The morning i prepared to leave Maui I wanted to cry. I’m not sure exactly why. The fact that I knew the end of this American adventure was less than a week away. The fact that Maui itself is so perfect its impossible to want to leave. Either way it was sad because Maui, especially Hana is just magical.
My adventure started with the windy drive from Kahului down to Hana. The details behind the number of switch backs or hairpin bends and number of one lane bridges seems to vary but details average around the following; 52 miles of road will 617 switchbacks and 57 one lane bridges. The road was so windy that after a while I felt sick even as the driver and was glad I chose to avoid booking a taxi. Nonetheless with my exquisite driving skills and expert car handling I’m surprised not to have taken a call from Clarkson for a spot on The Grand Tour yet. Other drivers not so much. It seems that many of the tourists liked to take the ‘racing line’ even on the blind bends where it was impossible to see any of the road ahead. They did take it at around 10 mph though, so surely at that speed plenty of time to lock eyes with the poor bugger coming the other direction on the outer side of the road, before then watching said poor soul plummet to their death down the cliffs below. These fine people also had an uncanny knack for braking hard and expectedly whenever we got a short piece of straight road and, despite signs, refused to make use of any pull-ins to allow others to pass.
I had personally fueled up early into the trip at the very surf inspired town of Pa’ia. I had an Açaí bowl for lunch and some quality Hawaiian coffee to keep my wits lively for the drive. We passed countless stunning waterfalls along the toad and the vegetation was mind blowingly bright and lush. The only problem with being the driver is you miss a lot by inconveniently keeping ones eyes on the road, and you often spot things too late to stop without causing a pile up. I saw several ratty stoaty things that I later found out to be the ferocious Mongoose! Most exciting. A long the way a series of dare devil chickens also littered the route, seemingly belonging to no one, and taking their life in their own claws with risk of both the car and Mongoose’s murderous tendencies.
After three relaxed hours, save for the occasional inward outburst at ludicrous driving, I arrived in Hana at the Travaasa resort.
I was so excited when I got to my room for two reasons. One it was probably larger than my apartment, had a sunken bath and amazing topical garden views. Also they left fresh banana bread in the room for guests! Clearly it was not suited to my intolerances but in excitement I failed to resist the pull of homemade cake. The old rule was always ‘if it’s homemade you can’t say no’. I soon realised I shouldn’t and a couple of delicious slices in I stopped. I didn’t want to look rude though leaving it or worse, them seeing it in the bin. So I wrapped it back up in its plastic then put a paper towel around it and then put it in the bin. I was telling Man about this and he pointed out that since the bin was unused and it was so well wrapped it was still good to eat. Not helpful. For a split second I suggesting pee’ing on it to save me from myself but then realised I wasn’t sure how to explain that should I get caught, and worse if for any reason it was established I’d done such a thing and I wasn’t there to explain, what would someone think of that!?
The suite was tropically stylish and as I lay in bed on my first night I could hear the faint crashing of the waves hitting the black volcanic rocks and see the tropical plants dancing in the shadows through the wooden shutters. This is of course once I realised the moving shadows wasn’t some creep dancing in the plant beds with pants if their head. I was in paradise for sure, transported somewhere far away, truly the most relaxed I can remember being in years.
Of all the places I’ve been in my life Hawaii is up there as one of the closest to being any of the following. Paradise. Utopia. Heaven. Perfection. Since Hana gets more annual rain than the Northern side of Maui, approx 200-300 cm per year, it is the most lush verdant place I have seen. So many shades of green and each so rich with flowers of the brightest hue. Nothing says life to me so much as a lush green and Hana has this in abundance.
Since Hawaii is known for its sunrises I needed to use my two mornings to see this. Day 1 I went up Lyons hill to the Fagan cross to get wide reaching views. Tellingly I took the final steps up of my ascent via a path clearly only otherwise used by cows. On the way I walked face first into a cobweb that wrapped my face and near enough suffocated me. Having managed via much shrieking, flailing arms and slipping in cow pat to get the beast off I scrambled onward with a much finer eye looking out for these well laid arachnid traps. I reached the cross to see a group of girls and of course right behind them, the real, and cobweb free path. You can take the girl out of Hereford but you can’t get her away from them cows. With this it is time for an interesting fact. When Hana ranch was started in 1944 by a Mr Fagan (as per the Cross) it was started with Hereford cattle, thus proving I really must have been drawn to the cows path through our joint roots. Back to the spider though.
After research I found it was a crab spider. Like so much of Hawaii it is an invader not an endemic species. This little pest arrived only about 2 years ago and it’s worst feature is the fact that it feeds on the honey bees. This is why it’s webs are so large – they span out wide between trees at about human face height to catch the poor bees and unsuspecting humans whilst they are at work. And their web is strong. Believe me, I’m still pulling it out of my hair shuddering.
Southern Maui is blessed with many colors of beach; Black, white and red. Sadly the red sand beach path collapsed in a landslide, taking part of a Japanese cemetery with it! There is a new path that makes the beach accessible, however I duly noted that parts are high risk and whilst the high risk sections are short lived you should not be surprised to find yourself flying unexpectedly down the cliff to uncertain doom at these points. I decided as a lone traveler with no one to call an alarm for me that I should give this a miss. So I’m afraid I have no tales of woe to regale you with on that front.
The white sand beach of Hamoa was perfection though. A beautiful crescent moon of white sand from which I watched Day 2 sunrise and the black sand beach was the favourite of Zebba and Pundi* as it matches their colorings better.
Driving back to the airport I stopped at the Garden of Eden, Arboretum and Botanical Garden. I do love a good garden. I could spend days in them purely admiring and absorbing, since I know nothing of plants in any useful detail. I was interested to find that the Curry plant is an actual tree from which curry originated and the ‘curry powder’ we use in the Western world today, is instead a combination of other spices to approximate the original flavor of the curry powder that came from the Curry tree! I was less impressed at the sudden and aggressive mosquito attack, the results of which still keep me awake at night. My left calf currently looks like a aubergine is growing out of it, whilst my foot has developed something akin to its own head. All worth it though.
My very final stop was at the Kanaha surf beach near Kahului. The water!! It was so crystal blue, so aqua, so clear, so beautiful. The waves were immense, no picture did them justice. The waves there can get up to around 30-40ft apparently (not so high as Jaws beach further down the way but the road to that was too ‘gnarly’ and my hire car wouldn’t have made it. DAMN IT!). On this day the Kanaha waves probably weren’t at their peak but they were still the biggest I’ve seen. Listening to the roar of the ocean is both hypnotic and humbling, watching the surfers is awe inspiring. I did not conquer surfing whilst in LA, although i did try and was once seen walking on water as a result, but it wasn’t intentional, and was quickly followed by the swallowing of half the pacific, including the sealife. One day I shall surf in Hawaii, but with a professional to help me and not in waves of that size!
I felt so sad to leave Maui. It was too short a visit. In life some places you arrive and know you could happily stay forever. I realise it seems cliche to say this about Hawaii, but I have felt the same about Singapore, Auckland, and even St Dogmaels in Pembrokeshire so it’s not just the tropical nature. It’s the vibe of nature and the people combined.
Everyone was so friendly. At the airport a lady invited me to share her taxi to the car rental and wouldn’t accept money. A Canadian lady from my yoga class and I got chatting and went for a coffee. The local chap who worked at the hotel each day checked in on how I was, I even bumped into him at the local store with his friends on his day off, where they shared more suggestions on stuff to do. A local surf dude down at Hamoa Beach was chatty and helpful in finding closest and best parking, again spotting him later he asked how my visit was going. On my final night a family from Maryland, that went on same horse ride as me, invited me to join their dinner. A couple from Texas whose son took a college gnome back packing with him got chatting with me about Zebba and Pundi joining me on my various trips. The lady at the Cocoa plantation was a delight in entertaining us when the hotel forgot to pick us up. I could say it was because everyone was on holiday but not all the people were on holiday and I’ve not seen openness like this on other holidays. I guess this is the Aloha spirit and i’m glad it’s alive and well. Certainly I did not make friends with all these people, Friends implies a greater depth of knowing each other, this was community spirit; Community welcomes all with kindness and support and like the greenery it is abundant in Hana. We sadly lack it in much of the Western world to our detriment and it warmed my soul.
I can’t recommend Maui enough except maybe I shouldn’t, do it can stay perfect longer. Hana’s perfection comes in that it has not been westernized. All the commerce was local and it was heaven. Bring back all our high streets and locality!
Hawaii was the perfect high note to draw this particularly adventure to a close. Thank you Maui! Thank you America.
* Zebba and Pundi are my nephews Teddy’s, they fly over to America by magic carpet fairly frequently and join me for adventures. We send pictures back to their best friends to make them jealous!