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1/25/2021 On to Oahu

The travelogue continues.

January 21st (Thursday): Paragliding
I was having trouble thinking what I wanted for a birthday present this year when my family, surprisingly, suggested a paragliding trip. Well, I've done parasailing and sky diving has been on my list for a while, so this seemed like a fun mid-point. I had originally planned to go Sunday morning, but it got postponed due to weather. Fortunately, I was still able to squeeze it in the morning before our flight to Oahu. I signed up with Proflyght Paragliding and headed up the same mountain where we'd gone hiking on Saturday. Though this time we didn't have to go nearly as far up. The entire thing is about an hour, but only around 10 - 15 minutes of that are actual paragliding. A good chunk of it is the drive from the parking lot at the landing zone up the launch site higher up the hill (though still not as far up as that hiking trail). I left my main camera with my mom to get some shots of me from below but, unfortunately, that didn't work out too well. I did, however, keep my phone with me.
Naturally, it was a tandem ride with an instructor. My instructor was a nice guy who has been doing this for decades and really loves it. We weren't the first to launch, so I got to watch a couple others take off while I got strapped in. The harness was pretty simple and even had a seat built in so it was comfortable as well. The instructor said we could use phones or cameras while flying, though you naturally didn't want to drop it. Since the take-off and flight process sounded simple enough (at least for me as a passenger), and I trust my grip, I decided to try video recording the whole thing as I went. It ended up turning out pretty well (I just wish I had my regular camera). I won't share the whole ~12 minute video, but I've got a few clips to show you. First up, the take off. Assuming you're in a suitable area with good wind and such, it's actually just a matter of power-walking and then running for a few seconds and the wind does the rest. I had actually expected to stick a lot closer to the group and was quickly surprised by how high up we were. While we were only going a few thousand feet down the mountain (you can see the landing zone in the distance in that video) my instructor said he's flown all the way to Kihei (down on the coast) and, with the kind of height we had, that seemed easily doable. The ride was incredibly smooth. No bumps, no motion sickness, or anything. The wind was a little cold but not too bad, even though I was wearing shorts. And, of course, the view was amazing. One really neat thing you can see while paragliding but not from the ground is a glory, which is a circular rainbow that appears when your shadow passes over a cloud. By the time we got to the landing zone we were still way up in the air so we circled for a while, eventually getting low enough to buzz the fields and cows before coming in for a smooth landing.
It was ann amazing experience, I'm glad I went, and I would definitely recommend it to others. That said, considering the length of the ride, it is pretty expensive. Honestly, the whole thing seemed easy enough that, if I ever ended up living in the right place, I'd be tempted to learn how to do it myself. According to my instructor, if you avoid tricks and only go out when the conditions are good, it's actually a really safe sport. From what I saw, I would guess that judging the proper conditions and aiming to land in the correct spot are probably the hardest parts as the take-off, steering, and landing all seemed fairly simple. One thing that surprised me a little was that I wasn't scared in the least. Of course, heights don't really scare me in general and I've done all sorts of thrill rides and other such activities, but I thought that I'd at least feel a bit nervous leading up to the ride or during the very beginning. But no. Guess I've gotten even more used to this type of thing than I realized. Either that or it just seemed so smooth and safe from the outset that there was nothing to worry about.
That afternoon, we headed to the airport for a flight to Honolulu, where we'll be spending the rest of our vacation. That had always been part of the plan. And Maui had just tightened their COVID restrictions again, which would have made dining out and shopping a bit challenging, so it worked out pretty well. Since Oahu is, more or less, trying to restart its tourism industry, they're a not as strict. On a side note, given the current COVID rules in Hawaii, it's much simpler to fly from one of the other islands to Oahu, rather than the other way around, so if you want to plan a multi-island trip, like we did, it's best to make Oahu your last destination.
Anyway, the flight went smoothly and we made it to my parents' condo in time to unpack and then grab dinner. I'll write more about Honolulu, Oahu in general, and how they are with the current COVID restrictions, in a future post.

Well, that post ended up being fairly long, and we honestly haven't done anything too exciting on Oahu yet (it's been nice, but nothing I haven't written about before) so I'll wait until Wednesday to summarize the past few days and talk about the COVID stuff here.



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1/22/20201 The whales of Maui

While I'm still in Hawaii, Connie, Zack, and I have relocated to Honolulu for the rest of our vacation. But, for now I've got more Maui stuff to write about.

January 17th - 19th (Sunday - Tuesday): Rainy Weather
So far, we'd had pretty good weather on this trip. Way better than our previous visits to Maui. Unfortunately, that couldn't last forever and the forecast was showing some pretty heavy rain during the first half of the week, which really messed up our plans. In the end, we were able to reschedule the things we were going to do on Sunday and Monday for later in the week. However, we did end up canceling a planned overnight trip to Hana (a very scenic but remote town that I've yet to visit). Maybe next time... It's good we did cancel though, since the rain was pretty bad, especially on Monday, leading to minor flooding on many parts of the island.
So what did we do? We hung out, watched the movies, and went back to the trampoline park so the kids could burn off some energy. On Tuesday evening, after the rain had passed, we ended up Keaka Beach for a little while before dinner. Can you find the crab in this picture? It's not covered with sand, its shell just has a really impressive camouflage pattern. Crab aside, we also saw a really nice sunset. All together, it was a pleasant enough time, despite the messed up plans.

January 21st (Wednesday): Whale Watching
We had originally planned a whole family outing on a whale watching boat for Monday but it was canceled due to the weather. Fortunately, we managed to shift it to Wednesday morning, by which time the weather was back to its usual sunny self. Due to COVID, everyone had assigned seating which you weren't really supposed to leave (not terrible, but it made it a little hard to see the whales at times) and you had to wear masks even when on the boat (annoying). That aside, it ended up being one of the best whale watching trips I've done. In case you didn't know, the waters around Maui are the world's most popular breeding and birthing grounds for humpback whales (though you can see some around the other islands as well). Of course, going out on a boat offers some good views of the island itself. And we also saw lots of whale blows (water spouts), backs, and tails. But all that is pretty normal for whale watching. This time, however, the whales were especially active. We saw a number of breaches (where the whale jumps up out of the water) and I even managed to get a picture of one. For the record, photographing whales is pretty tough. In addition to the fact that you're on a swaying boat, by the time you notice one, move your camera to the right spot, and zoom in (most of the whales aren't especially close to the boat), it's probably gone underwater already. So there's a decent bit of luck involved. But I was able to capture that breach (if not quite as zoomed in as I would have liked) and I also got some shots of a whale calf sticking its head out of the water. For a bit of trivia, although the calves nurse, the adult whales don't actually eat anything when they're down in Hawaii. Instead, they eat as much as they can during the summer when they're up north (near Alaska and such) and use that to carry them over when they spend the winter in the south.
Anyway, COVID restrictions aside, we had a great tour (we went with the Pacific Whale Foundation, if you're planning your own trip), saw a ton of whales (adults and calves), and got to witness a lot of really cool behaviors that I've seen little if any of on my previous whale watches. And we wrapped up the day with a family Chinese dinner (cooked by me, with some help from Connie), so fun all around.

That's a good place to stop for now. I should have a pretty special entry ready for Monday so look forward to it!


1/18/2021 More Maui

As a note, there might not be an update on Wednesday (not 100% sure yet). If it does get skipped, updates will resume on Friday.

January 13th (Wednesday): Lahaina
Wednesday morning, we work up to rain. Fortunately, we had already planned to visit Lahaina for the day, and the weather over there was fine. We started off at the beach. Like on our previous trips, the Whaler's Village mall makes a great (though not free) place to park for one of my favorite Maui beaches. Good sand, just enough surf, scenic, and even decent snorkeling if you go up to the far end near the rocks.
After a while on the beach, we headed into Lahaina itself and stopped for lunch at Fu Lin, possibly the only nice (not fast-food) Chinese restaurant on the island. While it wasn't on the level of some of the Chinese places on Oahu, it was still good. Afterwards, we spent a while walking through the town. Lahaina itself is as scenic as ever, and still fun to stroll though, though there were notably fewer people on the streets than during my previous visits and some of the shops and restaurants had permanently shut down. It was a nice day, but hopefully things will be more lively next time.

January 16th (Saturday): Hiking Upper Waiohuli Trail
Thursday and Friday consisted of hanging out with family and another visit to the trampoline park, but on Saturday we decided to go on a hike. Getting to the trail required a slow drive up a mountain with a long series of switchbacks. Nice views though. There are a number of trails up there, but the one we went to required going past the end of the pavement and over a chunk of dirt road that's limited to four-wheel drive vehicles. Though, if the weather is ok, the road condition doesn't really require that.
The trail itself started out in a forest. To be honest, while they're pretty, I'm starting to feel like all these Hawaiian mountain forests look pretty much the same. Especially when the trees block out the view. Fortunately, going a bit up or down in elevation changes things and makes for some more interesting terrain. Our original plan was to check out a lava tube partway up the trail. Unfortunately, you couldn't actually go very far inside the tube before it became blocked and there was a big wasp nest or something nearby so we ended up just taking a quick look and then continuing on the trail. Eventually, we got high enough to make it out of the forest and into a more desert-like climate. From the top, we could see Haleakala in one direction and the peaks of the Big Island in the other. Instead of returning along the trail, we followed a dirt road down instead (yeah, you can drive all the way up if you have a good enough car). It ended up being longer, but a bit easier, and offered some good views of the coast. It was a pleasant hike, if a bit longer than we'd originally planned. And the views were good, at least once you got out of the forest. Length aside, it wasn't especially strenuous either, even on the ascent, but Zack really impressed me. He's never really done a proper hike before (well, not on foot anyway) but he managed to walk 99% of the way up and about 50% of the way down.
After we got back down, we stopped for a bit for a very late lunch at a picnic table on the side of the mountain before making the slow drive back down. Over all, Upper Waiohuli is not going on my list of favorite Hawaii hikes, but I still enjoyed it.



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