Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mahalo for a great week in Maui

I spent a week in Maui, alone. It was my first trip I've ever taken by myself. I was quite nervous and wondered if I would enjoy it or if I would be lonely. Turns out I had one of the best weeks of my life. I learned a lot about myself that week. I learned that I can be alone and happy.  I learned that I can approach strangers. I remembered that I loved nature, especially sea life. I remembered that I love to seek adventures. I learned that I don't need a hotel or any reservation on vacation. I did what I want and when I wanted to do it. I loved it.
  I rented a car the week I was there, but really made no other plans. My flight there had some problems so I ended up on a different plane than my luggage. So my first night I stayed in a hostel sans luggage. My first evening I bought some shorts at a local store, found a beach with some kids playing music, drank a few beers and soaked in the ambience. I knew then, despite having nothing but what I was wearing and my wallet, that I going to have an excellent adventure-filled vacation.
I stayed the night in my dorm room with seven other people. Two of them were from Spain and we spoke for sometime about my time in Spain. The look that Spaniards give me when I, with my long goldy-locks and pasty skin, speak their language is always a proud feeling. I woke up before sunrise, showered in the community showers and headed to the beach for my first morning. From that morning through the rest of the week I watched the sun rise on the east side of the island and the sunset on the west side.
    After getting my luggage and I headed out on a day of snorkeling. I started on the north part of the island and snorkeled in 5-6 different areas. Being in the warm water, chasing the sea life is where I belong. I saw all the usual sea life including several sea turtles. I heart turtles.
  I took a nap on the beach in the afternoon and after a few more snorkel stints going south I ended up on Big beach.  Right next to Little Beach. True to my hippie-filled week, I stripped down to nada, took a swim and then watched the sunset.  Amazing. I was doing things that I loved. I was doing them alone. And I was happy.
  I spent one more night in the hostel and headed south in the early AM.  I took the famously windy 'road to Hana'. I stopped a lot to take small hikes to waterfalls, watch the waves, and to eat at the local's food shacks. One of the hikes included a 200 ft swim up-river to get to a 45 ft waterfall. When I got there I was the only one for about 30 minutes. I floated on my back near the bottom of the waterfall, looking up through the jungle and feeling the splash on  my face.  It was another reminder that I was alone and it was going to be OK. Not just in Maui alone, but in life alone.
  I spent two nights camping in the town of Hana. There was one small camp ground right on the coast. A gorgeous rocky beach, one of which had all black sand.
  The town also had a small secluded beach of red sand. Its a popular hippie hang out where the hippies and tourists well...let it all hang out. It's a little bit of a hike to get around a small red mountain. I spent time at red rock beach both days. I chilled with a group of hippies and built some cairns. Another way to gain peace. While sitting near my tent one evening, I watched as a large humpback swam with her baby breaching 20-30 times over the hour. A majestic view of nature at its finest.
  My road back to the the populated part of the island included a stop at the state park Seven Sacred Pools and several stops of more awesome hikes and views.
  The next few days I spent on the beaches. I rented a stand up paddle board one day and with my snorkel, camera, and a few bucks, paddled down the coast a couple miles. I pulled into several small coves and dove under my board to check out the water life and coral.
  I splurged one day and took a snorkel cruise out to the small island, Malekeni. Both on ride out and the ride back, I saw tons of whales and turtles. On the island I were visited by 5 dolphins that swam near our boat.  Nature had come to see me and I took her all in. As clear as the water was along the shore, it was ten times that out near the island.
  I found a taco truck early on and my trip and it became my main source for nutrition. Delicious mahi-mahi tacos while watching the waves.
  One night, mostly to prove that I could do it, I slept in my car.  It's illegal to park on the beaches over night in Maui. So I parked in a resort's parking lot and had myself a free night in Maui.
  It was one of my best weeks. A week that brought me healing and a connection with nature that I had longed for. I was brave and happy.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Cabo Vacation

It’s been a trip that I’ve been looking forward to for awhile for several reasons. After the divorce, the dream of taking Caleb and Abby on a year long trip has evaporated. Maybe I can do it after they’re done with high school, but their mom won’t let me take them for a year anywhere. So it’s on to plan B, still wanting to show my kids other cultures and let them know how small this world can be. It’s important to me that they see more than American culture and this trip started that. 

They really had no idea what there were getting into and I appreciated that they still have no fear. I like that. We had to leave at 3 AM to catch our first flight in Spokane which made for a long day. When we finally reached Los Cabos, it was an immediate change. Hot, Hot and really hot. We were in the desert. We took the shuttle to our resort and along the way we all pointed out different observations. The cacti, the different cars, the poverty, the different traffic laws, the run down buildings and also how the buildings got much more kept as we approached the coast. Getting close to the ocean, the desert turned into paradise. Beautiful views all over the place. The resort was surprisingly gorgeous, to be honest, it was much more fancy than I had expected. The kids wanted to go straight for the pool area. I needed to get some groceries so I asked them if they’d be ok staying alone while I jogged to the grocery store and took a taxi back. No problem. We went over some obvious safey information. Where we were, the name of our resort, who to ask if something goes wrong. I loved that my kids at 12 and 10 had no hesitation. I went for my mile jog in flip flops passing the many stores and a view resorts to a large supermarket and loaded up on some essentials for easy breakfasts and snacks, a bunch of drinks and some cheap booze. 

Talking to some of the locals and other people at the pool, we had happened on the area during both a surfing competeting just 1/2 mile north of our beach and also a music festival in the small town of San Jose De Los Cabos right near us. Could it get any better? We swam in the pool a little and then walked down to the surfing competition. I sat down on the beach near the other spectators and both Abby and I feel asleep under the sun. Caleb had started to play with some local kids in the rough waves. It’s a steep beach in that area which causes a powerful wave, both coming in and pulling out. I Loved that Caleb enjoyed being among strange kids and also the powerful water. Abby and I woke up and ordered some dinner at a booth there for the contest. It felt surreal. Caleb eventually joined us for dinner and then we walked through the waves back to our condo for some more pool time till it was dark. After putting the kids to sleep I asked if it OK with them to go back to the surf area and watch some of the night- life festivities that they had going on. The kids were OK with it and I wasn’t going to be long. I jogged down to a concert venue where hundreds of mostly 20-somethings were dancing to some mexican hip-hop band. My wavy blond hair, cheesy grin and silly spanish is always an ice-breaker in Mexico and this night was no different.  Within minutes I was with a group of 7-8 kids dancing around and passing around a joint. This is my heaven. I didn’t have too much time so after just 3-4 songs I headed back to the resort. I did get beckoned by another young  group on the beach who wanted to know my story.  Who I was, How I spoke Spanish, etc. A pretty lady even asked to dance with me on the beach…made my day even better. As I got back to the condo and sat on the balcony, there was some people talking from the balcony next door.  They peaked their head over the privacy wall and invited me over for a drink….Ummmm yes please. A perfect day for the beginning of our vacation. 

The next day the kids didn’t want to leave the pool area. Its a pretty cool set up with all sorts of activites.. Music, games, the beach, other kids. I mostly read my book and my normal internet readings. That evening we caught a taxi to the small town and attended their local music festival. In and around the town square, they had set up lots of music stages.  Lots of vendors were out and about and as it got darker, more and more locals were showing up. It was pure mexican culture and we were right smack dab in the middle.  I loved it. Near one small stage some people were doing a what looked like a mexican version of country swing dancing. I asked Abby if she would dance with me and my brave little date said yes. We danced some and then asked Caleb to record it. For some reason he kept turning the phone back and forth, but you can still see what was going on. After an ice-cream for the street truck we caught a taxi back home. 

We headed back to the pool area in the morning again and hung out there until going to the nearby sports bar for lunch and and watch Mexico play in the world cup. I knew it would be a cool experience to watch. And it was, but we missed it. We ordered a big lunch and all ate like kings, watched the first half of the game, the crowds were into it and it was an exciting 0-0 game. At half time, both the kids wanted to bail and go back to the condo and I didn’t really blame them. We all crashed in different places in the condo. I turned on the game and tried to stay awake but woke up the the cameras showing mexicans all across the country dancing in the streets after an action-packed 3-1 second half. I’m sure that bar was a-hopping when those 3 goals were scored. I guess we missed out on that one. Oh well. 

The next day we caught a public bus and headed towards a fun beach between Cabo San Lucus and our town of Cabo San Jose. Using public transportation was on the top of my list that I wanted both kids to know about. It’s safe. It’s easy. It’s cheap. And it gives an up-close view into the locals’ lives. We rented some boogie boards and headed out on the bus. It was too easy really. The beach was a bit of a dud as the powerful crashing waves near our condo were too much to play in, but this place, chileno beach, was like glass water with no waves.  There would be no boogieing here. We made the best of it and swam around some and chilling under the public umbrellas on the beach. We walked back up to the highway with no real idea of where to catch the bus, the kids got a little nervous when I told them there was no bus stop here but that I was pretty sure a bus would stop for us. We sat on the side rail for 15 minutes watching cars zoom by at highway speeds until bus finally pulled over. No problem. 

Along with doing activities that showed the culture and the people, we also did the touristy stuff. We spent one day at the zip lines and another swimming with the dolphins. The zip line was a ton of fun. It was in the middle of a desert and the lines criss-crossed over a deep canyon. Caleb started out the day not feeling well, probably due to fatigue and dehydration. But my boy rallied after a few slow hikes. We all had a great time. 

The kids swam with the dolphins one morning. They looked pretty nervous at the beginning but had big smiles by the end. Not sure if it was worth the $250 but when in Rome…Most mexicans swim with dolphins right?

We caught a bus north one afternoon and spent the rest of the day in the actual town of Cabo San Lucas. It’s mostly a normal mexican town once past the coastal resorts. We talked to a fisherman near the dock and hitched a hike out to the Playa del Amor, the beach of love! It’s the beach that’s on every Cabo post card. We all frolicked in the waves and laid out in the fine sand. We also swam out a few island rocks and jumped off.  This was another time that both Caleb and Abby played with some local kids. Always makes me smile to see. 

Overall it was a fantastic trip. It was everything that I could hope for. We experienced the culture, the language, the sun, the water, the area. I spent some quality time with each of my kids. They both grew by hanging out with strangers, both American and Mexican

Fun Stories to remember:
-Abby knew the names of lots of kids in the resort by the time our week was done. She even got invited to join another family on a sunset horse back ride on the beach.
-Caleb and I had some epic battles on the outdoor ping-pong table.
-My phone died after taking on some water at the playa del amor. We were hiking on some rocks next to the water and couple big waves came up and got the bottom of my back pack. Abby lost her traction and fell into the water. She was fine but one flip flop got washed away. I took off my shirt and pack and saved the flip flop like the hero I am. You're welcome flip flop.
-Caleb and Abby quickly learned that everyone in Mexico wanted Dad's money. It became a recurring joke after everyone tried to solicit us.