Monday, June 5, 2017

Yoga in Hawaii: Ah, Sweet Bliss!

To all those doubters out there who (based on this blog) think that Amber Jones never takes a NORMAL vacation, that every trip has to be a wild and crazy ADVENTURE: Not true! Last week, I took a normal vacation.

Well, almost.

I signed up for a Yoga in Daily Life retreat on the Big Island of Hawaii. We stayed at a remote lodge festooned with flowers and geckos, overlooking the sea. What could be more paradisaical than that? (Detroiters: note the make of our rented wheels!)

The encouragement to relax and enjoy your vacation begins at the airport, with welcoming displays of flowers and women who, hour after hour, day after day, calmly and methodically sew strings of flowers into beautiful leis.
The island is ideal for yoga. For five days I meditated at sunrise, performed asanas (yoga exercises and postures) on the lanai (porch), ate delicious vegetarian food, watched sunsets, relaxed, blissed out. Pretty darn close to normal, right?
The most exciting moments were encountering the dishes prepared by our hired chef, a local Hawaiian with a taste for mystery and creativity. We encountered poi, a local (and somewhat distateful) dish made of taro; Thai spring rolls; Morrocan chickpea stew; and delicious, ripe mangoes and papayas.
At the conclusion of the retreat, I felt...cheerful! Relaxed! Even blissful! (Those who know me well know how rare that is.) With a few vacation days left, however, I felt compelled to recapture my true nature by attempting some amazing feats, starting with...beach-going and sightseeing. Not terribly adventurous, but worthy of a few qualms in the pit of the stomach, given the local cautions.
The island abounds with opportunities for danger and intrigue: Getting caught in a rip tide. Probing the massive black lava fields for fresh, hot lava flows that burn your boots and swallow small mammals. Jumping off cliffs into the sea. Helicopter tours.

Being a responsible senior citizen now that I have topped 60+, however, I opted for easier stuff--way at the bottom of the adventure scale, despite the signs. Swimming and sunbathing with my friend and fellow yoga practitioner Sally S. at stunning beaches. Attending a luau with Sally and her husband.
Moving slightly to the right on the adventure scale, Sally and I undertook a semi-strenuous hike down a 25-degree slope to a black-sand beach in the Waipi'o Valley. Worth every aching ligament and twinge in the kneecap! The views were stunning, the water warm and clear, the fine black sand sublime.
Next we drove over to the local seahorse factory and--at great risk of wrinkled fingers!--stuck our hands into a salt-water tank to hold the nimble creatures. This commercial farm aims to reduce and replace ocean harvesting of seahorses for the pet trade, by producing them on shore instead. 
Moving a bit further to the right, the three of us boarded an inflatable boat to go snorkeling at Honaunau (also known as Place of Refuge and Two-Step). I snorkeled there 18 years ago in the company of locals, before the Age of Internet allowed its charms to be broadcast to the world. At that time, it was deserted. I saw walls of colorful coral intertwined with fish and came face-to-face with a giant sea turtle. Best of all, I swam with a pod of wild dolphins. Talk about adventure! As the dolphins glided past me, their fins inches from my midriff, I was sure I was going to become sliced meat. Shark bait.

This time, the excitement was way down the scale. Our boat captain sped us a mile or so out to sea to cavort with a pod of pilot whales. We had to stay in the boat.
At Honaunau, the reef was less colorful, the fish less plentiful than my previous time. Like reefs around the world, this one is succumbing to global warming, ocean acidification, and overfishing. I saw a couple of innocent-looking needlefish (but--their long sharp noses have been known to poke holes in boats and eyes!), a baby sea turtle, and a small reef shark. Best of all were the schools of vibrantly colored yellow, blue, turquoise and orange reef fish, with names like threadfin butterflyfish, Picasso triggerfish, and yellow tang.
(Fish photos from Internet sources)
Finally, the riskiest adventure of all: I boarded a plane, turning over the Mustang keys to Sally and her husband. As I climbed into unsettling thermals, headed for the mainland, they set out to continue our Big Island adventure--with tours of astronomy observatories, volcanic craters, and lava fields.

Not one to settle for too much cheerful tranquility for too long, however, I vowed to Sally that I would present to my blog readers both the pros and cons of a Big Island vacation--the opportunities for blissful, calm, normal vacation activities (as noted above) and the opportunities for wild and crazy adventures that are sure to ruin your day. For more on the latter subject, see the following blog post.

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