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Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Hana Maui & The Charms of a Tropical Paradise

   A paradise is a place where "existence is positive, harmonious and timeless."  The word "paradise" is from the French word paradis, which itself derives from the Latin and Greek.  It's notable that the term does not simply appear in the western Greek/Latin/Romance languages/English wing of the Indo European language family.  Old Iranian (Avestan) contains pari-daeza- which literally means walled enclosure.  From Old Iranian it was adopted by Aramaic speakers- which is the language of the old testament and therefore the source of the Hebrew/biblical word for paradise.

The Summer Palace of the Kublai Khan, reflects the Middle Easter pre-Christian idea of a Paradise.

   Basically, the roots of a paradise are in a walled pleasure garden of the Middle Eastern variety.  The kind of thing a Kublai Khan would have lying around in his stately pleasure dome.  Obviously, whether you are talking ancient Middle Eastern paradise or any of the paradise varieties of the Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Islam, to name two.) you are talking about something that is far away from the world of the tropics.

  The coupling of a tropical environment with the imagery of a paradise is something that happened in the 19th century as Western explorers familiar with the Christian version of Paradise located islands in the Pacific Ocean.  Although Spanish explorers had fantasized about imaginary tropical paradises (the Fountain of Youth, El Dorado) their day-to-day experience with Tropical/Jungle environments did not generate a lot of romantic whimsy or adulation on the part of inhabitants.

Gaughin popularizer of the Tropical Paradise concept.
  Starting in the late 19th century a substantial body of Art elaborating the idea of a Tropical Paradise in places like the Polynesian island chains and Hawaii began to appear.  Painters like Gauguin, writers of the fictional and non-fictional variety.  Early Western immigrants traveled slowly by the power of sail, but the real  colonization didn't begin until Steam Engines were attached to ocean going vessels in the 19th century.  Gauguin and his progeny all belong to this later group.

Lucas Cranach Fountain of Youth reflects a paradisaical idea with wide spread currency in the Europe of the Middle Ages.

  Thus, the central narrative of a Tropical Paradise today is that of the Paradise overwhelmed and destroyed by Western Invasion. This invasion/destruction metaphor can be elaborated in a variety of ways but the most potent metaphor continues to be an Ecological/Biological/Environmental description of the destruction of an environment where man lives in harmony with nature.

This woman is posing on Hamoa Beach.

    When it comes to remaining Tropical Paradises, Hana, on the island of Maui, is high on the list.  Hana is fortunately isolated on the rainy side of Maui island.  Getting there involves either a treacherous 2 plus hour drive OR a ride in a prop engine plane to the small airport.  The environment of Hana is a Jungle Rain Forest perched on the side of a volcano next to the Ocean.  Fruits like Bananas, Guavas and Avocados grow naturally and the landscape pulses with greenery.

Hayden Pantierre posing on Hana Black Sand Beach, 2010.

  The amenities in Hana for a tourist are minimal and this is a huge plus in terms of Hana maintaining it's status as a non violated Tropical Paradise.  For example, the area outside the two block "downtown" of Hana does not receive cell phone coverage.  There is one gas station, two convenience stores, two restaurants, etc.

Hana Bay Beach- unfortunate looking pier here.

  The Hits of Hana are the beaches- the three main beaches are Black Rock beach in the Waianapanapa State Park, Hana Bay Beach and Hamoa Beach- located in that order as you drive through from north to south.  Hamoa Beach is the trickiest to find- there isn't a sign that I could see- the road is Haneoo Road- though I don't recall seeing a sign.

Hana Lava Tube one of the few non beach things to do.

  Other then the Beaches- which each can handle multiple visits- you've got a lava tube tour, a hike into the Bamboo Cloud Forest and the drive around the island to the tourist coast or "upcountry" with a 10,000 foot volcano.

Taken in the Hana Bamboo Forest

  Hana Maui is indeed an unspoilt Tropical Paradise that continues to exist in the 21st century.  Because of the hostile attitude of the community to economic development, it is likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future.  Finding lodging isn't that tough, Hana does have a single hotel and vacation rental agencies that offer competitive prices.  Staying there does require a rental car, and on Maui that will cost you.

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