January 15, 2008

Rainforest/waterfall hike

While everyone else in the group went shopping today, I took a hike into the mountains on West Maui. I didn't exactly get to hike in the area I would have liked to. I researched places on the internet that lead hikes on the island. I was hoping to hike near Haleakela National Park but no one had hikes going out this week. Evidently this is the slow season for tourists.

I met up with the Hawaiian Hiking Company at a commuter parking lot in the middle of Hawaii. I met the other people in our group - four women from Denver, CO. It was a group of 3 sisters and their adopted aunt. We drove to the lee side of the western part of Maui. We were going to hike on some private land, not open to the general public. It was part of a Boy Scout camp that was only used by the Boy Scouts for part of the year.

We were given special shoes made in Japan that were specifically made so that they didn't slip on wet rocks. They had a felt like bottom and split toes. Our guide Rich said that they called them Ninja Turtle shoes. I decided not to wear mine because I didn't like the way they rubbed my big toe. I brought them with me to use if I decided to wade in the pool beneath the waterfall.

We hike up the mountain back and forth across the stream many times towards a bamboo forest. Rich said that the stream was lower than he had seen it in a long time. The area was known for flash floods. Within 10 minutes of it raining the whole area could turn into a torrent. He said that 3 to 4 times a year they had to have a helicopter get them out of the valley because they would get trapped due to the rising water.

We reached a bamboo forest. Rich explained that bamboo can grow from 1 - 4 feet a day. He said that it wouldn't take long for bamboo to take over all other growth. He also explained about other invasive plant species that were taking over native species.

After reaching the bamboo forest and taking picture of the "bamboo jail", we turned around and headed back to where we started. We then walked to another area and headed down a valley towards the waterfall. We walked beside another stream with pools and small waterfalls.

We finally reached a large banyon tree, took more pictures and headed down a steep bank to the bottom of a large waterfall. The other girls in the group hadn't done much hiking and were scared to scale down to the bottom. They cheered each other on and felt very proud of themselves that they were able to do it.

We ate a lunch of sandwiches and locally grown tropical fruit. Rich put part of his sandwich in a net and told us to keep an eye on it. Within about 5 minutes, jumbo sized prawns came crawling out of nowhere and started munching on the bread.

We were given the opportunity to swim beneath the waterfall but because the temps were cool (low 70s) and the water itself was cool no one took advantage of the opportunity. We headed back over a high ridge back to the van.

It wasn't the most exciting hike I've ever been on but it gave me the opportunity to see what the Hawaiian countryside looks like. I learned about some of the plant species and the wildlife. I did not see a single bird on the whole hike but did hear one singing in the treetops.

The day ended with one of the more colorful sunsets we've had so far. Tomorrow - sailing to Lanai.

Louisiana - New Orleans!

Herta, Erhard & I drove to the Crescent City today to see how the French Quarter and a few other areas had recovered from Katrina. We started the journey at Jackson Square, and then walked over to Cafe DuMonde. Since we had already breakfasted, we didn't sample the beignets, but did manage to sample some great fingerstyle blues and a "permanent" mime! Oh, and we are ready for Mardi Gras!

The most obvious changes since "pre-Katrina" were the meticulously clean streets and the lack of crowds. I guess the storm has brought some benefits, and some disappointments.

My German friends were anxious to see Bourbon St, so we cut across to Jean Lafitte's to start with one of the oldest buildings in the Quarter then worked our way to Canal, still amazed at the clean surroundings and lack of people.

t's always fun to hop on the Streetcar to Uptown, where we walked St Charles, then strolled down Washington to see the #1 cemetary. I didn't remember, but as luck would have it, Erhard & Herta were surprised to see the German ancestry prevalent here. They were also fascinated by the above ground tombs since they had never seem anything like them in Europe.

We had lunch at Commander's Palace (excellent!) returned to walk Royal, then headed back to Fountainbleau, where their big MAN RV awaited. Erhard treated me to a German beer and some great music!