Friday, December 03, 2004

Road to Hana (Pictures only) Today Caitie and I drove the Road to Hana. Maui has east and west sides, joined by a narrow peninsula, so that the island footprint forms a lumpy figure eight. Since we started in Wailea, we covered about 3/4 of the eastern side's circumference. As you can see from this handy map: Our first stop was in Paia, or "Paia Town" as the locals apparently call it. Paia hosts a pretty popular surf spot, with waves that impressed those of us familiar with only Atlantic waves. However, the Paia surf does not qualify as "big wave" surfing in Hawaii. For the truly big waves, you need a jetski, and time to ride a few miles off shore to the reef that is nicknamed "Jaws". We decided pictures of people surfing the normal waves, and a new pair of poser quicksilver surf trunks bought in Paia Town, would be cool enough for now (1 2 3 4). A few miles further toward Hana is a private farm that harbors the "famous" twin falls. The twin falls are proof that tourists can be suckered anywhere. Since the farm is only a few miles into the drive toward Hana, newbies like us don't know what to expect. If the sign says waterfalls, and there are a few cars and some fresh fruit for sale, it seems like a good place to check out. The twin waterfalls are about a quarter of a mile "walk" through dense and muddy jungle cover. Exposed roots jut one to two feet up from a fairly steep hillside leading into the falls. There is actually several interlinking, looping trails that crisscross the whole farm. The place was crawling with other suckers like us, and we kept passing the same people. There was a gaggle of english tourists cheerio-ing there merry way up the hill, who were kind enough to give us directions. There were several newly wed couples, including one that had waded through a waist-deep stream to see one of the falls (Caitie politely told me n-w). After about thirty minutes of what I thought was the greatest hike in history, Caitie started to get nervous that we were lost. Ok, she was actually nervous we were lost when we were still in the parking lot, actually while were still in the car. She got extra nervous when she spotted another couple heading toward us on what appeared to be another path about fifteen feet above us. The gentleman in the pair wore a powder blue terry-cloth leisure suit, and his bride wore a white spaghetti strap tank top with a rhine-stone "just married" across the front. His sneakers were powder blue to match his suit, hers were identical except pink to match her shorts. As they approached, he boomed out "Pa-lease tell us ya know where the freakin' waterfalls are". I replied "Thank god we found the other couple from the east coast". Danny and Karina turned out to be the funniest two people in Hawaii. They were on their honey moon, and they had been walking around for about an hour in search of these waterfalls. Caitie and Karina hit it off, probably because they hadn't been able to speak at full speed since they reached Maui (speech speed decreases as you travel further west in the US). Danny and I hit it off, because he was hilarious. In the twenty-five minute walk to the fall (we did finally find the twin waterfalls), he told us five good stories, including the time he bought poinsettas for Christmas to decorate his new condominium in Long Island. He figured they were Christmas plants, and that they would look good out on his front porch. Only fifty or so poinsettas died of exposure before he figured out they were native to Hawaii, and not good in the cold ("So why are they for Christamas?"). He was handy on our walk back, pointing out various interesting plants that he tends indoors at home ("Karina, this is what we have in the kitchen on the windowsill"), including some wild poinsetta. We parted ways with Danny and Karina at the farm stand, which was a shame because they later told us they had a CD with an audio tour for the road to Hana, and we were welcome to ride with them. Still, we saw them four or five more times on our way to Hana, and we definitely won't forget them. After the farm, the road to Hana really starts to earn its reputation. The pavement narrows, the hills steepen, and the situation generally gets very dangerous. The road reminds me of Route 101 on the northern Californian coast -- really fun (read: scary) driving. My hands were at 10 and 2 O'clock for the whole 100 mile round trip. About 5 miles (and 2 years off your life) after the farm, there is a major lookout point, complete with dirt parking lot and port-o-lets. The view is impressive (creek,1,2,3,4), but you can't really photograph the road to Hana. The hills, ocean, sky, twisty road, rainforest, narrow bridges, and the "yield to oncoming traffic signs", don't fit into the viewfinder. About twenty or thirty miles into the trip, we reached another roadside waterfall. Only, this was really a waterfall, at it flowed under the road. Instead of hiking around in circles on the farm for the twin waterfalls, we took great shots of this one, practically from the car (1 2 3 4 5 ain't it a great country, america?). After about 2 1/2 hours of driving and picture-taking, we reached the town of Hana. This is going to sound crazy, but if you ignore the cliffs down to the ocean, and the really warm trade-winds, and the really attractive local people, Hana reminds me of central Maine. It is a rural, blue-collar, farming community. Farming and surfing I guess. Now, most people stop at Hana, eat some junk-food from the Hana Ranch Store, and head home. Caitie had a hot tip from the hotel hair-dresser, whose husband was a big wave surfer (occupation unknown, irrelevant), that the best place to go swimming was at the seven pools. The Seven pools, she said, were a mere ten more miles past Hana. We waffled a little bit considering driving further, as we munched Taro chips and drank cans of iced coffee (yes, they can it here, yes it is awesome). What was ten more miles, we had already driven forty? The ten miles to the seven pools took nearly as long as the first forty. The road past Hana makes the road to Hana look like I-95. The road actually got narrower, it went from "you could call this two lanes" to "please God, stop all oncoming traffic". Caitie developed a keen eye for the local drivers. You could easily tell them as they whipped past us, because the beeped politely to get your attention, apparently so as not to scare you. About a mile past Hana, they just gave up on painting the yellow line for the center. All the bridges have dates carved into them. At the start, they are all circa 1940, and the date slowly drifts downward as you drive outward. The last four were, 1911, 1911, 1911, and 1910. Caitie wondered, "I bet they all used to be 1910, but the first three fell down, and this one is ready to go any minute". Needless to say, we reached the seven pools safely, and it was well worth the extra life-risking. The pictures tend to distort the proportion of the cliffs and the waves. I think it is because your eye tends to assume the waves are 10 or 12 feet at most. I'd say the cliffs were a solid 60 ft, so these waves, in which Caitie's hairdresser recommended we swim, were probably around 30 ft. (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 swim?!-->11 tt laughs at danger).

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