I arrived excited and early to SFO airport. Had a veggie burger which was way too delicious for airport food! The flight went through LA and I managed to capture some nice aerial shots:
The flight was great; met this woman from Maui who was traveling alone with an adorable baby named after the “seven sacred pools” or Ohe’o gulch. The food on Delta was not free but surprisingly good, and the air hostesses wore hawaiian necklaces and plumeria flower hair clips. I reached Maui around 7 pm on a Thursday night. The September air was much warmer than I expected. Rented a car from Kahului airport. It was quiet and very dark; the attendant gave me a Toyota with all the works – bluetooth, rearview camera, et. all.
As I started driving down the small dark road by myself, I wondered what it would feel like to land in a strange city or country at night and be a man; not having to think about your safety as much as we women have to; how carefree it would feel. Also wondered what it would feel like to run on the road with no shirt on, on a nice mild morning with just a little sun peeking through the clouds. Alas, some things I will never know.
I passed some fires on the way and wondered if it was volcano smoke; large bright orange balls in the sky. At the hostel, Jeremy the night receptionist explained that there was a tradition of burning the sugarcane before the next harvest, Paia is a sugarcane plantation town after all. Only later he had to correct himself because it seemed the fire was not intentional and there was news about helicopters hovering over.
The road was easy and soon I found myself at the door steps of the Aloha Surf Hostel in Paia. It was a nice vibe and people were generally friendly. Except, it was quite hot and humid even at 7 pm, and there was no AC and not enough fans. I was glad I had booked a private room for the remaining 3 nights, and there was hope it had an AC. I got room # 3 assigned, and a key. The first person I met was Natalie, a girl from Germany who was camped on a bed that was supposedly assigned to me. I talked to Jeremy (the receptionist), and after some back and forth, it was settled. Natalie would take the bunk above me so I could take the low one.
The narrow stair to the high bunk was clearly designed as a reminder to me that I was in my thirties with a recently sprained ankle, and any attempt at climbing it would have made me tumble and fall flat on ones of the many huge back packs lying all over the floor. Oh, and when it comes to majestic falls, turns out I am quite the rockstar. People in the room would have heard a loud “thud” sound and wondered what (or who!) came down 🙂 Luckily, I could skip all that and sleep on a nice low bunk.
Jeremy gave me a tour of the hostel – there were shared bathrooms, and also two private ones. There were laundry machines and lines to dry them on in the little backyard. There was also a pool table and a hot tub and a nice outdoor common area for people to hang out.
Soon after I got the tour, my first question was, where can I get some cold water or juice? I made my way down very slowly in flip flops over the store 5 minutes away down the road from the hostel. The first thing I noticed were the stars! It was the most beautiful and clear night sky I had ever seen. And I have been to the bottom of the grand canyon and seen that magical starlit sky. Yet, this night sky in Maui was very special. There were so many stars and constellations it struck me what a beautiful universe it is that surrounds us, it is magical. We have to get away from the city lights to see this wonderful night sky, which is exactly why I had chosen Paia.
At the store, I got some snacks, a bottle of cold Moscato, some cold juices, a larger water bottle, and voilà! I was going to get myself all cooled down! I did realize that things were so much more expensive here than California; but then I figured getting groceries to a remote island had to come with added costs.
The woman at the counter said she had no more bags; how was I to carry all this without even a paper bag? My first Aloha moment happened when the woman in line behind me (who had already been patiently waiting for my indecisive shenanigans to get over with and confirm what I wanted), offered her reusable bag to me. I told her I could return it to her in a few minutes but she insisted I keep it, with the promise that I would use it. I thanked her for the bag profusely and promptly headed out of there.
I headed to the kitchen and realized I needed to label everything before I could put it n the fridge. Damn it! After the arduous labeling process, I was finally making tea and started talking to this young girl called Shanna from Montreal who had also just checked in a little while after me. I didn’t realize at the time that we would end up becoming good friends and spending a lot of time together traveling around Maui over the next few days.
After we got some food figured out, Shanna and I headed downstairs to the outdoor patio and got ourselves a little corner table. As we were finishing up dinner, it started to drizzle which slowly grew into more steady rain, and we were forced to leave our little table and seek shelter at the large communal table.
People were talking about travel plans for the next day. A German guy called George was trying to convince a not-so-morning loving, sweet-faced Brazilian guy called Thomas to go with him for the sunrise at Haleakala Crater the next morning. The bike company in Paia did sunrise tours, but riding a bike super slow down a crater in one line for over 15 miles (total 27 mile bike ride) just didn’t seem appealing to me (even though I love biking). I told George that I had heard sometimes it was too cloudy up there and after the crazy early morning rise they may not even be able to see the sun. But we will be lucky, and we will see the sun, he promised optimistically. He was trying to convince people to join him, which was tempting since I knew it is not an easy drive up there in the dark, and he already had a permit for the sunrise.
Would it be worth getting up at 3 am for a non-morning person like me? I wasn’t convinced. I told George I would come along if I heard my 3 am alarm. I will shake you until you wake up, he joked. Shanna also was tempted to join since we would be able to see Haleakala and check it off our bucket list. So, that’s how the four of us ended up on a 4 am car ride, Thomas all covered up in a bright peach blanket (it was supposed to be cold at the top, I had even got gloves :)); slowly up the dormant volcanic crater in the dark, star filled, moonlit night.
Until Day # 2 in Maui,