Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Maui--Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Yep, up again to the sound of birds—much better than a blaring alarm clock! Our day’s agenda had some driving on it, although at the outset, we didn’t realize that it would be the whole day! We had been planning on the doing the “Road to Hana,” which is a popular and scenic drive of about 50 miles. Actually, we had thought about riding the road, but we had heard mixed reviews on the quality and safety of the road so we thought we’d drive it first. I’m glad we did. As I’ve mentioned, Maui has an affinity for narrow twisty roads and the Road to Hana is the epitome of this transportation design. We were literally hugging the steep right side of the road with the car (as in, almost scraping the side mirror), in an effort not to hit mirrors with oncoming traffic. Add in to this super narrow road some distracted tourists, some impatient locals, and regular business use of the road (i.e. oil trucks, etc), and you get a road that bikers are probably not wanted. Now, I’ll probably hear from plenty of people who say they’ve done the road and how wonderful it is, but for me, it's probably outside of the comfort zone. I ride to get away from cars, not to put myself directly in their way. There were hundreds (no exaggeration) of tight right turns that I’d make ever so carefully in case a cyclist was riding just around the bend (and out of sight), and I don’t think other drivers were doing the same. Okay, so we didn’t ride the Road to Hana, but we did drive it, and it was a long, slow drive, especially when we’re stopping every few miles to take more photos.

One of the first photos stops was at a grove of trees called “painted eucalyptus” trees. Jean and I had first seen some photos of these trees in a gallery, and we both thought they had been retouched in Photoshop or artisticly enhanced in some way—until we saw the trees! They were amazing.

From there we made countless stops at black sand beaches strewn with volcanic rock, including Wai’anapanapa State Park where we got to watch some locals risk it all while cliff diving.

We also devoured some local home-made banana bread at Aunt Sandy’s roadside spot. Delicious.

Then, of course, it was time to get subterranean to explore Ka’eleku Caverns—lava tubes that were once filled with more than 17,000lbs of cattle bones from a local slaughterhouse. Yikes.

After more miles of incredible beaches and tropical vistas, we finally made it to Hana. The Hotel Hana Maui is a beautiful resort that’s got four dollar signs in our travel book, so if you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it. We browsed some art in the gallery and gift shop, then made our way to another roadside food stop for a fresh handmade sandwich and salad, and got to meet a feral cat named “Piggy” because of its curly tail.

While it’s called the Road to Hana, there’s actually much more to see if you keep going, such as the famed Seven Pools og Oheo Gulch in Haleakala National Park. The water was a bit too chilly for swimming, but warm enough for photos.

So, the national park was essentially the turn-around point, as our books and maps made the rest of the road (which would have completed a total of about 100 mile loop around east Maui) sound rough, impassable, and perhaps closed because of mud slides, earthquakes and other dangers. Fortunately, a quick question to the Park Ranger cleared that up as he said that the road is open to all vehicles with no restrictions. I didn’t know what was ahead of us, but I knew to head back the way we came we’d be going about 15mph—this time clinging to the edge of the road (as opposed to the side of the mountain), ever wary of oncoming traffic. Besides, I really HATE going out and back, and I’ll often go way out of my way to do a loop. We took a left out of the park and had another 50 miles of—you guessed it, narrow, winding, twisty, steep roads. It certainly made for interesting driving, and I’m glad that abuse was on a rental car’s suspension, and not my car’s. The drive was fun—although long—and beautiful. This of course meant more stops for more pics.

Before we left civilization again for the desolate southern slopes of east Maui, we hit yet another roadside food stop, this time for some coffee. This little cafĂ©/smoothie bar had a bicycle powered blender that customers had to use if they wanted a smoothie. That’s living off the grid. As we were leaving, one of the locals scooted away on her moped with her dog sitting on the deck…
Up until this point, the only dangers we had encountered on the road were steep cliffs, narrow one-lane bridges, steep hills, falling rocks and tight turns, but soon we had a new obstacle to impede our progress—cattle in the road. Burgers anyone? Actually, the cattle were fine, the road wasn’t that bad (although I still don’t think it would be a fun road unless the cars were gone—then it would be killer), and as I mentioned, the scenery was spectacular—which is interesting because all of the books made it sound like a barren wasteland.

We FINALLY made it back to our cottage at about 8:00pm, after about 12hrs in the car.

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