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Hawaii Vacation: Whaler’s Village Museum

Excuses, excuses are all I have for why I’ve been away from blogging these past few months. I last left off toward the tail end of our Hawaii Vacation and have already ventured off on another vacation. It just further hits home the point that I’m behind and last in line for the Blogger of the Year Award.

In case you’re wondering, this recent vacation took us the Smoky Mountains and the Outer Banks of North Carolina. But of course, all the details of that trip are coming. Hopefully it won’t take me six months to document it.

For now, it’s back to Hawaii.

Day 8: Whaler’s Village Museum

After having our fill of noodles and malasadas at Star Noodle, we retired back at the Aina Nalu condo and were up relatively early the next morning. Our flight back to Oahu was departing later in the afternoon, so we spent a good deal of time packing our bags and sorting through all the food in the kitchen before checking out.

To kill time before our flight, we decided to stop into the Whaler’s Village in Kaanapali to visit the Whaler’s Village Museum. Having beach bummed around for much of our trip, it was time for a history lesson.

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The Whaler’s Village Museum is small and quaint, which would’ve been a pain had it been crowded. Fortunately, there was only a small handful of visitors, including us. It’s located in the Whaler’s Village outdoor shopping area, tucked away in a high corner of the mall. There were plenty of signs to point us in the right direction.

Before I get into the thick of things, I should warn anyone who might be sensitive to issues such as whaling. The museum presents a true depiction of whaling life at the height of the trade in the mid-1800s. Some of my photos and descriptions may be tough for some to stomach, but it’s a part of history — an unfortunate one, yes — but the education piece of it was completely worth it for me. So if you’re still along for the ride, here goes…

This model of brains below greeted us on our way in. It shows how massive a whale brain is compared to a dolphin, human and chimpanzee brain. Just goes to show how incredible these whale creatures are. I’d imagine they have a whole lot of complex brain power that us measly little humans have yet to understand.

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A humpback whale replica with that infamous line, “thar she blows”.

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Whaling was a harsh and gruesome practice. Whales were in high demand for their blubber (pictured below). Whale oil was extracted from these pieces in order to fuel kerosene lamps in people’s homes. Sad, but true.

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A number of different tools were used to capture the whales and then cut into them. The idea of so many men taking over an animal so colossal seems impossible, but they were successful. The whaling trade eventually saw its last leg as result of so many whalers over-fishing them. The whale population dropped by a vast amount, which is why we’re struggling to sustain their populations today.

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The Whaler’s Village Museum also detailed ship life for the melting pot of cultures and ethnicities that made whaling their trade. It was a harsh one, to say the least. Ships were full of sickness and disease and little to no access to medical care. Food infestations, sea sickness and “surgeries” at sea were common, if not constant.

But whalemen did find ways to enjoy themselves too. Beverages of an alcoholic nature were one way, but there was also the art of scrimshaw. Whalemen would carve pictures into whale teeth and bones and flood the carvings with ink, so that the designs would show through. The museum had an impressive collection. Here’s an example of a whale tooth and a rather creepy looking whaleman caught in the act.

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This picture below represents the diverse backgrounds of so many of the whalemen. They came from all parts of the world, all walks of life. One of the displays showed a record book of names and also stated where each whaleman was from. I recall seeing places like Norway, Amsterdam and Ireland. Hawaiians were also recruited to work as whalemen. According to the photo caption, they had a reputation for being the most knowledgeable about the whales and also the most cooperative. I’m sure glad someone could serve that role. These ships remind me of a frat party at sea that’s gone terribly wrong.

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I also found the journaling of the whalemen kind of fascinating (as any writer would). The 1st mate was tasked with keeping the log book. He used the symbols below to report the day’s happenings. “Chased but not harpooned” is obviously my favorite. It means the whale outsmarted the humans. Suckers.

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While the museum is filled with a number of photographs and interesting artifacts, the experience felt pretty morbid. The act of whaling itself is horrific, but as I said before, it was a part of history. Hopefully, it will be a reminder to never back pedal to that place we were before.

However, the positive spin on this whole experience was the free talk we got to watch by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (otherwise known as a mouthful). A representative from the sanctuary presented a quick slideshow on the humpback whales’ history and characteristics and why Hawaii is so connected to them. Every year, approximately 12,000 humpback whales migrate from Alaska to Hawaii to give birth, nurse their calves and mate. The whales have proven to be highly intelligent, curious and friendly animals that often swim right up to whale watching boats to get up close and personal with tourists. And now I want to go whale watching more than ever.

Once the talk was over, we finished the self-guided museum tour and then headed back into the heat and humidity to grab lunch at the Hula Grill.

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I always like to balance out our beach bum outings with something of real educational substance. So I’m glad we stopped into the Whaler’s Village Museum. With all of these documentaries, such as Blackfish and The Cove gaining popularity these days, this tour seems a bit more relevant today than it did when we actually visited the museum. It has similar parallels to the Wild Horse Tour we recently did on this recent vacation in North Carolina. More to come on that, and next up… the final episode to close out our Hawaii Vacation — Oahu’s North Shore and digging our toes in the sand with a few sea turtles.

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Hawaii Vacation: Mount Haleakala

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Day 7: Mount Haleakala

Most people are quick to think that Hawaii is purely a paradise of sun and sand. And well, it is. But beyond the beach, high up in the mountain country of Maui, you can get a completely different perspective on the Land of Aloha. Mount Haleakala is Maui’s highest peak, where temperatures drop to anywhere between 40 and 60 degrees fahrenheit. It is also a massive shield volcano that formed more than 75 percent of the island of Maui. Visitors can drive up to the summit in Mount Haleakala National Park, which is exactly what we did on day 7 of our Hawaii vacation.

If you have any plans to visit Mount Haleakala during your tropical vacay, you ought to bring some pants and a fleece jacket. Although if you forget, you probably won’t stick out like a sore thumb. Mikey braved the cold in shorts and a t-shirt, and we saw a few other tourists rocking shorts and sandals in the midst of the subarctic temperatures. Who really thinks about fleece attire when you’re packing sunscreen and swimsuits, anyway? (Um, me and my always-prepared dad. Mom and Mikey not so much.)

From the moment I stepped out of our rental SUV at the first Haleakala visitor’s center, I knew something was up. I felt funny. And it wasn’t the chill in the air. It was altitude sickness. It shouldn’t have been a surprise. Nausea had quickly become standard operating procedure for me while in Hawaii. It happened first during our surfing lesson, a second time during the Road to Hana drive and a third at Mount Haleakala. Wonderful.

After quickly perusing the displays at the first visitor’s center, Dad recommended I sit down and take it easy. It helped, and minutes later, we hopped back into the car to stop at the second visitor’s center. There wasn’t much to see there, so we didn’t stay long. We did encounter some friends in the parking lot though.

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A chakur partridge in search of food

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Looking fierce with those fiery red eyes

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The only photo Dad managed to take of me while nauseated. Pictured here is a ribbon rock. It forms when lava shoots up into the air and freezes before landing, forming this solid curve.

Once in the car, the rain clouds came to greet us. And unlike tropical rain that comes and goes and actually counteracts the oppressive humidity, this rain was cold. We decided to wait out the rain before driving the home stretch of road to the summit. Luckily, we had plenty of snacks to keep us entertained.

The rain eventually ceased, and by the time we reached the summit, I was feeling much better. My body was adapting to the altitude, and I could finally enjoy some of the scenery — massive clouds in motion right before our eyes. Red rock emitting the only source of warmth from the hard earth below us. It felt like we were standing at the edge of the world.

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Taking the stairs was quite an undertaking at that high altitude.

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Big cotton balls in the background

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We were lucky to see blue skies when we first arrived. Darker skies settled in a few minutes after this.

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Mom and Dad at the summit

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It took this cyclist six hours to reach the top. Wow.

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Aloha from and elevation of 10,023 feet!

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Pondering the meaning of life

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Simply heavenly

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It was amazing how much heat this stretch of rock was emitting. I stood there for a long while trying to warm up.

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A twisting road leads back down to the second visitor’s center behind me.

One of my favorite Haleakala sights is the silversword, a plant endemic to Mount Haleakala. That means this is only place in the world where this plant grows. The blade-like stems at the bottom reminded me of succulents, and the flowers that extended north reminded me of purple coneflowers, but with much shorter petals. It was cool to stand face to face with something so rare, and we were lucky to have been there at the right time to see many of them in bloom.

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Close, but no cigar.

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I win with my tippy toes.

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By the time we piled back into the car, my altitude sickness had pretty much worn off, but unfortunately Mom was coming down with it. She dozed off, while Dad navigated the winding road back down to the warm island breezes that we came to Hawaii for.

While my Haleakala experience got off to a rocky start (no pun intended), I’m glad we did it. If I did it again, I’d like to go at sunrise and get some great pictures. In fact, that’s what many of the tourist sites recommend. But realistically, we knew our inability to a) get up before the crack of dawn, and b) get out the door in a timely fashion, so we didn’t even attempt an early rise that morning. If we had, it would have been a 2am wake-up call.

Many of the tourist sites also mention the option of riding a bike from the summit back down to the visitor’s center, but my adventurous side was wary of the all-to-real possibility of biking straight off a cliff. Would be a cool experience though — if I were a little more brave. Fact is, I’m usually willing to try new things, but lounging on the beach is, has and always will be my strong suit.

Next up: the most amazing sunset my eyes have seen…

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Hawaii Vacation: Maui Bound

Here in St. Louis, we’re bracing ourselves for eight to 10 inches of snow before the weekend ends. So while the reality of what’s happening outside is soon to be cold and slushy, my mind is still thinking about sea, sun and sand as I continue this recap of our Hawaii vacation.

Day 5: Hello Maui

Day 5 of our Hawaii vacation started out in transit mode. We hopped on a plane and took the 30 minute flight from Oahu to Maui, also nicknamed The Valley Isle.

My mom and I have long wanted to visit Maui. After all these years of stopping into Hawaii on the way to or from Guam and visiting Lola (my parents go more often than I do), Mom and I had still never set foot on Maui. Dad, on the other hand, was born there. While Lola was waiting for my dad to enter the world, the Navy sent Papa to work on Guam. Although Lola wanted to follow, paperwork and her pregnancy kept her behind in Maui. She stayed with Papa’s sister in Kahului, in a house located a stone’s throw away from Maui Memorial Hospital. Once Dad was born, Lola was able to join Papa on Guam, where they made their living as an auto mechanic and elementary school teacher for years and years. While on Guam, Lola gave birth to three more sons to round out the clan of mischievous Sarusal boys.

We made it to Maui!

We made it to Maui!

So once we stepped off the plane in Maui, we waited for what seemed like a lifetime at the car rental facility before finding a place to chow down. We settled on the little village of Paia and dined at the Paia Fish Market.

Paia Fish Market

Paia is considered a starting point on the Road to Hana. Kind of like the last point of civilization before embarking on the scenic drive. Parking proved to be difficult in Paia, but once we found a spot and got out of the car to stretch our legs, Paia turned out to be a cute little town with a handful of restaurants and shops, including a gelato shop. (The juxtaposition of Italian gelato in a place as island country as Paia, Maui still cracks me up. It’s like serving Russian vodka on a cattle ranch.)

The Paia Fish Market was bustling. We practically had to charge one of the tables in order to claim seats. But the food was good, albeit pricey. Then again, what isn’t pricey in Hawaii?

The only downside to our time at Paia Fish Market was the sound of this blonde girl's voice all up in every inch of our conversations. Nothing screams TOURIST when you talk like a valley girl at a volume of infinity! (Sorry, this is a real pet peeve of mine. Can you tell?)

The only downside to our time at Paia Fish Market was the sound of this girl’s voice all up in every inch of our conversations. Nothing screams TOURIST when you talk like a valley girl at a volume of infinity! (Sorry, this is a real pet peeve of mine. Can you tell?)

Our first taste of local beer

Our first taste of local beer

We stopped into a couple shops as well, including Honolua Surf Co., where I picked up a couple t-shirts.

Honolua Surf Co Paia Maui

From there, Dad drove us into Kahului, where we passed Maui Memorial Hospital to see where he was born and the home of Papa’s sister, where Dad and Lola lived for a short time before they relocated to Guam. Unfortunately, I missed seeing the house in person. All that beer and fish put me into a food coma, so I was asleep when Dad took this picture of the house.

Maui Memorial Hospital

Maui Memorial Hospital

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Tracing Dad’s roots

Checking into our condo rental was next on our itinerary. The GPS routed us to Lahaina, where we pulled into the Aina Nalu hotel and condo complex.

I found Aina Nalu while searching for vacation rentals on HomeAway and VRBO. I noticed a series of rentals available within the same complex. All had nearly identical features and were priced affordably. We ended up booking Unit K109 at $180 a night. With two bedrooms, two full baths, a kitchen and a living room, that price is unheard of! The condo owners also provided beach chairs, a cooler, boogie boards and beach towels. Those sort of things are a huge help when you’re flying in without the luggage to accommodate those necessities.

Aina Nalu is not located on the beach, but it is within steps of Front Street, a hot spot and historic whaling village in Lahaina lined with shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. It was a beautiful night to walk the streets in search of a place to eat dinner. So we did.

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Off to Front Street we go.

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Debating on a swim shorts purchase at Rip Curl

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Along with souvenir and surf shops, Front Street has many art galleries with beautiful, vibrant artwork to match the gorgeous ocean scenery outside.

We settled on Koa’s Seaside Grill, where Mikey and I enjoyed some drinks, and we all ordered… steak. We certainly are a meat and potatoes family — or meat, potatoes and rice — to be more accurate.

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Checking out the menu at Koa’s

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Ready to wine and dine over the ocean

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Enjoying a lava flow. So apropos.

With our tummies full and ready for relaxation, we made the leisurely walk back to Aina Nalu and turned in for the evening. The next day was shaping up to be a busy one — driving the Road to Hana!

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