Thursday, June 20, 2013

All Aboard the Solstice and Maui, Day 1

After spending some wonderful days in Honolulu, it was time for the real vacation to begin! Bear in mind, I had almost been on vacation for 5 days at this point, but whatever. Details!

Honolulu is an interesting city in terms of transportation. I guess they want everyone there to feel like they are rich and famous...because not only can you hail a taxi when you need to go somewhere, but can hail a LIMO taxi. And you can also call them to come pick you up and it costs the same (or less) than a regular cab. At least it did with the coupon we pulled out of a flyer we got at the hotel. So of course we took a limousine to the port where our cruise ship was waiting.

Climbing into the limo....

They see me rollin, they hatin.

Getting aboard a cruise ship is always a bit of a pain. There are long lines, lots of waiting, grumpy old people...but when you travel with Chris and Kent (who are frequent cruise club members) you get to forego a lot of the waiting. We hooked up with Monique and were aboard in the ship in only about an hour. But then we got some surprising news.

Turns out on the cruise ship before us, when the ship was around Australia, there was an outbreak of the Norovirus--every cruisers nightmare. For those not in the know Aunt Nora (as we like to call her) is an easily transmittal virus that causes severe gastrointestinal problems. You know, diarrhea, vomiting, all that lovely stuff. It's basically the bane of a cruiser's existence since it's spread by touching something someone who was infected touched (like a banister or door). Seriously people, WASH YOUR DAMN HANDS. Gross. The good news is only a handful of people were affected.

There are strict regulations regarding what happens after a Norovirus outbreak, and in the case of Celebrity it means the entire ship had to be disinfected. Which means even once we got on the ship we weren't allowed in our rooms for several hours since the crew was taking extra precautions with the disinfecting. It also meant that throughout the cruise we were required to use hand sanitizer at the entrance to every restaurant, were not allowed to serve ourselves at the buffet (which is actually really annoying and caused traffic jams), and were not allowed to use menus at the bars.

Poor little rich people, right?

We decided to pass the time waiting for them to clean the ship at the martini bar. As you do.

But all of the precautions worked because there was no Aunt Nora on our cruise, hurray! Aside from a few inconveniences (described above) there was no issue with the virus at all. Which meant we could focus on all the fun we were going to at our first port of call, Maui!

We were visiting some of the islands twice during our cruise, and Maui was one of them. Our first day there, Monique and I had booked a tour through the cruiseline that would take us up to the Haleakala crater and then down through some of Maui's rainforests. But first! Some interesting and informative background!

Maui is the second largest of the Hawaiian islands with the third highest population of the islands.
Native Hawaiian tradition gives the origin of the island's name in the legend of Hawaiʻiloa, the Polynesian navigator credited with discovery of the Hawaiian Islands. According to that legend, Hawaiʻiloa named the island of Maui after his son, who in turn was named for the demigod Māui. The earlier name of Maui was ʻIhikapalaumaewa. I think we can all agree that the change was for the best.

And now! Science! From wiki, "Maui's diverse landscapes are the result of a unique combination of geology, topography, and climate. Each volcanic cone in the chain of the Hawaiian Islands is built of dark, iron-rich/quartz-poor rocks, which poured out of thousands of vents as highly fluid lava, over a period of millions of years. Several of the volcanoes were close enough to each other that lava flows on their flanks overlapped one another, merging into a single island. Maui is such a "volcanic doublet," formed from two shield volcanoes that overlapped one another to form an isthmus between them."

I don't know about you, but I think volcanoes and lava are like, the coolest thing ever. It must be from all those science projects of building volcanoes. Or maybe that Tommy Lee Jones about the volcano in LA. Either way, volcanoes are bitchin.

So bright and early, Monique and I loaded up into a bus at the port town of Lahaina and headed out for a volcanic adventure. Per usual, it was a bit of drive--it took about 2 hours to climb the winding Haleakalā Highway which leads to the top of the crater. The highway is a series of switchbacks that travels up almost 10,000 feet to the Haleakalā National Park.

Some background on the volcano: Haleakalā (house of the sun), or the East Maui Volcano, is a massive shield volcano that forms more than 75% of the Hawaiian Island of Maui. The tallest peak of Haleakalā, at 10,023 feet (3,055 m).  From the summit, you look down into a massive depression 7 miles across, 2 miles wide, and nearly 2,600 feet deep. The surrounding walls are steep and the interior mostly barren-looking with a scattering of volcanic cones.

Basically, it looks like an alien planet, think Star Trek. It's shocking after seeing so much lush greenery, to encounter such a barren rocky terrain. It's also very cold and windy. But worth it to just stand there and look out from the edge of the world. We were even higher than the clouds and could see them rolling in through the valley of the depression. It's definitely something I won't ever forget.

After wandering around the volcano for a while (and posing for a series of goody pictures......)

Oh, come on. You knew it was going to happen.

....we loaded back onto the bus and headed to an adorable ramshackle little town for lunch at an "Italian" place. I use the parentheses because, honestly, it wasn't too authentic. But we still had some good eats and got to window shop at the little tourist trap shops. And after THAT we got back on the bus (of course) and drove to a botanical garden on the rainforesty side of the island. There were some amazing plants and trees whose names I never learned. But! Beautiful greenery! It was like Jurassic Park up in that place. In fact, the soundtrack might have been running in my brain on a constant loop through my entire trip...might have. Yeah, right. Of course it did!

Thus endeth Maui Day 1.....coming up next time, a helicopter adventure on the Big Island! Also, we kind of sort of accidentally hitchhike with a pair of stoners.

Palm trees!

Eerie and beautiful tree.

Like Jurassic Park, amirite?

Red hibiscus (the yellow version is the Hawaiian state flower)


Clouds rolling in.

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