Maui Wowie

T and I spent 3 weeks on Maui, the Valley Isle, which is the 2nd largest island in the Hawaiian chain. Maui is known for long stretches of beautiful beaches and the landmark Haleakala Crater, the House of the Sun, which is a now dormant volcano (the only active volcano in the islands is on the big island, Hawaii). The summit depression is 21 miles across, and 4,000 feet deep, large enough to hold the island of Manhattan! Tom and I hiked to the top (Maui’s highest point) via the Crater Rim Trail, which is a 5 mile hike with 1,600ft gain in elevation.

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We stayed overnight at a total of 7 different places through couchsurfing, camping and AirBnB’ing spending only $1,254 total for  accomodations (which is proportionately much less than our rent in NYC) and nearly completed a circuit around the island. Each place offered uniquely pleasant experiences and surprises. A few of the highlights are the fresh pineapple waiting in the room for us when we arrived at the Tiny Cabin located in the quaint upcountry town of Makawao, enjoying Garrett & Crystal’s company in their beautiful home in Pukalani, meeting Jamie & her daughter, Kaya, who taught us how to properly open, drink and nom on a coconut and last, but not least, sharing a 2 bedroom condo with our ‘frainds’ Laci & John at the Grand Champions Resort in Wailea (more on that in another post!)

 T’s highlights & gratitude’s

The three miles of white sand and crystal clear water at Ka’anapali beach offered T & me a playground for acro & snorkeling as well as a canvas for our sand sculpture – the green sea turtle! People all along the beach hiked over to check it out – we were so proud :3.

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Sneaking into the Hyatt regency resort hot tub & dining at Mala Ocean tavern with Jon, a friend we made through paragliding and an amazing guy with tons of great ideas on how to make the world a better place.

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Exploring the Iao Valley, aka “cloud supreme”, a lush, stream-cut valley in West Maui where T picked passion fruit from the trees along the unofficial  hiking trail which crested the ridge, giving us spectacular views of the 1200-foot Iao Needle.

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The cerulean blue water of the many beaches, this short vid is from Big Beach….

#Sunset #Romantic #Maui

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and here’s Red Sand beach!

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R’s highlights & gratitude’s

Sunning, swimming & hot-tubbing at Grand Champions resort villa (our paragliding friend, Vin, broke his ribs (while mountain biking not flying) so he and his gf, Lauren, joined us for a few nights of hot-tubbin’ – so much good times).

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Hiking the waihou spring trail (moderate, 1.7 miles). Along the trail there were monterey cypress and eucalyptus trees, as well as the native tree species `ala`a, halapepe, and koa. The trail ended on a ridge top offering views of the Central Valley.

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Pineapple upside down cake at Hali’imaile & Pineapple wine tasting at Tedeschi Winery

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Visit to Paia, which is a reflection of Maui’s history as a booming sugar cane plantation town with its old plantation style wooden buildings still intact, T & I  stopped at Ono Gelato for their infamous (and very yummy) sandy beach gelato.

Taking the ‘Road to Hana’ which has 620 curves and 59 bridges, most of which are single-lane bridges – along which we played in the waterfalls, sniffed the tropical flowers, hiked through bamboo forests, and marveled at the spectacular scenery. Waimoku Falls, this gigantic waterfall drops 400-feet down a sheer lava rock wall into a boulder-strewn pool.

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We found a heart :3

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Hiking the Pipiwai trail (this name delighted T)

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We stayed overnight in Hana camping on the front lawn of a friendly yet ‘tuned out’ couch surfing host who nearly left us to sleep in our car on Thanksgiving.  Keeping the tent up in the rainstorm (and ignoring the creepy screaming noises that kept waking us up) proved to make the night spent camping there a bit of a harrowing experience (and probably the closest thing to a thorn that we experienced during the time period this post covers!). Thankfully, things worked out (sorta) and T & I had scrumptious shrimp for our T-giving dinner while enjoying live music and hula dancing.

Couchsuring & Camping on Kona

What is Couchsurfing? For the founders, it was vision of a world made better by travel and travel made richer by connection. Couchsurfering isn’t just about a free place to stay, it’s about sharing your life with new people from all of the world as well as fostering cultural exchange and mutual respect.

The couchsurfing.org site provides a platform for members to “surf” on couches by staying as a guest at a host’s home, host travelers, or join an event. In March 2013, the website had 6 million members in 100,000 cities worldwide. Tom & I have had an account for close to a year now (our cs account) and have hosted and/or met people from Germany, Belgium and Seattle. 

Our first surfing experience was in Kailua-Kona, the center of commerce and of the tourist industry on West Hawaiʻi. Our generous host, along with his partner and son, live on an acre of land with a starfruit tree, beautiful outdoor lanai, inground pool & a beer fridge full of local brews. Tom & and were absolutely spoiled by the experience and can’t wait to do it again on the other islands!

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T’s gratitude’s & highlights

Snorkeling at white Sands Beach (aka Magic Sands beach because the sand disappears at certain times during the year). Unlike many east coast beaches, the Big Islands beaches are full of natural shade trees that provide a perfect setting for watching the ethereal sunsets on the water.

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Sneaking into the Hilton Lagoon & bourgeois-ing it up. R practically ran head-first into an eel (much to T’s enjoyment)! While it is a terrifying-looking creature, I’m sure did not intend any harm (at least, I’m pretty sure it didn’t).

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R’s gratitude’s & highlights

While I’m not a proponent of keeping animals in cages (esp. when those animals are as intelligent as dolphins) it was incredible to be so close to them.

#dolphins are smarter than dogs (& cuter) @leafitalone

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Spending time sunning and swimming at Kahalu’u beach. T introducing me to snorkeling – the clear waters here are teeming with bright tropical fish & large green sea turtles.

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This sign.

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Hawaiians LOVE Spam. Hawaii consumes more Spam than any state in our union — in total, 7 million cans a year. I found Spam flavored macadamia nuts….it makes me happy just knowing they exist.

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After couchsurfing for 4 nights we camped out at Spencer Beach where we itroduced some island kids to s’mores. It’s not a thing here like it is on the mainland and the children flocked to us like seagulls to fish for the rest of the time we spent camping here. It was the most expensive camping experience so far ($40/night) BUT we bamboozled the park ranger and got two nights for the price of one. Small victories ;).

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….and the Thorn (quite literally)

Tom was attacked by a sea urchin! ….well, sorta. He accidentally kicked a reef during one of our snorkeling trips and the reef kicked back. Sometimes called sea hedgehogs, sea urchins are small, spiny, globular sea creatures and they are the self-imposed protectors of coral reefs. Their spines inflict a painful wound when they penetrate human skin, but are not dangerous if fully removed promptly – although the purple ones do tend to tattoo their victims (now both T & I have foot tattoos!). One panicked drive and visit to the ER later and things were back to relative normalcy, although I’ll never look at sea urchin the same way again. o.O

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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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Hanging with Locals

The best thing about having friends who live in the area is that they can take you to all the cool places that only the locals know about. Palmer is a friend of mine from way way back (as in grade school). He was stationed on Oahu while he was serving in the military. He’s been out for a few years now and is studying marine biology and geology at Hilo University on the BI where he met his partner, Emily. As you might imagine, given their majors, not only did they know about the local spots, they had a wealth of knowledge about the island’s geology and marine life. Staying with them was like having personal tour guides for ‘off the beaten track’ adventures. T & I can’t thank them enough for their generosity, but we can certainly try! Muchos gracias amigos!

T’s gratitude’s & highlights

Taking “controlled” risks by jumping off a bridge.

Jumping off bridges @leafitalone #CrazyTown #Hawaii #the big island

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Completing a rigorous 9 mile hike on the pu’u oo volcano trail (which we originally thought was only 5 miles).

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Tea tree oil application to the mite bites (we counted a total of 36 bites- ouch!)

Palmer chopping down a sugar cane stalk, stripping it and giving it to us to chew the raw sugar stick – that’s service!

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Seeing the sunset above the clouds at 9,000 ft elevation at the Mauna Kea Observatory

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R’s gratitude’s & highlights

Surviving the steep road that leads down into the Waipio valley. The road gains 800 vertical feet in 0.6 miles – if classified as a road, it would be the steepest road of its length in the United States and possibly the world. Also, of course, the exotic black sand beach in the valley.

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Gorgeous flora & sights at Akaka falls

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Also completing the 9 mile pu’u oo volcano trail hike!

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Handing out candy to the ridiculously cute trick or treaters (I haven’t had the opportunity to do this since I lived in VA, over 3 years ago, and I missed it!)

Acro show presented by Yoga Centered at the Black & White festival in Hilo, HI (and realizing that my & T’s acro abilty was on par with nearly all of the performers!)

And the Thorn

While completely sober, I tripped and fell down a small, outdoor, wooden staircase that was slippery with dew and had no railings. Luckily, I broke my fall; unfortunately, I broke it with only one finger…can you guess which one? T has been doing anything that involves dexterity (zippers, filling up camel packs, opening food packages, even tying my shoes) which he doesn’t mind at all but which makes me feel a bit like a little useless blob. Hopefully this sprain will heal quickly!

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Honeymoon-ish

Not surprisingly, the locals and many other travelers assume T & I are on our Honeymoon. Hawaii is an exotic island chain, full of romance and intrigue, it is also so regularly chosen as a honeymoon destination that there are websites dedicated to just that. I’d like to think that, if T & I were to get married, we wouldn’t pick such a stereotypical Honeymoon destination. That said, right before we left, we confessed to each other (I can’t remember who brought it up first) that it felt like we were leaving for our Honeymoon. While there hasn’t been any class of a ceremony, we feel sure that we’ve met our life partner. As T and I say, ‘it took a long time for us to find each other, but we finally did.’

Wikipedia has this to say about Honeymoons:

Honeymoons in the modern sense (i.e. a pure holiday voyage undertaken by the married couple) became widespread during the Belle Époque, as one of the first instances of modern mass tourism. This came about in spite of initial disapproval by contemporary medical opinion (which worried about women’s frail health) and by savoir vivre guidebooks (which referred the public attention drawn to what was assumed to be the wife’s sexual initiation). The most popular honeymoon destinations at the time were the French Riviera and Italy, particularly its seaside resorts and romantic cities such as RomeVerona or Venice.

While we may have forgotten our savoir vivre guidebook, we are having our own wild kind of initiation.

Hello Hilo!

Hilo is a sleepy town on the east coast of the Big Island. T & I have been making our way through the Historic Downtown Hilo Walking Tour (if you’re curious about it, here’s the link).

T’s gratitudes & highlights

Exploring the inner ecosystem of the giant Banyan tree.

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Hiking down to the startlingly picturesque cove.

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Our (failed) attempt at taking a local’s advice to break into the Botanical Garden via a back entrance that only locals know about. We gave it a good shot, but the Gardens had posted a classical-music-listening sentry to bar our passage.

How connected he feels to me. Dawwww :).

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R’s gratitudes & highlights

T’s antics on the Banyan Tree didn’t get himself injured (or, at least, I hope he isn’t injured). 

@leafitalone climbing the giant #Banyan tree. #Daredevil

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Impromptu caving. It was pitch black and I was terribly anxious at the thought of exploring deep into the craggly lava tube which had created the cave. T’s comforting words didn’t do much to quell my fears, so he switched gears and began to make quiet, derisive comments in my direction, which did work ;). So motivated, we impressed the other tourists with how far and how fearlessly we explored the cave.

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How lush and green the world is here; every time I look out a window I am reminded that I am in the jungle.

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Thorn in my rose

Designated the ‘thorny’ section, this part of my blog will denote any things I may need to get off my chest or that is a particularly good piece of self depricating humor. The issue I face here, in Hilo, is a little bit of both!  The number of warning signs here borders on the ridiculous (and, in some places, steps right into it) and, paired with my neurotic nature, it has become a mental chore to convince myself to ignore the warnings, and dive right in. T, of course, has no hesitation when confronted with these signs.

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