Earlier I mentioned the twistiness of Hawaiian roadways – well the road to Hana, at the remote east end of the island, is easily the tightest road I have ever driven. Its exhausting. The old 99 was nothing, the highway to Tofino is a piece of cake, Lombard Street seems relatively straight. On the road to Hana you average under 30kph, and it’s a good thing too because its loaded with blind corners and section of roads where you’re not sure if 2 cars can fit, and other sections where you’re absolutely sure that 2 cars will not fit. It was fun for a while but I was glad to get to some straighter roads as the land flattened out near Hana.
I broke up the drive by stopping at the Kaenae Arboretum. I almost missed it, on a tight bend with a small pull-out and no other tourist cars unlike all the other falls and waypoints. Of course, as soon as I stopped, others stopped. Bah.
Once again the people dissipated when they realized that it was more than 100 ft off the road to the Arboretum, and also that an Arboretum is just a place with plants. But its no ordinary place – Kaenae holds every type of plant found on Maui and they’re presented in a somewhat dramatic fashion with a trail winding a couple kilometers through a grassy park and eventually into a dense jungle. It was one of the original Jurassic Park sets, and those movie people generally know how to pick em. So it was worth a stop for some lunch.
Hana is the kinda town where you have to pay attention when you’re driving, otherwise you’ll miss it. Its not much more than a few stores and a school doted along the road with residential areas branching out along the coast. It reminded me a bit of Uclulet, partly due to the size but also due to the intensity of the rocky coastline. If there is one thing that their Pacific has in common with ours, its that the waves would mash you to a pulp on the shore if given half a chance.
Of course there are sheltered areas with exotic-looking red and black sand beaches but that’s not what I was interested in just yet. From Hana to Waianapanapa (yes I spelled that from memory) there is a 5km trail set by ancient fishermen that winds along the cliff edge. Here, again, the rough volcanic rock forms bizarre shapes with sinkholes and lava tubes popping up sporadically. Blue surf crashing against the vertical rocks walls sends spray 30-40ft in the air that blows you past you as a cool fine mist.
I followed the trail for a kilometer or 2 before heading out to the cliff edge, hopping from rock to rock and following a more dramatic path. Footing was critical but so was judgment as I could feel some of the rocks on the edge shudder when big waves pounded them so I tried to stay off spots that looked like they were ready to break away. The lava rock seems particularly prone to erosion since its not dense and hard like granite, and in fact there were plenty of sea caves and tunnels down at seas level. These often have vents to the surface because as the waves wear a cave into the face of the cliff, the rocks above fall into the cave and these vents develop, sometimes big enough for a person to climb down into the cave, sometimes only detectable by the mist that they emit. Climbing down into the vents is sketchy though, and I only tried it once – they’re wet, and vertical, with little chance of escape if you fall down into the cave. Plus, it’s a steadily eroding hole so you’re climbing through the most dangerous and unstable place possible.
After a couple hours on the trail and a couple soakings from rogue waves I headed back to Hana where I took in the sunset over the verdant rolling pastures.