How Not to Fly From Big Island to Maui

Trip Start Dec 27, 2008
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Flag of United States  , Hawaii
Friday, December 28, 2007

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How Not to Fly from Hawaii (Big Island) to Maui

 
For the last six days, the island of Hawaii had enchanted us with its geographical diversity and beauty.
 
It started with the spectacular coast line that we saw from above as we flew from Honolulu to Hilo . We craned our necks to get the best vantage point to see the huge sea cliffs and the emerald green rolling hills below us.
 
We were then overwhelmed by the square miles upon square miles of black igneous rock that covered the parts of the island that had been overrun by the lava flow of the volcanoes.
 
The United States has spectacular national parks to say the least. Without a doubt, the system is the best in the world. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park stands alone as the national park that best exhibits how the forces of nature created an entire region - in this case the Hawaiian Islands.
 
The park is also not lacking in geographical diversity as contained within its boundaries is the beautiful Kau Desert with its 20 mile Kau Desert Trail.
 
Etched in our memory is the beauty of the Puna Coast with its abundance of hardened lava rock and spectacular sea cliffs, tropical forests and azure blue waters.
 
The drive to South Point through barren wind swept lands on Christmas day was a special experience.
 
The beauty of Kailua-Kona as a vacation spot made this a major destination on the island as well as Hilo .
 
The drive to the north end of the island and the town of Hawi , followed by our drive through "Little Switzerland" were a surprise as the topography was totally unexpected.
 
The Parker Ranch gave us a peek into a special slice of Hawaiian ranch life. It is a great American story.
 
Mona Kea with its 13,000 foot elevation was an adventure we will never forget.
 
No doubt Big Island is a special place, but today - December 27, 2007 it was time to leave the island.
 
The reservations with Go Airlines (iflygo.com), Hawaii 's newly created discount carrier, had been confirmed over a month ago by Barbara.  Go Airlines is known for its inter-island flights costing less than $50 which revolutionized island travel as much for the locals as for tourists.
 
Since I last wrote about the airline in my first blog, a major competitor Aloha Airlines has gone into bankruptcy.
 
Today's flight from Kona International Airport (KOA) to Honolulu was a topic of some discussion between Barbara and me at the time of the booking.
 
The sore point was the 06:10 departure time. Who wants to be on vacation and take a flight that early in the morning?
 
I encouraged Barbara to find a later flight but that led to the discovery that surprisingly it would increase the cost of our flights by $150.
 
So it was that "the money is better spent on a luau" became the rationale for not taking a later flight.
 
Therefore the day dawned early for us, like around 04:30 since we also had to leave enough time to return the rental car.
 
Having said that, neither Barbara nor I are "wasted" by getting up early. Barbara especially gets by on surprisingly little sleep during the work week.
 
In the end everything worked out well as we took the early morning flight and arrived in Honolulu at around 06:50 .
 
That brings us to the next part of our flight arrangements for this day.
 
The following leg of our travel plans would not happen until 11:30 as that was the time for our flight from Honolulu to West Maui Airport , located 5 miles north of Lahaina on the west coast of the island of Maui .
 
This four hour waiting time until our next flight departure was another part of today's travel arrangement which was not ideal.
 
How do you kill four hours at Honolulu Airport ?
 
Our first matter of importance was to find someplace to have breakfast. Since Go Airlines flies into a local terminal attached to the main terminals we took a shuttle to get to the larger terminal.
 
Our search for a place to eat breakfast however was stymied as we soon realized that to get to anything beyond a sandwich would require going through security - so much for that idea.
 
We therefore headed back to the local terminal and settled for a sandwich for breakfast, something we had rejected earlier.
 
In a certain way, I welcomed the long lay over as an opportunity to catch up on my blogging.
 
Due to our days filled with travel from morning till evening there was no time to do any blogging. At best all I could do was to organize the day's photos.
 
Another problem on the Hawaiian Islands was internet access. At least at our hotels, access to the internet was spotty and slow.
 
This all conspired to making little progress on the blogging front.
 
Besides, I am not even speaking of blogging Hawaii . At the time I was still about 8 blogs away from finishing the blogging of my 44-part Alaska trip.
 
Just as a general comment, it is very difficult to travel extensively and publish a blog at the same time. It is just too time consuming.
 
Most bloggers seem to do just that - travel and publish at the same time - but I find that to do justice to the blog, more time is required.
 
Therefore, during the three hours of waiting time that remained at the airport in Honolulu , I took the opportunity to work on my next Alaska blog: No. 72 - Catching the Ferry to Ketchikan .
 
Ironically as I was writing this, there was only a vast expanse of Pacific Ocean between the Hawaiian Islands and the port of Ketchikan in Alaska .
 
While Ketchikan is perhaps the busiest and biggest cruise ship port in Alaska , at this time of year - just after Christmas - it would be almost deserted.
 
While I was blogging Barbara was catching up on her sleep by drifting in and out of consciousness.
 
When the battery ran low on my computer I moved to the far end of the terminal where I made myself comfortable on the floor near an electrical outlet.
 
Having the essentials of power and the necessary pamphlets from Alaska which I had brought along, I set about reconstructing my visit to Ketchikan on October 2, 2007 .
 
At least for me, it was a great way to pass the time. All the while I was keeping an eye on Barbara snoozing intermittently some 50 meters away from me, or at least trying to keep an eye on her belongings in the crowded terminal.
 
The terminal was noisy by this time and it was difficult to hear the announcements of flight departures over the PA system.
 
It was an environment in which it was easy to lose track of time especially since I was not wearing a watch. I had decided that we were going on a holiday and a watch was not part of the essential equipment for a vacation.
 
Besides, I was not paying much attention since I was completely depending on Barbara to keep track of time and our time of departure.
 
As the time passed I became more and more engrossed in my blog, feeling comfortable with the progress that I had made.
 
At some point Barbara woke up and came over and sat beside me on the floor.
 
After about 10 minutes, Barbara said "We have to go, they just announced our flight."
 
About one minute later, Barbara sprang into action shouting "That was last call for our flight to Maui !"
 
I had heard no such thing. As I said it was noisy in the terminal and the PA system was hard to understand.
 
I may have been taken aback by the swift turn of events, but there was no mistaking Barbara's sudden move in the direction of a departure gate at the far end of the terminal.
 
I was in total disconnect with this action.
 
Did we not have almost four hours to get ready to catch our next flight?
 
Translation, how could Barbara have lost track of the time of our departure?
 
I was busy blogging, she was sitting there doing nothing. Not only that, she had a watch.
 
Like I say, the whole situation of her running off shouting "That was the last call for our flight" was straight out of the surreal.
 
Surreal or not, I did react by logging off my computer so that I could join her.
 
Now logging off my computer is not as fast as it used to be. For whatever reason, it now seems to take twice as long as when we first got the computer.
 
So there I was wasting about five minutes waiting to log off the computer and collect my things.
 
Weaving my way through the crowds, I finally arrived at the gate that Barbara had mentioned as our departure gate.
 
There was only one problem. There was no one lined up waiting to board, the door to the tarmac was firmly locked and there seemed to be no plane in sight. Shockingly, there was no Barbara in sight either. She seemed to have disappeared into thin air.
 
Now this was getting more interesting by the minute. Here I was surrounded by a set of improbable conditions and my comprehension of the situation was fast going nowhere.
 
It was at that point that that I became aware of a small plane that seemed not much bigger than a Piper Cub with its engines revving at full throttle.
 
Could this be where Barbara went?
 
In desperation I made my way to the Go Airlines counter.
 
The attendant started to tell me that the last call for boarding had been made about 10 minutes ago.
 
At that moment my predicament sank in.
 
I was here and Barbara was there on that little plane waiting to taxi off to the main runway for take off.  What a sinking feeling that was!
 
There was one last chance. The flight attendant picked up her cell phone to call the pilot. The phone rang and rang and rang but there was no answer.
 
Then as my jaw dropped the little plane started to roll off towards the runway.
 
I don't know which surprised me more - having missed the flight or having Barbara take off without me.
 
I could only shake my head and chuckle in amazement at the way the events of the day had come undone.
 
At this point I stood in awe and watched as Barbara's plane took off and headed towards sunny Maui .
 
Not that I wanted it, but this day was going to be more interesting than I thought.
 
O.K., let's see now. Let's keep things in perspective. This was not a terminal illness or a serious accident. This was only a major inconvenience that I would try and set right and be on my way.
 
Any tendency to become upset was nullified by the behaviour of some other passengers who had the same experience as myself and had missed their flights because they could not hear the PA system. They were flying to a destination other than Maui . When I saw their anger and frustration directed at the airline rep I realized how ridiculous it was to be upset about the situation. I just wanted to get on my way one way or the other.
 
"Being on my way" just became a little more difficult when the airline rep told me that the only remaining flight of the day to Lahaina was all booked up and the best that she could do was to put me on a stand-by list.
 
The thought of not getting on the flight and paying $150 a night for a hotel room in Honolulu waiting for a flight the next day did not appeal to me.
 
Was there an alternative?
 
In two hours there was a flight leaving for Kahului Airport . It wasn't West Maui Airport (Lahaina) but at least it would put me on the same island as Barbara. Lahaina to Kahului is about a 50 mile drive.  No doubt with our cell phones, Barbara and I would be able to reconnect on Maui .
 
That is what I decided to do. I would take the flight to Kahului and take it from there.
 
Meanwhile, the Go Airlines rep had phoned ahead to West Maui Airport (Lahaina) to ask the ground crew to pass the message to Barbara that I was flying to Kahului.
 
That was the last I heard about anything. From that point on I was on my own as I flew off to Kahului wondering how I would proceed from there.
 
I was surprisingly calm but I had to chuckle to myself often enough how it was possible for Barb to just take off and leave me behind.
 
It made me recall the time in 2004 when we went snorkeling off-shore near Key West . On that occasion, Barbara basically abandoned me in "shark infested waters", to use a bit of hyperbole. 
 
Well, maybe it wasn't abandonment, maybe it was only confusion.
 
We were the last two in a group of snorkelers who jumped off a boat to swim into the distance to get to a reef.
 
Somehow Barbara was under the impression that I was already on my way to join the other snorkelers on the reef. That is why she took off like a bat out of hell leaving me in the "shark infested waters" to fend for myself.
 
So those were my thoughts as I made my way out of the airport at Kahului.
 
I had just hit the sidewalk in front of the airport when up rolled a bright red Chevy Cobalt with a smiling Barbara at the wheel. Now that was a turn of events I had not anticipated.
 
The time for recrimination had run out, we were just damn glad to see each other again.
 
Now how could this whole situation have happened?
 
Even while two people are a close team, it is not a good idea to depend on the other person totally.
 
There was nothing to stop me from taking responsibility by keeping track of the time. In certain situations however, one can have too much time, as we did at the airport.   As a result, we seemed to get complacent about keeping track of the time.
 
We were also not cognizant of the numbers involved in the situation.
 
Any previous boarding of a plane that we had ever done was a long drawn out affair with passengers gathering in the assigned gate area. That was followed by long lines to check documents before actually boarding the plane. It all takes time and there is plenty of opportunity to and be one of the last passengers to actually board.
 
What we did not know was that the total capacity of this aircraft was nine, yes, count them, nine passengers! Now how long does it take to board nine passengers when they walk directly out on the tarmac to the plane, go up nine steps on the stairs into the plane and shut the door? It could be all over in nine minutes or less.
 
Well apparently Barbara arrived just in that nine minute window of opportunity and was swept up in the rush to get on the plane.
 
Her last words upon boarding to the pilot (there is no flight attendant) were that my "husband" is still coming right behind me.
 
Well the "husband" was not coming, he was still trying to shut down his computer at the far end of the terminal.

The plane took off with eight passengers filling all but one of the seats. That seat had my name on it but unfortunately not my rear end.
 
O.K., let's look at this situation from a different angle. If it had been me and I was about to go through the door onto the tarmac to board a plane and Barbara was not in sight, would I have rushed to board the plane anyway?
 
The answer of course is - no.
 
I can't help but think that Barbara was trying to maybe "teach me a lesson". The lesson of course being that when she says something I should respond immediately.
 
Maybe she is right.
 
Finally, how was it that Barbara rolled up in a red Chevy Cobalt just as I was walking out the exit from Kahului Airport .
 
Upon her arrival at West Maui Airport , she was informed by the pilot that I would be flying in to Kahului Airport .
 
In the two hours between her arrival and my arrival, it seems that she was a busy lady. Barb went to the car rental agency to pick up the reserved rental car, checked into our condo which was about 8 miles from the airport and then headed east 50 miles to meet me upon my arrival at Kahului. The fact that she rolled up in front of the airport just as I was exiting was not by accident as she knew what time my flight was scheduled to arrive.
 
Since it was Barbara who picked up the rental car, the car was registered in her name. Maui is the only island where there is an additional charge of $10 per day for an additional driver so she did not register me as a second driver.
 
I didn't mind that since I am one of the few males that I know who is happy as a passenger. The irony of the situation was that on the island of Maui we were to have two of the most brutal stretches of driving on the entire trip. Under normal conditions I would certainly have been the driver for these challenging stretches of road which we were to encounter. One of them I could honestly only describe as white knuckle or scary driving but that's another blog.
 
So in the end, the entire day was a story that had a happy ending and one which we shall remember fondly for a long time.
 
Coming Soon: Lahaina - Maui's Premier Destination
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