Once in a lifetime trip is a bold statement but our 20th Wedding Anniversary trip was up there in the top 3 if not hitting the top place.
February 2016 will be remembered for the best ever powder snow conditions we have experienced in Banff Canada and the two weeks exploring the island of Maui, Hawaii.
Canada was experiencing record high temperatures with 16c in Calgary, but this didn’t stop the champagne powder dumping on the Rocky mountains. There was 48cm in our first three days alone and it didn’t stop. Mother nature was kind enough to snow overnight with only one daytime whiteout for an hour.
Initially we stayed in a rustic log cabin at Baker Creek a 20 minute drive from Lake Louise ski area. The individual log cabins are tucked away in the woods with a river and railway line running along side. Great walks along the partly frozen river. The old Bow Valley road was beautiful and completely covered in snow, needed our 4×4 to perform here. It was like a scene from Ice Road Truckers TV show as we had to proceed with caution as we were the first vehicle to drive it on fresh snow not knowing the road.
Lake Louise gave amazing views of the frozen lake and mountain ranges around, with perfect if unexpected ski conditions. Previously when we have been here the temps have been minus 20 to 30c but this was like spring skiing in Europe temperatures but without the sloppy snow melt.
We then transferred to Banff Park Lodge hotel in Banff town so we were nearer to Sunshine Village ski area for the next 4 days on the snow. Sunshine village is 100% natural snow with such a variety of terrain you’d never get tired. The new heated gondola was nice but unnecessary in the warmer temperatures. We pounded our legs in the powder and were grinning from ear to ear all day long up here. Have to say one of my favorite ski areas.
Time to pack up the snowboard and thermals then return to Calgary airport for a direct flight to Maui and sunshine for part two and the next two weeks of our trip.
We travelled to Ohau & Kawaii ten years ago but still loved the warm tropical night air of Hawaii breeze over us in the baggage area. Most of the airport is open with few windows allowing natural ventilation. Plenty of Lei’s being hung around necks but we were heading to our seaside hotel for some sleep as this day was an additional 3 hours long, so now 10 hours behind GMT.
We stayed in four different parts of Maui to get to see andExperience as much of the island as possible. The first hotel was the Ka’anapali BeachHotel, voted as the Most Hawaii hotel in the islands. A family run hotel offering a real taste and welcome of Hawaii. From welcome breakfast, hula dancing, Hawaiian fresh local food, watersports, snorkeling and whale trips plus a leaving ceremony with Lei’s for all guests.
We walked the beach pathways, through golf courses, hotels and parks, snorkeled off Black Rock below the cliff divers, relaxed around the whale shaped swimming pool, I swam two miles along the beach, did my one and only run along the beach at sunrise, enjoyed the evening Legends show and buffet. A perfect location and very pleasant hotel – we will be back for sure.
Our second home from home on the island was Upcountry in Kehi which gave us access to Haleakala National Park and the most amazing sunrise over the crater. The 3:00am alarm, 20 mile drive up switchback road in the dark and temperatures just hovering about 0C were so worth it.
We also wandered around a lavender farm, Mike buying lavender chocolate but I preferred Maui vineyards where we sampled wines including a pineapple wine – it smelt better than it tasted. Later we enjoyed some of the wine chilled in Hana and even managed to bring a bottle home without breakage.
A quick change of car and we were heading to Hana, The Hana highway is only just over 50 miles long but has 617 bends, and hundreds of narrow single lane bridges, falling rocks and sheer drop offs. It also had stunning views, numerous waterfalls and pools to stop and have refreshing dips, roadside stalls offering fresh fruit and delicious warm baked banana bread plus the Garden of Eden was a tropical paradise. We took it steady and enjoyed teh ride, taking us 7 hours !
Hana – literally the end of the road is laid back, uncommercial, rustic, charming, surrounded by red, black & white beaches in-between harsh volcanic cliffs which on a stormy sea day can offer spectacular blow holes to show off the power of the sea. Only one restaurant the Hana ranch which served great steak & fish dishes. The plentiful roadside or beach BBQ’s all had their own speciality, one favorite was the Huli Huli Chicken shack which had a BBQ the size of a table tennis table, half chickens were cooked through out the day and served to order with salad and rice on a plate. Delicious.
We took a hike through the bamboo forest which was creaking, crackling and snapping as we walked through due to the winds. Following the trail of the Severn pool sand to one of the highest waterfalls in Hawaii at 400ft. The spray coming off was most welcome and refreshing.
A brilliant afternoon boogie boarding provided by accommodation at Hamoa beach, we were finding sand in ears, shorts and well everywhere for days afterwards, as we were being forced along the breaking waves and dumped on to the beach. Our next home was a very grand tree style house, a wooden structure on a hillside with wrap around balconies and 180 degree view of the sea and whales.
The return journey down Hana highway took a third of the time with less stops. We still enjoyed the views in reverse and managed to explore Twin falls and eat delicious coconut shrimp at the Jungle Mall.
Our last stop on the south of the island was Maui Coast hotel at Kihei, this is a great location for water sports and I managed to catch some waves on a surfboard and stand-up paddle board, SUP. Sea turtles swam around me as I paddled along over a coral reef full of tropical fish. We also borrowed a couple of cruisers / clunkers from the hotel and rode along the seafront a few hours to complete Swim Bike & run in Hawaii, so I’m ready for Kona world championships now LOL !
After being blown off whale watching earlier we were able to get on the water and close up and personal (as legal) with whales from a small inflatable and also on kayaks. Both trips rewarded us with amazing sights and sounds of many groups of whales, makes playing, mother and calves, small groups and a a few solo swimmers. The sounds of breaching, singing and blowing will stick with me forever. Having seen whales from all sides of the island from the beach or road to see them on the horizon or swimming below our kayaks was amazing, these gentle giants are so graceful in the water and the smack down breaches or fin slap sounds are like canon fire they are so loud.
As well as amazing sunrises especially at the crater we saw the most amazing sunsets from balconies and beaches. This tropical island is so vibrant, full of colour, warmth and friendliness. Yes its an American state but so far away from mainland America you really are in a tropical paradise island.
Aloha – meaning hello & goodbye. We will be back and malohah – thank you Maui.