In a way, the central, narrower section of Maui is a valley. To the east you have Pu’u Kukui and the Eke Crater, to the west the towering Pu’u’ula’ul (allegedly the tallest inactive volcano in the world). But for a lot of the past two days, neither has been visible, both shrouded in cloud, only occasionally split at the top to give a glimpse of the peak. It’s cooler than on the Big Island, if the reports coming out of Kona are anything to go by, and it rains a lot – some sections we passed through today clock a sodden 300inches a year. This means the vegetation is lush, tropical and a hundred shades of green. It’s strange though, knowing this huge mountain is right in front of you, but seeing only cloud.
An early start and today we drove east, along Maui’s northern shore, on the 360 – the Road to Hana. Hana itself is nothing special, but the road that takes you there winds in and out along the coast, crossing 54 single lane bridges over rivers carrying all that water from the slopes of the mountain to the sea, cutting the hundreds of valleys which give the island it’s nickname, and cascading dramatically down black lava cliff faces. You experience this route with every sense – stunning views of course, but also eucalyptus scents, the sound of the crashing surf, the cool shock of a freshwater plunge pool or the spray of a waterfall and the fresh local food you buy on the way. At the first fruit stand we stopped for banana bread, Apple bananas (about the size of your hand) and a banana, pineapple and honey crepe, made for us by a girl who grew up in Taupo, the home of Ironman New Zealand. We stopped often to admire the view, or to hike a short way inland to a viewpoint or swimming pool. At Pua’a Ka’a park, I was wading around just off the bank, and suddenly 30 or so tiny fishes started nibbling on my feet – people pay a lot for fish pedicures I’m told! The coast line is amazing – dramatic cliffs and surf, farming communities nestled into fertile valleys, all dominated by the volcano’s imposing black face.
Aunty Sandy at Ke’anae allegedly does the best banana bread on the road. She did delicious smoothies too. We pretty much lived off fruit and banana bread today.
Yesterday’s baptism of fire had prepared us well – this winding road was nothing in comparison. Just before Hana is Wai’anapanapa Park, with a black sand beach, roiling surf, lava tubes, blow holes and a secret freshwater pool in a cave, for a final refreshing swim, which was the perfect culmination.
We got back just in time to fit in a quick 4 mile run (oh, yeah, I have a race in just under 2 weeks) before it got dark and then walked to a local bar and grill for something non banana-based for dinner.