Thanksgiving in Hana

Thursday, Nov. 28, Thanksgiving. We took the long road to Hana to meet up with Erin, a gal we had connected with on Couchsuring.org. We found a private jaunt along a little hike, spent some time enjoying the ambiance of Twin Falls and, after a few hours of driving on a twisty road (I drove to keep my motion sickness in check) we arrived to the undeveloped, isolated paradise of Hana.

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What followed was a bit of a comedy of errors. We went to a farm that Erin had told us to meet her at only to discover she wasn’t there. The guys there were a friendly lot and told us to come back in a few hours, when she was expected to return. We had no luck connecting with her via phone or email so spent some time having Thanksgiving dinner at the lone restaurant that was open that evening, Travasa Restaurant. Their dining experience is described as a celebration of life and the bounty of the earth that nourishes us body and soul. Unfortunately for us, it was also above our budget and so we ordered small plates from the bar. I had three delectable, zesty prawns that, we decided, were as far from traditional thanksgiving dinner fare as one could possibly get.

As we were munching and enjoying the dancing by women made more graceful with age do solo dances to the live, Hawaiian band, we had the forethought to ask the server if they happened to know Erin, hoping that, it being a small town, there was a chance she might. We were surprised to find that not only did she know Erin, Erin was working there this evening! We finally met our host for the evening and exchanged big, patchouli smelling, hugs. She explained how to get to her house, which involved unmarked roads, a very long driveway and an “overgrown lawn” that, in reality, turned out to be a forest.

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She wouldn’t be able to join us back to Chez Erin but would meet us there in a few hours, after she got off work, so we set out to find her place alone. Using our spidey senses, we located the large craftsman house amidst of jungle of papaya trees and foliage. Upon entering, we found a crowd of about 20 folks, crowded together in the living room. Erin had mentioned roommates but this was more than we had bargained for. I remember two people in particular. A mother, daughter duo who were sharing a joint and giggling to each other. The bedrooms were spoken for and the couch space was filling up fast, hippies were passing out where they lay, so we opted to set up our tent in the jungle, aka their backyard. I clutched my sleeping bag as Tom told me scary stories and a gnarly storm tore at our tent walls, the wind wailing like a crying child.

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The next morning, we woke early and spent the day enjoying the many natural delights in Hana. We hiked 7 sacred pools, ‘ohe’o gulch trail, and followed a tiny, precarious path out to the Red Sand Beach, and hiked to Waimoku falls through a tantalizing bamboo forest. All the while, we picked produce from trees and cracked open the coconuts we found, hoping for a refreshing taste of the sweet, sweet water within. Later, we made our way back to mainstream Maui, feeling the touch of Hana’s wild beauty upon us as we left.

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Learning to Fly

Nearly every day for the 3 weeks that we were on Maui, Tom and I rose early and headed over to Polipoli Spring State Recreation Park to paraglide with the Proflyght Paragliding School of Maui. Sometimes we would spend time kiting before driving the steep, curvy road all the way up to the launch site. Here’s two short videos of footage from my first, tandem, flight — you mostly get to see my legs and Tom’s superb flying skills (his wing is black, white, red and blue).

 

Here are excerpts from my journal:

Sunday, Nov. 17: T’s gratitude – improving forward launch. R’s gratitudes began paragliding pilot training.

Monday, Nov. 18: R’s 2nd pilot lesson! T’s gratitude: getting two amazing flights in from Ferns (flew in clouds a bit). R’s Gratitude’s: how supportive Tom’s being about my slow progress paragliding.

Tuesday, Nov. 19: R’s 3rd pilot lesson – got in 4 official flights.

Wednesday, Nov. 20: 5 more flights added to my repertoire, learned how to sit back in harness seat. Took p1 rest.

Thursday, Nov. 21: Paragliding, Laci & John’s tandem flight, Luau with Laci & John . Tom and I aren’t the type to do a Luau but our friends were really excited about it and it was relatively  cheap, ($100/person), so we gave it a try. While it felt like it was created with the tourist in mind, it was neat to see once.

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#Hula

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Friday, Nov. 22: Spent the morning paragliding, big thrill as I completed my first flight from Echoes, the top of the training hill, which is 4,500 ft. above sea level and 1,000 ft. to the landing zone. Soon afterwards, Heather, a fellow paraglider, lost control of her wing, crashed into the hill and broke her femur directly in front of us. Her partner ran to her my instructor, Dexter, called 911. I bought health insurance.

Saturday, Nov. 23: Took a day off from paragliding, spent it going from the pool to the hot tub and sunning at Grand Champions resort villa.

Sunday, Nov. 24: Made 1 flight from Echoes and another from RC, a lower training launch. T and I spent the afternoon with another couch surfer, Reiko, from a small town in Japan, at little beach. There, we stripped down to match the common attire and enjoyed a fire dancing infused drum circle.

Drum circles and naked #poi.

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Monday, Nov. 25: We spent the morning paragliding and I made 3 flights from RC. After paragliding, I felt particularly dizzy and went to the doctor. Turns out, I had an infection in my mouth that had spread to my inner ear, leading to some internal calibration issues. This marked the beginning of the end of my self-piloting paragliding days.

Sunday, Dec. 1: T spent the morning paragliding and the afternoon bodysurfing in the ocean. My nose ring fell out and the hole left began healing immediately. We weren’t able to get the ring back in it so I ended up getting it re-pierced by guy with gentle hands and a British accent. We had egg nog and enjoyed our last night camping at Polipoli. It was a frigid night and we slept in one sleeping bag to stave off the cold.

Monday, Dec. 2: We packed up our tent gear then went to the flight park. Tom enjoyed a morning of paragliding. Afterwards, we volunteered at Leilani animal sanctuary where I spent most of my time pulling weeds as Tom made the acquaintance of a baby goat. That evening, we stayed with new friends, Garrett & Crystal. We felt right at home in a pod in their backyard, which was an outdoor shed converted into a polished, cozy and delightful bedroom with a private lanai overlooking the ocean. It was luxury.

Camping on a Volcano

I don’t know about you, but one of my childhood dreams was to visit an active volcano. I was able to make that dream come true by camping in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park at Nāmakanipaio campground, where I not only visited an active volcano, but pitched my tent on one.  This park doesn’t offer white sand beaches and warm weather, but it does have, something you can’t find anywhere else,  spectacular views of the largest active volcano in the world.

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According to GoHawaii.com,  the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park encompasses 333,000 acres from the summit of Maunaloa to the sea. Here you’ll find 150 miles of hiking trails through volcanic craters, scalded deserts and rainforests as well as a museum, petroglyphs, a walk-in lava tube and two active volcanoes: Maunaloa, which last erupted in 1984 and Kilauea which has been erupting since January 3rd, 1983. Geologists estimate it took nearly 1 million years to build Hawaii, from the first time lava punched through the Pacific Ocean seafloor to the island we see today.

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 T’s highlights & gratitude’s

Watching the red-orange lava glow at  of the Halema’uma’u crater (part of the Kilauea volcano) after sunset, a truly breathtaking sight. Because of safety issues the access to the crater is restricted, but we had a stunning overview of the crater at about 1 mile distance.

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Spotting large flightless Hawaiian Geese, aka Nene, which are endemic to Hawaii and the state’s official bird. Just for fun, T picked a nene berry, officiall called ‘Aiakanene, and ate it (with no ill effects).

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Going past the ‘safety’ rope to explore the sulfur vents.

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Hiking Devastation trail whose terrain went from volcanic to tropical so quickly it gave us whiplash.

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 R’s highlights & gratitude’s

Descending into the Kilauea Iki,  an old volcanic crater, the uncontested winner of the trip.  It was a profound experience and felt like entering the heart of the Hawaiian Volcano Goddess, Pele Honua Mea. Even after 50 years of inactivity, the surface of the crater is still warm to the touch. T & I saw the spectacular ‘heart of Pele’, found pieces of raw peridot & completed the moderate 4 mile hike (we lucked out, experiencing nearly no sulfur dioxide fumes).

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Taking the Hawaiian culture walk (which was not a kitchy as it sounds). Our tour guide and park ranger told us about the Native Hawaiian’s mythology and taught us Hawaiian words. My favorite of which being, ‘makawalu’ meaning literally ‘different perspectives’ – it’s a way of looking at situations through the lenses of everyone involved, rather than seeing if just your own perspective.

I was accepted into Antioch’s Clinical Psychology program (to become a licensed marriage and family therapist) in Santa Barbara! While this is wonderful news, I’ve decided to defer for (at least) a year. This is because I’d like to give myself an opportunity to find rewarding work in SB – if that fails, back to school I go!

Doing Crater Rim Drive, which is the 10.6-mile drive that circles Kilauea Caldera and offers spectacular views of the coast line.

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And the Thorn(s)

Learning about the many disasters which spawned from bringing (with the best intentions) outside wildlife into Hawaii, where they inevitably became invasive species. For example, in order to control the rat population (which had a taste for sugar cane, Hawaii’s cash crop) Small Asian Mongoose, called ‘Iole manakuke’, from Calcutta were introduced to the islands. So what’s the problem with mongooses? Well, they hunt during the day… and the rat is nocturnal. With no rats to hunt, mongoose developed a taste for birds (& especially bird eggs). Rats were already endangering native populations of ground nesting birds – rather than fixing this issue, bringing the mongoose only exasperated the problem. Ooops!

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If I were a more paranoid person, and thought mother nature was an actual entity, I would probably feel like her newest mission was to make my life miserable what with the sulfur dioxide clouds, altitude sickness, freezing temps & daily rain showers. Since I do not believe that, I have to concede to the fact that my genetic “gifts” are, in fact, to blame. Camping on an active volcano means we are putting ourselves in a little bit of a risky situation, as it is constantly spewing noxious fumes.

Only one can really kill you (sulfur dioxide), so T and I do our best to stay upwind of it. This is a relatively easy feat as the rangers monitor sulfur dioxide particulates in the air 24/7 and post it on a website for easy access. There is a threshold where it becomes dangerous for sensitive folks and a few notches up it becomes dangerous for everyone else. During a ranger led hike, I had to admit to the ranger that I fell into the former category (highly sensitive) and for the rest of the hike, fellow hikers approached me with what they thought of as sympathetic remarks. One older woman simply looked at me and said, “I read about people like you at the visitor center.” Oy vey.

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