Maui, USA

This year, my brother decided that instead of engaging in a lengthy discussion about what the family should do for the Christmas season, he would just decide. Since he’d never been to Hawaii, he decided that we’d visit Maui, so he rented a villa at Maui’s extravagant (and lovely) Wailea Beach Villas. The whole family spent a couple of weeks playing in the surf, relaxing by the pool, running along the beach and eating really superb home-cooked meals.

Almost everyone arrived on the same day. Everyone except me. On the eve of departure, I noticed online that there was some problem with my from Vancouver to Maui. I called the Super Elite desk and shared a brief conversation with one of the agents (and it was very brief because it was the end of his shift, so he punted me). However brief, the conversation was long enough to determine that (a) my flight from Vancouver to Maui had been cancelled and that (b) the soonest I could get to Maui would be December 28th. I went to bed and “enjoyed” a fitful sleep, rising early the next morning. I made my way to the airport to see if I could at least get on a flight to Vancouver. I breezed past hundreds of other stranded travelers, most of whom seemed distraught, checked in and retired to the Maple Leaf lounge. Then my flight to Vancouver was cancelled.

Somehow, an enormous Boeing 777 that was supposed to be on a non-stop flight between Toronto and Vancouver was made to stop in both Winnipeg and Calgary to pick up people. It sucks when you’re in New York and end up on a local train instead of the express, but I think it must really suck when your airplane does the same thing and turns a 5-hour flight into a 10-hour ordeal. Anyway, I managed to secure a seat on that 777 and ended up in Vancouver almost 2 hours before the new Maui flight (all these new flights) was scheduled to depart. Unfortunately, the tarmac was icy and we needed to be towed to the gate by a tug – only one of which large enough to pull a 777 exists at the Vancouver airport. Apparently, it was busy pulling all sorts of other aircraft. So, we sat on the tarmac for another two hours, a vantage point which afforded me a nice view of the Maui flight leaving without me.

When I got into the airport, I cleared US customs and then when to see about getting on one of the other planes (operated by WestJet) that was headed to Maui. No dice. Completely full. However, there was an Air Canada flight going to Honolulu, and since so many other flights into Vancouver were cancelled, I figured a lot of people who were supposed to be on that flight would be lost in space. I was right. I secured a seat on that flight and was off to Honolulu – after waiting on the tarmac for another 90 minutes, for good measure.

When I arrived at the Honolulu airport, it was nearly midnight and everything was closed except for a small shop selling muffins, bagels and drinks. I’d not eaten in nearly 20 hours, so I chomped down a bagel and then set out to find a way to Maui. A quick scan around the airport revealed many other travelers with laptops clustered around a particular concrete column. My time traveling taught me one thing: like moths to a light, laptop users flock to open WiFi hotspots. Bingo. In a moment, I was online looking at the Hawaiian Airlines web site. The early-morning flight to Maui was available for $61. Since that was essentially the same price as the inter-island ferry that I’d planned to take, I opted to fly. I joined the airport’s WiFi network and used my iPod to buy myself a ticket. With that out of the way, I proceeded to to see if I could find any tips on Honolulu’s airport (the fact that that site is necessary and exists is just sick and wrong).

After another brief night of prison-style sleep, I boarded a Boeing 717 for the first time. Just to clarify, I was not ravaged by another inmate passenger; I slept on concrete and woke up with bruises because of it. Back to the 717. Since it was originally the MD-95 before Boeing swallowed McDonnell Douglas, it’s like a DC-9/MD-80, only quieter. They’re nice little planes, but they were not commercially successful, so Boeing ended their production in 2006. Because Maui is only a 20-minute flight, we touched down after what might be an Olympic-qualifying beverage service by the flight attendants.

Out of curiosity, I like to try the public transit in places I visit and my bus wouldn’t arrive until 6:40. When we landed, it was only 5:50, so I had a bit of a wait. The Maui Bus doesn’t go everywhere on the island, but at $1 a ride, it is by far the least expensive thing in Hawaii (besides love; that’s free…gag). Keeping me company at the bus stop was drunk painter who graciously offered me some of his Colt 45. In addition to being drunk, he was also in a wheel chair because, he said, he was having sex with some woman when they fell out of bed. Together they spilled to the floor, landed on his foot and broke it. Oh the stories people tell.

After laughing incredulously, I boarded the bus and made my way to Wailea Beach. With a transfer, the trip took nearly 2 hours, and I arrived just as the others were crawling out of bed for breakfast. The following two weeks were superb, fun that didn’t end until we had to return to Canada. Of course, our flight was delayed from 10:45 PM until 3:30 AM. Besides having to stay up half the night, we all missed our connections from Vancouver and my mum lost her lugggage. Nonetheless, we all arrived home eventually with great tans and funny new stories (and only a few scrapes from having the surf pound us into the coral).

The trip sort of served as a marker signifying the end of my round-the-world trip (though I suppose there was some backtracking involved in order to accommodate Hawaii). And, in spite of travel woes, it was a great way to end the year and a nice chance to kick it with my brother, who I see too seldom.