is no longer serving the item, regardless of the name of the place. Shabu shabu is a family-style item, and this was stopped at the beginning of the pandemic.

So, I went grocery shopping at a Walmart and a KTA Super Store. We are staying in a timeshare property, so we are doing some of our own cooking.

Earlier for lunch, I had lau lau, which is pulled pork with taro leaves.




Monday, September 6, 2021

Happy Hawaiian Holiday - day 1 - we arrived

 

We have arrived on the big island of Hawaii at a Hilton property. That's Greg, Susan, Gary, Dan. Lauren.

The flight from Rochester to Chicago was full, but the flight to Kona was only a third full, so we each had a row of three seats. Entry into Hawaii went smoothly with a lot of online preparation required by Hawaii, although Greg is still waiting for his checked bag. The bag either never made it to Chicago, or missed the connection to Hawaii, we'll know more tomorrow.

The weather was overcast in Hawaii with a few sprinkles. We checked in and had dinner an went to the grocery store.



Sunday, September 5, 2021

Happy Hawaiian Holiday - day "zero" - Hawaii or bust!

After spending yesterday online getting checked in to our flights and preparing for the Hawaii bureaucracy, we will now spend the day standing in lines waiting to talk to people who will make sure we spent the previous day online.

Watch this for our exciting activities!

Friday, September 3, 2021

Happy Hawaiian Holiday - day "minus 2" - Looking forward to...

 

A quickie for today.

I think the thing I am most looking forward to is the Road to Hana tour, in a van with a hired driver and the four of us who will be on Maui. I don't swim much, but I am looking forward to those little waterfall swimming holes.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Happy Hawaiian Holiday - day "minus 3" - The deck is painted

The back deck is painted (still at home for 3 more days before departure). Behind the deck, see our covered grill and 11.5 kw Generac full-house generator. The deck has been pretty unsightly for a couple years and I used my pre-trip time off to paint, trim the bushes, use the leaf blower to clear the beech nuts from the driveway, mow the lawn, and rest my back. I don't have back problems, and I will be fine by tomorrow, but us old geezers get stiff from painting and yardwork all in the same day.

The weather today was amazingly nice, high 60s Fahrenheit and sunny (which is why I pushed myself so hard). We send our best wishes to the south and eastern seaboard as they recover from the heavy rains of hurricane Ida. That weather system did not get to western New York State. Unless the jet inventory is disrupted, we should not have trouble getting to Chicago and then flying over the wildfires in the west and finally to Kona.

The virus numbers in Hawaii dropped substantially for a couple days but then spiked back up yesterday. We have our N95 masks for indoor events and flights, and cloth or cheaper masks for outdoor events.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Happy Hawaiian Holiday - day "minus 4" - Time off from work starts today


Of course, all my work colleagues burn the candle at at least two ends every day, and we like what we do and who we do it for. Still, I am logged in from 7:30 to 5:30, with a lunch that's too short, and occasional after-hours calls, and I never call in sick, and I'm max'ed out on my vacation accruals. At the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, I hesitated to take much vacation time in case there were cutbacks, and that didn't happen, but here I am in September of 2021 sitting on five weeks of available time off. And, every time someone does take more than a day or two, it's a burden on the rest of the team to keep up.

But eventually, one takes one's turn, and today is my first day of a three-week vacation (including two weeks in Hawaii). I don't mind waking up at my normal workday time, but it takes me a couple days to stop thinking I need to psyche myself up for the next leg of the rat race.

To be clear, I am not complaining about my job, but it's nice to play hooky for an extended period.

However, the big project during my few days at home is to paint the deck, not exactly the most fun I'll have in the next three weeks. It's a small wooden deck, and it has already been scraped and cleaned, but opening a can of paint is such a commitment.