Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad…

…Especially when a good alternative surfaces.

There were three things I was hoping to do in Maui. One was snorkeling at Molokini, which I did. Another was driving up Haleakala for the sunrise. The sunrise didn’t happen, but the trip did, so I think that qualifies as a good-faith effort. (And it turns out that I got more out of that trip than I even realized—details tomorrow.)

The last thing on my list was driving to Hana. Once we were in Hawaii, though, I started to realize that people weren’t exaggerating when they said it was an all-day thing. It was hard to understand from a distance how this could be, but then I got there and began to see how narrow roads, traffic, and a culture that values not rushing all contribute to making Hana a very long expedition. It didn’t feel right taking a whole day away from a family celebration, so we didn’t make the drive.

Fortunately, we found an alternate trip that seemed to include many of the important elements of the road to Hana, such as great views, real Hawaiian towns, and island-paced progress. For this trip, we drove Route 30 around the northern shore of west Maui.

The road was narrow and twisting, and provided a beautiful view of sea cliffs and the ocean itself. In one particularly harrowing stretch, where you are not, strictly speaking, supposed to take your rental car, the road went down to one lane. In both directions. Because of the curves, so many pullouts had been created that I wondered why they didn’t just go ahead and carve out a whole lane. If everyone goes slowly enough and keeps an eye on the road ahead, it does work out fine.

We stopped at Julia’s Best Banana Bread in the town of Kahakuloa (free samples!). It was very good. The town itself is interesting, too, isolated as it is by the hard drive. Judging from the number of stands set up along the main drag, I’d say the economy seems to be coconut-candy based. I might have liked to have stayed longer, if only to sample more of the local currency.

The nice thing about this drive is that the road intersects with major highways near the airport, so you don’t have to retrace your route. Getting home is much faster than the outbound trip. We were back almost before anyone even noticed we were gone. We didn’t see quite as many waterfalls as we might have on the road to Hana, but I bet the banana bread was better.

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