Monday, April 7th
Clouds, wind and rain. Foreshadowing at it’s finest?
This day did not start out postcard perfect, but we will make the best of whatever we’re given. We can’t see Molokai this morning – the vog and clouds have obscured it. But, with rain comes rainbows. We were treated with a couple full rainbows and they made us realize that this day would not be a bad one.
Sometimes, changing your luck is as easy as changing your direction. While the skies in front of us hold rain, the skies behind us are full of sun.
After a delicious breakfast of sweet Hawaiian French toast, sausage and more of the delicious pineapples, we gathered our gear for the day and got in the car. We are headed off to upcountry for the day! .
On the way out of town, we stopped at Maui Grown Coffee, as I wanted to find a local brew. It’s a quaint little shop, with helpful staff and numerous goodies. Due to the volume of customers in the store, I just grabbed a few different single-pot varieties and will go back again later in the week for the one I liked best.
We had several other stops optioned for the eastern side of the island. We chose the Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm and the Ocean Vodka & Organic Farm.
The weather sort of turned the corner as we got underway, but turned out to be temporary. Some days are just not going to give you everything you want from them, but we soldiered on anyway.
We knew that the road to Haleakala would be slow and windy, but the roads leading to our other stops demanded our full attention, too. As we gained altitude going to the lavender farm, we wondered just “where in the heck is this place?” Our trusty GPS told us we were almost there and we were happy for that, because it seemed that we were not going to be able to go much further without our car rolling back down the incredibly sharp incline. Mountain goats from Nepal would feel right at home in these hills. The panoramic vistas from this location were breathtaking. We could see for miles, and the ocean waters glimmering in the distance were mesmerizing.
The lavender farm was a very nice facility to explore. Plants and flowers of all different varieties dotted the grounds, with a very obvious Buddhist vibe permeating the farm.
We strolled through the shop and I was amazed at just how many different products could be infused with lavender, whether for the good or bad. The sun had decided to come back out and it made our time there that much more enjoyable. After meandering for 30 minutes or so, we decided to head out to our next stop: Ocean Vodka and Organic Farm.
Back down the hill we crept, riding the brakes the whole way. Before leaving the lavender farm, a FedEx and a UPS delivery truck had come and gone, leaving us to wonder what that route’s drivers thought of them – not a job either of us were jealous of. The remainder of the drive to Ocean Vodka was twisty and turning, but much less drastic in such steep inclines. When we got to the Surfing Goat dairy farm, our GPS told us that we’d arrived at our destination.
We decided to go on just a little bit further, and were rewarded with signage that proved we had, in fact, arrived at our destination.
The vodka farm’s property was mostly flat, mostly wide open. We were promptly greeted by a nice young lady who took it upon herself to educate us on just exactly went into the vodka, how the ingredients (sugar cane & mineral water) were collected and why the founder chose to do things the way they do. At the time, we didn’t know is she was someone who had just completed the tour, or if she was an employee. She was very helpful and pleasant, engaging in conversation and genuinely interested in telling the company’s story. They offered a guide tour of the grounds, but by the time we’d listened to her for 5 minutes, we felt that we had already been on the tour. She was, in fact, an insanely well-qualified employee.
I do not recall how many different strains of sugar cane there are, or what their names were, but this company’s goal was to revive and preserve the original strains native to Maui. On site, they had acres and acres of sugar cane planted, all labeled and grouped according to type.
She let us try two different types of their plants. Although we couldn’t put a proper description on their differences, we did notice them. I was expecting a rush of sweetness when I started chewing on them, but it was a much more mellow sweetness. I’m guessing that after the cane is processed, perhaps the concentrated product gives the more familiar super sweet taste.
Again, we walked around for about half an hour, and again the sun stayed with us. Not knowing exactly how long it would take us to get to the top of Haleakala, we decided to end this chapter of our day and proceed to the main event: watching the sun set from 10,023 feet. Back onto the twisting roads, back to both hands at 10 and 2, back to the climb in elevation.
We would later realize that the trip up Haleakala takes much longer than the trip down. There are so many switchbacks and turns that it seems reaching the top is an impossible feat.
We knew that a few companies offer bike tours down the road, beginning at 7,000 feet, and t be mindful of them on our way up. I believe that the weather played into our fortune, as we only encountered one group, at the beginning of our ascent.
Onward and upward.
Onward and upward.
Steady as she goes.
Rinse, lather & repeat.
Once we reached the 7,000 foot mark, the Haleakala National Park begins it boundary. $10 gets your vehicle into the park, but today, no one was at the booth. There is an after-hours self-serve ticketing option just a few yards past, but it was not in working order. We got in for free! At the turnout for the self-serving tickets, we decided to change into our cold weather clothes we had brought, as the temperature can drop 5° for every 1,000 feet in elevation. With pants, socks, shoes and jackets donned, we continued the drive to the top.
At this point, the segments between switchbacks lengthened a bit, and seemed a bit easier to drive. The sun we had enjoyed at our earlier stops was nowhere to be seen now. We were surrounded by clouds. We were in clouds. The temperature was dropping quickly, as our visibility and our ascent slowed even more. At this elevation, looking down over the side of the road is ill-advised. We were acutely aware of the apparent shortage of guard rails in Maui, and we very much hope they can make more soon. Should a car roll off the roads up here, it won’t stop until it hits the ocean 12 miles away. Those faint of heart would do well to read a book, watch a movie or take a nap until the ride is over. I decided not to include pictures to describe these areas, as it may turn off those people otherwise inclined to make the ascent. By no means is it a deal breaker, just a test of your resolve.
At the beginning of our climb, we were convinced that once we reached the top, we would be well above the cloud cover and we would be able to see for days, and days and days. Turns out, on this day, the summit would have had to be another 3,000 to 5,000 feet higher to achieve that. We never did make it out of the clouds and that made our arrival at the summit a bit underwhelming and disheartening. After all, this was going to be the piece-de-resistance, the culmination of our efforts to watch the sun go down over the clouds. To watch the sky turn brilliant shades of reds, yellows and oranges, and to watch to stars populate the night skies like little tiny white pinholes on black construction paper. Alas, this day would not be “that” day.
We walked around a little bit to look at the amazing flora and alien-looking landscape. There are things at this height that you just don’t/can’t see at more common elevations. As much as we could, being in the middle of those misting clouds, we were happy to see what we saw and closed our eyes to imagine what we couldn’t see. We accomplished what we set out to do, and that would have to be enough. Sunset on top of the world would have to wait for another trip.
We got back into the car and started the descent back to base camp. Not only is the trip down much quicker, I have to believe that the gas mileage is at least 10 times better. The gas pedal is a waste of floor space when returning to sea level.
The trip back to our condo in Kahana was a long one. We had already spent several hours in the car and knowing we would be in it for a while longer just sapped whatever ‘oomph’ we had left. We returned to our side of the island with storm clouds still clutching the outlying islands in their blustery grip. The sun did set, as it always does, but was blocked for direct viewing. We settled for the wisps of color higher up in the sky, and even those were gone before we got back home. Dinner consisted of chips and salsa, with a small apple crumb pie we picked up at Leoda’s earlier. I know it’s considered a dessert, but honestly, we should rethink its proper place in a meal’s course. Yum!
Tomorrow is another new day. The forecast may look like a carbon copy of today, but that will not dissuade us from making our plans for it. The only scheduled event is a sunset dinner sail, so we will discuss the other filler events over breakfast. Good night, Maui.
PS – In the event that someone wants to do the lavender farm and the Haleakala trip in the dame day, there is another, albeit smaller, lavender farm on the road to Haleakala. Conserve your fuel, and time, to knock out both on the same road.