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Lockdown Tales: Hunkering Down In Hawaii
Coby Werlin has worked with TDA Global Cycling as a Content Creator on the 2019 The Odyssey & North American Epic Cycling Tours. He previously reported from Seattle on his Lockdown experiences in Thailand.
In lieu of the 2020 South American Epic that never was, I spent my summer and fall months comfortably amongst family and friends in Seattle, and then in Boston, where I was taking a probably much-needed break from my last few years of frenetic moving and traveling. But as the New England winter loomed closer and closer, my partner and I became increasingly bored, restless, and craving of adventure back out in the world in whatever forms possible.
Fast forward to now, and I’m writing this post from my small, rustic hut on a succulent farm in the upcountry of Maui, Hawaii, where we’ve been volunteering for the last 3 weeks and into the indefinite future to ride out the rest of this dark chapter. It was the obvious choice for adventuring while remaining within the US, and while the more preferable form of tour-travel is still a no-go (though I’m optimistic looking forward), Maui’s incredibly low COVID-19 cases and risks was added incentive to explore the island paradise. Volunteering through WWOOF (Worldwide Workers On Organic Farms) has been, and continues to be, a great way to meet new friends while collectively contributing to a greater cause with a balance of hard work, and hard play.
I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel a bit like a far-removed bubble from the rest of the world and its problems, because in a way, it is. Maui isn’t COVID-free, but it comes pretty close, and life here has always revolved around the simplicities of Hawaii’s exquisite nature, so COVID-19 doesn’t seem to disturb much of that – the forests, mountains and seashores are unchanged by the events of 2020.
And what better a time to reconnect with the land than now? Working on a succulent farm consists mostly of weeding, trimming, potting and planting. I usually work with a lot of cameras, computers and all-around tech, so getting my hands down and dirty in the soil has been a refreshing venture. The succulents themselves are quite independent while growing, and only require simple watering, weeding and protection. The real skill comes with carefully potting the succulents, and creating strategic arrangements. The farm is covered in banana trees, which blesses us with too many fresh bananas to stomach, and curses us with banana tree sap that stains and stings to the touch (who knew?). The rest of our farm duties include maintaining the vegetable garden, tending to the chickens, and simple construction projects around the farm. Overall, it’s been a great way to settle into local life on Maui, and to understand the island from the inside out.
There are even cycle adventures operating locally around the island: E-bike tours, mountain biking through the west valley, even a ride (well, a coast) down Mount Haleakala to the beaches of the north shore. Cycling here, though, is clearly only for the brave, as the driving culture is overwhelmingly strong, and the cycling infrastructure is incredibly low, in my opinion. There is little to no shoulder on the spectacular roads that wind through the forests and coastlines, while there is a nicely paved bike path in the wasteland that is the island’s central valley. Unfair much? Clearly it doesn’t stop some of Maui’s most serious riders from seeing the beauty of the island by bike. I know I’ll have to give the Haleakala ride a try sooner or later, maybe once I get a bit more of a feel for the roads around here.
For now, I’ve stuck to driving, but it hasn’t stopped us from seeing some amazing destinations around the island. Some of our favourite spots from last week included trekking through the Bamboo Forest, the hidden waterfalls along the Waihe’e Ridge, enjoying fresh ahi poke at the market, snorkelling with the turtles along the western shore, and watching the pro surfers ride Maui’s massive winter waves along the north shore at sunset.
Before flying out here, a friend advised me about Hawaii that “the basics may be expensive, but the extraordinary is free”. Each day has an ineffable beauty to it, whether I spend all day shovelling compost, or swerving down the road to Hana. It’s hard not to feel grateful to be in such a glorious place, considering all that Hawaii and its people have been through, and what the world is currently going through as a whole. I hate to rub it in, but if there’s anywhere I’d choose to be stuck right now, it’d be right here on this tiny tropical island in the middle of the Pacific.
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