June 30: Day 4

We woke up and caught sunrise in the hot tub again to start what would turn out to be the first of two very long yet incredible days on the trip. (The second doesn’t come until we visit the Big Island later in the trip). Our agenda for the day was to be the infamous “Road To Hana” that snakes along the northwest rainforest coast of the island.

Since our house was actually just off the start of the Hana Highway (milemarker 2, to be exact), we had a head start over all the tourgroups that make the trek from the east and south Maui resorts that are about 90 minutes away.

So we filled a backpack with some trusty guidebooks, snacks and water, put on our bathing suites in case we were inclined to swim in any waterfall pools, and drove up the gravel road to the Hana Highway. It was nearly 8AM and it took us a while to turn left—indicating that we were far from the first ones setting out this day.

A mile or two down the road we encountered the first of MANY spots where cars are pulled to the side of the road—a sure sign that a waterfall is nearby. If there’s a tourvan—it’s a guarantee of one. Of course you’ll always find cars where the guidebooks note you should pull over and hike into the jungle. In a few cases someone without a book probably stopped randomly and you’ll see people parking and wandering aimlessly because they’re assuming that they’re missing something. For the most part, the waterfalls are neither high nor wide—we’re not talking about Yosemite here. But each one has it’s own little charm and usually includes a pool for easy swimming at the bottom. We stopped many times in the first few miles and saw countless waterfalls, wild roosters, and untamed jungle. We didn’t swim in any waterfall pools because each one either already had some people there or just didn’t feel right for one reason or another. With so many there was always a sense of “we’ll do it at the next one”

At one stop we realized we had a stowaway on the car from the house. Liz named the little gecko Petunia. We imagine she's eating bugs at a new home somewhere between Pali Uli and Hana.
We stopped at a little village of Ke'anae set against the surreal backdrop of huge waves breaking over lava rocks. It was here that we met an old chainsmoking Hawaiian woman selling necklaces that convinced us to buy homemade macadamia nut brittle from her daughter. She told us it would be like crack if we just tried a sample so we did and much like crack the first bit is free and then you’re hooked. We bought a bag for three dollars. It was beyond good and tasted like it came out of the oven the night before. The whole bag was gone a couple miles down the road and we wished we had bought more. Every time we saw packaged "local" brittle for sale on the rest of the trip, we didn’t bother because there was absolutely no way it could be as good or as fresh.
As you drive along you find yourself seeing the same people at each stop. There was a young couple driving a yellow jeep. There was an older couple in a Pontiac. And then there were the Christians. We saw this southern church group of septuagenarian women and their handful of men that hadn’t passed on over and over and over again. They were easy to escape because they never really ventured past the road’s edge when viewing a site but since they were so loud and excited they became our comical adversaries for the day—and the rest of our stay in Hawai’i. Everytime we saw them, either Liz or I would say “Christians!” in the same way that Jerry would cry “Newman!” on Seinfeld.

Shortly before Hana we visited the first black sand beach of the trip. But with six—yes, six—warning signs about the conditions, we stayed out of the water. The only people swimming in the apparently deadly surf filled with man-o-war, jellyfish, and probably sharks with frickin’ lasers, were the locals. Maybe all the signs were just there to keep tourists out of their ocean.

By about 1PM we reached Hana—which after the spectacular drive is notable only for being unremarkable. There’s a small harbor with a beach, (apparently the sand is red—it didn’t look special to us,) a luxury hotel with restaurant and another restaurant where all the tourvans stop. The hotel restaurant seemed pricy for lunch so we went to the tourist stop—with bad $13 hamburgers we should have just gone to the hotel. And just as we were leaving…Christians!

We continued past Hana to the Ohe’o Gulch—which is actually part of Haleakala National Park where we watched the sunrise 10,000 feet higher the morning before. This is also the end of the road for all the tourvans and almost anyone that makes the trek. It’s a cool spot where a series of seven waterfalls carved a gulch into the lava mountainside until pouring right into the ocean. After each waterfall is a fairly large pool and while it was great to see there were far too many people swimming in them for us to have a desire to join in. Lots of kids were jumping off the rocks into the pools 40 feet below—again fun to watch but not for Liz or I.

At this point you have an option. You can either turn around or drive back the way you came through all 600 curves. Or you can continue and drive all the way around the Haleakala volcano. Of course the 10 miles of road after Ohe’o Gulch is somewhat sketchy and actually banned by rental car contracts…but what the hell, we came this far, right?

For about two miles the road was REALLY bad. I even became quite nervous. It’s unpaved and only one car wide and carved into the edge of a cliff with no guardrail. But…sketchy road means very few people—and that made it worth it. In the middle of the two mile bad section is a little place to pull over where the guidebooks note to be the last waterfall. Since we hadn’t swam we decided to at least check it out. This Alelele Falls was by far the best we had seen all day. It drops from about 80 feet into a huge pool with rock cliffs on three sides. When we got there only a lone couple were there. We took their picture under the waterfall, and they were kind enough to take ours. The water was kinda cold but it felt great. Yay! We waited til the last chance but actually swam in a waterfall pool! The couple took off and we had the entire place to ourselves…first time that had happened. It was great.

After getting past the harrowing two-mile cliff section the road straightens out (but remains dirt) and cuts through very dry ranch coast making an insanely stark contrast the rainforest we were in only an hour earlier. We discovered an incredible church in the middle of no where that made us think of the church in the Guns N Roses video.

Eventually we stumbled into the little roadhouse shop called Kaupo Store. I the honor fruit stands were the true hippy Hawai’i. I was wrong. This place sold four things. Snacks, soda, beer, and antique cameras. That’s right, antique cameras…there was an entire wall of the things in this little store that seemed like it could have been airlifted in from the old west with the addition of a re-use/recycle sign added in the front. Weird.

At some point during the 30 miles of barren yet beautiful ranchland the road pavement started again and we eventually returned to civilization. We grabbed dinner near home and finally got back to the house at around 9PM—13 hours after we left. Needless to say, we crashed early.

1 comment:

Liz Stiles said...

I hope Petunia is happy in her new home.

The curves on the Hana Highway were frightening. Those, combined with the one way bridges on a two way road, would have scared the pants off my mom!