Friday, June 15, 2012

maui, road to hana (day 2)

5:30 a.m. That was the time our alarm went off to get up, get ready, and beat the traffic on the notorious road to Hana! (Amazing how I can get up that early in paradise to go see cool stuff, but not here at home when I need to go to work). We didn't want to be stuck in a row of cars stopping every 3 feet or so. We're over-achievers like that. But seriously, Hana is a legendary stretch of road for glorious views of sea and waterfalls and rushing streams, but it’s a sincere test for drivers; 617 curves, over 52 miles of switchbacks, hairpin turns, and 50-something one-lane bridges. Nearly 3 hours one way.

I heard someone at the Hyatt Regency ask, "why would I want to spend an entire day of my vacation on a road?" Thinking back on that question, I scoff. Lemme tell you, it is SO worth it. A trip to Maui would be incomplete otherwise. The ‘road to Hana day’ was one of my favorite parts of the trip! *sigh* This will not be the last time that I mention how important it is to experience this yourself, for pictures don’t do it justice.

If there's one thing I need in the morning, it's some sort of sustenance. (In other words, if I don't eat, I get hangry = hungry + angry. Just being honest). Lucky for us, a little pastry/coffee bar opened at the hotel just before our departure!

On the heels of that, I can drink a gallon of Gatorade and drive comfortably for five hours.  As for Pete, I have to cut off his liquid intake at 6 pm the night before the trip.  The morning of any lengthy drive, I will allow Pete a tablespoon of water to wash down breakfast and he can suck on throat lozenges until we are at least halfway into the trip.  I wish I were making this up. Hee hee!

There are 3 requirements before getting on the road: a topless jeep, sunscreen, and the radio turned to Hawaiian music. There are innumerable places to stop and see waterfalls, ponds, and gardens. It’s a sight to behold, provided you are not prone to car-sickness. There are lush green trees filled with wild mossy vines, flower filled branches with pinks, reds, and yellows. The ocean, a vibrant clear blue. I later learned that this narrow coastal road was carved by pick axe-wielding convicts. (Exactly the sort of punishment convicts today should be enduring, but I’ll save that for another blog.)

Just after mile marker 2 we found a sign that says “Twin Falls” and a roadside stand. Never mind the “no trespassing” sign on the gate -- you can take a gentle little hike and easily get into the water at Waikani Falls. This is just the first of many sights left to see.

Shockingly, there are small stands located sporadically along the road to Hana, selling fruit or flowers. These stands work on the honor system: you take what you want and leave your money in the basket. (Interesting. This sort of arrangement would never thrive here on the mainland.)

For more images, click on one of the links below:
Maui / Misc
Maui / Road to Hana, Oheo Gulch, Black Sand Beach

Just before reaching Hana, we stopped in Nahiko – a roadside collection of fruit stands, a coffee house, a gift shop and a couple of restaurants. I use the word ‘restaurants’ rather loosely -- canopy covered picnic tables set up next to make-shift kitchens, with food kept in portable coolers. A tad skeptical, Pete and I enjoyed the tastiest fish tacos and pad thai next to that of the mainland. Fresh coconuts, too!

Approximately 9 miles past Hana is a place called the Oheo Gulch. Apparently “gulch” didn't sound too alluring, so it’s more often referenced as Seven Sacred Pools. Are there actually seven? Nope. More like 4. People stop for a dip here before heading back from a long day of sightseeing on the road.

Here’s Pete, leaping into the great unknown! As many of you have read, I have a freaktastic fear of dark water when I can't see the bottom of something, which isn’t the norm for most of Hawaii waters. The thought of what could be underneath those rocks makes my heart beat incredibly fast. When more people are in the water, I’m keenly more susceptible to partaking. So, yeah. I'm a freak show. Anyway, whatever...Pete jumping is cool enough for us both. :)

Just above Seven Sacred Pools is one of the best hikes on Maui, via Hakeakala National Park. It is 4 miles round trip, and reaches an elevation of 650 feet. It will take 2 hours or longer depending on your pace as you walk through a bamboo forest ending at the 400 foot Waimoku Falls. Hiking up to this waterfall is a delight. However, it is difficult to photograph due to its size. (I will never again travel without a wide angle lens. What was I thinking?!)

On the return trip, housed in Wai'anapanapa Park, the black sand beach is absurdly gorgeous -- filled with beautiful stones that look like onyx, shaped by the ocean waves. Did you know that black sand beaches are often formed in mere days or weeks?! They're formed when lava flows into the sea, shattering on contact with the ocean. Fragments formed the sand! That said, black beaches usually have a short life span (few hundred years) b/c once lava stops flowing, there's no more black sand being made. (Just a wee bit of trivia for you.)

Still pretending to be Lewis and Clark, we opted to explore the lava tube cave and blow hole just off the beach! I pretended to tie my shoe or something so Pete would go first. Ya know…just in case.  ;)

All in all, Hana (pop. 1200+) doesn’t have a whole lot going on beyond its striking natural setting.  The metaphor of life is perfectly fitting, “it’s the journey, not the destination.” And it was on this journey to Hana that I quickly recognized how much had become wallpaper in my life. I made a mental list of the all the people, experiences, places and gifts that I’ve inadvertently started to take for granted and decided to remedy this situation. I’m mindfully expanding my daily practice to look at the world with fresh eyes each day. To make sure I anchor this perspective, I’ve written a goal that I affirm each day as a positive reminder to stay awake and fully appreciate all that’s fabulous in my life.

I encourage you to do the same. Spend five minutes right now and take an inventory, reflecting on all of the aspects of your life. What have you started to take for granted? What do you rush by and overlook as you focus on your next destination? Then, commit to appreciating the beauty and gifts that are present each day. Remind yourself to enjoy the journey that is life.

Get good at living. Mahalo!

For more images, click on one of the links below:
Maui / Misc
Maui / Road to Hana, Oheo Gulch, Black Sand Beach

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