Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Day In Molokai...

By Murph

My last couple of days in Maui were fantastic. I’m now sitting here at the Kahului Airport in Maui on Saturday morning awaiting my flight down to Hilo on the Big Island.. My Wednesday afternoon snorkeling trip to the Molokini Crater (cool little tiny island/crater off the coast of south-west Maui) was canceled due to rain, and I was a little bummed, but Thursday and Friday more than made up for the disappointment. Let’s start with Thursday.

This was a classic choose-your-own-adventure type day. I had a general “idea” of what I wanted to do, but wasn’t sure how I was going to get it done, a little more planning would have made things smoother, but certainly not as fun. Anyway, I had rented a beach bike (one speed, low-rider type handlebars) for the week while I was in Maui, since the “downtown” of Lahaina was only a few miles south of where I was staying. It allowed me to cruise the strip, and hit up all the area beaches without having to worry about where to park the car (parking around there was TOUGH to say the least…). So I had a bike, and had an idea of bringing it on over to Molokai for the day on the ferry which I had booked for Thursday morning. So the ferry was due to depart at 7:15am, and I had to be there to check in by 6:45am. I was packing up my pack with lunch/snacks for the day, a towel, my camera, a book, and plenty of water (I was in swimtrunks with no pockets..) when disaster struck- the zipper broke. The strange thing was that this was probably the lightest pack I had put together the entire trip, it was a real cheap bag, but it wasnt even CLOSE to full/packed, and I was pissed. I had no other bag that would do what I needed it to do. So I left a little earlier than planned to head down to the ferry (I drove down with the bike in the back) and stopped by the only 24 hour store (nothing else that would sell backpacks was open this early) I knew of, basically a Star Market. I go in, ask for backpacks, and they sent me to the School Supplies Aisle. There I was faced with the first dilemma of the day- the only thing that I could see was a PINK fake-Dora-the-explorer pack. I found myself in a several-second-early-morning-stare-down with fake-Dora, I just didn’t know if I could pull it off, did I really need to bring a lunch with me? Could I get water and lunch over there? I started rummaging through all the bags and found this one, much smaller, sling-style bag that would thankfully do what I needed it to do for the day, and bought that. Anyway, I got on the 7:15am ferry out to Molokai, and had a ticket to come back on the 4pm, which gave me all day to explore this little Island of only 7,000 people. The ferry ride was an hour and a half, and FULL of coastal views of West Maui, Lanai, and Molokai. From there I was hoping to bike up to the Kalaupapa Trail which was on the North side of Molokai, about 10 miles from where the ferry was going to dock. Sounds simple, right? Here are a few images from the Ferry ride over (sunrise over West Maui, and then a couple pictures of Molokai's East End as we came in):

On the way over we must have seen 15-20 whales surfacing and breeching, it was pretty cool, they were all over the place. We finally docked in Molokai, there were around 15-20 of us on the ferry (which also carried the day’s mail for the Island), and I got off and immediately took off towards the trail. I knew I had about 3 miles west on a road, and then when I got to an intersection I would head north and it would be about 7 miles up to the trail. I knew the last 7 miles would be uphill, but could it really be that bad? So I drove through the biggest town on the Island, Kaunakakai (which is TINY), and headed out on the first 3 mile flat stretch, it was gorgeous out and quite a comfortable ride along the coast and through coconut groves. Well as I was approaching the intersection I could see the telephone poles heading towards the North Side of the Island, and the incline was no joke! I got to the intersection, looked up the road, and all I could think of was: “starts with ‘N’, rhymes with ‘NO F&CKIN WAY!’”. I quickly turned back, remembering a “taxi” sign I saw at the ferry dock. I was thinking maybe they could taxi me up, with my bike, to where I needed to be. So I biked the 3 miles back to town, and got some change for the payphone (yes PAY phone) to call the taxi company. Here’s the conversation:

Me: “Aloha, I was hoping to get a taxi to bring me and my bike up to Palaau Park? [where the trailhead was]”
“Sure! What day are you coming in?”
Me [thinking “uh oh…”, classic best/worst, when she said “Sure!”- BEST, when she said “What day are you coming in?”- WORST]: “ummm…well…I’m here right now.”
“We can’t help you out for another 3-4 hours, sorry!” (Said while laughing at me)
Me: Thanks.

Now I had a decision to make. It was nice out, and I could just bike over to the East Coast where there were some ridiculous beaches, or I could find another way for me and my bike to get to the trailhead. I stood there for a little wondering what to do, when this younger local dude (they ALL are “locals” here, they are hardcore Hawaiians, I stuck out like a sore thumb hanging out in town by the payphone), about my age I would say, pulled up in a truck. When he walked by I told him I’d give him $20 for a ride up to the trailhead (pretty good deal too, it’s like 10 miles away). I thought he would either punch me in the face, or help me out somehow. He took me up on my offer. So we tossed my bike in the back, and on the way up he told me a bunch of history, and tidbits about what we were driving through on our way there, it was pretty neat, of course he could have been making it all up, but he seemed genuine enough (he also told me that the mom-and-pop taxi company WAS truly mom, pop and their son with one or two minivans). We got there, and I ended up giving him $25 for the “tour” up the hill (added a "tip" for the info..), and he took off. I was finally at the trailhead with my bike, and it was 10:30am, plenty of time I thought (The trail was a little over 3 miles down 1,600 feet, so it wasn’t too bad). I locked up my bike on a tree, and headed on down. As I was starting a couple, probably late 30's/early 40's, walked up and asked me if I was heading down, I told them yes, and we joined forces. They were from Alaska, and were spending a couple of weeks in Molokai. You guys mentioned "Bear Grylls", well I'm pretty sure I met him, this guy was Bear Grylls I swear. We started flying along leaving his wife in the dust as he was telling me about what he hunts/fishes in Alaska, it was actually pretty interesting. Then I was like: “do you want to wait for your wife?”. He took his FIRST look back and realized she was nowhere to be seen, this was like within the first 10mins of the hike, the guy was FLYING. Anyway, we waited a couple mins for her to show up, and I “thought” we’d slow down to accommodate her, but it was quite the opposite. He gave her the camera, and said: “we’ll meet you at the bottom”. Then he started JOGGING down the trail with me in tow. I had that sling bag on, and he had nothing. It was muddy, and pretty steep downhill with switchbacks on the side of a cliff, it was a little stressful. Then disaster #2 struck- the sling bag’s plastic clip snapped due to the fact that Bear had me RUNNING down the cliff trail, what a dick. Anyway, I had to take my jacket out, put it on the bag, tie the arms around my waist for a little support and HOLD ON to the sling part of the sack for the rest of the time, so now I only had one hand and I couldnt wait to face plant and eat some mud….did Bear stop to help, or wait for me, you ask? FUCK NO. I could see him 2-3 switchbacks below me and I stupidly hurried to try and catch up. I finally did catch him a little ways down because he had stopped to take a look at a couple wild goats that were on the trail, here’s a few pics I got on the way down (when I actually took a second to stop, the focus isnt great as I was hurrying and my heart/lungs were pounding heavy- hard to hold the camera still….), and a couple pics of the goats:

At this point I thought he may pull out a knife and attack a goat, I mean I seriously thought this may happen and he’d head back up the trail with a goat strapped to his back, this guy was an absolute nut. We finally started simply fast-walking the rest of the trail as he repeatedly crouched behind bushes/rocks looking for wildlife, meanwhile I’m there behind him holding onto my f&cking pack strap, sleeves tied around my waist, with a fluorescent green shirt and swimming trunks on looking at the guy “sneaking” around, thinking: "dude, are you kidding me?". We got to the bottom, and it was awesome, it was a sight to see with a beautiful peninsula, a beach, a waterfall coming down a valley, and some sea cliffs which I am a sucker for (but Johnny, no sign of Noah’s Ark here either). Here are some sights from the bottom, and also a couple from the hike back up (notice me holding the strap with the jacket sleeves as a waist strap – also, for perspective the beach you see in the first picture on the lower right [taken during the hike back up] is where I was standing when I got those pictures of me taken, and took others...):

So a little about this trail/peninsula, it’s super interesting- the village/colony you see is the Kalaupapa/Makanalua Peninsula. It was a leprosy colony in the late 1800's/early 1900's where they would basically dump people to die. The peninsula is guarded by sea cliffs and mountains that are thousands of feet tall so it kept the leprosy patients quite separated from everybody else. It is now a National Historic Landmark, but there are around 100 people/patients still living there today. There are no roads in, only hiking trails, and nearby a small airstrip where people fly in to take a tour of the place (or you could hike a few miles in like we did). They also only get supplies once a year when a barge shows up. Read this link on the place, it's pretty fascinating (and a little sad):

We didn’t have permits, so we couldn’t enter the colony (well, “legally” we couldn’t..), but we got close enough to check it out, etc. His wife made it down 30mins later, but it gave us time to explore and walk around the beach and stuff. There were no cars in the colony, just horses and mules moving people around, cool stuff. I then mentioned that I was taking the ferry back and needed to be back at a certain time so I had better get going. I thought this was the end of our "time" together. Bear then asked me about the bike I locked up, and if I was planning on biking back. He said his bike was in his truck, and he would like to join up. So it was going to be adventure #2 for Bear and I. Then he was like: “OK honey, meet me down by the wharf, I’m gonna bike back with him, take your time..”, and we were off on the uphill sprint to the top. We traversed the 1,600 feet in no time and I absolutely dieseled the water I had left. It was still awesome out, and I was psyched about the ride back down. I told Bear I was hitting the bathroom prior to heading back, and when I got out of the restroom (couldnt have been more than 2 mins seriously...) there stood Lance Armstrong with a porn-stache. Bear was locked and loaded with a bike helmet, coconut-hugging spandex, and a racing jersey. I was like: “duuuuuuuuuuuuude!”. I almost laughed in his face. I didn’t know what to do as I was in my swimtrunks and a t-shirt, no helmet, and was thinking about how to use my bikelock to fix my pack so I could strap it to my back. Bear told me to just put it in the truck, and I’d get it back from his wife at the dock...Bear coming up huge! I was able to fly down the mountainside with nothing on my back, super relaxing and liberating. So we took off and after about 5mins Bear was nowhere to be seen. He was crouching low, getting all aerodynamic, and absolutely flying down the mountain. I think he thought there was a yellow jacket and a couple hot French chicks to kiss him on the cheek at the bottom of the hill. Meanwhile, I was on a BEACH bike, and was worried about losing my chain if I peddled at all! It was all downhill, and I was just straight up coasting, which was fine with this guy. At one point during the cruise down I could see Lanai, the west and east cliffs/mountains of Molokai, and coffee fields all over the place, the sun was out, and it was green all over and the ocean in front of me. It was awesome, and I thought to myself while laughing: “what am I doing? This is unreal!” There was nobody else on the road, it was like I owned the place. Something I will truly NEVER forget, the feeling was incredible. Bear waited for me at the end of the 7mile downhill stretch (I was actually amazed he waited for me there) and the FIRST thing he said was: “I hit 39.7 miles-per-hour on the way down, not bad, but I was hoping to break 40…”. What a jerk, straight outta Chachville. I’m thinking that must have meant I was probably doing between 25-30 mph the whole way down then, it was so much fun. We biked the 3 miles back to the dock together, and met up with his wife. I got my pack (NOTE: I dropped a bomb and bought a SICK plaid surfer bag when I got back to Maui, no more cheap bags!) and said my goodbyes. I stopped by the local grocery, grabbed a snack, and read on the wharf until the ferry headed back. It was an unreal day. Here are a few pictures from the way back (including a picture of Lanai across the way (first picture), a picture of my beachbike and broken pack on the ferry dock, pictures looking back at the east-face of Molokai, and pictures of the mountains behind Lahaina in West Maui as we approached the dock just before sunset):

So that was just THURSDAY. I love that story, so I had to go with the long version. The methods of transportation for the day (car, ferry, bike, some-dude-fake-taxi, hike) can only be matched by the notorious “Five-Borough Bar Crawl”. On Friday I did the “Road to Hana” which was absolutely ridiculous. I have posted the pictures for both Thursday and Friday already at the now “Maui-Molokai” album here:

A place I stopped along the “Road to Hana” was one of the coolest places I have ever been to in my life, no joke. It deserves it’s own post, and that’s what I’m gonna do….I have to board the flight shortly so I need to stop writing now, but I’ll get a post out about the Hana trip sometime early next week- and hopefully can post this post I'm writing now sometime today when I get to Hilo (tonight HUGE UFC fight as BJ Penn is actually from Hilo and it’s party central down here, tonight Nadal/Federer, and tomorrow Superbowl).

Real quick, as I mentioned, I’m beginning to go for the “Jawaiian”/Reggae music down here. Here are a couple samples to listen to, they are streaming links to a couple songs. Do me a favor (so the tunes wont sound so cheesy): while listening close your eyes, picture yourself on a rooftop bar with drink in hand, a cool summer night breeze livening up the air around you, and slowly dancing close with somebody you want to dance close too…then maybe you can understand why I’m beginning to be hooked:

Maoli - "No One"
Micah G - "Take A Chance"

Also, I officially am “melding” this trip into our yearly spring training outing down to Laps place in Tampa. We’re all flying down the Friday after I start work! Can’t beat a good “meld” job….

Aloha everybody, take it slow!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Life On Mars? (Bowie almost rhymes with Maui)

By Murph

First of all, thank god I've never skiied before in my life, because if I was a skiier then I would be pretty pissed that I'm down here. All you skiiers must be loving life and going every weekend, it must be a great winter for the slopes. I've found plenty to do on Maui, that's for sure. On Saturday I hung out in Kahului for the day, mostly at the hotel pool and Kahului Beach:

Then that afternoon I headed to West Maui, and checked in to the place I'm staying for this week in Lahaina. Lahaina has a really cool "downtown" area that's a oceanside road with tons of galleries, shops, and restaurants. It's real historic, and rather "classy". Most of the shops are for high end stuff, and not really sure what I would compare it to back home, kind of like the "downtown" of Bar Harbor, but maybe a little fancier. Anyway, it's a sweet place to hang and people watch, it also has a neat Wharf area, and a ridiculous Banyan Tree that takes up an entire park (I'll get a picture of it soon...). Saturday night I hit the town and several bars in the area. My last stop was at a roof top bar on the Wharf and they had a huge Samoan guy playing guitar (for you "Lichen" fans, this guy was similar in stature to "so-fat-so-good"), and singing. He was busting some RIDONKULOUS tunes. After the first few I took notes on my phone of his setlist, this is what I had captured:

Dear Mr. Fantasy (Traffic), The Waiting (Petty, I popped for this one, awesome tune..), Handle Me With Care (Traveling Wilbury's), Time After Time (Lauper), Hey Ya (Outkast), American Girl (Petty), Back In The High Life (Winwood), Heart Of The Matter (Henley), Is She Really Goin' Out With Him (Joe Jackson- I admit, I had to look this artist up), Street Fightin' Man (Stones), Into The Great Wide Open (Petty, with harmonica)

It was sick. I was all fired up after this and had a great rest of the evening. Sunday I was "stuck" in West Maui due to the Maui Oceanfront Marathon (which looks like a great race, the route it runs on has absurd views: wreaking havoc on the main drag out of town. But it was beautiful out so I decided to head to the beach for the day, the beach I decided on was Kaanapali Beach (regarded by some as the best beach on Maui), here's a couple pictures:

This area is also pretty cool, they have this place called "Whaler's Village" that has some high-end stores, and a few restaurants, it's all open air and right on the beach. And let's just say the "sights" around there are tough to beat, it's an absolute BAKERY if you hear me....after some serious beach time I decided to end the day by heading north in West Maui (opposite of the Marathon) until the road ended. This stretch of road (Route 30, only 15 miles or so of it North of where I am staying) was absolutely gorgeous. There were a LOT of s-turns/switchbacks (more on those later), and even a one-laned bridge (my old friend). Every time you came around an s-turn you were presented with another awesome view. (I started a new Maui album on photobucket by the way: It was a great drive, and the first stop I made was right after the Kapalua Golf Course (this place is SICK by the way, they just played a PGA event there a couple weeks ago), it was a place called "Dragon's Teeth". It's this lava formation that has eroded in a weird way due to the constant wind it's gotten from the same direction, here's a couple pictures:

I guess not to bore you with a zillion details about the rest of my drive I'll just say that I stopped at a ton of places along the way (including the "Acid War Zone" where the lava formations look like...well the name says it all) and took a bunch of pictures, here are a few that I snapped:

It was a blast to drive on this road, and I have decided that officially Maui is my favorite place to drive around, and I haven't even done the "Road To Hana" yet, that's planned for Friday. It's interesting to see all the different lava flows around the beaches, they have different colors, consistencies and shapes for whatever reason, and it's cool to look at the same thing from a ton of angles as it seems to take on several different forms as you move around.

Monday morning I got up at 3am and headed to Haleakala Crater National Park to catch the sunrise at the summit (10,000 feet). The last 38 miles of the drive are UP the dorment volcano, and has a million s-turns/switchbacks in order to ascend from sea level to 10,000 feet as you would imagine. The drive up was in complete darkness, so it was real weird to all of a sudden be at the summit without really seeing how I got there, I was looking forward to the drive back down. When I finally arrived at the summit it was a balmy 36 degrees out, and there was a constant 20 mph wind, it was chilly to say the least. They say the temp drops about 3 degrees per 1,000 feet of elevation, so it was around 30 degrees cooler at the summit than at sea level. From up there the stars were intense, the sky seemed to be filled with them. It's almost like you could see every last one of them. The morning weather wasnt optimal for a sunrise as shortly before dawn some clouds that were above us rolled in (optimal is some clouds below you, but none above you and then the sun uses the clouds below you as a canvas to paint with cool colors, etc..), but it was pretty ridiculous anyway. Here's some pictures of the sunrise, including one of me freezing my ass off with the sunrise behind me (the third one is pretty neat- the peak you see on the right side of the photo is Mauna Kea (volcano) that's located on the "big island" of Hawaii. It's almost 14,000 feet and will be featured next week when I fly over to that island):

I was able to find a couple rocks to sit in front of shielding me from the wind so it wasn't TOO bad, but still pretty damn cold. After the sun was up I hit the Ranger station to ask about some day hikes in the crater (actually NOT a true crater, but that's what they have been calling it....they are actually trying to go with "wilderness" now...). He came up with a good one for me that was about 10 miles, and I hung out until around 9am before heading out (it was about 50 degrees at that point). This hike was unreal. I was basically inside a dorment volcano and "cinder cones" were all over the place. The cinder cones are made of volcanic ash, and are/were vent points of the volcano. The colors were off the charts, deep reds, to greens, to browns, to random "silver swords" (silver endangered species plant/flower). After a couple miles of descent I felt like I was on another planet, like I was walking around Mars or something like that. Here are a few pictures to try and get across what I was seeing early into the hike (MANY pictures on the photobucket site, it's really hard to explain):

The further and further I went the "wilderness/crater" began exposing more of itself to me. It was truly incredible. This was another place where a different viewpoint of the same piece of scenery took on an entirely different personality. The "wilderness" started to come to life, and I came across some interesting lava formations, and even more magnificent views:

About two miles into the hike (and 1600 feet of descent) was a spur trail out to the Ka Lu'u o ka Oo cinder cone. I could tell that this side trip was going to be awesome. In the picture above you can see the trail leading out to the cone on the far right of the picture, below is a little more closeup of the path out to the cone:

The path out to the cone was 6-tenths of a mile. I headed on out, and when I got there I looked down inside and saw this:

The cone had a path that went all the way around it, in a circle, and I decided to take the round trip. I took some pictures during my trip around, and here are some of them (the first one is the cone from close up on my walk out to give you an idea of what I was walking around, all the rest are from on the walk around the top of the cone itself, and the bottom two have some people in them so they can give you a little better perspective on how big this cone was, had to be 100 yards in diameter[in the bottom one the guy is dead center of the picture]):

It was a whole new perspective on the wilderness from on top of the cone, I felt like I was right in the middle of the whole thing. I headed back to the main trail and continued on down to the floor of the crater (at 7400 feet). I sat down, had some lunch, talked to some folks, and then decided to head back out as the clouds were quickly beginning to fill the wilderness. As I was ascending back to 10,000 feet I began to feel light-headed and woozy. I was starting to have some altitude sickness. I took a break, drank some water, and SLOWLY made my way out of the wilderness back to the summit. If I started to move too quickly I would again feel light-headed, and a couple of times I thought I as actually going to pass out, it was a little scary. So I decided it was best that I went as slowly as possible, and took a lot of breaks. Each time I stopped I would look back at the wilderness and see the clouds chasing me out of there, here are some pictures from my trip out (notice the clouds coming in):

About 10 mins after I got back the wilderness was completely cloud filled, it was amazing that it happened so fast! It also dropped the temperature another 10-15 degrees so it was now back in the lower 40's. Between 7:30am (sunrise) and 3pm when I finally left the temperature went from 36, up to 52 (the high for the day), then back to the lower 40's, it was hard to stay comfortable. I was ready for my drive back down the mountain, this was a lot of fun. The s-curves/switchbacks were visible all over the side of the volcano, and good views back to West Maui were also presenting themselves (after I got below the cloud coverage...). Here are a couple of pictures from the drive down:

It was a little hazy at this point, so the views weren't the best, but still quite a sight to see. When I got back to Lahaina I took this picture of Molokai (another Hawaiian Island, I'm taking a ferry there on Thursday to do some biking and maybe some snorkeling if conditions are good) from the beach:

It was quite a day I had on Monday, being inside that crater in the "wilderness" was one of the coolest places I have ever been for sure. To wrap up the day I caught this sunset over Lanai (another Hawaiian Island) from the beach outside where I'm staying:

It was a great finish to the day.

Tuesday it poured rain all day and I hung out in Lahaina hitting up the stores, and checking out all the little galleries and stuff. It's Wednesday morning now and I'm hoping it clears before this afternoon so I can do some more exploring. Thursday, as I said, I'm heading to Molokai for the day, and Friday I'm doing to "Road to Hana". Saturday I fly to the "Big Island" of Hawaii where I'll be for the next week (in Hilo). It's been interesting that, other than in Waikiki, tourism is WAY down here in Hawaii so in some cases it seems as though I have had some tourist attractions all to myself which is super cool. It was probably one of the best times to do this, so I guess that's one good thing to come out of the sh!tty economic conditions.....

Hope everybody is braving the snow OK!

With Aloha.