Exiting Eden

My family was fortunate enough to see Maui this past March, and we were giddy with excitement about it. In the car, en route to the airport, we stated our vacation goals. Husband: to do as little as possible. Youngest: to see a dolphin and a turtle (in the interest of which she wore one dolphin and one turtle earring). Oldest: to snorkel and swim as much as possible. Halfway through the holiday, they were all meeting, and exceeding their goals. “And what was I hoping to do?” I asked. My youngest piped up in a let’s-speed-this-along voice, “Mom, we know. You filled that gelato punch card. That’s it right? That’s really great Mom.”

As enjoyable, if not admirable, as it is to fill an entire punchcard with holes at Maui Gelato, the goal I specifically stated at the beginning of the trip was to do something I had never done before. I don’t make gluttony a goal. That’s like making blinking at regular intervals a goal.

Keopuka Rock, viewed from The Garden of Eden

So I left them. Really, I had no choice. I knew I couldn’t make it all the way to Hana, but I wanted to see part of the famous (62 miles from Paia to Hana, 620 curves) road, and I figured the only way not to get carsick was to be the driver. This famous highway is shocking. Even though you are hugging the hillside, trying not to die, going from tight to tighter switchback, someone is always riding your tail. It astounds me that the death toll isn’t higher. I didn’t want to go further than a third of the way, partly because I knew I would have to drive back on the ocean side and I was dreading it.

I parked in one of the micro pullouts and rock-hopped up a stream to take a quick dip at the base of a waterfall, but I mean quick. Why didn’t I bask in the jungly solitude? It’s embarrassing and ridiculous, but I was alone in an eerie shaded canyon, near Keopuka Rock, where the opening scene of Jurassic Park was filmed. Despite repeated self-beratement, I could not shake the sensation that a carnivorous dinosaur might come lumbering hungrily out of the ferns. They are extinct, you say? Most people don’t even get the last word of the previous sentence out before they are eaten and partially digested by something enormous.

At mile marker 10.5 lies the Garden of Eden Arboretum and Botanical Garden. I knew it would be lovely, because I read guidebooks like novels. I stopped on my way back and saw a 100 year old mango tree, traveler’s palms as big as a garage, and loads of flowers in vigorous, riotous bloom in the heavy tropical heat. The colors were intense, outrageous, the way everything is in the tropics. The screeching and warbling of birds was constant; the insects were deafening; I could hear myself sweating. I leaned over a viewpoint to see the dizzying, winding road below that I would soon be back on. If I was going to get back on the horse, I needed reinforcements.

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One of many Hana Highway one-lane bridges, completed in 1911

20170403_143352 (1)At the exit was a food truck, the Garden Gourmet Cafe. This nomenclature felt like a missed opportunity to me. No Eve’s Eatery, Forbidden Kitchen or Tree of Knowledge Cantina? All the meals sounded fantastic, but I was thirsty and Hawaii is a great place for juices. At the window I beheld a young woman of absolutely absurd physical beauty. As I mentioned, everything is over the top there. She was the Keawakapu Beach of females – impossibly beautiful, yet, there she was. It’s the humidity, I guess. I would never work in a food truck if I were her. Like a unicorn, I would be frozen near a reflective surface, (pond, mirror, spoon) utterly transfixed by my own perfection. I tried to rub the raccoon eyes off my lower lids, straightened my stretched and sagging bikini top, (I threw it away that night) and choked out an order: pineapple-strawberry smoothie, with a bit of citrus.

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painted gum tree

It was simply fresh fruit with ice and a wheel of enormous, aromatic, green-rinded lemon laid on top. I have never seen this fruit’s like, and still don’t know what type of lemon it was, but I ate it, peel and all, after drinking the best smoothie of my life. The pineapple and strawberries were a recent harvest, grown on the island. Fruit eaten ripe and so close to its harvest is as good as life gets.

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I paused near my car as an aggressively fabulous peacock strode by, trailing an endless gown of shimmering emerald feathers. Peacocks are gaudily gorgeous anyway, but this one, like everything else there, made me feel like I was using psychedelic mushrooms. Just like the food truck Lilith, this creature was seven times prettier than necessary. I wanted to take my drink with me, but it was so icily, fruitily divine, I finished it right there, near the spot where Eve succumbed to the serpent. That sly devil must have tempted her with this very same forbidden fruit smoothie. I would give in, too. I always do.

Forbidden Fruit Smoothie (if you dare)

I generally avoid temptation, unless I can’t resist it. -Mae West

a small variety of strawberries, preferably local, dark red, and very sweet
(no need to remove stems)
some Maui Gold pineapple, chunked

If you have a powerful blender, you can even use the core, (my mom taught me that) which tastes delicious but is normally too fibrous to eat as is. Blend the fruits up with ice and enjoy. Top with citrus or squeeze some in.

marycake

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