Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Maui: Land of Car Sickness

Maui has many virtues going for it. The sunshine, the beaches, surfers, rainforests, extinct volcanoes…but my lasting memory of the island will be one of car sickness.
Ordinarily I only get car sick if I’m trying to read while in a moving car. Frustrating, but I’ve learned to adapt by not doing that thing. But Maui managed a new one my making me car sick while driving, not once, but three separate times. Let’s just say there are few straight lines in getting from Point A to Point B.
The first was by accident, and it’s a decision I will be paying the interest on for the rest of my marriage. Ever make a decision that disagreed with the option provided by your wife, realize it was the wrong one and have a vision of a conversation you’ll be replaying for decades to come? That’s what happened when, after enjoying a spectacular sunset just north of tourist hub of Lahaina, I decided to turn left when leaving the beach. Cathy advised turning right and retracing our path back to our condo. I was sure that left was faster. It would take us over the north-western part of Maui and, from a quick glance at the map, appeared to be a shorter distance.
What I had failed to take into consideration was that while it might look shorter, it was not the four-lane highway we had enjoyed earlier in the day. My option, Route 340, can generously be called a goat path in places. It’s not just that it’s a narrow two lane road filled with hills, valleys, twists and blind turns, it’s that it occasionally narrows to one lane, then to one gravel lane. Then one narrow gravel lane against the edge of a cliff with the Pacific Ocean below. Assuming we could see it, of course, as I was driving it at night. Occasionally traffic would come from the opposite direction. Just to make life more interesting.
It’s not the stupidest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s Top 10. I told locals what I did and they looked at me like I had a death wish. They avoid driving that road during the daytime. Driving it at night is insane. I look on the bright side. By driving it at night I was less able to see how close I was to driving the car off a cliff than if I’d done it during the day time.
After we finished, and survived, there was a McDonald’s. I pulled in, ordered something to drink (I forget what) and spent 15 minutes taking a lot of deep breaths and getting my hands to unclinch.
The second case of car sickness was at least during the day time and more pleasant. The Road to Hana ends up on a lot of lists as a Must-do if you’re in Hawaii. It ends up on a lot of bucket lists as something you should drive in your lifetime.
And it is spectacular. The scenery as you’re driving along the narrow and winding road is some of the best I’ve seen in my lifetime.  Just as long as you stop regularly and enjoy some of it. One of the smarter purchases we made was the audio guide Gypsy Guide to the Road to Hana for our iPhone. It’s a battery hog, but provides a ton of useful information about places to stop along the way, and some history of Maui. So we stopped at several spectacular waterfalls, botanical gardens, roadside food stops, beaches and parks along the way.
If you’re ever looking for proof that the saying “it’s the journey, not the destination” is true, then the Road to Hana is it. The actual community of Hana is barely worth the trip. It’s small and there isn’t much to do. We only spent a few minutes there before driving onwards to the Haleakala National Park a few miles later, with its “sacred” pools. They’re not sacred to Hawaiians, but to marketers, who very effectively sold the idea that tourists should travel there and spend money along the way. Instead of the crowded pools we spent a few hours hiking up the side of the volcano to Waimoku Falls.
It really is a beautiful drive, even with the 64 bridges and reported 620 curves (I didn’t count) during the 84 km drive from Hahului to Hana. The traffic is bad and yeah, I got a little nauseous by the end of the day. But unlike the first drive, this one was well worth it.
The final bout came courtesy of Haleakala National Park again. It’s a huge park, taking up more than 130 square kilometers. One day we did the lush tropical side, a couple of days later I drove to the summit of the extinct volcano that makes up the heart of the park.
Notice there was an I not a we in that last sentence. After two lots of winding roads and with her ears not really recovered from the ear-popping they got on the Big Island, Cathy opted for a day at the beach instead.
Yeah, I got a little nauseous driving to the summit, but it might have been the most fun drive of the trip. No cliffs, for one thing. The traffic wasn’t too bad. There are plenty of places as you’re climbing to the summit of Haleakala, which is an extinct volcano, to pull over and enjoy magnificent views. You get to drive through Maui’s Upcountry, which is a world different than the beaches and resorts of Lahania. As you’re driving up you pass cattle ranches and cowboys. Occasionally, you see a small horde of mountain bikers barreling down the mountain, apparently living out a dream/death wish (note, most did not bike up the mountain. There are companies that will bus you to the top and then guide you to the bottom of the mountain via bike. Bit of a cheat if you ask me).
The view from the summit of Haleakala can also make you giddy. Possibly it’s the lack of oxygen – you are at 10,000 feet – but on a reasonable clear day you can see the Big Island, about 50 miles or more away. The volcanic crater is huge, and you can hike it if you have the time. Apparently the sunrise from the summit is spectacular but I didn’t have it in me to get up at 4 am to start the drive.

I loved being on top of Haleakala. I was reluctant to leave...
Three very different road trips. They all made me a little nauseous, but hey, sometimes a little car sickness is worth it. Except for that Route 340 trip. That one is going to haunt me…
Last Five
1. Call me on your way back home (live) - Ryan Adams*
2. Slippery slopes - Jenny Lewis
3. Dear Prudence - The Beatles
4. Hold me now - Thompson Twins
5. It's hard to be a saint in the city (Live) - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

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