Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Venus Pool

Venus Pool viewed from the ocean.
When my husband tells the story, he always adds 10 feet. I think it was 40 feet, maybe 35, but I’m not sure. DH says that women have a hard time measuring, and believe men when they say something is 6 inches. Because of that, I always reduce his figures by 20%.

Anyhow, I digress. 

The distance looked far, but manageable, especially when the 8 year old girl climbed up the path and dived off the top of the cliff. Then she swam to the shore and did it again. Her brother jumped off the rock too, with their dad cheering them on.

The jump looked doable. And it was my birthday, so I wanted to do something that would make me feel super alive. Bungee jumping would have fit the bill, but there are no bungee jumps on Maui.

My train of self-talk continued: I had good health insurance at the time, so if I hurt myself, at least I would get decent medical care. If something bad happened, I wouldn’t be alone and my husband could call 911. If I was by myself, I would never do it. I’m not suicidal.

If the two kids and their dad weren’t there, I would never have considered it. But seeing them jump into the pool and rise to the surface, laughing and splashing, made me want to join them.

The other time I jumped was from Waimea Rock on Oahu – it’s a popular place to jump, and the main advice I was given, is to jump out. One jumps away from the rock, to avoid hitting the water too close to the rock. My mantra standing on Waimea Rock was “Jump Out, Jump Out.”

But the Venus Pool is different, and it was higher than Waimea Rock. Or it felt higher to me.

Photos of me after jumping. The top photo shows the father and son next to me, then the dad helping me out of the pool, then me back in the water again.

The most important tip from my personal experience cliff diving here:

Keep your body straight, as vertical as possible.  This is what the dad shouted to me from the water below.

If you have even a bit of tilt, your body will hit the water at an angle, and that part will burn like the dickens.

Don’t stand up there too long looking over the edge or you won’t jump. Gulp, then jump, and keep straight.

Easier to say than to do. As I'm falling, thinking "Stay straight," and then feeling my body rotate past the perpendicular. Grrr. My butt hit the water first, so that part hurt. This is great for masochists but not normal people. I rose to the surface, my back and butt stinging with pain, but thrilled to be alive and intact. I think in my giddiness, I climbed up and jumped a second time, trying for straightness. Everything other than being alive is a blur. 

After watching several videos on youtube of cliff diving from the Venus Pool, this is the one I liked best. It's less than 2 minutes, doesn't feature really loud music, and shows part of the trail where they hiked in, including the warning sign. This video shows all guys diving, but there are plenty of videos showing women jumping into the water.

If I ever have to dive out of a skyscraper into a dumpster, my mantra will be "Jump straight. Jump straight."

DH and I are comparing our recollections. He thinks I jumped twice too. The first jump from a lower rock and where I was mostly straight, then a second jump from the very top when my body tilted more. By the way, he says it was 60 feet. : )
I'm alive. After jumping into the Venus Pool.
After my jump, we walked to the far side of the Venus Pool, close to the ocean. The rocks rolled back and forth, tousled by the waves. A roaring sound of rocks being tumbled in a giant rock tumbler, a crescendo of sound as the waves rolled them forward then back. Mesmerizing and hypnotic.

If one spurned civilization and meditated on the sound of the rocks rolling day after day, enlightenment would be only a breath... away.

Pile of prayer rocks at the beach at the Venus Pool. Stacked rocks are common in Hawaii.
The Venus Pool is a natural brackish water pool located in East Maui, past Hana, down a trail on private land with plenty of warning signs. The water is clear and mostly fresh and close to the ocean. When we were there, it wasn’t crowded, but that was years ago. My jump was like a dream from a faraway magical kingdom. I remember the jump without the pain of jumping.

Update: 4/29/16:
After tweeting about the Venus Pool, I received some criticism on twitter which threw me for a loop:

Do I reply to Tommy (which might provoke an argument), ignore Tommy's tweets, or ??? I can see his point because ever since a particular guidebook publicized many private places, they have been overrun by visitors, even though many of these same places were described in other guidebooks before then! I'm not the first to share about Waioka aka the Venus Pool. It's listed in many guidebooks and websites, yet his concern is warranted.

Luckily, Maui has a strong social media users (support) group, and I asked for ideas on how to  handle this. Not surprisingly, since Maui is such a small island, two people know both Tommy and me. On a small island, which is kind of like a big small town, harmony and respect for different cultures and opinions is important. You never know when you'll meet someone you disagreed with at a store or at an event! The discussion was stimulating and I decided to reply to Tommy:

Tommy's concern underscores the greater issue for Maui: How much tourism can one island sustainably manage? What protections do we have for special places? As a result of the popularity of one particular guidebook, some special places on Maui were closed off or had guards posted! This stopped access for local residents too!

One idea that occurred is: Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve has restricted areas, even though tourists often trespass. Through service projects managed with staff, people can visit these restricted areas by volunteering. Waikamoi Nature Preserve, another beautiful spot, also allows visitors ONLY with guides. On the other hand, this land is NOT public land; it belongs to Hana Ranch. I'm not sure if the Venus Pool is technically on Hana Ranch land, or if it's only the trail along the fence from the main road. I'm reading that there may be access to the Venus Pool from Muolea Point, which is county land.

Should the county impose a conservation tax on tourists that would pay towards management and care of some private places by private owners who want assistance? But, another tax on top of the transient accommodation tax, and other taxes?

Another thought is that since almost everyone who visits Maui flies here - that the state could create a special brochure that is included in every airplane seat pocket about conservation and the ecosystem and tips on being a considerate tourist (noting actions that harm or help the environment). Cruise ship passengers could receive the same brochure. A video could be played as part of the in-flight entertainment, like the mandatory safety video.

What are your thoughts about tourism and the effects on special places or local residents?

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