Saturday, September 24, 2016

Charon's Hawaiian Adventure, September 2016: Hana

On Saturday I woke bright and early and headed out to do some serious touristing.

Wearing serious hiking shoes!  Oh, okay, they're tropical-weight Converses.

After narrowly escaping the bossymen on the hotel shuttle, I found myself on a tourbus with Mike, an East Coast American who was doing a pretty good job given that he had very recently arrived in town after a summer conducting whalewatch tours in Alaska. I was the only person vaguely resembling a local on this bus. Everyone else came from far away: a couple from India, a couple from New Jersey, a pair of newlyweds from Utah, a family from Chicago, some Californians. Most of them were visiting the islands for the first time. 

We started with a delay, when the first tourbus was deemed unroadworthy and subbed with one in better condition.  I was a little worried the roads might be closed but they weren’t, although we passed a couple areas with signs of recent obstructing mudpiles. We made a few stops.
Just past Pa'ia

A beach further down the road

One park had some brazen mongooses cavorting for the tourists. Usually mongooses are extremely shy, darting rapidly across the road before you have time to prime your camera, but these guys were performers. I threw them some chunks of lunch to bribe them into posing for the best mongoose pictures I’ve ever taken.

Maui mongoose


In a daze from waterfall overexposure
Black sand beach
 We stopped at Haleakala park, where I heard this awesome exchange between a ranger and a tourist.

Haleakala visitors' center
Tourist:                Red sand beach?

Ranger:                You can’t go there. Extremely slippery. Lots of trouble getting responders down there. You want to see a red sand beach, go to [extremely small and disappointing red-sand beach along the way].

Tourist:                But I wanna go see –

Ranger:                Forget it.

At the Haleakala park are a series of pools along a stream, formerly known as the Seven Sacred Pools. I’m going to head back into religion/spirituality here, so fasten your seatbelt.  I can recall some smug new age hippie friend of my ex telling me, back in the ‘90s, that she’d been to the “seven sacred pools” of Maui, which was apparently where all kinds of super wise magical extraterrestial Polynesian sorcerers would go to have magical moonbeam dolphin vibes infused into their eyeball chakras or whatever.

And I couldn’t help but feel pissed. I stuck my toes into the cultural appropriation debate earlier, and this is an echo of it. “We’re going to take everything you hold sacred and tell a bunch of lies about it, then sell it to gullible mainland tourists who’ll pay big bucks for the chance to be a smirking spiritual elitist.”

These days, tourism companies are discouraged from making representations about the sacredness of the pools – my tour was advertised as “Heavenly Hana” with no particular pool reference, other than describing them by name. In fact, I noticed a distinct decrease in patronizing portrayals of indigenous Hawaiian religion amongst the tourist pit stops.  No giggling menehunes. No sexy booty-swinging Pele. No sacred pools.

The pools are now secular. They weren’t really sacred in the first place, it was a tour company’s pitch.  The pools are awesome but enlightenment is not guaranteed. 

The menehunes, the sexy gods and goddesses, the sacred fakery – all of that stuff is cultural appropriation as I know and despise it.  I’m glad it has fallen out of fashion. 

The road the car rental companies don't want you driving on
The road behind Haleakala was bonejarringly rough, and the storm hadn’t improved things there either, although it did light up several more gushing streams and waterfalls. My brain shorted out from all the natural beauty and oxygen, and I stared vacantly through the window for the rest of the journey, stirring briefly when it was time to get back into the hotel shuttle.

It was late and I was hungry. Lunch had been a long time ago, and I had shared some of it with mongooses. I had no plans for dinner, no reservations, nothing in the fridge. I headed out to Front Street, assuming something would still be open.

I’m sure there are times when being a solo traveler puts you at a disadvantage. At one point on Molokai someone at the car rental place asked me if I was traveling alone, and I said yes. Nobody else mentioned it, or commented as to whether it was a good or a bad thing (possibly it’s a little unusual for women to solo Molokai).

I did identify a frustrating solo traveler problem – electronic car keys. If you’re soloing a beach, you gotta swim with your car keys.  What else are you going to do – leave them in the ignition? Bury them in the sand?  If they’re electronic, getting them wet – or even rained on -- is bad.  Fortunately I just happened to have a waterproof phone holder that doubles as a purse if you throw a credit card and room key in it. I could just barely squeeze my car keys in there too. 

Then there are times when being a single traveler absolutely rocks. The single rider line at Disneyland. The standby line for the good seats. And spontaneously appearing at fancy restaurants. “Oh hi, have you got anything for a random walk-in party of one? I’ll sit in the bar, and I don’t need a view.”

I pulled that at Fleetwood’s, which was packed for Saturday night, and it worked. They put me in the bar, and served me an exquisite dinner of beet salad and beef wellington, with pineapple pie and haupia ice cream for dessert. Devoured to an immaculate classic rock soundtrack, inside a shiplike interior with polished wood and perfect acoustics.

Fleetwood’s is owned by the drummer for Fleetwood Mac, a man who likes his beef wellington. There are a couple more celebrity restaurants on Maui, out in Pa’ia. Willie Nelson’s looks cowboyish in a paniolo way, and friendly. The Kiss guy’s has more of a “WTF is this brewpub doing in the tropics?” kind of je ne sais quois. I think Mick Fleetwood’s is a much better fit, a haven of eccentric Britishness blending in with the whaling-era buildings and municipal buildings from several layers of occupying colonial governments.

Really, it was one of the better days of my life. Lovely scenery. Nice people. Terrific food and fabulous music. No stress. No further flooding or flood damage. 

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