As part of my decision to travel somewhere every month since September 2016, I went with three girlfriends for a week on the Island of Maui, Hawaii, in late January 2017. These are the photos and tales of my Hawaii adventures.
Black lava pebbles digging into the soles of my feet, already hardened by days spent walking on rocky ground. Trees with leaves as green as a child’s painting, phantasmagorical colours the likes of which I had only seen before in a Tim Burton film. Sand beaches the colour of spilled caramel, so soft and smooth it gets into every exposed crevice and open container in a matter of seconds. Blue waters tinged with white wispy tops, stretching as far as the eye can see, violently crashing into the shore and tugging at my centre of gravity at the same time. These are the colours of my Hawaii Adventures. Welcome to Maui, Day I, also known as the day we discovered passion fruit tuna carpaccio.
We are sitting at the parking lot of Snorkel Bob’s, having just been fitted with our $9/week snorkelling equipment by Spencer, a tan and muscular man who is young enough to take us all to his senior prom and is yet able to send beautiful women into eyelash-batting fits. The key in Laura’s hand, we are attempting to start Ruby, our newest 27-year-old Redhead German travel buddy. Ruby is a VW Westphalia camper van who has seen the inside and outside of every nook and crevice of this island as part of her tenure with Aloha Campers. We have only known Ruby for 15 minutes, and yet we can already feel that we’re going to be fast friends during this upcoming week.
But Ruby just won’t start. We try everything – different sets of hands, different positions. We even open the manual and end up locking the wheel. And yet, to borrow from Ruby’s native language, nichts. After ten long minutes of battle, we phone our new friend Branden, one of the charming staff of Aloha Campers, whom we had parted from only 15 minutes ago. Branden promises to be on his way, his pleasant Midwestern American accent only mildly managing to hide his frustration at having to bail four independent women a mere quarter of an hour after renting them their camper van.
“Hey, why don’t we try the second key again?” asks Meredith.
A second later, Ruby grinds into gear – just as an Aloha Campers staffer drives into the parking lot with a replacement van for us. We jump out of the car in shouts and laughter, letting them know that all is well, mahalo!
And thus, we set on our way.
* * *
“Pull over! I see a van with fresh fruit,” Meredith shouts.
Laura obliges, pulling Ruby into submission on the side of the road. We grab our wallets and run, nearly accosting the older gentleman reading the latest John Grisham novel behind the wheel of his truck. Minutes and $9USD later, we run back to the car with a bag of strangely coloured oranges, a white grapefruit, a pomelo the size of my head, and my proudest find – six perfectly ripe, glistening passion fruits.
As I bite into my first Hawaiian orange in the back of our camper van, its acerbic, sweet juice running down my already dirty arms, my eyes close involuntarily with delight. This is it, I think – the freedom I’ve been waiting for.
* * *
We are driving along the Road to Hana, one of the world’s most beautiful routes and Hawaii’s premier gem. With 617 hairpin turns and 110 single-lane bridges, this is no beginner trek. There are waterfalls and secret hikes at every turn, and greenery as far as the eye can see.
There is beauty the likes of which we never experienced, and more freedom than we ever thought possible.
We cannot wait to see what the next turn will bring.
* * *
We pull out the table of Ruby, our trusted Westphalia camper van, and settle in to make our first meal of the trip. The sun is setting into the wild forest that surrounds Kīpahulu campground at Halekala National Park where we are parked for the night, while the waves of an angry evening ocean are pouring onto the shore behind us. We do not know it yet, but this will be the most beautiful campground of our entire trip – an experience worthy of eternalizing in postcards.
I slice the raw Pacific tuna we bought earlier thinly, doing my best to perform neat, clean cuts with the blunt chef’s knife that came in our Westphalia camper van dish kit. Alizah is cutting into an organic avocado the size of my two hands put together, acquired just a couple of hours ago at Hana Harvest (more on that place later!). At the merest pressure, the avocado just breaks apart, a perfectly ripe fruit begging to be lightly seasoned with lime juice. Meanwhile, Meredith and Laura are studying the insides of our passion fruits, bought from the back of a Hawaiian truck. Full of large, dark seeds and a mushy orange pulp, they look like alien egg depositories.
“I have never tasted a passion fruit, but they look disgusting,” someone says, and I just smile to myself – they do not know what’s coming.
Our dinner that night is tuna carpaccio topped with avocado and passion fruit: 1.5lbs of raw tuna, sliced thinly into sashimi-style slices. Topped with avocado and passion fruit pulp and a liberal drizzle of lime, it is bright and silky, an explosive experience of flavour, texture and colour. We wash it down with three bottles of mid-range American white wines.
Later, we will watch fire dancers and chat to strangers from a small town in Ontario, Canada. We will record a 45-minute podcast about our first day, full of rambling and belly laughs and inside jokes. We will cuddle on the pull-out beds of our camper van, chilly until we discover the additional sheets we can drape atop the microfibre towels we are using as makeshift blankets. We will take a few deep breaths and thank the forces that transpired to bring us here on this warm January night. We will gaze at the most stars we have ever seen in one places and attempt to find the Big Dipper, instead seeing only Orion’s Belt.
But for now, there is just this tuna carpaccio topped with avocado and passion fruit. And it’s already so much more than I could have ever hoped for.
Tune in on Thursday as I tell you how we bought – and made – the perfect cup of Hawaiian coffee, hiked a bamboo forest, ate mahi mahi tacos that were worthy of a dream, and jumped off 6-foot high cliffs into the ocean waters.
- 1-1.5 lbs of grade A raw wild tuna
- 1 large avocado
- 4 fresh passion fruits
- 2-3 limes
- Salt, to taste (optional)
- Pepper, to taste (optional)
- Slice tuna thinly into sashimi-style slices, holding your knife at an angle.
- Mix avocado meat with passion fruit pulp, adding the juice of 1 or two limes (start with one, taste and add as needed). Season with salt and pepper to taste (optional).
- Top tuna slices with avocado-passion fruit mixture. Drizzle the juice of an additional lime on all the slices. Serve immediately with more lime slices.