Hawaii: Maui & O’ahu

16.12.16 – 08.01.17

After our time in South America, we actually planned to fly to New Zealand right afterwards. But checking the world map, then checking some flights, we had decided to make a stop on Hawaii as well, because – hello, what reason do we need for Hawaii?! 🙂 We didn’t wanna miss the chance to see at least one of the islands there. Our first stop would be Maui!

From Santiago de Chile, we flew via Houston, Texas to Honolulu and then Maui. The immigration went smooth („are you guys on your honeymoon?“ :)), until the point when we told the officer that we’re unemployed…holy crap. From one second to another, his facial expression changed and he started to shoot questions at us (where we stay, how much money we have, when we leave the US,…). We felt like being interrogated for a serious crime although we haven’t done anything wrong! Only the fact that we‘re currently not employed was enough to be suspects. After several minutes he decided to give us the desired stamp, not missing the opportunity to put us through a special luggage check…man, we were so happy when we finally sat at the gate for our flight to Honolulu. 🙂 We suppose for the American culture, being voluntarily unemployed AND travel does not make any sense.

We arrived on Maui in the evening and headed straight to our Airbnb place close to the small town of Paia in the North. The place we stayed at had a huge property and a beautiful big garden with banana and avocado trees, exotic flowers and a great view on the ocean (which was far away but still, we saw it ;)). We would share the kitchen and bathroom with a family from Oregon and they were already there. Hans and Ella were pretty cool and we knew we would get along with them well…and then he asked us if we wanna smoke some weed, because he has good contacts since his job is growing weed….in California…what?! 🙂 🙂 After a quick stop at the grocery store „Costco“, where you typically buy XXL packages such as 3kg of grapes, 3liters of milk and so on we go to bed early – and wake up the next day with a colorful rainbow right in front of us. Wow Maui, you beauty.

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The first days we didn’t have a car yet and stayed mostly on the property, enjoying the beautiful garden and the possibility to get settled somewhere for little bit longer. I even went so far as to unpack my backpack and store my clothes in a closet. When did we have a closet for the last time? Finally we have a car and head right away to the next beach in Kihei, the South-west of Maui. Cruising down the street with automatic gear, we feel flashbacks back to the time in the US 4 years ago where we met – great times. 😉 The water is refreshing and although we have all the luxurious hotels right behind us, there are not too many people on the beach. OMG, did we just see a whale jumping out of the water on the horizon?? Yes, no joke, while we sit on the beach, whales are playing in the water and jump…it’s indescribable. We stay until the sunset and then head to a Hula Show close by in one of the Hotel resort shopping malls. Hula actually plays a huge role in Hawaiian history:

A trip to Hawaii is incomplete without enjoying at least one Hawaiian hula performance. The hula dance is one of Hawaii’s oldest traditions and is often accompanied by either Hawaiian music (mele) or a traditional Hawaiian chant. While the Hawaiian hula dance has become a popular source of entertainment for visitors to Hawaii, its role in Hawaiian culture is to visually portray the story of the chant or song [http://www.govisithawaii.com/2013/05/21/hawaiian-hula-dance/].

For the first time to be honest, we get a little bit of a Christmas feeling there because the decoration is beautiful and the band, among the Hula music, plays traditional Hawaiian Christmas songs…Mele Kalikimaka,lalalalala… 🙂

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The next day we drive to Lahaina, a cute coastal city on the western side of Maui. It is especially known for the Banyan tree growing there, a huge tree with roots growing from up to down. The branches grow to the earth and create more roots so that the tree can get bigger and bigger. Fascinating to see. This day it is very hot outside and so I have to try the famous Shave Ice. It consists of normal ice cream on the bottom, topped by actual ice which is shaved in a round shape and sweetened by sweet syrup with different flavors to choose. I expected so much and then it was just…ice..like ice cubes with flavor…so weird. 🙂 Since we also wanted to try some snorkeling, we headed to „Snorkel Bob’s“, a store which sells and provides diving and snorkel equipment. Close by is a beach where we try to snorkel – unfortunately, the water is too wild and moreover, there’s almost no space for our beach blanket because all the hotel guests occupy the area. It is great that Hawaii has the rule to guarantee free beach access to everyone, but this sometimes means you have to enter a resort area first to even get to a beach. Like the next one we head to, where we are completely surprised by the size of the hotel area: it’s a small village! Golf resort, Spa & wellness, all combined in 3 big hotels with very expensive rooms and Americans who are obviously willing to pay 380$ the night. And there’s us, not willing to pay that but still sitting on the same beach with them – funny. 😀

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Jaws! Our next destination the following day. It’s a really famous surf spot on Maui, because only the very brave, utterly fearless surfers come here to catch waves as high as a house! They are being pulled in the waves by jet skis and then…it goes far far down. Crazy surfers. Sadly, the waves are not that high this day and so we decide to drive along the North coast of Maui. The vegetation changes immediately, everything is green and lush, it doesn’t feel like Hawaii but looks like Scotland. 🙂 The road is so windy, with narrow curves and a lot of view points for observing the steep cliffs. We stop at the Olive pools, a natural hole formation on the shore, but we don’t even make it down the stony slippery way because I slip on a stone, fall down and scratch open half of my leg (okay okay, maybe not half of my leg but a tiny part under my knee). It bleeds. I will certainly die, I know it. But my savior Jakub comes, cleans the wound with water and disinfection Kleenex and the stupid olive pools can kiss my ass. 😉 We he’d back up to continue driving to a blow hole, which blows out water from the crashing waves.

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It’s Christmas day, the 24th of December! For this special day we will do a special trip: early in the morning at 4:30am we get up, pack all the warm clothes we have (who would have thought that we need them on Maui?) and head straight to Haleakala Crater:

Haleakala, or the East Maui Volcano, is a massive shield volcano that forms more than 75% of the Hawaiian Island of Maui. The western 25% of the island is formed by another volcano, Mauna Kahalawai, also referred to as the West Maui Mountains.

The tallest peak of Haleakala (“house of the sun”), at 10,023 feet (3,055 m), is Puʻu ʻUlaʻula (Red Hill). From the summit one looks down into a massive depression some 11.25 km (7 mi) across, 3.2 km (2 mi) wide, and nearly 800 m (2,600 ft) deep. The surrounding walls are steep and the interior mostly barren-looking with a scattering of volcanic cones [https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haleakalā].

We arrive there in the early morning hours and most of the parking is full – all these tourists. We walk 5 minutes up to have a better view, make ourselves comfortable and wait for the show – the sunrise. As the first light is visible the colors are amazing! When the sun is almost up, a big cloud hides it from our view and instead of being disappointed by the blocked view, we are stunned because it looks even more magical! What a great experience.
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Being awake that early we use the day, Skype with our families, then head to the beach and get some groceries for our Christmas dinner. We want to cook something traditional and combine Slovakia potato salad with German sausage and Californian red wine – and then we realize that it is the first time for us celebrating Christmas together. 🙂
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Our new housemate Francis from Canada arrives on the 25th and since we get along with him from the beginning we decide to drive along the famous Hana road with him. We start at 7am to avoid traffic jams on the narrow road…it has 600 curves and a lot of beautiful nature to offer! We feel like driving through Jurassic Park and wait for the T-Rex to catch us. 😉 We make several stops, to hike through muddy forest paths, see the power of huge waves crashing on the cliffs, hop in the ocean to play with the waves and enjoy life.

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Between Christmas and new Years Eve, we have seen the heaviest rainfall we’ve ever seen in our life’s. For 24 hours it did not stop raining! The region around Haiku, where our Airbnb is located is known for rain during Winter, but that was just crazy. Several landslides on the road to Hana, which we drove along a couple of days ago makes it impossible to use the road. Hence, our New Years Eve was pretty rainy and we decided to have a delicious homemade Paella from our chef Jakub, invited Francis over and spent the evening at home.

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It’s 2017! And we’re still on the road, fulfilling our dream…for almost 6 months we’ve been travelling now and had the pleasure to end the year on Maui, Hawaii…can someone please wake me up from this dream? 😉
We have a couple of days left on Maui, which we spent visiting the Maui Ocean centre, a nice Aquarium with many endemic fishes. We also visit Hookipah beach, not only known for the windsurfers paradise, but for the Hawaiian green turtles which come every night ashore to rest and hide from the tiger sharks. Amazing how they lie on the beach and sleep!

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We migrate to the next island, O’ahu, to spend the next 4 days there. Our hostel is, of course, in the center of Waikiki Beach, where we head right after Check In. Holy crap, it is so crowded here!! Walking a little bit more left or right however, we see a beautiful park area, Banyan trees, more locals and less tourists. To get around and see the „real“ Hawaii, we rent a car and drive to the North Shore – it’s indeed completely different to the Honolulu area and in our opinion, the Hawaii how we imagined it to be: hilly, green, forest and jungle, lonely beaches, wonderful. Of course we drive to Banzai beach, the famous pipeline surf spot on O’ahu!

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But the biggest adventure is still ahead of us. We’re really excited…because we planned to see the „Stairway to heaven“. 🙂 When we started to Google it we thought: „Nope, not gonna happen,impossible, too dangerous, what if they catch us,…??“. But we did it!! Enjoy the pictures (and our video)…. 🙂

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The crazy thing about this hike is not the amount of stairs (3.900!!) or the access to it (sneaking through bamboo forest to avoid the guard), but that it is actually illegal and if we’d got fined for it, we would have payed between 600$ – 1.000$. That scared us „a little bit“, haha. All in all, we met many people on the stairs and since the guard hasn’t even seen us crawling around him, no fine expected us…only severe sore muscles from these stairs. It was an amazing way to end our time on Hawaii…our resume: if you ever have the chance to visit Hawaii, please do it! Not only did we have such diversified nature on both islands and such friendly locals we met, but you can spend so much time there on different things and explore the island easily by car. However, it is pricey and especially around Christmas and New Years Eve, prices rise. We think it was worth every cent we spent and leave Hawaii with a big smile. Admittedly, the best things we did or saw on Hawaii anyway were for free. 😉

MAHALO, HAWAII!

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5 Months in South America – our Review

We sat in the bus on our way to somewhere in South America. The tickets for the bus we bought 30 minutes before departure. I looked out of the window, seeing the half-done houses, the street dogs, the indigenous women with their colorful clothes and I turned to Jakub, saying: „We have to write a last sum up about South America…I don’t wanna forget what we liked so much about these countries…okay, and we should also mention what we didn’t like…“ 😉

So that’s what this text is about!

WHAT WE REALLY LIKED ABOUT SOUTH AMERICA

The uncomplicated and spontaneous planning: you wanna go on a hike tomorrow morning at 7am, but it’s already 6pm? No problem for SA, the tour agency would just call one of their 34 contacts and book you on some transport available

Nature in every kind: no matter if it was the ocean in Peru, the mountains in Ecuador, the banana plantation in Colombia, the lake in Bolivia – everything was breathtaking beautiful

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Tradition: the amazing colorful skirts of the indigenous Ecuadorian or Peruvian women, the strange sounding native language as old as the country itself, the music played with flutes and guitars,…so different to our European culture, but simply wonderful to witness

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Menu del Dia: wow, where do you get a whole menu including soup, a main dish, dessert and a drink for 2,00 – 4,00$?! Only in SA!

Different food in different countries: Colombia was super famous for its fried platanos, whereas Ecuador served corn, Peru has its potatoes, and so forth. Generally, we rarely didn’t like the food in South America – if so, then it was because of a certain spice…Ellen found out that she doesn’t like Cilantro AT ALL when we ate a soup in Colombia, full of Cilantro 😀

Encebollada - the soup which helps against any hangover ;)

Food markets: whether you wanted to buy fresh vegetables from native women, fresh fish from the ocean or enjoy a good Menu del Dia lunch, the food market was the place to be. This huge variety of fresh fruit and veggies, combined with the smell of 37 food stands cooking delicious things is indescribable.

  Food Market

Street markets: you need headphones? New sunglasses? A North Face windblocker jacket? Just walk the main street and you’ll find everything you need and more 😉 Okay, the North Face jacket might be a fake…as well as the Ray Ban sunglasses…but they look pretty real at least 🙂

Baby transport: most likely every European woman when having a baby spends a lot of money on a baby buggy. In South America, you take a big multicolored scarf, roll the baby in a very sophisticated manner in the scarf and put it on your back. Done. No big deal. No pushing the carriage through crowded streets or trying to get in the packed bus. So convenient.

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Transport: we Germans think having the Deutsche Bahn is so handy because it takes you everywhere! So wrong. So expensive. So late. South America is certainly not known for their punctuality, but when it goes to bus schedules, hell yeah – then they know what „departure on time“ means! We’ve had so many comfortable, cheap and friendly bus rides…we’ll miss that, for sure

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Public transport system: well…where do we even start?! 😀 First of all, in countries like Peru or Bolivia, basically everyone can be a bus driver as long as you have a mini van or something alike. You just put a sign on the windshield indicating where you go and that’s it 🙂 And wherever people wanna get off they yell the the driver to drop them off at the next corner. So funny. Okay, let’s consider the situation having a normal public bus as we know it in Europe. Honestly, we only saw those in Argentina and Chile, the most developed countries :D. And you couldn’t get off wherever you wanted, no no, only at designated bus stops.

Bus Culture

Taxis: mainly because they were cheap, but also because every scooter,  motorbike, trike or whatsoever could possibly be a taxi!

The fastest Taxi in town

WHAT WE COULDN’T REALLY HANDLE IN SOUTH AMERICA

Environmental treatment: unfortunately, most of the people in South America don’t care at all about rubbish in the streets or emissions of cars. We have seen so much dirt in backyards, on the street, next to rubbish bins, in corn fields, you name it…only in very remote villages where people live from their own grown veggies, the nature was clean. Same problem with exhaust gases: the cars are so old or badly maintained that we kept putting a scarf or our sweater sleeves over our noses when we stood at a busy street. Even worse were the buses…they blew so much dirt in the environment that you could feel how little oxygen your lungs got! The dirtiest city among many was probably Guayaquil in Peru. Next to the street, small water puddles were black and sometimes even green from all the dirt! We hope that the education about pollution at some point starts at school so kids learn from early age what a clean environment could look like.

Toilet paper: might sound funny, but the toilet paper in South America doesn’t go in the toilet – it goes in the rubbish bin next to the toilet…might explain the big amount of rubbish they have to deal with

Hygiene standards: okay, when travelling through South America you don’t expect the same hygiene as in your own country, because you know they have less officials controlling these standards. That’s okay and you’ll survive anyway there – maybe with some stomach issues at a certain point, but still alright. 😉 What really shocked us however, were the prices for hygiene products, such as deodorant, shower gel, tampons,…it was so expensive that we completely understand why the poor natives cannot afford any of these!

Organization: We’d say that’s most likely one of the bigger problems as well. Yes, we both do work in a country which is so organized that you have a rule or law for every possible situation, whether it’s business related, daily life or school. 🙂 Maybe that’s the reason why it was especially difficult to understand why for example when boarding an airplane in Colombia, the last row passengers take the stairs at the front door and the first row passengers at the back door…or why 7 men are busy on a construction site, but only 3 are working and 4 are talking,…we could continue endlessly.

Tourist prices: Yes, as a tourist you will be ripped off many times, but they do it so obvious that we sometimes wondered if we should just walk away and don’t buy the bananas…or the street food….or book the trip… we have no problem paying more money on something when we know,  the right people who really do need it ask for more. But mostly the ones who already have enough rip you off.

We would say spending a couple of months in South America,  especially in countries such as Bolivia, Peru or Ecuador opens your eyes. The poverty there sometimes breaks your heart and if you hear on how much money some people live there a day you cannot imagine you’d ever be able to survive. And still, these people were so happy and friendly! They just see their happiness in other things as we Europeans do. Sometimes we arrived in a hostel and didn’t have hot water or maybe no water at all for a couple of hours. Internet was a precious thing – we just take it for granted in Europe to have water coming out of the grief or high-speed Internet everywhere. But most importantly: you don’t need a lot to be happy. We have our backpacks which still contain the clothes we brought on our trip and it’s totally sufficient! A good Menu del Dia, mountains and nature around you and the right travel companion is all you need sometimes. 🙂