Monthly Archives: January 2017

Lahaina, Kealia Pond, Makena Nudists’ Beach in Maui

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2016-12-21

Twelve days in Maui away from Edmonton’s harsh winter. A luxury.

After breakfast, we drove to Lahaina for a relaxing stroll at the city centre. We parked beside Foodland grocery store. The boutiques and art galleries lined the street beside the sea. A girl working in one art gallery was talkative enough to give us useful information when we told her we’re heading toward Makena State Park’s beach area. It boasted Maui’s biggest white sand beach. She didn’t seem to agree but didn’t make any comments. She highly recommended sightseeing at an area of private beach beyond, which was known as the “Little Beach”: “Walk past the Big Beach, you’ll see ‘Little Beach’ full of nudists. Simply overlook the drama and keep walking, you’ll see the most beautiful view of the ocean.” We thanked her profusely and would definitely go and have a look.

Lahaina’s city centre is also home to the world’s biggest banyan tree. Coming from Guangzhou, I remember seeing gigantic banyan trees in the streets and in 华南植物园, South China’s Botanic Garden. But this one IS HUGE! The whole area it covers is almost the size of half a soccer field. The trunk is so thick that it reminds me of the humongous redwood tree truck we saw in California. It is protected with an orange net–obviously a warning sign to keep people away. The branches that grow horizontally from the trunk are already awe-inspiringly huge! it was even more amazing to see all the smaller branches growing vertically upon them. These smaller branches stand straight like a line of tree curtain. I wonder how old this banyan tree is. The wonder of nature, indeed!

It was hot, and we kept sweating walking in the street. As it passed noon, we decided to drove to Makena State Park, which lies eastward and is more than an hour’s drive from Lahaina.

 

We stopped along the way at Kealia Pond just beside the highway before we entered into a well-manicured, wealthy community call Wailea. This was the place we passed by when Jerry went golfing at the Wailea Gold Golf course earlier. I regretted we didn’t stop then to see this vast area of wetland. This time I didn’t want to miss it.

We parked our car in the parking lot, which was the starting point of a long and winding wooden walkway. It extended ahead, paralyzing the highway we drove from. The left side presents a breath-taking view of the wetland, green grass intersecting several ponds or puddles of water. The view soothed you with a sense of peace which muffled the traffic on the highway. The right side of the pathway was lined with bushes and trees. The narrow spaces in the midst of these plants gave a fragmented picture of the ocean. The design of the wooden pathway obviously encouraged a sustained appreciation of the wetland; beach or the ocean was not the attraction here.

Two pavilions decorated the pathway and offered nice stops for people to enjoy the serene picture of the landscape, to observe the birds residing here, and to take pictures of their visits. We couldn’t help pausing a while in the one perched in the middle of the walk. I was mesmerized by the overall scene, and Jerry was more interested in observing the birds with his telescope. The sun glazed, but the breeze cooled you down and made you want to prolong the walk. So I did, leaving Jerry to enjoy his obsession with plovers, pipers, and Ae’o (Hawaii stilts). And the rest of the walk was pleasant, and I wish the wooden pathway would never end.

 

We continued to drive to our final destination, Makena State Park. This park located in between Wailea Golf course and La Perouse Bay. The parking lot was right at the entrance. It was obviously a perfect day of staying on the beach. People dressing in bathing outfits and shouldering surfing gears and beach towels had already come back from the morning’s visit. They unloaded their things to their cars and got ready to enjoy the latter half of this beautiful day.

Instead of the biggest white-sand beach Jerry saw on the internet, we found the sands of the Big Beach were actually of a gold colour—perhaps enhanced with the generosity of the sunshine, but the beach WAS BIG. I didn’t plan to dress in my bikini, but Jerry packed it for me and insisted that it be a pity to reject the embrace of the ocean when in Hawaii. I felt weird to dress in normal outfit here anyway, so we changed behind a huge rock and came out like REAL beach visitors, Jerry in his swimming shorts, and I in my bikini. I put back on the lengthy, baggy cotton white shirt which was the under layer of the three-piece blouse I wore today. It turned out to be a perfect beach wear!

With the art gallery girl’s words in mind, we kept going to the right side until the passage led to a narrow rocky uphill of about ten metres. We climbed up and met people coming down. The top of the hill offered a nice view of the Big Beach on the left side. What a beautiful day today! The blue sky, the white clouds floating overhead and far there on the horizon, the dark blue ocean, the turquoise water laced with white waves close to the shore, and people relaxing on the beach and feeling the excitement of the water form a perfect picture.

 

When we kept going, we were surprised to see the sudden unfolding of another beach, smaller in comparison but with nude people lying or running or standing. Aha, this must be the nudist beach—the Little Beach—the art gallery girl told us. We had heard about a nudist beach beside UBC in Vancouver, but we had never got a chance to visit there. It would be embarrassing to be in such a place with clothes on even if it was just a bikini. But here not all people were nude. I had the impression that the nudists formed approximately 2/5 of the crowd. Thank goodness Jerry brought my bikini!

Feeling part of the group—or not, we quickly walked past, pretending that we loved stepping the seawater at the front and but were heading toward our next destination. Nudity must give people a great sense of liberation. A full acknowledgment and perhaps a celebration of the natural state of the human body. A great sense of sharing that we are human beings and we are the same. It takes great courage to stay natural like this. I find nudists subversive in this sense.

We stopped at the far end of the Little Beach where they were just two of us. Sandy beach gave way to black volcano rocks beside the sea. We couldn’t help walking and moving closer to the water. Jerry found sea cucumbers and sea urchins in a small area of water enclosed within the rocks. The memory of being stung by the sea urchin when we were at the Big Island, Hawaii, a few years ago, kept him an arm’s distance from the creatures. He felt prompted to grab a sea cucumber instead, and we were both amused when seeing it shooting out a thin stream of water from one end when Jerry held it in the air. He urged me to try. I was a bit scared and dared not to touch it at the beginning. Knowing that it’s safe anyway, I picked it up from underneath the water and posed for a picture with the sea cucumber peeing in my hand.

Such enclosed areas of water formed natural marine tank we often see in people’s household or in shopping malls. We saw miscellaneous small fish under the water, and bright orange starfish, rock-color crabs, and lots of urchin babies clinging to the rock surfaces. The urchin baby looked more like a round-shaped, footy bugs of about the size of a small piece of cookie. While the back of the urchin baby was as black as the rocks to which it clung, the stomach or belly was the lavender kind purple, a delicate, beautiful colour indeed. It made you wonder how it transformed into a creature with the hostile stinging spikes around its body.

We had lots of fun here observing all kinds of sea creatures and taking pictures, and two or three nudists left the beach area and walked on top of these black rocks close to us, but not close enough to strike a conversation.

 

We then decided to walk further along the coast. The beginning part of the trail presented a view of the most commonly seen trees naturally grown in areas close to the ocean here in Maui. These trees had sharply-angled, dark branches. They were not tall at all, but the way the branches extended offered a view of a tree net. Walking inside this net gave me a feeling of a trailblazer. The net was mirrored in the roots underneath my feet, which burst out of the ground and reminded me of another huge net growing downward to the depth of the Earth.

An Asian-looking man was walking from the opposite direction. We greeted and had a brief conversation about where the trail led to. The man said there may have been a trail closer to the ocean, but it must have been too dangerous since it’s full of volcano rock cliffs.

The trail kept unfolding uphill. We met three persons walking from the other direction, one woman and two guys. Again we chatted a little about the trail condition and the things to see along the way. The two guys wore beach shorts and the commonly seen Hawaii style cotton T-shirts with palm tree patterns, and the lady walking in the middle of the two guys wore only the lower part of her bikini. She had a beach towel hanging around her neck, though, so Jerry didn’t see she was actually topless.

We stopped at a scenic spot to have a look at the view. We found ourselves on top of a seaside cliff. The place where we were standing offered a breath-taking, panoramic view of the ocean, beautiful on such a fine day but awe-inspiring for its grandeur. From here we could see the uphill trail leading to the top of the seaside cliff. It must offer another stunning view. The cliff, rugged with a rusty colour and juxtaposed with the volcano rocks sitting at the seashore at the bottom, reminded me of the eighteenth-century aesthetic admiration for sublimity. We didn’t climb up to the top as it’s getting late. But I couldn’t help thinking what beautiful view we had missed up there.

When we drove back to our hotel, Jerry was still in good spirit and suggested we had a quick look at the Kahului, the city where the airport (OGG) located. We drove to the city centre area and parked at a big shopping mall. We didn’t expect it’s so busy, and it took a while to find a parking spot. Shopping malls are never a must-see attraction to me wherever I travel. I find them all monotonously repetitive. Yet, mollification as a cultural phenomenon seems to have dominated all big cities in North American and China now.

Hike along the Sliding Sands Trail in Haleakala National Park

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2016-12-20

We took our time relaxing in the morning. Later we drove to Haleakala National Park to do some hiking we weren’t able to do the other day because of the rainy, windy and cold weather. Today was a perfect day for hiking—warm sunshine, blue sky, a few clouds decorating rather than blocking the beauty of the sky.

When the car started to climb up the hill, I was already mesmerized by the enchanting view. The uphill highway circled around the mountain, so the viewer at both sides of the car can take turns to have a closer look at the view outside the window. For an enjoyable and impressive passage, we were driving above the clouds. It was an incredible view each time when I looked out of the window, either from my side or Jerry’s; the green patches of the landscape beneath the layer of flowing clouds became smaller and remoter as the car circled up to the submit. The road, as you can imagine, was narrow and curvy.

There are two Visitor Centres: one is in the middle of the uphill highway, and the other at the summit. We got to the summit Visitor Centre in the early afternoon only to find it was closed. The notice said it would reopen at 3pm. I was surprised to see such an important place closed in the middle of the day within the National Park and wondered what the staff were busy with then. When I tried to glean some hiking trail information from the bulletin board, I found that the introductory literature encouraged only the Summit Trail—an easy one accessible to most visitors. The Sliding Sand Trail was still open, but the hikers were warned to hike at their own risks. The closed Visitor Centre left the impression that this National Park might be short of working staff, or perhaps the government was trying to protect the pristine nature of the place.

Jerry and I picnicked when walking along the easy Summit Trail which gave a bird view of the volcano crater far beyond. The trail was mostly sharp, black rocks left by the volcano eruption. As we saw a thin stream of people walking downhill along the Sliding Sand Trail, we decided to join them.

The trail was an easy hike at the beginning as it’s mostly downhill and since the view was stunning. The walkway was nicely paved—with natural sandy debris obviously. We met quite a few returning hikers who were having a more difficult part of the walking journey. Panting heavily, they perhaps envied us doing the relaxing downhill walk and missed the former part of their journey. We did see two of the hikers running energetically, which made me wonder if they just chose one kilometre of the trail and run back and forth along it as part of their daily workout.

When we reached the midpoint of our hike, we saw a young girl of probably Sarah’s age—around twenty years old—standing tall on a boulder gazing at the crater in her view. We joined her in the admiration of the grandeur of the landscape, imagining with an overwhelming sense of awe the power of nature in transforming the surface of the Earth and the vulnerability of humanity. All three of us were completely mesmerized by the sublimity and beauty of the scene.

As I saw little dots of people walking along the edge of the crater, I couldn’t help asking the girl if she knew how far it was from here to the crater. She couldn’t tell exactly. She was thinking of hiking another trail and would stop here, and she was already satisfied with what she had already seen. She was friendly and offered to take a picture for me and Jerry together, which we happily did, and it turned out to be one of our favorite pictures of the trip.

The girl left to move on to the next destination in her hiking agenda, and we stood there a little longer, trying to absorb the beauty of the view to the full. A man at his early middle age came over, with a talk walk in hand. Unlike other hikers who dressed in thinner clothes, this guy wore a down jacket and a knitted winter hat. I guess he must have come from a tropical warm place who were adequately prepared for the cold of the mountain here. But his dark beard and complexion also made me think he might be from the Middle East. He looked quite relaxed, telling us his plan was to hike just to the edge of crater down there and then return.  His relaxed manner encouraged us to do the same.

Leaving the man to his admiration of the scenery, we continued to move ahead. After about ten minutes’ walk, we were amazed by a very special plant standing along the trail. The plant was about a metre high, or the height of Jerry squatting down. The part close to the root looked like a swirling skirt of a dancing girl. Seeing from afar from a two-dimensional point of view, it appeared to be an equilateral triangle. Some of these plants bore darkened, dry flowers from the stem shooting upward from the middle, and the flowering part was similar to that of a lupin, a commonly seen ornamental plant in the yards of many Edmontonian homes.

I raised my iphone trying to take in the whole scene with these unique plants in view. This is one of the pictures I feel very proud of. Close to the view is the iron-rich, rusty red, landscape decorated with little white dots of dancing girls’ skirts floating gracefully here and there. Farther away the skirts get smaller and the colour of the landscape becomes subtly more colourful; adding on to the rusty red are dark green, brown, dark grey, black, light brown, all harmoniously coexisting and forming a wonderful painting of a unique volcano mountain scene. The remotest part of this view is the sea of clouds behind, giving you a feeling that you’re in a surreal wonderland that exists only in fantasy novels or movies. The certainty you know that this is not fantasy gives you a tremendous sense of awe and satisfaction.

Jerry in the picture with a backpack walking toward the clouds immediately adds meaning to the pristine scene of nature. This will be another great addition to the photo series I’ve conceived a million times – 伴我走天涯. English title of this series? Perhaps The Meaning of Love, not a literal translation of “Accompanying Me to the End of the World.”

I couldn’t help feeling regretful for the girl we met earlier. What a pity to give up the hike in the middle of the way! I bet she would have had another wow moment if she had gone further just for another ten minutes. But after a second, I thought, “So what?” Perhaps it’s important that she already felt happy and contented.

It turned out later that we missed the trail leading toward the crater. We hiked even further, and another pleasant encounter that resulted from this “wrong” direction was meeting a group of five young people—again about Sarah’s age—who were courageous enough to have been backcountry-camping in this area. When we told them we hiked all the way from the summit, they all cast on us a look of admiration. And by then I knew that we had achieved an impressive distance along this Sliding Sand Trail hike.