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May 7th 2019
Published: June 7th 2019
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Maui Road Trip


The plane descended into the sprawling urban light show that was Los Angeles. After a smooth landing we disembarked and wandered the vast LAX airport looking for something to eat. Stupidly, none of us had brought any provisions to tide us over on the previous flight and we were famished. We needed food and now. My brother Shawn, who was a flight attendant and had been to LA several times, stated that there were some fast food joints in the environs. Carrying only our light backpacks, we casually began our search for sustenance. The air was warm and humid, a drastic change from the eclectic weather that we had become accustomed to back home. The winter had been harsh and even now at the beginning of May, the days were cold and wet. The season just did not seem to want to loosen its grip. I hadn't been away since the fall so this was a welcome relief. After what seemed like many blocks I could see it in the distance; that shiny yellow star that signaled comforting elation. Carl's Junior had been a favourite fast food joint since I last sampled it in the fall. The chain could only be found in western parts of North America so it was a rare indulgence for me. Shawn and Max whom had never tried the chain were going to be in for a real treat. Only this would turn out to be a tease in every sense of the word. While the restaurant was indeed open, it was only serving drive through customers! We went to stand at the speaker, pleading that we were hungry and car-less, until we were made to move out of the way by a fortunate motorist who would momentarily be biting into a piece of heaven.

At this point Shawn had a backup plan stating that we'd have to walk all the way back from where we had come from and then some but that there existed an In and Out burger joint out there in the distance. Resigning to that, we trudged on, our backpacks feeling a lot heavier. It felt probably longer than it was but eventually we reached our destination, only to have our hopes and dreams dashed yet again. In and Out burger closed at 0100 and it was now 0120. We took a defeated walk back to the airport with sore legs and stomachs aching. A few cigarettes were the only treatment to lessen the hunger pangs, although simply a psychological measure. I wondered how a world-class airport could have such limited food options for the weary traveler at this hour. We found a spare piece of floor under a staircase to lay down and get some sleep until the United Airlines counter was open. Shawn passed out pretty quickly. So did Max it seemed. Max was my brother's former band mate and best friend, and they went back quite a few years. He was a really laid back guy. This trip was kind of a last minute affair with nothing concrete planned. All we knew was that we had an early morning standby flight to the Hawaiian Island of Maui.

An uneventful five and a half hour flight and we found ourselves smack in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. We landed in the capital of Maui, a town called Kahului. It was hot and sunny with exotic plants and palm tress all around us. Pretty much what I initially expected. Immediately we proceeded to the car rental station to pick up a convertible that Shawn had reserved for us. We met Darian at the counter, who at times gave off the vibe of being a mischievous party animal, and he gave us little tidbits of information about the island since he was a local. We decided to upgrade our rental to a Jeep Wrangler, which would provide us with more room and be sturdier on the gravel patches of road that we would eventually drive through. It would also be roomier, also useful if we needed to sleep in the vehicle for whatever reason. We needed to take advantage of being in Kahului so our next stop was the island's Costco. There we stocked up on different snacks and bought a large pizza for later, always a bargain for the price. We also picked up two two-fours because stocking up on beer is always a good thing. After that it was off to the nearby Walmart, where we purchased cheap camping equipment which included a 30$ Ozark Trail tent and a trio of sleeping bags and camping chairs. We also got headlamps and more food. As you can tell, we were trying to do Maui on the cheap. All stocked up, we began our journey towards the east, with the famed Road to Hana, known to be one of the more interesting drives in the world. We removed the front part of the roof and effectively created a convertible jeep. We got some free maps of the island, although the driving routes here seemed pretty straight forward. We soon stopped at Ho'okipa Beach, to take advantage of our first Hawaiian beach moment. The water was blue and the waves grand. We hung out here for a bit before driving on. The road to Hana began to meander and zigzag, caution had to be taken to always keep an eye on oncoming traffic. At times the road turned into a narrow one lane, especially on the small bridges. Eventually we reached the Waikamo Nature Park. We pulled the jeep over to the side and walked up the short hill path to find a picnic table and trailhead to some short hikes up the jungle covered hills. I immediately noticed some flat patches of grass surrounded by tall exotic looking trees and figured that this could be a decent place to camp. By this point it was late afternoon so we waited until dusk came and set up our tent, then brought the pizza to the picnic table to have for dinner while playing my favourite card game known as shithead. Night fell and we removed the rain fly of the tent to have a view of the clear starry sky. All was peaceful inside the tent until we heard some manic honking. We were camped fairly close to the road, just up the hill a little so we heard the passing sounds of vehicles on the curved road. But none of us expected a motorbike to drive straight up the hill and stop nearby our tent. The rider sounded like he was muttering to himself and then tried to start up his bike only to seem to have engine trouble. He began cursing out loud and sounded like he was possibly drunk. At this point Max and Shawn were awake and we were all discussing how to handle the situation. No doubt the rider had seen our tent but initially I felt like the best course of action was to avoid any engagement. As he lingered on however, I felt that maybe we might have to assess what kind of threat he could be. I reminded everyone that we were three grown men and he was just one. Then again we were in the US of A so who knows if he was armed or something. Luckily after much cursing and fidgeting the rider fired up his engine and then bolted back down to the road and took off. Breathing a sigh of relief we eventually fell back to sleep.

We woke as the sun came up and pulled down the tent and had peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast. Then we went on a short hike up the hill and got to see some very cool flora. I always heard about how biodiverse the Hawaiian archipelago was so it was great to see it with my own eyes. The hike was over before we knew it, and then we headed back to the jeep and continue along the Road to Hana. Shawn had driven yesterday so today was my turn. Max didn't really seem to have an interest in driving. We made frequent stops checking out the many waterfalls, as well as a botanical garden, along the way. Navigating the twists and turns made for some fun driving. Near the town of Hana we stopped at Waianapanapa State Park and went to Black Sand Beach. The sand was indeed black and could in no way be walked on without flip flops for fear of first degree burns to our foot soles. We had some beers here and jumped into the water for a bit, then walked along a coastal trail before coming back. We noticed there were plenty of tents set up and tried to figure out if we could actually camp there. Then things got confusing, because supposedly we needed a camping permit which could only be purchased online. We went into the town of Hana and found some free Wifi near the general store. Turned out the camping was somehow sold out at this site even though it looked like there was plenty of spots left. Oh well we decided to keep driving on. We continued for another 10 miles but the going was slow with plenty of one lane bridges and tight curves. Eventually it was late afternoon and we reached Kipahulu State Park. Let's check it out we agreed. Turning in we found that for a mere 25$ we could all camp for three nights at any affiliated park! Practically free! We drove down to near the water and found a nice spot under a giant tree. We set up camp and then ate more peanut butter, granola bars and beef jerky for dinner. And more beer and card games as well. Hopefully no visit from a drunken motorbiker either.

As was becoming the routine, we woke up just after sunrise. It didn't take long for the temperature to become sweltering once the sun came out. We put on hiking attire and set out toward the Pipiwai trail. We passed through plenty of jungle scenery and even some old growth trees. There were plenty of lookouts to observe the Hawaiian vistas. There was a lot of cloud cover which shielded us from the sun but light rain began to fall as well. Eventually we reached a beautiful section of bamboo forest. It was only a little farther until we reached the 400 foot Waimoku Waterfall. We got as close as we could and then stared at it for a while. It was mesmerizing in the same way starring into fire can be. We then made our way back the way we came and immediately got on the Kuloa Point Trail to see the Seven Sacred Pools. The water was too rough so we couldn't go for a dip in them. We checked out the visitor center on the way back, which was filled with interesting park and island facts, and then returned to our campsite. By now it was around lunch time so we ate bread and peanut butter with some beef jerky. We also had some beer. We decided that we'd back towards Hana and spend some time at a beach for the afternoon. We found a pretty decent beach on the outskirts of town and set up our beach chairs. We went for frequent dips into the ocean. As we were packing up to leave when we felt raindrops. By the time we got to the Jeep it was pouring. We figured we'd stop into town for the last time before heading back to camp so that we could try some food from the food truck square we had seen. We opted for some some fishburgers from Da Fish Shack. After scarfing these down, we were still hungry and went to the Burrito stand to get more food. Amazingly the rain cleared by the time we reached the campsite and we were able to sit on the bench and play cards before bed.

It rained for what seemed like the entire night while in the tent. I'm not a big fan of rain while camping, but even less so when we have a 30$ tent to rely on. Nonetheless it performed better than I might have expected, although there was water accumulation from the seams of every corner. The rain had stopped when we emerged from the tent and I even noticed some blue skies heading towards us in the distance. We managed to dry things off somewhat before packing up. We had an adventurous day planned and were hoping to get going early. I was in the driver seat and we left Kipahulu and headed towards the southern part of the island. Here we were witness to a dramatic change of scenery. The landscape turned into what looked like dry savannah. The road meandered along, at times on gravel road. Eventually we began to gain elevation as we climbed up the Haleakala Volcano. We broke through the clouds and were bathed by sun. We entered the Hosmer Grove campground where we would be spending the night. We set up camp and then drove on, all the way up until we reached about 10000 feet. From here we had incredible views of the crater. We went on a hike that went down partially into the crater and it felt as though we were on Mars or something. Several hours later we returned from where we started and then made the long drive back down to the campsite. We were above the clouds for most of it. Back at camp, we went on a short 1 mile hike and got to see some unique trees and birds. Then we ate a few bars and peanut butter sandwiches while playing cards. We must of been about 7000 feet above sea level so it began to get cold. I had my synthetic down jacket and my tuque to keep warm. That night we all slept with layers of clothes on in our sleeping bags.

The next day we departed from Haleakala and drove back towards Kahului. The forecast did not appear great from the later part of the day so we spent some time trying to figure out what to do. We decided to drive south to Kihei, where some other travelers had reported that there was a community center that was granting permits for beach camping. When we eventually found the center, we discovered that it was closed on weekends, and being that it was a Saturday we were out of luck. We continued south to the big beach of Makena. The weather was still sunny so we took advantage of some beach time for a few hours. This part of Maui was very developed and full of luxury hotels and villas. We had some beers and relaxed until the late afternoon, after which we returned to Kahului and went back to the Costco to restock on some supplies. We bought another large pizza and sampled some local Poke. As dusk came, so did the rain filled clouds. No doubt the weather was about to turn and we had to figure out what the plan was for the evening. It didn't look as though there'd be much for us in terms of stealth camping and we certainly didn't intend to stay at an overpriced hotel. We found out that there was a cinema in Kihei where we could kill a few hours that evening. Marvel's Avengers: Endgame had recently been released and although I was supposed to see it with my girlfriend, we all agreed that it would be a difficult film to pass up, so we headed down again and bought some tickets for an evening showing. Later on after telling my girlfriend I had seen it without her, she disappointingly said that having seen the movie without her was worse than cheating. I would have to live with that (we eventually did see the movie together back home, as I intended to see it several times anyway). The seats were beyond comfortable and I could have easily taken a nap. The movie was awesome and afterwards we hung outside discussing it until parking lot security shooed us away. No loitering signs were visible everywhere. It had begun raining and we ended up pulling over off a busy street and fell asleep in the Jeep.

We woke early the next morning and found that there was a McDonald's right next to us, so we went in and freshened up. We were now planning to explore some of western Maui. We drove back through Kahului and found a road that headed northwest. In many ways the road we were about to embark on mirrored the road to Hana due to the tight curves and single lane sections. The road hugged the cliffside and we had beautiful scenery as we gained and lost elevation. We were surrounded by jungle and the occasional cattle ranch. We stopped a few times and found a short hiking trail too. At one point the road became really congested and there was a buildup of cars from the other side. Some motorists on our side created a blockade to allow those oncoming vehicles to get through. Yet again this was an awesome drive. As we reached the far side of western Maui, we found a beach on conservation land known as Slaughterhouse Beach (not sure why it was named so). We parked the car and then had to descend down many stairs along the cliff to reach it. This would become my favourite beach yet, as it was cradled in a Bay and allowed the water to be more calm although there was still many impressive waves. The large island of Moloka'i was easily visible and tantalizingly close to us. We spent many hours here and then, putting the top down, continued down the coast where the area became more developed with towns, hotels, restaurants and strip malls. We continued into the touristy town of Lahaina, once the capital of Hawaii as well as a historic whaling village. There were so many people here that we decided not to stick around for long and headed back up the coast and found a small beach park to pass more time. Once dusk began to approach, we decided that we could try to return to Slaughterhouse and attempt to camp on the beach. When we arrived back there, there were still people around, so we brought our gear down and just waited until the area cleared out. Some younger people seemed to be having a large bonfire on the other side of the beach. We set up our camp, with enough clearance to avoid high tide, and made sure to keep the rain fly off so we could enjoy the starry night. Eventually even the group of kids cleared out and we were left with a serene and possibly the most beautiful campsite we could have asked for.

I woke up to the sounds of crashing waves and it took a split second to remember that we were sleeping on the beach! I crawled out of the tent and noticed a lone woman walking her dog on the sand. The sun had just risen. Shawn and Max woke up next and we pulled apart the tent and made our way back to the car to dump our gear and eat some food. Then back down to the beach we went and spent the next few hours taking swims, drinking beer and getting thoroughly sunburned. By mid morning the beach was full. We headed out and I looked back knowing I was going to really miss this spot. We drove back down the coast and found a McDonald's and settled to have some burgers from there. Then, having thoroughly regretted that decision, we found a microbrewery nearby and sampled some local beers. The rest of the afternoon we stopped along at different beaches while circumnavigating west Maui until we reached the main road again and returned to Kahului. By this point I think we had driven on pretty much every major road on the island. Back in Kahului we went to Costco to eat more Poke for dinner. Then we returned to Walmart and I began to chat with a lady who worked outside the main entrance, selling travel advice and tour packages. Apparently there are plenty of homeless people at the Walmart parking lot, some of which we had seen. We decided that we'd be donating all our camping equipment, as well as whatever food we didn't eat, to the homeless of the Walmart parking lot. The lady would make sure she distributed it to those who needed it and seemed pretty thankful. I figured we weren't planning on taking it all home with us anyway so why not? By early evening we were back at the airport and emptied and returned our Jeep Wrangler to where he lived. I could not have asked for a better way to have seen the island of Maui. Our flight took off amidst the shroud of darkness as we left the Hawaiian paradise behind.


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