I awoke early the next morning, partly due to the time difference, and partly due to the early 5am sunrise. It’s a good thing too because the drive to Haleakala National Park is much longer than it looks. This skewed sense of scale, mostly due to fact that the 10km diameter volcanic crater is tree-less, is something that plagued me all day. As I hiked the crater – I’d look at a flat expanse of lava floe and think, “I’ll be across in 15 minutes” and an hour later I’d barely be halfway. Other times I’d look at a massive cinder cone far back in the park and minutes later I’d be standing at the base realizing its just a 200ft bump that’s easily scramble-able.
With a visitor center and a fantastic view, its no surprise that Haleakala is popular with tourists, many of whom come for the sunrise and a cruiser bike ride 20kms or so back to bottom. I chose to bypass the Sliding Sands trail that starts at the crater viewing platform and hike in on the Halema Trail, which follows the gap into the crater created by the flowing lava. It’s a slightly longer route in but not often traveled, with a 1000ft vertical gain instead of 2500ft of Sliding Sands. On both trails, unfortunately, the elevation is gained on your return as you hike out of the crater instead of at the beginning.
Its hard to describe the crater, that’s the impression it leaves I suppose. Bleak. Other worldly. Kind of bizarre like an abandoned town or seeing the aftermath of a train wreck. When you stand on the edge of the crater, just a short ways into the hike, the jagged rocks below almost look fluid in their positioning, as if they were flowing just minutes ago and slowed to a halt. Like a black glacier with virtually zero life in it.
When you get to the crater floor you find there is a fair amount of grassland in addition to the rare white Sword ferns that grow sporadically on the hillsides and bloom very rarely. There’s lots to look at. Occasionally lava tube openings appear at your feet, some just a couple feet in diameter, some big enough to walk through. And even just the rock formations, or lava stones I guess, are interesting. They form shapes that gravity shouldn’t really allow. Unfortunately pics don’t turn out too well due to the monochromity of the area. It was on this soft black sand that they tested some of the lunar landing equipment back in the 1960’s.
Maybe 6 or 7 miles into the hike I reached the cinder cones and chose my route through the trail network depending on which way seemed better at the time. The cinder cones are very similar to the colorful mounds you see around Moab, and scrambling up one of them netted me a nice lunch spot where I could see the down to the south coast through Kaupo Gap and also keep an eye on building clouds coming off the north shore. As always on Maui, the wind was blowing steady.
After lunch I retraced my steps my steps back to the car, finding some new bits or interesting views, but mostly thinking about technology and really appreciating the utter emptiness of this area in the afternoon. All I really wanted was a big cold Gatorade.
So back to the Banana Bungalow I rolled in my Hyundai Accent with my big cold Gatorade… mackin’… and lovin’ every minute of it. I even had a BBQ chicken and a Caesar salad from Safeway. But the sunburn was starting to suck – got a little too much sun up there. Nevertheless I dumped my stuff at the Bung-hole went for a walk around Wailuku, the area that I’m starting to think is actually the ghetto of Maui. I mean even a paradise must have an area that’s slightly less perfect, and that’s the ghetto, Wailuku. It looks kinda like small town America, just with more Hawaiians in Jap cars and fewer white people in American cars. Its got a quiet main street, with a coffee shop, an art shop, a pawn shop, Stop N Shop. There’s a hospital. But its not on the coastline and that’s really what separates it from the high dollar neatly developed little coves that grow around Maui’s many beautiful beaches.
I shouldn’t diss the Banana Bungalow too much. Yes, I stop my car in front and idle, thinking about all the careless idiotic ways that other guests could ding my beloved Accent if I give them the opportunity. And yes, the college kids on the porch throwin’ me shakas and ‘brahs’ because they surfed for the first time today are a little annoying. But overall it’s a festive place to stay without being an overly partied-out puke-in-the-hall kinda place where you pass people having conversations about how much liquor they something something something. It gets silent around 10pm. And until then I had some good reggae to listen to and a few mellow people to clink some beers with. And when that got old, I ate my Caesar salad and BBQ chicken while watching Planet Earth on the laptop. Its not modern or well-appointed or big. Its not even that clean. Its the Bunghole, but without focusing on the bung it didn’t seem too bad. And its cheap sleep, which is rare on Maui.