I hadn’t seen my Portland friend Cameron for several years, so I was happy to find out she had moved to Maui a few months earlier. After remote Moloka’i, Maui was certainly a change. She picked us up at the airport and we went right out to a reggae concert in town. After spending the last couple weeks in some pretty remote places, we were suddenly dropped right back into the urban world.
Cameron’s boyfriend, Shane had a buddy in town too, so the five of us went up to Haleakala the next day to do a hike. Maui is shaped like a pair of boobs with two massive volcanoes separated by a large valley where most of the population lives. Haleakala is the larger and more sacred peak and you can drive all the way to the top at 10,000 feet and hike down into the crater. It is truly a breathtaking place both figuratively and literally as you are getting to the point where some people really start feeling the elevation.
The crater is 2,600 feet deep with an opening on the east side. The clouds come and go below you as you descend the slide into the hole. We didn’t seem to have any elevation problems, but could only hike part of the way in because Shane had a meeting. We strongly considered spending some time hiking down there but ended up spending that time out at Hana.
After we dropped Shane off, Cameron took Brandy, Andrew and I down a short hike to a jungle waterfall where we could swim in the splash pond. You have to be cautious with waterfalls in Hawai’i because the rock is not stable, so you can get clobbered by falling stones and some are more stable than others. This one was a gentle fall ensconced by the forest with a deep cavern you could swim in.
Another treat from our dear host, we finally got our first taste of poke (pronounced like Pokémon). This is a common Hawaiian dish of raw fish marinated in various sauces or citrus juices and is quite the treat.
The next day we all drove out to Red Sands Beach in Hana. The Road to Hana is a two-lane road that twists along the tight cliffs where Haleakala meets the sea. The road has a few beautiful vistas, but it is completely packed with slow tourists so it takes ages to get out Hana and to be honest, it doesn’t really open up to the sheer beauty I was expecting until after Hana.
We spent the rest of the day at Red Sands getting weird and swimming around. At one point I shook the water off my hands and my wedding band flew off into the sand at the bottom of about a foot of water. I knew it gone forever, but still spent about five minutes pulling up handfuls of sand. I had about given up when I suddenly saw the gleaming silver of metal. My precious had been found!
We had driven almost all the way back that evening when Shane found out that the concert we were returning to see was actually next week! He was kicking himself because we could have camped out at Hana, but we still had a nice time watching the sunset at another beach, plus we caught a QUAD rainbow on the drive back, which I didn’t even know was possible.
The next day we got in touch with the sister of another friend of ours who lives on Maui, and she invited us to go with her out to, yup, Hana. So once again we twisted our way all the way back out to Hana. We spent two chill nights out there doing a little hiking, beaching and catching up on the internet a bit. On the way back Alice took us around the long way instead of doubling back on the main Hana Highway. This is where things got really rugged and beautiful.
Our final days on Maui were relatively uneventful with much of our time spent internetting and one visit to a nude beach on the far southeast side of the island. If you have never done it before, buff is the only way to swim in the ocean!
We camped on the beach under kiawe trees the night before we left Maui. Of course that meant more thorns in the foot, but a steady breeze out to sea also meant another great fire!
Brandy loved Maui. I thought it was great and had fun with our friends, but after the other two islands it was feeling a bit large for me. It’s very car-oriented, which is not as much of a problem on the smaller islands, but it feels like it would be much more of a hassle to live without one on Maui, unless you lived in the crazy expensive areas.
A quick update about where we are now. Yesterday we got off of a 45-hour train ride from Wisconsin out to Seattle and are now about to set off from our WarmShowers host up to the San Juan Islands. We’ll spend some time on Vancouver Island before coming back down to Seattle for a few days. The plan is to cycle around the Olympic Peninsula and on to Portland. After that, we’re a little more foggy on the route.
I was reading the latest update from Almost Fearless, a great blog about a nomadic couple traveling with two toddlers. I was disappointed for them to find out they had cut short their bicycle trip across Europe because of some broken gear, but the way Christine ended her post filled me with a great sense of excitement and promise
We lounged in the park in Pula, Croatia while the kids played. After a few days we were looking to move on.
“Where should we go?”
“Um, the Euro Velo 6 picks up in Osijek, we could go there.”
“We don’t have bikes, Christine.”
“Oh wow, it is going to take me a while to remember that.”
“We can go anywhere.”
This summer has been the best travel experience of my life. I learned so much. I got so close to my kids and husband. We became this little cycling team, having the most lovely pedal through Europe. It changed us. We can do anything, absolutely anything.
“Let’s go to Romania.”
This reminded me of exactly why we are doing what we are doing. We can go anywhere. That’s the whole point. Bicycle to South America? Cool, let’s do that. Find someplace great we want to settle for a few months? Great, let’s chill out. Side trip to Whateverthehell Island? Absolutely.
I had been a bit bummed since we made the difficult decision to skip Colorado. We realized it was necessary for both time and money as we would no longer be stressing about a too short visit to my family in Wisconsin, and we would get an earlier start on the west coast leg of our bicycle trip.
Regardless of how pragmatic the decision was, I had been suffering from some serious FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Not only are we missing some great shows and great party, but even worse, we are missing out on seeing a ton of friends we had been looking forward to visiting. This won’t be the last compromise we’ll make on this trip, but I was still feeling a bit down about it until reading that blog post the other morning.
“We can go anywhere.”
Those three lines in Christine’s post this morning have almost completely replaced the bummer I was feeling with the original sense of freedom that initiated this trip. We may not be able to do everything, but we can do anything. We are not taking this trip to do everything, or even anything specific. We are doing it to do whatever it is the road leads us to do. I can picture me and Brandy sitting in that park in Croatia, watching people stroll by on their afternoon walks and saying, ‘hey, let’s go to Romania.’ Those little moments are a huge part of why I travel and now as we are preparing to leave Wisconsin, we are entering into the open road portion of our trip and it feels great!
We went into Kaua’i and Moloka’i alone, but we flew to Maui with the expectation of friends on island, so we ended up only camping on our final night there.
Our first night was spent at my friend Cameron’s apartment in Haiku, who I know from Portland. Her flatmate sucked, so the next two nights were at her boyfriend, Shane’s apartment who also had a friend visiting. We failed to take any photos of either place.
We then connected with our friend Lauren’s sister, Alice, who took us out to Hana where a friend of hers is the caretaker at a B & B. She didn’t have anyone coming in that night and it was pouring rain, so we were able to stay in one of the rooms.
We got back to Haiku to find out that sucktastic roommate and Cameron had a meltdown, so we went over to spend the night in Alice’s ROUND house!
For our final night on Maui, Cameron took us out to a beach where we could camp on the southwest shore.
We landed on Big Island (Hawai’i) with no real plans, so we decided to hitchhike up to Hawi on the NW corner of the island and got the local lowdown on where to stay. We received some major aloha from our next ride who went way out of her way and dropped us at the end of the road shortly before dusk.
Our camp spot was incredibly windy, but sunrise from the tent door was key.
After two nights in that incredible place, we put up our hammocks in a kiave forest next to Makuhona Beach where we met a sweet Quebecois couple who hung out at our fire and brought us COLD beer! The pleasure of a surprise cold craft beer after days of camping is indescribable.
The following day we packed it up and hitched all the way down to Kona.
One day in Kona was enough, so we hopped on a bus all the way to the other side of the island to a farm in Poho’iki.
The remainder of our time on island was with another Portland friend, Jess, who happened to be in town visiting her family at the same time as us.
We only spent two nights on O’ahu, both of which were at the Shark’s Cove Hostel on the North Shore (highly recommended).
Our final two days on Kaua’i were spent at the Kaua’i Beach Hostel getting our shit together. I left my wallet on the bus, like a buffoon, so I was frantically trying to locate that and coordinate getting my passport overnighted in case the wallet didn’t come through so I could get on the damn plane*. All this between runs to the bathroom as I was also fighting off some douchebag bug that lodged itself in my duodenum. Everything turned around by the second day as the wallet reappeared at the police station, tummy rumbles subsided and we spent the afternoon hanging out by the sea listening to Lotus with some kids Brandy met in the park. We ended our visit with a sweet open mic night at a coffee shop across the way.
Our small plane “did the hula,” as one local put it, and dropped us onto Moloka’i late Saturday afternoon. Our plan was to hitchhike into town where our rented bicycles would be combo locked at the bike shop. We could then ride the three miles out to One Ali’i Park to camp. We hadn’t walked out of the parking lot before the first vehicle by stopped to see if we needed a ride. It was a U-Haul driven by Joe from Big Island who was in town working on installing fiber lines to the Hawaiian Homelands properties.
Hawaiian Homelands is land held in trust by the government on behalf of people of Native Hawaiian descent who can lease the land for a below market value price for homesteading. This can help Hawaiians stay on the islands even as property values skyrocket. However, the act that created the Homelands requires leaseholders to be at least 50% Native Hawaiian so many are critical that as time goes on, more and more Hawaiians are excluded from the land.
Joe dropped us off in town and as we cannot seem to go a day without at least one superficial wound, Brandy gashed the hell out of her knee getting out of the van. Once that bloody mess was taken care of, we finally grabbed the bikes. The price was right, and the bikes were… well, these:
We finally rolled into One Ali’i Park just before sunset and pitched the tent in the waning light. The Trade Winds were blasting and turning the hammock rain fly Brandy made into a giant sail. Would we ever get to use the hammocks?? There was a party going late on the other side of the park, but we were tired enough that even the horrific karaoke couldn’t disturb us too much.
We’d hoped to get an early start to beat the Trades, but they were in force by the time we got up. The ride was hot and into the wind. It was only 16 miles, but it was tough on me. The scenery was beautiful though.
At one water break at a random overgrown field entrance I looked down and noticed a green pill bottle. I’m not one to check out every piece of garbage, but I had a feeling about this one. Sure enough, inside was a huge fresh J of super dank. It turns out this should be no surprise. Bud is common all over the islands, but Moloka’i seems to be bursting with it. A LOT of people grow it because there is just so much land where nobody goes with plenty of water. Unfortunately it sounds like the state has been sending helicopters to bust gardens of late, rather than taking care of the very real problem that haunts these and really any rural places: meth.
We showed up at Mike’s a couple hours early for the weekly volleyball game we had been invited to, as mentioned in our previous post, so we dropped our stuff and went off to explore the east end. I had already broken the first of what would be three broken spokes on my bike.
Wow! What a ridiculously awesome place to ride! Allow me to paint a little picture of the island. Moloka’i is shaped like a huge candy bar 45 miles east-west and 10 miles north-south. The north shore of the eastern half of the island is dominated by massive cliffs that drop straight down into the sea. In fact, these are the highest sea cliffs in the world and they are simply badass. The southern side of these cliffs slopes down to the south coast, more gently, but still fairly steeply. The western end of the island is relatively flat in comparison. The Trade Winds come from the east/northeast, so the cliffs, the mountaintops and the east end are lush rainforest whereas the west and most of the south are in the arid rain shadow. The main town of the island, Kaunakakai, is more or less in the south center with one main road extending to either end. There are no traffic signals on Moloka’i; it is quite the contrast from its densely populated neighbor to the west. Hence, traffic is light even on the main road and it all but disappears when you get to the east end. The road east of Kaunakakai passes mainly through ranch land with occasional beach access roads, but at about mile 19.5 the road begins to abut the coast. Quickly it narrows down and begins its dance with the rocks and surf, passing a series of tiny beaches and dashing in and out of small coves and over rocky heads for 2-3 miles before climbing into the sky for another couple miles. The entire way you can watch the clouds forming, dispersing, reforming over Maui’s western mountain in the distance.
As the road climbs from the coast you pass through green grazing land before topping out in a thick mixed forest. There is a ranch at mile 25 signaling the top. You quickly drop into a deceptive valley that tricks you with a steep downhill before another big climb that hits you right around a sharp corner with no time to shift into the appropriate gear. After that climb, it’s a long, winding downhill with stunning views to the end of the road in Halawa Valley. We climbed to the top but left the valley for another day as we did not want to have to climb back out in the hot afternoon sun.
As I mentioned in my previous post, we met some people at volleyball who would host us for the remainder of our time on Moloka’i. We finally got to use our hammocks over at John and Hannah’s place where we spent two nights looking out across the strait at Maui. It was such a relaxing view that inspired contemplation that we spent the entire day we arrived lounging around staring at the huge cloud around the Maui summit, watching puffy white clouds march across the sky between the islands to the soft rustling of the breeze through the tall, dry grass, punctuated by chirping birds and the sounds of the sea crashing below. It was my one-month anniversary of my last day at work, so it seemed appropriate to do nothing.
We finally drank this airplane bottle of vodka we’ve been carrying around for years. I could say that our guava vodka drinks were in celebration of the anniversary, but really they were predicated on the need to transfer our rubbing alcohol to a bottle that didn’t leak. I only left the property once to bike down to the store to pick up supplies for dinner with our hosts.
Did I mention that Moloka’i is small town? It’s so small that after two days on the island I already ran into someone I knew at the store! Everyone out here drives a clunky pickup truck with the family loaded up sitting on plastic deck chairs in the back. The residents want to prevent the fate that has befallen the other islands and fight hard against any sort of development. There are “No Cruise Ship” signs in yards all over the island. There have been clashes between residents and officials who want to bring in cruise ships. One ship was blocked from entering the bay by a flotilla of locals in fishing boats and on paddle boards or whatever sort of craft they could haul out there. The next time a ship came to port it was accompanied by the National Guard, but only encountered a few old guys with signs. The passengers were unhindered to take their excursion to Halawa Valley, but alas, through some brazen act of god, a giant tree had fallen and totally blocked the one road out to the east end. Also a few years back a developer attempted to build an exclusive luxury housing complex. They were finally forced to pull out after losing so much money to destroyed equipment and materials.
On our middle day at J & H’s we woke early to make the ride out to Halawa. Again we twisted our way through the almost unbearably quaint coves spotted with cute homes immediately alongside the road with colorful gardens and dewy webs gleaming in the morning light. A cool morning breeze and essential shade helped us conquer the hill with little effort and we spent the morning hanging out on the beach painting, reading and watching the rock crabs scurry around.
After gathering our things from John and Hannah’s place and taking a jungle hike up the next valley, we rolled over to the farm we had been invited on Sunday and were met by Charles, a really friendly guy in his 70s who runs the place. Charles had lived out there briefly about 30 years ago and had always wanted to come back. Raising a family and other bits of life prevented his return until after retirement. He came back in 2007 and worked as a flower grower for a few years before taking over the farm. There wasn’t a whole lot for us to do there, so I mowed the yard and picked fresh veggies to make a salad in the outdoor kitchen. The hens actually lay their eggs in a box right on the kitchen counter!
The farm itself is actually on top of an old filled in pond. The pond still exists beneath the edges of the planted area. The Java plum trees that have taken over the space actually grow a thick tangle of roots above the water. As leaves fall and matt over the roots an artificial ground is created. If you drop a large stone on the verge of the lawn you can feel the whole thing tremble.
Jonny, the guy who invited us, came by later with a couple of the others we met at volleyball. Donovan (who happens to be the one I ran into at the store) had scored a couple giant Samoan crabs and an ahi tuna from a local fisherman and we all cooked up an insane dinner that also included the fresh salad, hummus, quesadillas and shrimp. We stayed up late playing shithead with Jonny and Donovan before going to bed in the sweet beach house in the spooky mangrove forest.
The next morning Jonny made an incredible breakfast and we sat around chatting all morning before taking advantage of the tailing Trades to blaze it back to town and return the bikes before ALL the spokes on mine broke.
We were treated to one final piece of Moloka’i luck. Thanks to the good times we were having, we didn’t go anywhere near the legendary sea cliffs or the old leper colony on the north side. Fortunately our little puddle jumper took us around the north side with grand views of the entire coast as we flew to Maui.
* Note, you can get on a plane without ID. Tell the TSA make-worker that you lost your wallet and they will take you for additional screening. You will be asked a bunch of questions from public databases and presumably receive a full cavity search or whatever. Show up early though because some agents will harass you long enough to miss your flight.