December 15, 2001
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! The alarm pierced
through the early morning air as we stumbled out of bed at 3:30am,
after only 3 hours of sleep. Why the heck would anyone
that on their vacation, you ask? We were off to see the
legendary sunrise atop mighty Haleakala, the highest point on Maui!
We packed up some warm clothes (yes,
warm clothes in Hawaii...) and our
guidebooks and set
off for the summit. From Kihei, it took about 1/2 hour
north on Highway 311to Kahului, and then another hour south along
Highway 37, then Highway 377 and later winding Highway 378 to the
summit. Unfortunately, on Maui, as with the other islands, there
are few roads, and you have to make loops around the island.
Haleakala is only a few miles from Kihei, but one cannot travel
directly east to the mountain, but instead joy ride around the
countryside. Get used to this!
Haleakala Park is open 24 hours, so
we had no trouble getting in, except for a ten dollar park fee, and
drove straight to the summit. The air was near freezing at the
top of the 10,023 Puu Ulaulu lookout, and luckily the wind was fairly
still, because even though we had fleece and long underwear on, we
were still cold. A light rain had developed, and the clouds
rolled in, obscuring the valley below. The sunrise was still
nice, but the clouds obscured most of the legendary event.
Disappointed, we made our way down to another lookout, where you can
look down directly into the crater of Haleakala, as well as over all
of south and western Maui. Native Silversword littered the land,
and hordes of mountain bikers were now gearing up to ride down the
mountain. We didn't see the native Nene goose, however. I
guess they were still sleeping!
We headed back up Highway 37 to
Kahului and set off down the Hana Highway. It was now about
10:30AM, and we were hungry. We stopped in the windsurfing town
of Paia and grabbed some breakfast goodies from Andrews Coffee Shop.
Many surfers were already hitting the water below the sea cliffs.
The Road to Hana is a good quality road, though you'll
endure hundreds of switchbacks and one-lane bridges to go along with
staggering views of the northeast Maui coastline, countless
waterfalls, lush tropical forest, and powerful surf beating against
the sea cliffs. The morning mist presented an almost mystical
aura as we made our way to Hana. Take this drive slowly and take
moments for photo ops (there are many!). This is not just any
twisty, winding drive. This is a magical experience.
As we neared Hana, the temperature
had climbed to 80°F, and the humidity from the morning's rain had
moved in. It was difficult to breathe, and we were sweating
profusely. We stopped at the Garden of Eden, a beautiful
tropical arboretum, where you can drive-thru, or stop and walk the
many gorgeous trails through the jungle. Banana trees, palms,
orchids, and guava lined the sometimes muddy trails, with huge ferns
and bamboo growths aplenty. One trail approaches a lookout over
the ocean where Jurassic Park was filmed, and another overlooks
beautiful 200-foot Puohokamoa Falls. Bud the Birdman from Animal
Planet and David Letterman was there for photo shoots with his
parrots, too. The private gardens are a $5 entry fee.
The closer you get to Hana, the more
beautiful the scenery gets. Hana itself is nice, but nothing too
special. Most people turn around after spending some time in
Hana, but we opted to continue down the road. After Hana, the
road becomes even more narrow, rough, and broken in places, but
nothing that required four wheel drive (although the ground clearance,
suspension and large tires of a Jeep or SUV make this drive much more
comfortable) The scenery
became even more spectacular now, as we entered the Beverly Hills of
Maui. You'll pass the beautiful cascading waterfalls of Oheo
Gulch, which form a series of swimmable pools until they reach the
sea. Once past the pools, the landscape opens up, and is
overtaken by ancient lava flows and barren wasteland. The sight
is awesome, as the entire landscape is devoid of life.
After taking in the landscape for
around 20 miles, you'll eventually come around the tip and find
yourself at Tedeschi Winery, where we stopped in for some wine tasting
(obviously). The wines were unique Hawaiian tastes, with pear,
pineapple, and guava tastes. They were too sweet for our blood,
but would have been nice with teriyaki. We shared a bottle of
Maui Blanc while wistfully enjoying the surroundings, and by now the
foliage had begun to return as we left the rain shadow of Haleakala.
Molokini Crater, Moloka'i, and the island of Kahoolawe are now visible
offshore, and the jagged mountains of West Maui lies in the distance.
We headed back up the highway to
Kahului, with our hotel in Kihei only a stone's throw across the
grassland. Although only a mile or so as the crow flies, we had
to drive two hours up to Kahului and back down to Kihei. There
are no other roads. We arrived back at our hotel in time to
collapse and rest before our Advanced Open Water scuba course began
the next day.