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February 02 Issue

Gemma Quinn
(except for the spills and thrills of trying to scuba dive and embarrassing parents!)
'Don’t do this and you could die, do that and you could die, do this like that and, well, you could die.'

Emerging from the crystal clear water crawling along the sand, desperate to take off the heavy equipment, I felt physically exhausted and emotionally exhilarated. I had just survived my first scuba dive at Ulua Beach, a 10-minute drive away from where we were staying in Kihei, on the Hawaiian Island of Maui. It was the finale of a 17-day holiday that had taken myself, my mum and sister and my best friend Paul and his parent across three states of America.

After experiencing the thrills and spills of life in LA and doing all the touristy things of going to Disneyland, Universal Studios and the famed tour of the Hollywood Hills, as well as a whistle stop tour of the glitz and glamour that is Las Vegas; staying in the Luxor Hotel, it was a great to be able to relax and chill for a week.

It is a four-hour flight from LA to Honolulu where we spent the first night of our Hawaii experience. A lively place reknown for the famous Waikiki beach that I had to check out, along with the malls, whilst the men went to Pearl Harbor, an experience I’m told I should not have missed.

Maui is more laid back and less commercial than the fashionable and extravagant Honolulu in Oaho. Pulling on a wetsuit was about as energetic as it got in Maui.
Diving is one of the most popular activities in Hawaii and I was persuaded into getting up at 5am to give it a go. After the initial shock of realising that 5actually had an am I was then in fear of the actual activity! Paul and I sat perched on a log as our instructor Gerry went through the basics – highlighting the dangers, which did seem quite a lot! Don’t do this and you could die, do that and you could die, do this like that and, well, you could die. Be under no illusion, it is a scary but I’m told a reassuringly safe activity.

Doubts crossed my mind even as I took that first breath under the water. I guess I didn’t take to it like a duck to water, spluttering away as my head was immersed I did feel like I could, yep, you’ve guessed it, DIE! If Paul had said there and then we didn’t have to do any more I’d have been out of that water as quick as my little legs would take me whilst carrying what felt like a rocket on my back. But he didn’t so we carried on. Time to do that thingy where it helps you sink down, unfortunately, my body didn’t want to sink to the bottom of the ocean – how clever and sensible of it. ‘Yes’ I thought, ‘no more for me.’ But Gerry had other ideas and I was chained to several weights that really did give me that sinking feeling. Relaxing into the moment, and after calming down, it was a memorable experience. The area is popular for snorkeling and diving with a varied marine life and it was amazing, we even saw a turtle. For $110 (approx. £65), we had the full attention of a PADI qualified instructor for the morning dive and that included two tanks. I could quite easily have given up but it is definitely an activity to try.

Exhausted and probably still in shock, we headed back to what was our home for the next week - the Aston-Maui Banyan Resort in Kihei, named after the Banyan tree. The three bed roomed three bathroom condominium, overlooking Kamaole Beach Park, was a perfect base whether wanting a relaxing holiday soaking in the sun or being more adventurous and exploring what the island has to offer.

After a hard day doing nothing we took advantage of the BBQ area and cooked up a feast! Paul and I left the parents to continue eating and guzzling wine while we headed for the Jacuzzi and started making conversation with another family there. Now I love the Americans, I love their lifestyle, I love their accent and I love the way they have such a profound and serious interest in us British folks! After listening to what their life was like in Las Vegas it was pretty hard to make home back in England sound in the least bit attractive, but even so, they were just as enthralled at listening to us as we were to them. I was all ready to suggest we have a big house swap when the mothers from hell come stumbling over, rather loud and rather drunken.

It seems they were having a good old chat with an American family over the BBQ, discussing his sprawling Malibu mansion that Brad Pitt had recently visited filming a TV ad! Yes Mum, that is pretty amazing, but we were trying to make polite talk and establish a bit of respect to these nice people who had by now quickly escaped the Jacuzzi from the mad English. Just how much had they had to drink? I have no idea but I do know that they both felt very poorly the next day, Paul and I were brutally embarrassed and scarred for the rest of holiday. Clearly there was no house swapping in Las Vegas and my mum still wanders why Mr Rich never did keep in touch like he said!

Anyway, apart from drunken embarrassing parents, Kihei is a natural vacation spot with the ocean on one side and the lush green Haleakala on the other. It is a growing area with over 100 condos, hotels, shopping complexes, food stores and restaurants lining both sides of the Kihei Road. In spite of its growth it’s still a fairly quiet area being popular with honeymooners and families with perfect safe beaches that are lined with parks that have facilities for volleyball, basketball, tennis and football, as well as picnic areas.

Tearing myself away from the beach we ventured to Haleakala National Park. It was here, according to Polynesian legend, that the demigod Maui captured the sun and held it captive to give his people more daylight hours. Haleakala’s last eruption was more than 200 years ago. A public observatory stands on the rim of the volcano’s crater, giving amazing views over the island.
No trip to Hawaii would be complete without experiencing a bit of Polynesian culture Luau style. On arrival at nearby Outrigger Wailea Resort we were lavished with flowers and lei’s in the beachfront setting. It was a chance to taste some traditional Hawaiian cuisine, including the more, erm, unusual, specialities of baked Mahi Mahi, Lomi Lomi salmon (salmon bits with tomatoes and onions) and sweet potato milk. Dancing was the main form of entertainment with Ote’a telling the story of early migration of Polynesian’s to the ‘new islands’ of Hawaii, to the dance of ‘Auana; the modern hula influenced by immigrants and tourism. It was now my turn to embarrass the family as I was whisked away up stage to be shown some basic dance movements – an event that was unfortunately captured on video camera!

As the sun set, food and drink abundant our attention was drawn to the ocean as a whale and its mate decided to entertain us, their relaxed, carefree attitude felt by every guest and a reason why guests return year after year to Hawaii.

© Gemma Quinn 2002

Gemma is a journalism student at University of Lincoln

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