Day 4: A Long Day in Paradise

We awoke long before the sun and, with cameras in hand, walked over to the harbor slip where we were to meet the Ocean Discovery. The clerk was just opening the window to his kiosk at Slip #4 when we walked up. He looked as if he had slept as little as we had! But no matter. We were going in search of whales in Lahaina’s harbor and surrounding waters.

We were informed that the boat could hold 140 passengers and there were only 26 of us signed up for the tour, so there would be plenty of room for everyone to see all the whales. We went aboard when it was still dark, but tiny traces of light seemed to begin to emerge from around Haleakala. We could spot the Big Dipper; Orion; and Venus before the stars and planets gave way to the rising sun. It was beautiful. The clouds overhanging Lahaina’s mountains were turning pink and magenta before turning golden and back to soft grey in the full daylight.

One of the crew thought they spotted a spout before we were even out of the harbor; so the Captain slowed and stayed in the area hoping for another sighting. After about a half an hour, she decided to go on into open waters. The morning was stunning as the sun reflected off the ocean and the wind picked up in the open waters. Still, all of that at about 70 degrees – nothing at all like it is at home on the water, even in the dead of summer.

At our farthest point, a whale was sighted. I saw about three spouts, which easily could have all come from the same whale. Then we spotted the creature arching for a dive and the fluke peeked up and down again. It was thrilling. The Captain hung around that area for a good long time hoping to see the same whale surface again before we had to move back closer to the harbor and home.

Needless to say, it wasn’t the most exciting whale watch tour I’ve experienced, but it was thrilling to see the spouts and a fluke. The creatures are so massive and graceful they always amaze me. In addition, the day was beautiful and the chance to be on the water at sunrise was a grace all its own.

From the dock we walked back to Betty’s Cafe for breakfast and sat beach side – no windows or walls obstructing our views. It was 9 a.m. A full plate of bacon and eggs and ono benedict later, we both felt better and went back to our room to read and relax a little. Relaxing included a short nap and we woke to the sun brightly beating in our balcony doors. It was already after noon. We snapped ourselves awake and went out walking along the beach and into town.

The Saturday craft market was set up by the Banyan Tree and visitors of all manner and origin were shopping and enjoying the sights. We walked to a destination about a mile and a half away, Hilo Hattie’s, just to look at her selection of Hawaiian shirts. Someone had told us we must not miss the chance to see her products. It was a lovely store and although my travel partner didn’t find the shirt he was looking for – I found one I liked from the 70% off rack. That made it affordable and I couldn’t resist.

We also found an establishment that would ship Maui pineapples home – so we put in an order. It will be Christmas when we get back, after all.

Exhausted from all the walking and sightseeing we needed re-fueling. My travel partner had spotted “Sale Pepe” the other day and had planned to make that our dinner destination today. We finally found the place and saw on the sign that it didn’t open until 5:00. So we spent the twenty minutes of waiting in the nearby grocery store to pick up some bagels for breakfast in the morning.

We came back and were seated at Sale Pepe’s and enjoyed a luscious, if way too rich,  Italian dinner. We ate too much and were grateful for the mile and a half walk back to the hotel to burn off a fraction of some of our dinner calories. But, of course, along the way we had to stop and admire the sliver of a moon rising over the beach and neighboring island; the Banyan Tree adorned with Christmas lights; and enjoy a small taste of pineapple whipped ice. It was the perfect dessert; light and refreshing.

Walking in short sleeves and shorts in the dark of the evening on a tropical island certainly is incongruent with Christmas carols; but they were streaming out of every establishment, and even playing in the park by the Banyan Tree. We can hardly believe it is Christmas time, as the weather is more perfectly “summer” than any summer we ever have at home. We have to remind ourselves hourly that it is December.

Reflecting on this day we were grateful for a host of paradoxical graces: for darkness, yet also for light from the stars and planets; for warmth, even when it gets just a little too warm; for pre-dawn blackness that gives way to a golden sunrise, birthing a new day; for vessels on the waters and views of the islands from the vantage of ancient mariners; for seeing a tiny glimpse of a whale, even though they are enormous creatures; for resting, just because we could; for the brilliance of a rainbow that spanned the morning and lasted until the setting sun, sheltering the island; for eating more than we needed and being grateful for the privilege and opportunity to do so; and for seeing the “fingernail moon” setting over the beach and a neighboring island as the sun set on another day in paradise.