OK, hands up. ..who has jumped out of the taxi, limo, minibus, or full-blown coach and given the driver a bear hug, a high-five, an air kiss?
Well I can attest that it hasn’t happened to me in Australia…oh wait, there were a couple of occasions when I was best not to be behind the wheel and I gave the driver a thankyou hug – but that’s compulsory when you’re married to her, isn’t it?
Anyway it happens in Hawaii, in the spirit of Aloha. And you would be staggered what secrets you can glean when you’re on hugging terms with your chauffeur. Take Kimo Kay, for example, the affable Group Sales and Services Manager for native Hawaiian family business Akina Aloha Tours. He volunteered to drive a minibus, rather than a desk, when the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association conferenced in Maui recently.
Kimo knows Maui, like a London Cabbie knows how to shortcut a Monopoly board. He is variously historian, linguist, raconteur and cultural adviser.
Having picked us up from Lumeria, a magnificent retreat set in a century-old estate in the northern foothills of Maui’s Mt Haleakala, Kimo steers us towards the west coast through Makawao (beginning of the forest). He also explains this is the old ranching capital, home of Hawaii’s famous Paniolo cowboy. We note to return when there’s more time, but what’s not in the guide book is how good the cream puffs are at T Komoda bakery.
Why is this critical?
Kimo explains that when Hawaiians travel inter-island, tradition dictates they take some food from home and they return with food from other islands. So when he visits the Ohana (the relos) on Oahu he takes Krispy Kreme Donuts because the only Hawaiian outlet is on Maui near Kahului airport. (Please explain why its airport code is OGG when everyone heads for KKD?).
You could win a bet on Kimo’s next gem – Haleakala is taller than Everest. When measured from its base 19,680 feet under the ocean, and with 10,023 feet above the sea, it beats the landlocked Himalayas by over 650 feet. Sorry about the old school measurements, but Kimo’s an old school kinda guy: polite (never blew the horn in anger), courteous (patiently explaining whether Hawaii should be pronounced with a V or a W), and helpful (when you order water: kai is saltwater, wai is fresh) but “wai wai means wealthy”. And that was as close to a political comment as you’ll hear from Kimo, except he did proudly inform us (and Mr Assange) that Wiki is Hawaiian for quick.
So a big man-hug for Kimo. He’s the reason you should abandon the rental car in favour of the experience of Akina Aloha who have been doing this for 85 years – in 1928 Akina started taking local children to school in a mule-powered banana wagon…aah, so maybe that’s why America has the yellow school bus 😉