Of the twenty-seven islands composing the fiftieth State of those presently United as such,i and of the seven main islands thereof, Maui is an incomparable vacation destination. Welcoming,ii luxurious, clean, high-minded,iii safe, and bountiful in its natural beauty, it’s that cliché postcard island getaway. From my recent adventures there, let’s take a look at some of this exotic island’s divers fauna. Given that less 2`000 sq km of Mauian volcanic projections cover more than half of the possible Köppen climate zones, it’s sure to be weird, wonderful, and womantic. Excuse my mometawy wisp…
First up are the Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis), seen here some miles away from their bovine brethren but nevertheless adorned in feathers as white as and as light as snow, concealing bodies of slenderness and elegance the likes of which couldn’t help but have inspired builders of high-speed triremes… had the Ancient Greeks needed any help of the sort.
The arachnid seen below, the Yellow and Black Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia) is almost certainly a mature female of her species. Her 5″ span all but precludes her minute maleness, but her classic round orb web punctuated by zigzagging bands of silk (called “stabilimentum”) give her identity away as sure as monolingualism gives away an American (or similar savage).
Next up on our tour of the Hawaiian wild, we arrive at a markedly flightier, boundier, and rarer sight still, the Jumping Jew (Saltarum hebraicus). This particular Jumping Jew was spotted in his native habitat – the golf course – at the illustrious Kapalua Plantation Course. To be captured mid-jump in freeze-frame like this is really something of a spectacle, wouldn’t you say ?
In other humanoid sightings, here we have the equally elusive Fellow Blogger (Opinarium publicus). While you may not recognise the Blogger in question, my modest contributions to Jim Yu’s blog – Tamerlane’s Thoughts – were published on the anniversary of his tenth year at the cursor. Jim also just so happened to be on the island with his beautiful wife, Kara, and their incredibly robust and handsome 8-month-old son, James, while we were there as well. Funny small world. And all the more serendipitous when your friends and acquaintances announce where they’re going in advance!iv
And yes, I’m wearing a Hawaiian shirt. When in Rome.
In addition to these mostly pre-taxidermic finds thus far, there was indeed a post-taxidermic find as well. The Dr. Seuss section of Lahaina Galleries was the cultural highlight on the commercial strip, a strip that is itself renowned for its low-end tchotchkes and mid-range galleries. Amongst the t-shirts reading “Eat. Sleep. Maui. Repeat.”, not to mention an assortment of prints by Chagall, Picasso, Lik, and Warhol, the quixotic “Unorthodox Taxidermy” busts by Dr. Seuss (née Theodor Seuss Geisel) were the sparkle in the strip’s tiara. Here seen, from left to right, were the Carbonic Walrus, Gimlet Fish, Anthony Drexel Goldfarb, Flaming Herring, Andulovian Grackler, Kangaroo Bird, Sludge Tarpon, and Sawfish, any of which, it must be said, would instantly brighten up a dentist’s office or other waiting room. Believe it or not, the first busts in the series were commissioned for Standard Oil’s 1937 exhibition of the National Boat Show in NYC, demonstrating that even monopolistic titans of industry can have a sense of humour (just in case you were under any illusions to the contrary). Fantastical, no ?
But the pricing was considerably less impressive. Taking off on the Lik-esque “low-tech pre-bitcoin for lizards” pricing scheme, the busts started at ~$3500 for the first couple hundred in the series (out of 850, so they claim), before the prices ratcheted up by another thousand or two (or three) as scarcity took hold. Makes you appreciate just how much better our little emerging cryptographic societ is, doesn’t it ? If not, the recent devaluation of your millions from thousands of BTC into dozens certainly should. Just sayin’.
Now you might laugh when I suggest that the fiery sun is alive, but it’s awfully hard to say that it isn’t when no one has been close enough to take a pulse! So here we see something exceedingly unusual for visitors of the island : the Hana sunrise. Being located on the eastern edge of the emergent volcano, Hana enjoys the most breathtaking morning vistas. With 10`000 foot peaks and many a tropical forest in between it and the sunset, its evening dramatics are relatively benign by contract, which is exactly the opposite of the more popular western seaboard.v While Hana is located only 50 miles from the west coast as the egret flies, the road bridging the halves is so tight, so twisting, and so fraught with perilous one-way pinch points that it takes nearly three hours to drive each way. As such, catching a 6:45am sunrise requires staying directly in Hana (or else leaving Wailea at 3:30am), which means staying at what is essentially the only proper hotel in the area – the too-catchy-by-half sounding “Travaasa.” It’s pricey, but then again it’s almost 2018.vi
Almost as red were the heads of the Red-Crested Cardinals (Paroaria coronata), seen here enjoying the fountains and lawns of the Waldorf Astoria’s Grand Wailea property. I normally wouldn’t be caught dead in such an over-the-top cruise ship of a hotel overrun with Boterovii sculptures in seemingly every fattened crevice, but the ice baths, Roman baths, and “healing waters” in their spa aren’t to be missed. And then again the hotel itself hasn’t had a major facelift in the 27 years since it was built and it’s therefore little wonder that the whole thing just felt at once too new and too old. Though apparently it was a place of abject wonderment when my nearly penniless parents happened into the lobby for a view into the lives of “rich people” in the early 1990’s. The rooms back then were perhaps $200 a night. That they’re barely twice that now reflects a considerable move down-market.
An odd specimen of note was seen herebelow : the jogging police officer! There must have been a sale on doughnuts somewhere nearby because these high-handed (if flat-footed) porkchops were already practising their carries of the crates they’d be making off with.
Amidst the bamboo forests near Hana was spotted this seemingly innocent little ant. Alas, this Little Fire Ant (Wasmannia auropunctata) is something of a menace on the island. As an invasive species, they’ve been in Hawaii less than 20 years, during which time they’ve caused considerable aggravation for pest controllers and other native fauna. Then again, this is but a fragment of the invasions that have occurred throughout the last century’s history of the island chain. The mongeese are another standout example that my lens was always too slow to capture, though several were visually spotted scurrying across roadways during our week there.
In cluckier clucks were the Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus) roosters loitering outside the cafes on S. Kihei Rd. Cockadoodledoo to you, sirs.viii
Penultimately, seen herebelow next to our trusty GMC Yukonix was one of the few “botanical gardens” of Maui’s eastern coast. This sorry excuse for a tourist attraction was one whose glory days were sometime in the 1960’s, when starry eyed landlubbers would pay $3.00 just to look at a mown lawn amidst the tropical bush. It was completely abandoned save a barking dog, a coughing old woman whose hearing had deteriorated to the point where she couldn’t hear me yelling to her from her front door, and a dilapidated Toyota Matrix on steel rims. Inviting ourselves onto the “property,” we found… nothing. Other than lawn, mud, and miscellaneous gardening tools amidst the jungle. Where fauna wanes, flora reclaims.
Speaking of flora, and to broaden our Pacific pleasantries to all living things, this White Spider Lily (Crinum asiaticum) bids you adieu.
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- Having been absorbed into this latest Western Empire in only 1959, less than six decades ago, Hawaii is still a vibrant mix of island culture combined with western technology and convenience. Perhaps on account of the favourable climate, denser aggregations of peoples, and investments of more than just federal dollars, but Hawaii has flourished in a way that the forsaken Nunavut can scarcely dream of. Some of these colonial outposts are not like the others. Thank the Japanese tourists for that. Recall that Japan is nearly equidistant to Hawaii from North America. [↩]
- “Welcoming” is more than just a warm smile and dutiful service, it’s the unquestioned breaking of a USD $100 bill always and everywhere. This is considerably more unusual in Canada, even in Vancouver, where plastic is king. That cash still has place in the “civilised” world only serves to show that pockets of civility really do persist even as the edges of the Empire are ceded to barbarism. [↩]
- For example, the island has banned the use of plastic bags at grocery stores since I last visited in 2014. While the advances of plastic bag technology – which, lest we forget, permit “double-bagging,” rain resistance, and carrying handles that allow for condo dwellers (or others with distances between store/parking and kitchen) to adorn the full lengths of their arms with as many as ten bags – are eschewed in favour of more primitive and less practical paper bags, the ready availability of fresh organic foods of every description, not to mention unspoilt marine waters, are a delight for the senses very much worth the odd inconvenience here and there. [↩]
- Unlike some of us who live lives of mystery and intrigue until weeks or sometimes months later, when we curatedly reveal snippets of our explorations ex post. [↩]
- Eg. Wailea sunset as seen from the most exquisite and highly recommended Hotel Wailea restaurant – Relais & Châteaux. Between the brilliant service, sublime vistas, superb wine pairings, and elegant atmosphere off the beaten path of the larger hotels, it was easily our most memorable meal. Highly recommended if you’re in the area.
- And I’m not that into sugar anyways.
That’s a lotta likes. No wonder my phone was buzzing off the hook the entire week we were there. “What’s going on with Bitcoin prices??!” and “What do you think is gonna happen long-term, like, by the end of the year??!” and “I lost my phone with that 0.1 BTC you gave me for free in 2013, what do I do now ?!??!!” and so on and so forth. [↩]
- Though I’d recommend the Botero Museum in Bogota if you’ve the chance. His works just felt too transplanted at the Grand Wailea. [↩]
- A biologically-inclined local’s competent critique of G. gallus can be found here. [↩]
- Not having driven one before, I found the 2017 GMC Yukon to be a solid-footed truck that certainly wouldn’t be kicked out of my garage. Its tight turning radius and long suspension travel were perfect for off-road tourism and really couldn’t be half-bad on the frost-heaved excuses for roads back home. Hmm, maybe a truck’s in my future ? [↩]