Maui Stables: A Horse Trek To The Maui Of Yesteryear (Hana, Maui)
Sept 25, 2012 - I can remember my legs turning to jelly, and then there was the pain. Incessant, unyielding, unforgiving; muscles reminding me that they’d been neglected for nigh on a year, and they weren’t letting me forget in a hurry.
No, I wasn’t testing out the latest instrument of torture. Peter wanted to book us into another 3-hour ride with Maui Stables this year. While the “Intrepid Traveler” part of me yelled a resounding “yes”, the wimp remembered how I felt after the ride and it was enticing me to graciously decline Peter’s offer, and then hide quickly.
“C’mon, Vick. What do you mean you’re not sure. We had a great time!”
“Yeah, but, I could barely walk for two days afterwards!”, I wailed.
Eventually, Peter, ever the smooth negotiator, convinced me that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and the sort of thing that we’d tell the grandkids about.
“But you make the booking, Vick. You’re better at these things.” Hmm, that wasn’t part of the deal.
Twenty four hours later, at 9:45 am sharp, we arrived at Maui Stables for registration and orientation. Parking the car, walking up the hill to where the horses were lined up and the office was located, a slight anxiety formed at the pit of my stomach. This always happens when I haven’t ridden for a while, despite my having taken formal lessons and enjoyed horse riding in my childhood, and again in my thirties.
All traces of nervousness melted away, however, once we met up with Keone, our Alaka`i (guide). A tall, handsome half Hawaiian-half Irish man that trained under no less than 3 Kahuna’s on the healing properties of plants, wood carving, and Hawaiian spirituality, Keone is a direct descendant of the early Polynesian settlers. A natural orator and storyteller, he kept us captivated on our ride last year for 3 and a half hours, educating us on life as it was for the ancient Hawaiians while leading us through cane fields and lush rain forest, gazing at pristine streams and waterfalls, and picking fruit straight off the trees. It was all coming back to me now.
After we signed the waiver - standard operational procedure for horse riding operations - we were fitted for hard hats, and our body weight and riding experience matched to our horses. I was allocated “Kona”, a gentle, good natured horse with a coffee colored body and chocolate mane. Before mounting our horses, Keone chanted an ancient Hawaiian chant, asking permission of the spirits to enter their land and look after us on our journey. As Keone’s voice reverberated through the group, it was a beautiful way to start our journey.
I was given a leg-up to the saddle by Joe, a thickset Hawaiian with a gentle temperament (like most Hawaiians), who checked the girth and made sure my stirrups were the right length for my legs (“I’ve got one leg shorter than the other, Joe.”). I was pleased to know that Joe would be accompanying the group from the rear, so that there was a guide on both ends, making sure that no one would go astray. After all 11 of us were mounted, we were on our way.
While we had pleasant memories of the ride with Keone the previous year, we found ourselves enjoying it even more this time. For starters, the weather was clearer; blue skies and a balmy breeze. Knowing what to expect from the ride also made us relax into it a little more, allowing us to be more in the moment and drink in the scenery around us. We were able to absorb much more of the information Keone gave us on his culture - its ancient ways, myths and legends.
The highlight of the ride was when we reached the top of the mountain and witnessed the breathtaking view of the Palikea (silver clouded ridge), the source of a stunning waterfall, Waimuki (the sound of the bamboo flute), dropping more than 400 feet into the forest below. Magical! From the apex, Keone chanted another prayer of thanks (Mahalo) to the ancient spirits for protecting us on our journey and for allowing us to walk through their lands.
In a nutshell, my anxieties were unfounded and our horse ride with Maui Stables was, once again, one of the highlights of our Hana trip. If there were any negatives to the day, it would have the jerk in his 60’s with white shoulder length hair and bandanna on the Harley, girlfriend in tow, who didn’t slow down as he passed us on our horses on our return to the stables. Revving up his machine, he spooked my horse, who reared its head and gave me a few quick steps in succession. Thankfully, I was well balanced on my saddle, feet well positioned on the stirrups, my hands in control of the reins, and I was able to keep Kona in control. Those riding lessons paid off after all.
To Maui Stables, I say Mahalo for another memorable experience. To the jerk on the Harley, your mother should have thrown you away and kept the stork.