Category Archives: Travel

Catching the Wave

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Along Maui’s eastern coast, on the Hana Highway, the curves become a little sharper and more frequent. On our left, the deep blue of the water disrupted rhythmically by large waves, first darkening the water, then churning it with white foam, smashing on the hot sand and retreating out to sea, taking some of the beach away, a few grains of sand at a time. On our right, a layer of puffy clouds rings the Haleakalā crater like beads of a necklace, halfway up (or down, depending on perspective) the mountain.

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From the lookout point high above Ho’okipa Beach, we see surfers floating about like a flock of seagulls, waiting to catch the next big wave and their chance for the ride of a lifetime. I can think of worse ways to spend an afternoon.

The waves crash with a deep thud on the north side of the point, onto a lava rock formation, showering the glistening jagged stones on their way to the shore. The main element stands like a cat sitting on its hind legs; the dripping surf from its chin looks like whiskers.

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Makawao, the “Old West” of Maui

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Looking down Baldwinn Ave in Makawao, on Maui, HI

This feels like an old Western movie town,” is exactly what I said staring down Olinda Road. You could almost imagine days gone by, with red dirt streets, seeing a stagecoach rolling past horses tied to the sidewalk rails, and cowboys drinking whisky in the saloon. I knew it! That’s exactly how one travel website describes it: “Makawao is famous for its Hawaiian cowboys, or paniolo. Since the late 19th century, horseback-riding paniolo have wrangled cattle in Maui’s wide-open upland fields.” An eclectic, charming, colourful—if memory serves me right, every storefront was of a different colour—and welcoming town going about its business in the midday shadows of Haleakalā.

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Looking up Baldwin Ave and Olinda Rd toward the cloud-shrouded peak of Haleakalā.

Makawao is also renowned for its thriving art community, as evidenced by the many  galleries lining the streets. We were drawn in by Hot Island Glass, with its wide-open doors through which we could see a number of art pieces on display and curious would-be-customers listening attentively to explanations about this timeless art form. Artist and glassblower Christopher  Richards was busy heating, spinning, forming with the gentle touch of a mother with a newborn baby, putting the finishing touches to a beautiful translucent multicolored jellyfish suspended in crystal-clear glass. Captivating!

At the Crossroads gallery, I met Chicago painter Mort Luby, a former publisher and AP journalist who paints with oil, and watercolours, which he proudly exhibited as the artist-in-residence on the day we visited. We chatted about art, inspiration, the difference between Chicago and Maui winters, and Mort explained some of the challenges of watercolours versus oils.

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Oil and watercolour painter, Mort Luby, at the Crossroads Gallery in Makawao (Maui).

Nestled between the many shops and art galleries are the restaurants of Makawao. We opted for the “new kid on the block” for lunch: Habibi (open for only its 5th day on our visit), the Middle Eastern cuisine creation of Michael Worrell and Lindsay Hogan. For the uninitiated, reading the menu can be a little intimidating at first with tabouli, fatoush, zaater, sambousik, shawarma, falafel, al hadiya, al souq, tahini and loukoumades. But we quickly made sense of it all with Deni’s help. Our meal overwhelmed (in a good way) our taste buds, exploding with flavours, and satisfied our appetite. Inspired by mouthwatering flavours, spices, recipes and ambiance, Habibi is its very own art gallery of the culinary type. I highly recommend stopping there next time you’re up-country, in Makawao.

Haleakalā Frozen in Time

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I met Hiu Lai Chong at the top of Haleakalā crater, on a crisp and clear February morning. I told the story of our encounter in an earlier post. Inspired and awed (I imagine, as I was) by the volcanic landscape, endless horizon, colours, sharp edges, puffy white clouds, contrasts, and the sheer surrounding beauty, she was painting the scene. Over the course of several hours, the crater was frozen in time on Hiu Lai’s canvas. Visible on the horizon are the cloud-shrouded tops of the Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea volcanoes, on Hawaii’s Big Island. A surreal landscape…

Thanks, Hiu Lai, for sending me the picture of your finished painting. I wish you continued success in your art. Mahalo! Aloha!

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Maryland oil painter, Hiu Lai Chong, paints the Haleakalā Crater in Maui, HI

Black-crowned Night Heron

The Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge, on the Hawaiian island of Maui, is home to a number of species of native and migratory birds. The coastal boardwalk provides great viewpoints to observe the many birds in the wetlands North of Kihei, and several paths lead to nearby quiet Sugar Beach.

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Black-crowned night heron on a windy day at Keālia Pond National Wildlife Refuge on Maui, HI

On the prowl with my 70-300mm zoom, I enjoyed the view from the boardwalk, which I had almost to myself on that bright but very windy Tuesday morning. The first bird I spotted was a black-crowned night heron. Its striking features make it easily recognizable: black-grey-white as if dressed smartly in a tuxedo, short and stout, two long white neck feathers, yellow legs, fierce looking red eyes, mean pointy beak. It is also most impressive in flight.

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I’ll post more birds from this tranquil refuge.

At the end of the day…

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Sunset on Kamaole Beach I in Kihei, Maui

What is it about sunsets that we find so captivating, calming, inspiring, moving even? Maybe it’s the enchantment of the infinite hues of red, orange, yellow, pink, purple, gray. Or the pure awe of watching that immense ball of fire disappear below the horizon, into the earth, or swallowed by the ocean, knowing that it will rise again tomorrow. How cheated we feel when clouds float by, stealing the show, yet clouds can add to the beauty of the spectacle, in their own way.

Sunsets are a time of peace, quiet, reflection, sharing. They are moments that we love to stretch for as long as we can, always over too soon. I love sunsets (I also love sunrises) for their colours and for the feeling of peacefulness—I get that peaceful, easy feeling—that accompanies them.

As you can imagine, I built quite a collection of sunsets from a recent visit to Maui. I’ll be posting a few here and there over the next weeks. Enjoy!

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Sunset on Kamaole Beach II in Kihei, Maui, HI

Gliding the Road to Hana

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Driving, not gliding, is the term most used when referring to the 617 curves and 59 one-lane bridges of the Hana Highway between Kahului and Hana, a little jewel of Hawaiian history nestled on the easter coast of Maui. But gliding we did, aboard the Hana Ho 12-passenger luxury van, thanks to our master tour guide and driver, Walter, of Valley Isle Excursions. For the 12-hour loop around the base of Haleakala, Walter made us laugh, taught us about Maui history and geology, pointed out botanical facts, served us lunch, gave us plenty of time (you can’t take that much time if you want to get back before dark) to see and experience Maui’s unique beauty, and returned all twelve of us back in time for dinner and another magnificent sunset.

The way to Hana takes us through the town Pai’a with its numerous little art shops and eateries. According to Walter, Willie Nelson—Uncle Willie they call him here—fell in love with Pai’a; “he may just be sitting on the barstool next to you at Charley’s, if you stop in…” This first section of the drive winds through valleys and meadows (yes, there are cows, chickens, and roosters on Maui!) and offers expansive views of the rugged lava coastline dotted with sandy beaches. We soon encounter the first of many curves and climbs; the landscape changes to a lush tropical rainforest, with dense bamboo, koa (only grows in Hawaii), rainbow-bark eucalyptus, papaya, plumeria (with its bare branches, but beautiful and heavenly-scented flowers), towering Cook pines—solitary or in small clumps, skinny, they resemble green fishbone skeletons—and banyan trees. According to Walter, “Our parents couldn’t tell us to go play in traffic (no roads, no traffic back then), instead they sent us to play in the banyan tree. If you grew up with a banyan tree in the backyard, life was good.

Hidden in the midst of the forest are a number of beautiful falls: roadside stops provide ready access to some of them, others require hiking to reach them, and a few we only saw quickly as Walter pointed them out as we drove by. Carved in the rocks by thousands of years of erosion, nested among deep greens and colourful flowers, their beauty provides a sense of calm and serenity… The road moves a little further inland as we approach Hana, the landscape transforms into a more ordered collection where human influence is evident: sugar cane and macadamia nut plantations (Jim Nabors, a.k.a. Gomer Pyle, still operates a MacNut farm here), and ranches. But a surprise left turn takes us to Waianapanapa State Park. There, we walk on a black sand beach, which felt like nothing my toes had ever experienced. The coarse grains of graphite-like sand don’t stick to your feet and instead provide a dreamy pedicure as you walk in and out of the surf; almost like walking in a tub of tiny steel shot (I imagine). I would later find out from Walter that black sand is created when 2,500C lava supercools almost instantly from the outside in, as it hits the (relatively) cold Pacific waters, forming lava glass, which quickly shatters into millions of tiny black particles that become black sand.

 

We leave Hana in our rearview mirror after a typical Hawaiian lunch and a stroll in colourful botanical gardens. Lush tropical rainforest gives way to a more arid steppe-like terrain; greens have been replaced by yellows and browns. Trees that had been so thick and tall now give way to shorter and drier ones along with shrubs. We stop by Charles Lindbergh’s grave on Kipahulu Point where one can read the following inscription: “…If I take the wings in the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea…” We eventually reach what Walter had warned us about, a few miles stretch of the Hana Highway he referred to as “the full body massage,” a stark contrast from the first-class blacktop we’ve been following most of the way, a bumpy ride reminiscent of home, hui! We eventually head east again through Maui’s up-country with towns named Keokea, Kula (and drive by Oprah’s ranch) and Pukalani. I make a mental note to later visit close-by Makawao, just because I love the name.

What a day, immersed in beauty, awe, and history. Life is good.

Painting Haleakalā Crater

A visit to the summit of Haleakalā Crater is bound to create lifelong memories, and I’m not even talking about the drive. Once I found my mountain legs, which took a few  minutes after getting out of the car at the Visitors Centre (and later at the summit), I needed to find my mountain lungs. Trekking at 10,000 ft altitude takes a little getting used to.

No matter the viewpoint, every look is as grandiose and breathtaking—I did catch my breath eventually—as the previous. The crater’s rocky rim with its jagged edges, like a giant mixing bowl, runs down to the centre where a number of reddish chimneys (volcanic cones) are visible among what looks like endless rock slides. Clouds file in from Pai’a direction and others spill over the southern rim, like fingers of a hand holding on for dear life to the edge of the crater. Everything has a lunar landscape feel to it, with much brighter colours.

Reluctantly, and after what seems much too soon, we begin the 8,000 ft descent down Maui County Hwy 378 with its 30 hairpin switchback curves, when a small sign that reads Kalahaku Overlook draws our attention. Just one more look… Along the eastern edge of the crater, we’re treated to more breathtaking views and a new sightline of the reddish chimneys. Sheltered by the rocky wall above us, the wind has stopped where we stand. We’re alone. We swear we could hear a pin drop on the crater floor; all is perfectly quiet, magical. Everything stands still save for the clouds sliding into and across the crater. We could stay here for an eternity—there’s a certain calm, zen, all around us, peace, feels so good—but I don’t want to drive down in the dark…

But we weren’t alone. A young lady artist was busy mixing oil colours and applying them to her canvas, the spirit and life of the crater appearing with every stroke of her brush. Her face is well protected from the hot sun by the shade of her wide-brimmed hat, and covered with a thick white layer of sunscreen. She smiles at my surprise, realizing that we were not alone. I ask permission to photograph her, all too aware that I am disturbing her concentration and inspiration. She explains the painting in progress briefly and returns to her work. The name on the card she graciously offered is Hiu Lai Chong, from Maryland, here for the Maui Plein Air Painting Show.

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Haleakala Crater viewed from Kalahaku Overlook, Maui, HI

Haleakala Haikus

High above the clouds
Peace, awe, and serenity
Cool wind and thin air

Awe of destruction
Lava flowed 200 years hence
Pele rests in peace

High in the blue sky
Enchantment, dreams come easy
My feet on the ground

The fright of the climb
The reward awaits the brave
Sights like no others

 

Pastels on Mokule’ia Bay

Driving the Honoapiilani Highway, on Maui’s northwest tip, we came upon Slaughterhouse Beach, a name stemming from the Honolua Ranch slaughterhouse and tanning/storage shed (torn down long ago) that were located on the cliff’s edge above the ocean.

On the sand, near the sharp black lava rocks, where the waves break with much fury and white spray, I met Montana artist Aaron Schuerr putting the finishing touches to a pastel painting of the beautiful landscape of the bay. Aaron graciously answered my many questions about his art and inspiration as he put away the hundreds of little coloured pastel sticks; each stick in its place, forming a neat kaleidoscope in the flat artist’s box.

The painting—a pastel drawing is called a painting, I learned—Aaron produced over the previous three hours captured the scene with emotion, depicting the flow of the water among the sharp lava and onto the warm sand, mixing colours and light expertly.

It’s easy to find inspiration out here. But from a quick look at Aaron’s portfolio, he seems to know a thousand more places where to find inspiration…

Pleasure meeting you, Aaron!

Haïgas on the Bay

Softness of pastels
Lend colour to a gray day
Contrast sharp edges

Rainbow in a box
Colour of the scenery
Crash, sound of the waves

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The scene at Mokule’ia Bay captured with my camera