Monthly Archives: April 2016

Home sweet home

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After every holiday there is home. My space to relax and plan for next trips, holidays, adventures. I love planning. It seems there are always places to visit, things to do, countries, cities, landscapes to explore. Well, I followed an education in tourism management long time ago and it paid off so far. I love traveling, exploring, meeting people getting to know and respect cultures and most of all, I love to use all my senses and try to never forget what I see, hear, smell, taste and feel. Exciting the senses at home bring back memories. Looking back at my pictures, hearing certain music or songs, the smell of spices or coffee, having dinner at a restaurant.

But home is not just a house with only memories. Home is also a nice country with lovely places to explore. A bit less exotic, but ok. Let’s talk about home. The Netherlands. Small country in western Europe, flat, green, partly below sea level, with a rich history. Me, I love our cities for the great history, the nice buildings and the fact that there is always something going on. I also love the tulips in Spring, the befriended enemy called North Sea, the country side, the islands in the north…

Spring in Holland
It is Spring time. Slowly the world around me is waking up. I love this time of year. Everything is new. The flowers we are world famous for start blooming, the fruit trees blossom, the beach tents are build up again for a new, hopefully warm and sunny Summer season. Well, warm… that isnrelative of courde. We Dutch already sit outside in the sun (ok, behind a screen of glass) when temperatures reach about 15 degrees Celcius (59F).

I simply love to see the bright colours of the flowers appear again. With the tulips coming up and the fruit trees blossoming, I feel the energy of nature. I want to enjoy every second of sun, smell the fresh air, feel the warmth on my face, hear the sound of the birds building nests. I live in a very urban area on the west coast, but still all these things I can find around me. I simply walk through the parks and along canals like I am on holiday in my own town.

Spring breathes new life in the world around us

Aloha

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Hawaii – thank you for having me. For showing me your beauty, your kindness, your hidden treasures. For showing me shaka, the concept of friendship, understanding, compassion, and solidarity. I have enjoyed you with all my senses,and hope to take some of your spirit home, to adopt in my own life.

Aloha, a very powerful word, greeting, way of living. What does it mean:
A Akahai – meaning kindness (grace), to be expressed with tenderness.
L Lokahi – meaning unity (unbroken), to be expressed with harmony.
O ‘Olu’olu – meaning agreeable (gentle), to expressed with pleasantness.
H Ha’aha’a – meaning humility (empty), to be expressed with modesty.
A Ahonui – meaning patience (waiting for the moment), to be expresse with perseverance.

True Aloha means you have to do all principles. So to live Aloha, is to live all of the principles. The Queen Lili’uokalani of Hawaii described true Aloha in 1917 as “To gain the kingdom of heaven is to hear what is not said, to see what cannot be seen, and to know the unknowable – that is Aloha.”

It is not just a greeting, it is a condition, a way of life, a mind set, an attitude. It is an action, not a reaction. It is a natural response of respect, love and reciprocity. It is a way of being, behaving, a way of life. It is a commitment to being real and accepting others and giving dignity to who they are and what they have to offer.

Now, struggling with my jetlag I realise how fortunate I have been to be able to visit. Whatever happens in my future, nobody can take my experience away from me. Thank you, mahalo!

Maui e komo mai

20160404_084852_crop_1278x511-750x300And then there is Maui. Beautiful Maui. No ka bi, or is the best. I will be here for a week, so let’s see. First a few days with my friend, later alone. My worries about traveling in Hawaii by myself have already disappeared in the past few weeks. It is easy done here. However, how does it feel to be alone after such an intens trip so far. Well…

First we had a few days together. One day before we took the boat to Molokai. We spend it in and around touristic Lahaina. First we drive to a nice beach just north of it. Doing some snorkling, working on the sun tan. We see green turtles, again. Then we head back to town. It is a nice, happy village with all kinds of tourist shops selling the same stuff, all made by and probably sold by Chinese. And many, many restaurants. And a little bit of culture. The Front street is the place to be. Old buildings, reminding of the past, give the street it’s cosy character. It is nice. We stroll down the street, buy some really nice cow bone carved necklaces from a Hawaiian man. Lovely. The carvings have a certain meaning, which we can find back on their website. Long lasting live, good luck, safe travels, family, etc. And if it does not work, it will look nice anyway.

After Molokai, we stil have two days together. The first we spend hiking in Haleakala National Park, the second in Kihei. My friend leaves in the evening, so we finish with a nice big hamburger with fries at some local restaurant. Kihei is a strip of a few kilometers along the coast, filled with hotels, condo’s and shopping centres. Touristic again, but in a less cosy way. We find a nice beach south of Kihei, where we can snorkel again. I am surprised, the coral looks great here. Beautiful, just accessible from the beach. Again we see turtles and nice other fishes. At the end of the day I drop my friend off at the airport and head to Hali’imaile for my first 3 nights alone.

The b&b is called ‘Gods Peace of Maui’ and it is owned by a very nice couple. I have to be honest, I have only met Mika on my last day. I could enter, key was in the door, and they did not bother me any second in all the days I was there. I like it. I realise I miss my friend, but also I know I want to stay to see and do more things. I am not done yet. First day is hiking Haleakala and meeting some people on the hike. So I was not completely alone. Although, somewhere on the track I did see something very beautiful. I was so joyful and happy to see it, that I really needed to share it. Well, that is a bit tough when you are alone. I just made a picture to send it to the people I love. Modern technology, I sometimes hate it, but i  these cases it is very convenient to be honest. As if people are right next to you. Earlier that day, an older guy was watching the sunrise next to me. He at that beautiful moment called his wife with some smartphone app. She was in a different timezone complaining he woke her up. But he was so happy to share the moment, it was somehow adorable to see. And I even understood. He just needed to share that beautiful moment with somebody he loved. Just because he can.

The next day I drive to Hana, where you can buy a t-shirt stating “I survived the road to Hana”. It is supposed to be one of the nicest roads in Hawaii, and if you have to believe the Mauians, the nicest road of the world. Well, let’s see. I start in Pa’ia, that is nice already, and drive to Ho’okipa beach. I remember my Hookipa XXL t-shirt from my youth, Hookipa beach is something different though. Huge waves, a big group of surf dudes and dudettes in the water, waiting for the perfect ride.  And when they make a ride, it is awesome! These guys know how to surf, big time. Shaka!
But I have a road to survive. It is just about 45 miles or so, but it has 59 one-lane bridges and 617 (hairpin) curves in it. And that is just one way. I do plan to go back before dark. Off I go. First bit is ok. Nice views, beautiful bays, lush green forrests on the mountain side. And yes, there are the curves. I love driving curves, even thoug I am Dutch and not used to them. I find a nice radio station to go with the flow. Left, right, left, right… Halfway there is this small village called Keanae. I am just half way! I enjoy the scenery, wild lava cliffs, some Taro fields and a big rain shower. I find a nice coffee place where they also sell fresh baked banana bread. Hmmm… I have a chat with some couples. Again I notice that I am not alone on this trip. Even though the contacts are brief and I will never see these people again, the conversations are nice. I appreciate them.

Okay, done with the fun, we need to work, drive. All the way to Hana. It takes quit some time and around 2pm I am at my destination. What 2pm already? It took me close to 4 hours and I still need to get back. However, I feel rather tired and decide to just go to a beach for a picnic lunch and a rest. I do need to keep my attention to the road and the traffic when driving back. After a while I am ready to go. Left, right, left, right… I start feeling the muscles in my belly. Good workout! There is much more traffic on the road now. I stop a few times for some pictures, but it starts raining cats and dogs. Oooh, and I get really hungry. At last I arrive back in Pa’ia, greeted by a giant rainbow. I am exhausted. What a trip. 1234 hairpin curves, poor car suspension. I go for a nice Mahi Mahi (local fish) burger and drive the last few kilometers back to my b&b. I sleep like a baby.

Time to move back to Kihei. I park my stuff with my new airbnb host and go to ‘Iao Valley State Park. A nice area according to the pictures I have seen. In the end I am a bit disappointed. The weather was not very nice, too cloudy to really see the rocky needle. But also the limitatiins within the park. Tourists are not allowed to go hiking outside the one mile pathway provided. That is a shame, as the area can be really nice to explore. I also feel the native spirit here. It is a sacret place to them and possibly that is why access is limited. Shame, but I respect it.
I decide to drive along the west coast all the way to Honolua bay. Little did I know about tourism (I just studied it 25 years ago). All of a sudden the traffic signs change, the roads are better, the environment is clean, the roadside is nice green with lots of flowers and amazing buildings. I am driving on a resort, or better, I am driving in a town, consisting of a few very luxurious resorts. It is on the roadmap, nobody stopped me, so I keep on driving. This is posh. Definitely not my style of holiday, but for a lot of other people it is.
Finally I find a small bay, with beach and picnic opportunity. As soon as I sit and unpack my lunch bag I notice two big green turtles sleeping on the beach and at least 6 more in the water. Nice! I enjoy the scenery and soon two more turtles, or Honu as tthey are called here, wash up to the shore for a nice afternoon nap. There could not have been a better picnic spot on this road. I proceed to Lahaina to just enjoy the cosy scenery and some local pork slider dinner. A nice day, without really meeting people. I feel ok with it.

Then there is a day of diving at Molokini and sun tanning. Good fun to be under water and not get sea sick. I enjoyed the flora and fauna, did see loads of fish, few nudibranch, a giant octopus and a white tip reefshark in the depths beneath me. Imagining me being under water in the middle of the pacific. Woehaaa…
Next day, surf lessons. Just because I can. It is great fun, I even feel like a surf dudette few times. But man, that is hard working. No wonder these guys are drifting for a long time to catch the perfect ride. Paddle with the arms, jump on the board, falling off, paddling back. I am exhausted after the 2 hours, but I return after lunch to give it another go. After I lost all the skin of my knees on the rough surface of the board I decide to call it the day. Veni, vidi, vici waves! The funny thing of surfing is all the other starting surfers giving you a cheer and the shaka hand sign if you manage to get up and stand for a few seconds. We are all one big family. I have a nice chat with a family from Ottawa and that is it. Again a nice day, again ending with a beautiful sunset. I am going to miss Maui, miss Hawaii, miss Shaka, miss not being worried. I start thinking on how to implement this for me in our Dutch society.

He ‘elele ka moe na ke kanaka – a dream is a bearer of messages to man.

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See some more pictures on http://www.scubajo.nl/pictures.htm.

Haleakala National Park

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Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.

On the top of our list are volcanoes. We have seen many already, also here in Hawaii. But we really saved one of the best volcanic area’s of Hawaii for last. Haleakala National Park on Maui. Haleakala means ‘house of the sun’ in Hawaiian and we planned to go there on a Friday. In just 60 km we drive up from sea level to an altitude of 3,055 m. That is tough business for our car and the driver (me). I have to say, I simply love winding roads. About halfway up the mountain we find the clouds stubbornly hanging loose. Why not, Hawaii is all about hanging loose. Will it be clear on top? We keep on driving until… we are above the clouds. Nice! We check with the ranger at the visitor center for the forecast and he tells us it might even be clear in the ‘crater’ below the clouds. Okay, let’s go down and see.

Haleakala is not a crater as such. It is a valley originated as a result of erosion of the volcanic rock. In the valley are several smaller volcanoes which are responsible for many of the eruptions in the past. The volcano is now dormant, but according to scientists not extinct yet. We head for the Keonehe’ehe’e trailhead to hike into this valley for a few miles. The weather is cold and misty. We wear jackets and keep warm by moving down. It is a relatively easy descent. In the end we probably go 350m downhil, realising we have to go up the same way. But, before we go back, we take all the impressions we can get. And with much pleasure. The landscape is not of this world and was used by NASA in the past for training astronauts. Between the hanging clouds we get glimpses of what is there. Rocks, rocks, many rocks and lava sand. And there is some life. Plants in various shapes and sizes, protected by signs telling us to ‘stay on the trail’. A unique plant we see quite a lot is the Haleakala Silversword. A very nice, but endangered plant. We are too late for the blooming, but it looks incredible. Slowly the clouds are disappearing as well and by the time we get hungry we find the perfect picnic spot. A wooden plank on 2 rocks, with a view at the valley in front of us. We sit and just watch the scene and the clouds coming in and disappearing again. This is amazing. We feel so small. Many small cinder cones are visible when it is clear and we want to climb them, but that is not allowed. We take many pictures, just because we can.

By the time we take our lunch ouf of our bags I hear a strange sound. Chuk, chuk… if we don’t speak, it should be completely silent in here. But now there are some chukies coming. Chukar (patrijs) they are called and they are most definitley not native. Probably they get food from hikers. We decide to go with the park advise to ignore them. Which is difficult if two of these birds are sort of chuking around you, within 2 meter distance. But we manage. Aftr lunch we go back up. A long hike, but with a surprising end. I feel like an angel when the Brocken spectre effect suddenly appears. I have a halo around my shadow… you see, I always knew there is something good in me…
We end the day with a view from the summit. We can see Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island (both around 4000m high and above the clouds) in the distance and a very nice sunset over northern Maui and the clouds.

Hiking the ‘crater’
On the Sunday, just 2 days later, I decide to go to Haleakala again for some serious hiking. I start with the sunrise, which was nice. The sky is clear above the crater, giving me a perfect day to hike. I brought enough water, food and sunscreen and take off around 7:30am. There is still some frost on the soil. The ice cristals show it has been cold up here last night. I wear my fleece, but only for a few minutes. The sun is shining and there is no wind, so it gets pretty warm. I go down the Keonehe’ehe’e or Sliding Sands trail for about 6.3km and descent roughly 800m. In the crater I eat my apple and enjoy the views. I meet some other hikers doing the same teail and after a few minutes chatting I proceed to and around the Halali’i cinder cone, which is another 2.5km. I feel small in this gigantic lava field. Lava bombs the size of skippy balls are all around me, what if…
While walking around the cone I find a 20m deep pit and a very colorfull landscape: black, grey, brown, red, yellow and white rock. All in one area like a painter’s palette.

It is relatively quiet today, only the 4 of us are doing the whole loop to the Halemau’u trailhead as far as I can see at that moment. The trail proceeds on the Halemau’u trail and I include the Silversword loop. A small detour which passes a field full with these strange plants. The views of the cliffs of the crater in the background are stunning. Lunch is after another 3.2km at the Holua cabin. We are eating and chatting and slowly see the clouds moving into the valley. They take over and somehow I am glad. After the hut the trail only heads up for about 6km and with the clouds blocking the sun it will not be too hot. We need to take a path winding at the face of the cliff, ascending a bit more than 300 meters. Probably because there is nothing much to see in the mist, I start feeling tired. Of course I cannot give up now and I just keep on going. It is like climbing a building with 100 floors, just a bit more serene. Imagine that.
After a long day, I think I have been hiking for around 6 hours, I make it to the top. Now I only need to hitchhike back to my car. It is parked at tge start of thd trail, 9km up the road and I really do not want to hike that anymore. Luckily I am not the only one hiking the trail like this. There is a special hitchhiker pick-up spot alongside the road. It takes me just a few minutes before a Swiss couple is so friendly to pick me up and drop me off at my car. I take another view at the crater and decide to drive down and get some food. I am hungry like a horse after this hike. All in all it was around 20km and worth every inch of it.

Haleakala – `A`ohe loa i ka hana a ke aloha.

Moloka’i and Father Damian

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Moloka’i, the friendly island and the island of belgian Father Damian. We arrive after a smooth ferry ride from Lahaina, Maui. Along the way we even spotted some humpback whales jumping or just swimming. We have rented a car via some local rental agency suggested by the hotel. They never really confirmed until yesterday evening. The car should be waiting for us in the harbour, with the keys under the mat. Well, let’s see…  And of course it is there. Probably the car of grandma. An old Toyota Yaris sedan, with some funny seat covers and very basic equipped. The doors open with key only. Hihi… well, it is a small island. We get in, I start the car and push the gas. We both are pushed back in our seats. This old guy has power!

Of to the hotel. We notice a difference in scene compared to the other islands. It looks more native, old houses, old cars, less hawi (negative name for white people). The hotel is really nice, and we can even still have a breakfast. Yes, getting up early gives long days. We head west, to the nicest beaches of Moloka’i. We drive through dry landscape. Was this the green island? We get to the most western town of the island. Mauna Loa… and that is it. Empty streets, cinema closed long time ago, grocery is lovely and they even have a kite shop (?) We proceed west and get to the end of the road and a lovely beach. Almost empty, just a handfull of people here. After a while we head back. We need to buy some breakfast and lunch for tomorrow. We are going on a Father Damian tour like real tourists.

Father Damian was a priest, send on a mission to Hawaii end of the 1800’s. He heard about the Kalaupapa peninsula, glued to the steep cliffs of Moloka’i, which housed a large number of people with Hansen’s disease (leprosy). They where quarantined (basically exiled), forced to live in bad conditions until they died. He wanted to help the people by buildding a church and care for them, physically and spiritually. Until, after 16 years, he died of the Hansen’s disease himself. The people worshipped him, he became a saint and there even is an official Father Damian day on April 15th. The colony was officially closed in 1969, giving the remaining inhabitants the choise to stay or leave. Most of the people stayed and now after so many years only 8 former patients remain, the youngest being over 70 years old. The other people now living on the peninsula are state workers who take care of the National Historical Park. In total more than 8500 people have been quarantined here in the 103 years of existence of the colony. The stories are very sad. Our guide was friends with one of the former patients for more than 30 years and could give these patients a face during the tour. Impressive.

Impessive is also the hike downhil and up again. 26 switchbacks, 530m down, 3.6km long. We are pepared for the worst after reading all the reviews on the internet. We start early, in the rain. No clear views, but cool conditions. That is a plus as well. After 1 hour and 15 minutes we are down. One hour too early for the bus pick-up. Like I said, we booked a tourist tour. You can only enter after an invitation of one of the inhabitants, or through a tour, which is limited to one a day. Which is absolutely fine. The way up at the end of the tour is feared most by the reviewers. One hour and 30 minutes later we are back at the car… walk in the park for us.

The last day we spend driving to the east side of the island. A nice drive, with sunshine and rain. Looking at the green vegetation it is clear where the rain falls usually. The end point is Halawa beach park. A beautiful valley with a black beach with… no one on it. As the weather is stormy and cloudy we just enjoy the views a bit and head back to the hotel. We need to take the ferry at 5pm… looking at the rough seas I fear for the worst. We take our motion sickness pills in time this time. And for the good, as the way back (normally about 1hr and 15min) takes 2 hours and feels like a very rough rollercoaster ride. Wind will be something like 6-7 bft, swell a few meter. I close my eyes, taking the advise of my friend. It takes very long, but I do not get really sick. Until we eat something and drive to our next hotel. I feel nauseous. Tomorrow better. We are back on Maui. Moloka’i was nice, but we felt like white people in a native society. Not 100% comfortable. Nothing really happend, but we were defenitely intruding. Sorry, the people of Moloka’i have a nice island, maybe because of that somewhat distant attitude.