Two short weeks before Christmas my family and I ventured across the pacific to take a vacation. For me, the last few weeks of 2009 were spent exploring the warm, tropical island of Maui, Hawaii. In my lifetime, I have traveled to many states across the country, but none come close in comparison to the mesmerizing beauty of this breathtaking island. As I opened the airport door, I was greeted by a rush of warm, Pacific air, followed by the fresh scent of the salty sea. In the distance, beneath the deafening sound of the nearby plane turbines, I could faintly hear the rhythmic crashing of the massive waves against the monstrous volcanic cliffs. Staring intently at the fading sun as it slowly plunged into the open sea stirred up a sense of peace, which quickly fell over me like a transparent sheet. It was at that moment when I realized that it was going to be the most soul changing two weeks of my entire life.
After renting a car we traveled to the town of Kihei where we settled into a condo with a stunning view of Haleakala- Maui's 10,023 foot volcano. Overlooking the calm Maalaea Bay, the master bedroom had a balcony which provided a perfect view of the gorgeous sunsets. Early the next morning my family and I arrived in Lahaina to go whale-watching with Captain Steve's Humpback Whale Raft Tour. The large, zodiac raft comfortably seated twenty anxious tourists. Shortly after spotting the first whale, the captain throttled the engine toward the breaching whales causing the front of the raft to rise up out of the water as the boat quickly glided across the ocean. These enormous creatures ventured frighteningly close to our raft which, in comparison, no longer felt very large. One curious humpback whale swam so close to the raft that I could reach out and touch its slick, leathery skin. Unexpectedly, the whales would explode up out of the water creating a giant splash like a child playing in a swimming pool.
Another thrilling adventure involved biking down Haleakala. Maui Sunriders Bike Company shuttled us to the top of the volcano where we began our fifteen mile descent to the city below. The change in elevation was obvious as the thin air made it difficult to breathe. As we wound our way down the side of the steep volcano, the temperature began to rise causing the monotonous gray clouds to burn off exposing some breathtaking views of the countryside. The rainforest that we rode into near the end of our trip was vastly different from the treeless tundra seen at the top of the volcano. It seemed as if the road had become no wider than a sidewalk because of the overhanging trees which consumed the lined pavement. The dense forest blocked out the sunlight as the soothing warmth of the sun's rays quickly went away. Rain began to fall as I exited the forest like a cannonball being shot out of a cannon, and the rhythmic tapping of the raindrops hitting the top of my plastic helmet provided a satisfying sense of peace accompanied by the warm rays of sunshine beating down on my wet skin. It was during this rare moment- the wind blowing in my hair and the sight of the beautiful blue ocean in the distance- that I witnessed nature working together in perfect unity. My vacation was soon to be over, ending just as it had started- with an enormous sense of peace. Yet this time that peace was followed by respect, gratitude and a love for this tropical paradise which can never be overcome. Maui took my breath away, and it's there forever to stay.
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