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Friday, December 22, 2006

Friday, December 22, 2006 – Maui Day One

This morning started pretty early, with a trip to the buffet en route to our 8:15 shore ex meeting point. It was my first trip to the fully stocked breakfast buffet, and it was pretty good – too many choices! Lots of nice fruit (which I’m definitely going to miss at the end of the week!)

Mom and I headed down to the Stardust Lounge at 8:10ish, and waited for our group to be called – at 8:15, we were sent downstairs to get off the boat, two members of the tour short... any guesses? Yup – Peter and Grampa were the last ones on the bus, about 5 minutes after the rest of us.... They did have a valid excuse though- Peter’s card stopped scanning and therefore he couldn’t get off the boat until he went up to the front desk and collected a new card.

We were doing our only shore ex with the four of us together, and were headed up to Haleakala Crater, which is a dormant shield volcano at one end of Maui, standing (is that how you describe it?) at about 10 000 feet. I was a little bit worried about the drive, because it wasn’t until after I booked it that I heard them say it was one of the windiest roads in the country on the in cabin TV. (As in twisty, not windy). Being a fairly car sick prone person, I was a little worried about it, but it turned out to be completely fine!

Our guide, a native Hawaiian was really good and kept us entertained for the 1.5 hour ride up to the crater. We had a brief stop at 7000 feet in a visitor center in order to get acclimatized to the altitude, before continuing up to the top. The scenery the whole way up there was pretty spectacular, including 8 miles of open range, which was SO green! As we were driving up, at about 9am, there was amazing light as well – like that afternoon golden hour light – gorgeous!

We were in a big comfy tour bus, and mom and I scored front seats, so we could see over our driver’s shoulder, plus out the huge picture windows beside us, which definitely helped us with the carsickness! That road is pretty amazing though – switchback after switchback, and a huge rise – It’s in the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest/highest climb by road in the world, and it WAS a pretty quick way to get up to 10 000 feet! There were also no guardrails, which on the way back down was a little bit worrying – there were some fairly sharp drops, and because of the way the bus is constructed, it looks like the bus is going off the edge of the road, even though all four wheels are still on the pavement. Luckily, the road was in fantastic shape, and Henry the driver (that’s his middle name, his Hawaiian name, which means ‘the king will never die’, escapes me) was really slow and careful – he also went off the mike for the worst part of the road coming back down in order to concentrate better.

We saw a ton of cyclists on the trip – you can go up to the top of the crater and then cycle down the road for 38 miles. Henry had tons of horror stories about it though – people seem to drive either off the road or across into the oncoming traffic on a fairly regular basis, which I can completely see, especially since the trip starts at 4am so you can be up at the crater for sunrise before you go flying down the mountain.
(crazy bikers about to start their trip)

The crater itself was pretty impressive – its 3000 feet deep and pretty wide as well, a very Martian landscape. There is a five hour horseback ride into the crater which would be pretty cool as well – the horses were pretty entertaining - they looked like coin operated horses for all intents and purposes, though I’m sure the people riding them, who didn’t look very horse experienced won’t be walking too well tomorrow – 5 hours up and down hills is a rough ride!
(above the tree line and clouds! approx 9000 feet)
(interesting yard art)
Came back down to the ship at just past noon, and Grampa and Peter continued on Peter’s goal of seeing as much of every island as possible. They rented a car and drove to the town of Lahaina on the other side of the island from where we dock. Since we’re going there after our surfing lessons tomorrow, Mom and I decided to relax, and just do what we wanted to even though it wasn’t so ‘vacation-y’.

We got back on the ship and had a snack in the buffet before Mom headed back to the cabin for a nap in the hopes of kicking some cold she has percolating through her system. I stayed up on the deck, but since I had nothing to read, I continued listening to my ‘This American Life’ podcast that I started on Anna’s beach, and, predictably, fell asleep for about 15 minutes, just long enough to completely lose the plot, since they switched acts on me while I was snoozing. Went back to the cabin, and sensibly set a wakeup call before settling in to ‘watch’ CNN for about an hour.

Thanks to the wake up call, we were up at about 3, and jumped on the free shuttle to the biggest shopping center on Maui, only about 5 blocks away. We finally got internet access at a Starbucks, and so I had a chance to back post the last four days of blogging (I stupidly didn’t bring the card reader, so no photos yet!), check my email (my email forwarding seems to be screwed, so I hope nothing too critical is sitting in Tokyo), and chat with Andee for a bit (get better soon and I hope Denver defrosts for you soon!). It was good to touch base with the world! I also went to Boarders and got a few magazines which was great –they’re one of the things that I really miss from home, I can’t justify paying 12-15$ for a magazine like AZURE, or even Cosmo – they’re so expensive in Tokyo, and I really love reading them, so I’m planning a stock up in Walmart here when we do our food shopping next week.

Headed back to the ship, via Longs to get a snorkeling film of Mom’s developed, and then went to Crossings for dinner again. Peter and Grampa got stuck dropping the car off at the rental place, so Mom and I ate alone tonight. We tried to get Anna again, but unfortunately for us (good for her though), she got closed early tonight so she could go rest up and sleep off her pain medication (broken tooth). We felt really bad for her, but we were in the section next to hers, so we got to chat with her a few times during the night as she finished her prep for tomorrow morning which was great – we have breakfast and dinner tomorrow to try and connect with her a last time before we get off the ship.

Our waiter was great though, and Mom and I took Freestyle dining to a whole new level tonight, eating dinner in reverse order. It was great, because we’ve been having issues having enough room for dessert, but we didn’t mind being too full to finish our appetizers. The dining room was nearly empty tonight, which was a bit odd – there are 2100 pax on board, and only 500 went to the Luau, so not sure where everyone else was. The entire ship has actually seemed fairly empty all day – guess there were lots of people out enjoying Maui!

Met Grampa and Mom for the crew talent show which was good fun – there are some very talented people on board! Highlights (err well entertainment wise moreso than talent wise) included Fith and Mike’s (cruise director and asst. cruise director) swan lake rendition, and ‘Fountains’, the disgustingly hilarious water spouting show involving most of the entertainment staff.

Grampa and Peter wanted food, so we headed up to the Longboard Café (the sports bar), which is where I am right now – they’ve finished their meals and headed to bed, and I’m just finishing up the blog. This thing is getting out of control on this trip! When I add photos its going to be ridiculous!

It seems very weird that it’s almost Christmas! For everyone traveling home in the next few days – which is probably a few of you since exams are finally finished for everyone, hope they went well, have a safe trip back, and enjoy the holidays!


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