There are places that pull me back.
India pulls… A great continent, filled with amazingly beautiful people, with history, chock full of gods. I’ve only been there once, and since then Mother India has been calling me home. I daydream of staying there for months, attending a northern Indian wedding, getting painted by the rainbow at Holi, being invited by a beautiful smiling man to share chai, stories, and perhaps his bed.
I’ve seen a lot of the world. Not all of it, not even close. It’s a big place. Filled with interesting people. I’ve seen more of it than most, and that just leaves me wanting more. My name’s Ron, and I’m a travel junkie.
Maui is another place that calls me back. I work on the mainland, so trips to Maui come out of my vacation time. A week here means one week less elsewhere, but still I come every year, to dive and meet friends and to snorkel. Within two hours of touchdown I’m cleansed of stress and I’m ten years younger.
By rough count this is my 12th visit, and it’s as magical as the first. On this trip Bobby conquered his fear of drowning (but not of frogs), and I discovered that it’s really fun to carve a pumpkin underwater in a surging current. We shot attacking zombies from an armored truck, and shot a beautiful surfer boy as he contemplated entering the crashing surf.
Maui is a vibrant island. Yes, the folks here are mellow, but somehow they seem to live more deeply as well. During the day they work, and at pau hana they head to the beach to meet friends and talk story. There are house parties every night, with cheap beer and gossip and dancing and keiki running everywhere.
On this trip we attend an Octoberfest party run by Aniko & Istvan. Everyone is in ‘traditional german garb’, where ‘traditional’ is for a Germany where all of the men wore shorts and duct-tape suspenders. There was beer, and Aniko made Hungarian sausages, so, yum. We danced to “What does the fox say?” at least three times, and “Gangham Style” once.
On All Hallow’s Eve we lurch our way to a zombie party held by Don and Rachel. The yard is filled with the living dead in various states of disrepair, feeding on melon brains and cake eyeballs. There is a zombie dance-off, and a ‘most rotted teeth’ contest. There is much staggering, much laughter, and much aloha.
We’re spending two nights in Hana this visit. I can’t recommend it enough. Hana is Old Hawai’i, where everyone waves as they drive by, and five-year-olds earnestly welcome you to “play with us if you want to”. It’s a town where open mic nights alternate between traditional ukulele and erotic vagina poetry, and everyone knows everyone else.
We go to Uncle Bill’s for breakfast, but Phyllis the owner is taking a writing day, and Bill’s is closed. We sit down anyhow, and a beautiful woman appears and offers us coffee. We drink it and it is thick and black and it makes us happy. Amber seems pleased to be able to caffeinate us, and isn’t bothered when she learns that none of us brought cash. “Drop it into the apple anytime” she says pointing to a cookie jar, and then she returns to tending her garden.
We chow down on some banana bread, and head over to Red Sand beach, a short walk from the center of town. To get to Red Sand you walk across a school lawn, climb over a compost pile, walk downhill past the old graveyard, and scramble over some gnarled tree roots. After walking along a well-worn path you descent again to edge of the water and walk along a rocky beach. You then walk up a steep cinder path along a cliff which then becomes a narrow lava ledge. The foot-wide ledge hangs over the churning ocean. You turn the corner and there is the beach, a rusty expanse of sand in a small cove. What makes Red Sand unique is that there is a natural flow of lava across the opening of the bay. On the outside of the wall, the ocean would toss you around like a dog with a chew-toy. Inside the rock wall the waves are domesticated into a pleasant bubbly Jacuzzi™. We spend two hours swirling in the magical waters, laughing, talking with others who come to share the ho’okalakupuna kai.
Naps are mandatory here. (I think that there’s a law…) 2 hours is a good amount of time, followed by a snack and perhaps a ration of rum. If the snack and/or the rum are of generous portions, they can naturally lead to a second nap, and no one will think the less of you.
At 5pm I go out walking with my camera. The sun is setting, and the air is cooling. I walk along the town beach, and four little girls follow me earnestly, asking every time I stop “what are you doing?” I show them the photos I take of small items that have swept up on the beach, and of large items that emerge from the sand, the remnants of old structures.
I walk across the athletic fields, and stop to watch the sky redden over the tennis courts. A few small children gather around me to ask me what I’m doing, and when I show them the viewfinder of my camera, they consider it as thoughtfully as the most over-educated art critic. One 5-year-old somberly says “That’s really pretty” and I smile. I think it is too.
The single hotel in Hana has beautifully landscaped grounds hidden away behind electronically-controlled gates. I wait for a hotel resident to open the gate and then slip in as the gate is closing. When you don’t belong somewhere, act like you do and you’ll rarely get questioned. I wander down the middle of the hotel grounds, around the infinity pool, and down golf-quality lawns towards the ocean and the sunset. No one bothers me.
At the edge of the ocean is a paddock containing a dozen horses, beautiful sleek animals that are clearly well-loved. I open the gate and enter, and several horses walk up to me and begin to nuzzle me, nudge me, taste me. I stroke their noses and sides, and remember how much I love horses. One night in college I slept all night in a horse pasture. A horse layed alongside me and I could feel its warmth all night. I woke the next morning with several horses standing over me, gingerly placing their hooves so as to not hurt me.
The sun has set, and it’s getting dark. I snap a few photos of the horses, stroke their sides once more, and head to our cottage. We sleep with the doors open to the outside, and it’s noisy. Bobby wondered why there was so much traffic all night until I pointed out that what he was hearing was the sound of the surf.
The next morning Bobby and I get up early to shoot some photos. One of the locals told us how to find Oprah’s private beach. We hop a fence, walk down a two-track road, and arrive at a small and peaceful sandy beach just as the sun is rising.
This is Maui. It’s the most suburban of islands, but it’s also an island of eccentrics, pirates, zombies, and hippies. There are also meth-heads and con artists and angry drunks, but they’re a minority and easily ignored. I have no doubt that I’ll continue to return to Maui’s loving arms as I grow older, and I’ll always be a little kid here, stopping to play.