Monday, December 27, 2010

December 27, 2010: Maui - Lava Field, Black Sand Beach, Snorkeling, Chocolate Dipped Frozen Banana, Poutine in Disguise, Gekko in the House

Day 2 of Maui. I was determined to find us a better beach, with less tourist traffic and the chance to go snorkeling.

We drove back down to the south shore, stopping in at Auntie Snorkel to rent gear. We'd just missed the turn-off for Snorkel Bob's, and when I said to Mark that I was turning in at the next plaza for Auntie Snorkel, he thought I meant "anti-snorkel", and couldn't figure out why I was stopping at some place that was apparently the opposite of a snorkel rental place.

We continued down the shore past Makena Landing, as the road became an increasingly narrow track through rough ground. At first I thought we were traveling through fields of freshly ploughed dirt. Even though Mark theorized that it was a lava field I denied it, until the clumps got so big that I had to admit that no farmer would plough their field in such a crazy fashion. I'd always imagined a lava field would be all smoothly undulating waves of black rock, but this was entirely different. This was the area of the last lava flow on Maui, more than 200 years ago, yet the rocks look completely untouched by erosion or weathering - all sharp edges and bright red colour.

I was relieved to find parking at the end of the road, and we set out on a hike across the rocks to Keawanaku Beach. We'd worn hiking shoes and were very glad of it - the trail was made of the same sharp-edged lava rocks as the ground around it - the trailmakers had just swapped out the biggest rocks for smaller ones in an effort to make the walk a bit smoother. The trail was made in the early 1800s and must have been a huge effort without any machine power to help. We also read that the native Hawai'ians used to run over the trail barefoot, which was just painful to think about - the lava rocks actually made 'clinkly' glass-like sounds knocking against each other as we walked the trail.

After 45 minutes we reached the turn-off for the beach - 99% private (there was one other person there, fishing). The waves were too big to snorkel, but we floated about on the waves, and marvelled at the oddity of digging our feet into black sand. When we returned back to our car we realized we'd bypassed another great swimming area in La Perouse Bay, called the Aquarium. This is where we finally got to snorkel - the water was calm, although a bit cloudy. We didn't see the same quantity of fish as we did in Hanauma Bay, but those that were there seemed to be living a more natural life unchanged by the presence of tourists, swimming in schools and feeding on and hiding in the living coral formations. Our rented gear was fantastic - for the first time I felt like I could really breathe naturally, and started to appreciate the fascination of snorkeling.

On our way back we pulled over at a little snack stand that specialized in frozen bananas - they even had one of those wooden cut-outs where you could pose as a banana - why didn't I get us a photograph with that?! The bananas really hit the spot after all of our hiking and snorkeling exertions - cold, creamy, with a hit of peppermint mixed in with the chocolate.

With a bit of extra time on our hands we thought we'd check out the Maui Ocean Center aquarium at Ma'alea, which was not too far a drive away. However, by the time we got there it was half an hour to closing, so we just walked along the harbour. Hunger suddenly overcame me (aftereffects of the snorkeling I suspect) so we had a snack at an oceanside pub - poutine in disguise as nachos (it had fries rather than corn chips). It was the epitomy of over-the-top pub food, with pulled pork, sour cream, salsa, tomatoes, cheese and hot peppers piled on top, and it was exactly what I'd needed.

As the sun went down we headed for home, for a late, light dinner of leftover pasta from the night before (still delicious). When I went to close the bathroom window I dislodged a tiny gecko who'd been hiding in the frame. He was so small and fragile - what a relief that I hadn't accidentally crushed him.

Trees along the shoreline of La Perouse Bay

I love the contrast of black and white rocks on the beach

The lava field - you can see the path of the lava down the mountain in the distance

I took a photograph of my foot to show the scale of the lava rocks

The trail is still loose footing, but is improved by having the smaller rocks filling the spaces

It is almost impossible for plants to get a toehold in this hostile landscape...

...but as soon as some soil accumulates along the shore, the plants spring to life

Our destination - a virtually private (note the fisherman on the distant rocks) black sand beach

A sea cucumber - we sat and watched him almost imperceptibly navigate the waves and rocks, stretching and compressing into different shapes. I've read that sea cucumbers can loosen and tighten the collagen that forms their body wall - essentially liquefying themselves to move through tight spaces

Gnarled tree trunks and roots

A whale carved from a stump at Ma'alea harbour (where many of the whale watching tours launch from) - only now do I realize how bizarrely phallic this sculpture is

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