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Published: April 19th 2010
Haleakala crater is the extinct volcano that formed the eastern part of Maui. There is a switchback road travelling up to the top of the crater, going so high that you literally drive through clouds, then are above them at an elevation of over 10,000 feet. It always is so pretty when you get above the clouds!
We had read about a bicycle trip down the side of the mountain which had sounded like fun, but it turns out that the road up and down from the crater is so very steep, and without a shoulder to make it safe for bikers, that people get hurt by doing that. Not only that, the wind is so strong and the air is so cold that they provide you parkas and gloves so you don't freeze. And the road itself, while pretty at the top abouve the clouds, doesn't have really great views like we thought it would. So, we drove it instead, and were glad we did when we saw groups of bikers huddled at the side of the road, or bravely trying to battle the wind to keep from being blown right off their bikes. We even saw a
few giving up, with their tour vans stopped and re-loading them and their bikes into the truck.
At the top it is cold, and the landscape of the crater looks like you are on the moon. In fact, they have tested the land rovers here that really did go to the moon. There are a couple of observatories here too, mostly tracking objects in space such as space debris and asteroids. Hiking trails can take you right down into the crater itself, but we didn’t go that far. It could take several hours, and we weren’t prepared for such a long hike.
Coming back from the top of Haleakala we passed through an area of Maui called “Upcountry”. It is on the side of the mountain which is a bit cooler and greener than down in the middle valley. There are lots of ranches here, with lots of empty land.
Towns are small and look like one-street cowboy towns complete with wooden store fronts and boarded-up buildings.
Makawao has a general store, a couple of restaurants, and…..well, I think that is about it. Oh yes, a pretty stone church. There may
have been more, but we didn’t explore here much.
The town of Paia is a funky little artsy town that is billed as the last stop for supplies before starting on the road to Hana. It is not exactly upcountry, but we stopped there on our way back from Haleakala. It has a great fish restaurant here (the Paia Fish Market - that we had to battle crowds to eat at, but it was good), and it also has a really pretty little church dedicated to St. Damien, the priest who went to spend his life on Molokai with the Hanson’s disease outcasts (lepers), and was later elevated to sainthood. The church was beautiful, both outside and in, with immaculately manicured grounds. There were several plaques with pictures around the outside of the church, which I thought would be about Damien’s life and work. Instead, they were scenes from one of those old movies - the Robe, we thought. What the heck? Seemed out of place, but gave us a good laugh, and the church was still beautiful.
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