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Published: June 20th 2017
Great water clarity - until it wasn't
Geo: 20.8775, -156.677
I am a good swimmer....mmmm, let me rephrase that. I am a VERY good swimmer. A strong swimmer, I am also a scuba instructor and have taken diver rescue training. In my dive career I have saved 2 people from drowning - one at the surface and one 40 feet down. So, when Jeff gasped out to me "I'm really in trouble" and he disappeared under the waves, my mind seemed to hit overdrive. But I'm getting ahead of myself...
Today we are heading for Malu'aka Beach, one of the best beaches on south Maui and THE beach to see turtles. Our book says: "Green turtles here, green turtles there, at Turtle Beach these graceful giants are everywhere."
For some reason we have taken to calling it "Turtle Town" and we're hoping to see several. Jeff teases me that since we've seen turtles everywhere else we've used up our quota and won't see any today. HAH!
We have a quick breakfast and head out. We're leaving early because the water is calmer in the morning and the turtles are more likely to be feeding.
You'd think that a spot that is listed as one of the best beaches would be easy
Big Beach, Maui
Big Beach on Maui
to find, but
NO! We drive and drive ending up on a dirt road that is cut through a lava field. It is beautiful in an eerie way, but definitely not what we are looking for. Turns out we are at the 'Ahihi-Kina'u Natural Area Reserve - several miles past where we want to be. Turn around, backtrack, go too far in the opposite direction, turn around again, backtrack. Aha! The book says go behind this resort and there it is. Finally! We've spent about 45 minutes or so driving back and forth the same 7-8 miles. So much for an early start.
This is a really nice beach area. There are showers for rinsing off, real bathrooms, pretty grounds with picnic tables and the water looks wonderful. I get in to rinse off our masks and come back to tell Jeff how clear and warm the water is. This is great! We get in and start snorkeling. The water clarity is the best we've had as you can see from this photo.
But in a split second (it seems) everything has changed. We are snorkeling in an underwater sandstorm. The wind has picked up and the waves have gotten BIG! Not
'Iao Needle in 'Iao Valley State Park
only big, but nearly constant and they seem to be breaking right over us. They ARE breaking right over us. We head back to shore only to feel the current pulling and the waves are truly swamping us both. I'm frightened. Jeff looks at me wide-eyed, says "I'm really in trouble" and the next wave crashes over him and he goes under. I reach out and yank him back to the surface, a wave batters us and we both go under. This is serious. Jeff gasps out "What do you want me to do??" The response I want to make, "Don't drown", is inappropriate. I just shake my head, grab his arm to help keep us together and say "You're all right. You're going to be okay." I was sure I was right because he wasn't in a full- blown panic. I looked under myself and saw a coral outcropping about 5 feet away. I shoved Jeff that way, "What should I do??" He asked. "Stand UP!" I said with as much authority as I could put into my voice.
He did and the next wave knocked him over and under again; got him back up and on the coral.
'Iao Valley State Park
'Iao Valley State Park
We are too far out for him to swim for shore, so we head for a big rock outcropping. Not sure we can get from those rocks to shore, but if we can get there and get on them without getting too badly bashed we can make a plan. Maybe someone will see us and help.
I see Jeff get slammed into the rocks and he is holding on. I get swept past and finally get my hand onto something solid. I look back at Jeff and I can see a new set of waves cresting. I shout at him, "Wait....wait...." I know he is getting ready to try and climb those rocks but he needs to wait until the set lulls. Finally, 3 massive waves try to tear us from our handholds. I yell " Now! Climb!" and see Jeff climbing, but my rock is too steep. I shout out to him that I need to let go and try to get carried a little further in - I do and am able to grab hold again. I see Jeff on top of the rocks, blood running down both legs. A wave slams me sideways - man, THAT is
'Iao Valley State Park
'Iao Valley State Park
going to leave a bruise. Jeff is working his way across the rocks still wearing his fins. We are in a safe though precarious place. I am finally able to climb up. I reach out and grasp a sea urchin. Crap! That hurts and now I know I have spines in a couple of fingers. We get to the top of the rocks...yes, if we are very careful we can get to shore from here and then walk back to the beach. My legs are shaking so badly...adrenaline, fear, tiredness? All of the above. I have an almost overwhelming urge to just sob...great relief.
Jeff looks at me and says, "You know, the problem with all this healthy eating is that the only thing I have to celebrate not dying with is carrot sticks!" I laugh almost hysterically.
As we get back on shore a man and woman stop us. They had been watching and weren't sure we were going to make it. He was ready to help but when they saw us heading for the rocks knew we had a better chance than if we had tried to swim for shore. She said they were much closer in when the current and waves picked up and it was really difficult for them to get back.
We didn't see a single turtle.
Once we were back to our towels, I was DONE! We had planned to snorkel here, walk the wide sandy beach at Big Beach and then hike at a state park. Jeff was still game. It took awhile for my heart rate to get back to normal. We rinsed off, packed up and headed for the car.
Don't these people believed in signposts??? We did find Big Beach with just one backtrack. Getting out of the car, I reached for the camera, went through my bag. No camera. "I can't find the camera." We take everything out of the car...no camera. I'm back to feeling hysterical.
We go back to Turtle Town, to where we had left our towels and stuff. And AMAZINGLY Jeff finds the camera in some very tall grass. I can't believe it!
Okay, onto Big Beach. It is beautiful, but I think I am in a little shock. Every time the waves come ashore my stomach clinches. The waves are very high and rough here as well. We walk the beach, holding hands. Neither of us are big on public displays of affection, but I can't let go.
Before we head to the state park, we go BACK to Turtle Town to use the nice restrooms to change our clothes. Out of swimsuits and into shorts for hiking. I get back in the car...where are my sunglasses?? I say a few words my mother would not approve of and walk back to the restrooms hoping my prescription sunglasses are in there. As I walk away, Jeff blows the horn- he found them in the car.
I could use a handful of Valium! Hahaha
One of the most photographed sites on Maui is the 'Iao Needle located in 'Iao Valley State Park. This is where we are headed and it is a gorgeous drive to the park.
The 'Iao Needle rises straight up 2,250 feet. It is actually part of a ridge but it was not eroded like the ridge around it. It stands alone. The backdrop of the West Maui mountains makes it stand out beautifully. There are two walking paths here. We don't need our hiking boots as both of these little trails are paved and take about 10 minutes each to walk. The smell of fallen guava is wonderful and there are some nice photo places. I'm so happy we came here. It is green and calming...the fragrances are better than any aromatherapy "session." If you are interested in hearing about the legend associated with the 'Iao Needle, let me know and I'll describe it.
It is time to go home. We return to the car (making sure we have all of our belongings!) and drive back down the valley.
When we get back to the condo, we pour glasses of wine and stand out on the lanai to watch the sunset. Jeff thanks me for helping him today and I thank him for not drowning.
It took me a really, really long time to fall asleep.
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