Aloha! Part 3 - The Road to Hana

Oh hello.  Glad to see you've returned for the next chapter in our "How We Spent Our Summer Vacation" chronicle.  Let's see...we're up to Day Five now, aren't we?

The Road to Hana. Or, to put it another way:  "what do you mean it will take us 4 hours to go 52 miles?"

This trip is one of the "must do" things when on Maui.  And it's a trip in so many senses of that word.  You follow State Highway 36 ("The Hana Highway") through Kahului (the town where the main airport is) and Paia (where Mama's Fish House is...and where Willie Nelson is a part-time resident). Somewhere along the way, the highway becomes number 360, just to keep you on your toes.

Your destination?  It isn't really the little village of Hana itself.  It's more like your destination is really the End of the Road to Hana, which literally occurs a few miles beyond Kipahulu when the road dissolves into gravel.  Or, so they say.  We couldn't attest to that because we decided our destination was the National Park's Visitor Center (where the bathrooms were...:).  We were tired...it was getting late...and we decided that it wasn't really that important to find Charles Lindbergh's grave, in the grand scheme of things.  But, wait...I'm getting ahead of myself here.

To begin with, we'd read about this journey to Hana in every one of our tourist guides. Information overload on Hana.  But we were going to limit the focus of our day to seeing the breath-taking scenery (yep...it was everything they'd said it would be) and seeing as many waterfalls as we could (hmmmm...more on that later).  We'd planned on packing the cooler with ice, water, and soft drinks as suggested, filling up the gas tank of the rental car as suggested, and taking a picnic lunch to enjoy at Waianapanapa State Park as suggested.

Can you see the yellow fish in the coral reef?
The one suggestion we didn't follow, however, was to get an early start...like around 6:00 a.m.  We'd already had one early wake-up call on this vacation (at 3:00 a.m., in order to see the sun rise on the top of Haleakala)...and we decided that one was enough.  Instead we spent a couple of hours, after our breakfast on the lanai, snorkeling around a coral reef in a cove near our hotel's beach.  Got to see my first brightly-colored salt water fish!  Yellow-stripey ones!!  That's one of the photos (left) we took with our disposable underwater cameras...not the best quality, but a good reminder nonetheless. [Edited to add photo on 10/11/10.]
By the time we'd showered after the snorkeling fun, it was nearly noon.  And, it was almost 1:00 when we breezed through Paia, where we had hoped to see the windsurfers.  Alas, the waves weren't that high at this time of the day, so no luck.  Oh well, maybe when we come back through?

After Paia, the road got more narrow...and a whole heckava lot more curvier (is that even a word?  Well, it should be, 'cause there are officially 617 curves on this wicked-scarey road.)  That sign over there on the right?  They REALLY mean it's a One-Lane Bridge (the first of 56!) and 10 mph.  If you can manage to do that much, just before you had to Yield the Right of Way to the driver coming from the other direction.  Trouble was, there were Yield signs on both sides of the bridge, causing some confusion to say the least.  The scenery did indeed take your breath away...but the drive on this road just about deprived your body of oxygen from gasping, as in:  [sharp intake of breath] "Is that car going to hit us?  Can you see around that curve? How can they put a one-lane bridge on every switchback curve in the road...what were they thinking???"  And, just when we were seriously wondering if this was worth it, we saw something like this (below, left):

We snapped this shot (and many others similar to it) of Keanae Peninsula from the Kaumahina State Park...a grandiose name for a parking area with rest rooms and a few picnic tables, which would be called a Rest Area anywhere else.  We'd thought it might have to do for our picnic, since we were getting hungrier by the minute...and it didn't appear that we would ever make it to Hana anyway at the pokey-slow rate we were going.  Really glad we didn't settle for the less-than-desirable spot after all.  Still, it would be a stop for us on the return trip, too; more on that in a minute.

OK, break over.  Time to get back out on the road.

As we twisted and turned, and nearly met ourselves coming around a couple of those curves (see the photo to the right), we began to realize something very important.  Most of the waterfalls we spotted weren't falling...and there was very little water in many of them.  Hawaii...at least Maui...is suffering from severe drought conditions in many places, sad to say.  We also became pretty good at recognizing the locals on the road.  They were the ones in the pickup trucks...the ones with the really wide hips (the trucks, not the people...:) and really big tires.  The ones who were OK with driving in the middle of the road (!), and who seemed to feel that the double-yellow line in the center of the road was just a suggestion about passing.  Most of those same trucks had dents and dings and paint-scratches, too.  Imagine that...

After another couple of hours we were there...Hana!  Hooray!!  Oh wait, was that it?  Did we already go through it??  You betcha.  Blink and you'll miss it for sure.

Oh well, hunger got the best of us, and we headed to the park for a picnic.  Fabulous view from our picnic table!  After we finished with our food, we followed the trail to the Blow Hole and then down to the Black Sand Beach (left)...which isn't really sand at all, it's stones.  Smooth ones to be sure...but stones all the same.  Never seen anything like that.

By the time we made our way to the end of where our car rental agreement said we could drive (yes, they do exclude some of the roads on Maui...:) and took a bio-break (note:  NO drinking water available) at the Visitor Center, we were more-than-ready to start the return trip.  It was now past 4:00, and we were losing daylight, especially in the shaded areas of the road.

Because of our late start, most of the other folks on the Road had already returned to their hotel rooms and were deciding where they were going to have dinner that evening.  So, we were now sharing the road with almost exclusively local traffic, if you get my drift.  Whereas on the drive coming out, most of the other tourists (oh, there were exceptions) would honor the Yield-the-Right-Away signs when approaching the one-lane bridges, the locals would just keep on comin' all during our return trip.

But fortunately, because we were out on the road in the late afternoon, we began to duck in and out of the proverbial afternoon showers.  And, then we were treated to another breath-taking display common to Hawaii:  a double rainbow (right)!  Mr. T took that shot from that Rest Area where we stopped again.  Just think...most of the other folks who took the Road to Hana that day missed this awesome sight.  Too bad.

And, lest you think we didn't get to see any waterfalls at all, I want to change that notion.  We saw several beautiful ones and were able to get some photos of them, too, like that one to the left.  It's just that we saw enough "dry" streams and former pools that it made an impression on us.

We rolled back into Wailea, long after sunset.  We decided we were too tired to do anything except take-out tonight, so we stopped by the Round Table again for pizza...since we knew there were some cold beers with our names on them back in the room.  And, even after sundown, that lanai was a most relaxing place to unwind from our long drive.  Ah-h-h.

Join me in my next post to read about Day Six of our trip to Maui.  We'll set sail for the island of Lana'i on Trilogy I, and Mr. T and I will try something new for both of us:  snuba diving, a cross between snorkeling and scuba diving.

See you soon!

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