Saturday, June 12, 2010

My Island Home

By Sundance:

Part 1: Yana in Hana

Total distance on Maui: 183.12 km
Total distance: 7381.8 km

What with our change of plans and flight schedules, we decided to unpack our bikes and take a tour around the south-east part of Maui, to get out of Garrett and Crystal's hair, and take advantage of the extra time we had up our sleeves.

But first, Yana's birthday. On the Monday, we headed out to the Emerald falls again in our rented car to wander through the bamboo groves and frolic in the water. After that we drove back through Paia and went to Mana foods in search of vegan key lime pie to serve as Yana's birthday cake. They were all out, but instead we got an amazing little ginger cake which went down extremely well.

On Tuesday the rental car had to be returned, so we headed to kite beach in the morning, and I got in some more kite surfing practice before returning the car, then wandered back to the beach for some more kiting. I actually managed to stand upright for about 25 seconds, which was a great feeling, and made me think that I might be getting the hang of it.

Wednesday and the early part of Thursday were taken up with unpacking and reassembling our bikes, and by Thursday afternoon we headed off from Makawao through Pukalani (to get some supplies), then uphill towards Kula. As it was a late start, we didn't go very far, and hunted around a little in Kula for a place to camp for the night. We settled on a local church, where we were given permission to set up our tent for the night. The next morning we set off again through pleasant bushland, to the south coast of the island. The road started off nicely but eventually deteriorated into broken pavement, coupled with a persistent headwind (which we expected, given the prevailing wind direction on Maui), dry terrain, and frequent hills. It wasn't fun, especially as the broken bitumen stopped us from building up speed on the downhill stretches to tackle the uphill stretches with. Eventually we made it to Kaupo and a general store where we made lunch and purchased a couple of frozen fruit icy-poles. We were even treated to a view across the sea to The Big Island, and a rainbow (visible below the horizon!) letting us know that we were entering the wet, lush side of the island. We rode on further and a dirt road (which we agreed was better than the broken pavement) and eventually found a place to turf-surf about 10 km south-west of Hana, on a property with a dog who's bark was worse than her bite, and a horse that didn't belong to the owner of the property, but just seemed to like hanging around there.

On Saturday morning we made our way into Hana, scouted around for more supplies at the two general stores in town, and hung out a bit drinking a smoothie to recharge our batteries before heading onwards. A little way past Hana we detoured to a local state park so that I could take a dip in the ocean at a black sand beach, as I felt we had better enjoy being by the beach, what with the weather being hot and tropical and all that. A bit further on we pulled into a roadside food stand, to discover that we'd been leapfrogging a pair of hitch-hikers who we'd noticed in Hana. We chatted a bit with them and then settled down to a plate of chicken, while they caught a ride further ahead. After riding onwards, we found ourselves more and more surrounded by beautiful rainforest and vistas overlooking the sea. At one point we stopped to look at a gorgeous waterfall cascading to the side of the road, and refill our water bottles from the water running off the nearby rock faces. As it was starting to get dark, we looked for another turf-surf a couple of kilometers further along the road. Selecting a friendly-looking house, Yana knocked on the door, and we were welcomed in by Charles, who told us that he and his wife, Linda, were avid travellers too (though they tend to go kayaking in South-East Asia), and would be glad to put us up for the night and share traveller's tales. We had a fantastic evening chatting with them, a comfy night sleeping on a futon in one of their numerous spare rooms, and after breakfast Linda showeed us around her studio where she does wonderful paintings of beach scenes.

The rest of the day we wound our way along the Hana highway, back into familiar territory. We stopped at Ho'okipa beach to watch the windsurfers playing, then made our way into Paia for a gelati (finally using the $5 I'd been given as a birthday gift for its intended purpose!) and dinner at the delightful Des Amis cafe. They have a limited menu, but their Greek platters are amazing! After dark we headed back up the side of Mt. Haleakala to Garrett and Crystal's place, and after making a start on disassembling the bikes, turned in for the night.

Monday was taken up pretty much completely with packing. We re-boxed the bikes, then fiddled with the remaining luggage, trying to make our carry-on and checked baggage fit within the size and weight allowances. By Monday evening we were ready, and headed to the airport to drop off our checked baggage before heading to the Whole Foods Market in Kahului to have an all-too-quick sit-down dinner with Garrett and Crystal. Then it was back off to the airport for our flight to Honolulu. We collected our bags upon arrival, loaded it on a trolley, and found ourselves a moderately comfy-looking couple of benches in the vicinity of the JetStar check-in counter to wait out the night. Our flight was fairly early Tuesday morning, so thankfully we didn't have to sleep too much (we couldn't have if we'd tried!) before it was farewell America.

Thanks America. We had a great time. Despite your often bad reputation in the rest of the world, we can honestly say that we found Americans to be among the kindest, friendliest, and most generous people we've ever met. It's been a delightful experience. But, by the same token, there's no place like home...

Part 2: No matter how far, or how wide I roam, I still call Australia home.

It's a ten-and-a-half hour flight from Honolulu to Sydney. A pretty uneventful one at that. We watched some videos on the inflight entertainment and our laptop. We crossed the International Date Line (and the equator) and Tuesday became Wednesday. And eventually we spotted a sliver of land that we knew to be the coast north of Sydney. There was a mixed feeling. It was nice to be so close to home, and yet, at the same time I'd hoped so much to be seeing that sliver of land from the deck of a sailing vessel, instead of a seat in a passenger jet, that I couldn't fight off a twinge of disappointment.

Land. Gather bags. Disembark. Present customs arrival cards. Collect baggage. Collect Bikes. Wait in line at customs/quarantine inspection (we even met a guy who worked there who is planning to ride from Vancouver to San Diego later this year). And then we were through, officially back on Terra Australis.

My favourite part of Sydney airport is the ramp into the public arrivals lounge. Over the ramp are a series of banners, half of which bear the slogan "G'day. Welcome Home". Those three words mean an awful lot.

It was 5:30pm and we were both ravenous. We threw ourselves at the nearest eatery, marvelling at the absence of Burger King and other now-familiar American brands, and the profusion of roasted vegetable foccacias, meat pies, and fruit salad with real yoghurt - and not a drop of high-fructose corn syrup in any of it! The food tasted glorious, and we decided that yes, everything really was as good as we remembered it. Eventually we had to get organised, and we got a taxi-van ride out to my uncle Tony's place where we're staying while we get under control for the ride back to Adelaide. We slept soundly. The following day we got a lift into town, and caught up with my mate Stewart (from my PhD days) for lunch, then wandered around Darling Harbour until sunset, and upon returning home were treated to a lamb roast that Tony whipped up which had to be tasted to be believed. On Friday morning we started reassembling our bikes, and Tony and family took off for weekend away (it being a long weekend). We have spent the rest of Friday and Today taking care of small necessities - getting a new Australian mobile phone number, dropping our bikes off at a bike shop to get some worn parts replaced, lunch with Yana's uni friend Ben, and wandering around soaking up the atmosphere of Sydney, with its slight sheen of pre-World Cup excitement. Tomorrow we may head out to the Blue Mountains and be tourists. But whatever we do, it's nice to be woken by the sound of kookaburras in the trees outside.   

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