Hawai'i - Part 3 - Maui
After just 20 minutes in the air and reaching the amazing altitude of 8,500 feet (you need oxygen above 10,000 feet), we came into land at Maui airport.From the air, once again this looks like an amazing place and after collecting our luggage from the back of the plane, we picked up our hire car and set off for our hotel.
Maui is called the Valley Isle because of the large fertile isthmus (an isthmus is a narrow strip of land connecting two larger land areas) that seperates the mountains to the west and Mount Haleakala to the east as it slopes down to the ocean (more about Mount Halakala later).
We are staying on the west side of the island at a place called Honokowai and once again Ant has chosen an area away from the main tourist resort of Lahaina although it is only a 20 minute drive away.The airport is on the north-west side of the island in Kahului about a 40 minute drive although not that far in miles!!! Many roads go round the island rather than straight across, and we can't take the most direct route as the road is a narrow,winding one lane road that the rental car company won't let you drive on (! See later comments!!!)
The place we are staying in is called Noelani Condo resort which means we have our own kitchen so as I did the laundry (again!!), Ant set off to buy dinner.After so many months on the road it is nice to have home cooked food!!We have a full size fridge/freezer, cooker, microwave, toaster and coffee maker!! - Just like home.As we ate dinner on the balcony and watched the sunset over the pool, Somewhere over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole was playing in the background.Israel Kamakawiwo'ole is an Hawaiian icon and recorded the best ever version of Somewhere over the Rainbow - this was a truly magical moment for me.
The next morning,as we only had 2 full days on the island, we spent an hour with the hotel concierge learning all about island and the activities we could undertake - he also booked a whale and dolphin watch tour for us for the following day.We then spent a couple of hours on the local beach where once again we watched Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles swimming just off shore.We also saw hump-backed whales breaching in the distance!!There aren't may places in the world where you can watch whales from your hotel!!
The following morning after an early breakfast on the balcony, we headed for Lahaina and the Pacific Whale Foundation where we were booked on the 08:45 Whale and Dolphin Watch.Pacific Whale Foundation's mission is to protectour oceans through ongoing marine research, education and conservation programs.Maui is one of the world's top whalewatch spots, the winter home to thousands of humpback whales that migrate here to mate, give birth and care for their newborn calves.We were lucky enough to spot 2 calves with their mothers, as well as male escorts and Spinner Dolphins.They are famous for their acrobatic displays in which they spin longitudinally along their axis as they leap through the air.We had an amazing 3 hours on the water although by the end of it I had sunburn on my lips!!!!
After a lovely Mexican lunch and a quick stroll through the town, we decided to make the 2 hour drive (from town) to the volcano at Haleakala National Park.A lot of people do this at sunrise or sunset but with a 3 hour return journey, this wasn't an option for us.
East and West Maui began life millions of years ago as 2 of a group of 5 shield volcanoes.These volcanoes rose from the ocean floor with countless eruptions of lava, eventually emerging from the sea to form volcanic islands.A million years ago the growing islands had coalesced into a huge single island with multiple volcanic peaks.Eruptions continued until about 400,000 years ago, building a mountain (Haleakala) on East Maui that rose higher than today's 10,023-foot summit.At the same time the forces of erosion and subsidence were reducing the height of the volcanic peaks and flooding the lowlands between them.By 150,000 years ago, the peaks had seperated, forming the islands of Maui, Kaho'olawe, Lana'i and Moloka'i - the basin in between the islands is relatively shallow and it is this shallow basin that attracts the humpbacked whales.
Haleakala, "The House of the Sun", is a dormant volcano and the tallest peak on Maui, reaching 10,023 feet above sea level. However, there are 19,680 feet of mountain hidden under the ocean making it 27,903 feet high from its base - 675 feet more than Everest.
The crater, or more correctly called the depression, is large enough to hold the entire island of Manhattan. It is 7.5 miles long, 2.5 miles wide and 3000 feet deep. The crater includes its own mini-mountain range of nine cinder cones - the largest of which is over 1000 feet high.
Unfortunately, as well as my sunburned lips, I also started to experience altitude sickness at the peak of Halekala and felt too sick and dizzy to get out of the car to experience the sights!!I have never experienced this before despite having been at this altitude (and higher!)before and put it down to too much sun in the morning and the beer I had at lunchtime leaving me a little dehydrated.
On our last full day on Maui, we decided to take the "road to Hana" drive, sometimes referred to as the "road to heaven".Of all the places on the islands, the road to Hana has the look and feel of unspoiled Polynesia, with lavish vegetation, empty beaches, secluded coves, remote valleys and waterfalls.This is a full day drive with 54 one-lane bridges and about 600 hairpin turns (who counted them???)Called the Hana Highway, this 68 mile narrow winding road follows the ins and outs of the coastline.Unfortunately, the natural beauty of this area is the result of extremely high rainfall and every time we got out of the car to take a walk or pictures it poured down!!!!
As our flight back to Honolulu wasn't due to leave until 2.50 pm, we decided to explore the northern end of the island and the "forbidden Highway 340".This is the road that the rental company told us we couldn't take the car on so we were pleasantly surprised to see that it was 2-lane paved highyway…………… until we got to about 16 miles from Kahului, the main town and location of the airport!!! The last 16 miles (or first 16 if you are coming from the airport), is a narrow, winding one lane round clinging to the cliff edge!!!!If you meet a car coming in the opposite direction, one of you has to back up to the last passing place and with a sheer drop to the ocean on one side this was a pretty scary drive!! Now we know why the rental car companies tell you not to take this road!!!
Once again we arrived at the airport early only to find that our flight had been cancelled.We then learned why it is not a good idea to fly with a budget airline!!!We offered stand by seats on the next available flight at 6.30 pm (as all the flights since 8:00 am had been cancelled, the chances of getting a seat on this flight were pretty much zero), the only other option they offered us was to fly with another airline (for which they wouldn't reimburse the costs!!!) or take a flight the following day (but they wouldn't put us up in a hotel!!!!!!!!!!).Extremely angry by this point, we managed to get a flight at 3:40 with Hawaiian Air which set us back an additional $200+!!!! We are still trying to get our money back from Go Mokulele 2 weeks later.