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Our Maui Experience

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 Native Silversword grows only on Haleakalado 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 80F, 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 Tedeschi Winery 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.

 DAY 1                   DAY 3

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