Maui ~ Thursday, Day Four: “Road to Hana”

I woke up restless.  I woke up wanting to exert myself.  I wanted to hike, run, and be in nature.  Explore as much of Maui as I could and get back to the less touristy part of the island.

When I planned out my general itinerary (yes, I’m that nerdy) I did not do a good job at one part: figuring out where the bamboo forest was.  The bamboo forest is on the east side of the island, and I was staying on the west side.  The west coast of Maui (Napili, Ka’anapali, Lahaina) has beautiful beaches and resorts, while the east coast of Maui is much more rural.  The main airport is in Kahului in the center of the island, and you really can’t get lost going from one side of Maui to the next.  From one end to the other would only take a few hours.

My first morning on the island I drove from the center-ish of the island towards the east coast and checked out the Haleakala Crater, which believe it or not is part of Haleakala National Park.  The park takes up a large part of the southeastern part of the island and extends all the way to the water.  I realized as I was driving north to Paia after visiting the crater that I was driving in the opposite direction of the bamboo forest. I initially thought I was okay with missing out on visiting the forest, but after a few days on the west coast of Maui I was drawn back to the east coast of the island.

I woke up early, ready to get sweaty, challenge myself, and burn some calories.  A few people told me about the road to Hana, a 64.4-mile road that connects Kahului to the town of Hana, with not much in between. The road travels along the coast with amazing views and even though it is a relatively short distance it can take over two hours to travel.  There is over 600 hairpin turns and 46 one lane bridges traveling through lush, tropical rainforest.  If I took the road to Hana, eventually it would bring me to the east side of the island and to the tip of Haleakala National Park to the Pipiwai Trail.

Deciding to take this adventure for the day I packed up my hiking pack with sunscreen, water, and energy bars. By 7:30 am I went from Napili to Paia, and took a break in town before starting the road to Hana.

Almost immediately, the road started to curve sharply to the point I had to slow down to 15 mph or less.  I came up to the first one lane bridge, so distracted by the views I almost jammed myself between another car and the shaky concrete of the bridge. Whoops! I’d have to balance taking in the breathtaking views with paying attention to this tricky, narrow road.

I could tell who were the locals driving this tedious road; they traveled fast, impatiently taking the continual turns and not moving over much for oncoming traffic.  The tourists, including myself, slowed down, took pictures, and clearly were leisurely driving towards Hana in no particular rush.  I got nervous, holding my breath at times as I squeezed past other people on the road, sitting up straight and peering over the front of the Jeep to make sure I wasn’t sideswiping anyone.  I was even more nervous when huge trucks came up behind me, fast, riding my ass until I pushed over as far as I could for them to pass.

The cars in front of me stopped abruptly. What was the hold-up? I had my windows down, craning my neck to see what was going on when a tall man in cargo shorts and a plaid shirt came into view.  He sauntered down the hill, his steps heavy as he hit the uneven pavement. I eyed him curiously.  We caught each other’s gaze, I smirked, and asked him, “whatcha doin?” He smiled, laughed, and stated the road was washed out. I then realized the huge trucks that passed me going 40mph when everyone else was going 15 were there to fix the road.

After about twenty minutes, the long line of people started moving forward.  As quickly as we were all squished together in the middle of this beautiful tropical forest, we were just as quickly spread back out, all of us on our own journey along the same road.

I reached Hana but only after what seemed like forever. It was a very small, rural town with dirt roads barely wide enough for my Jeep.  The GPS was in and out on my phone but it looked like there was only one road to the start of the Pipiwai trail, so I kept going. Eventually, I made it, paid my fee, parked my car, and found the head of the trail.

The Pipiwai trail is an eclectic one.  It starts out with a dry, flat, dirt path with open areas of grass on either side.  It quickly becomes more secluded, the path starting to get rocky and damp with thick tree roots pushing through.  The sun was blocked out by the tall trees, making this part of the trail cooler than the first section but the air was still heavy with moisture.  There started to be an incline, my leg muscles working, my breath becoming louder but steady; I was feeling that exertion of energy I was craving.

Pretty quickly I came across Makahiku Falls.  I took in the unique view, my heart beating bass-like in my chest. I was standing level with the top of the waterfall but with a vegetation covered ravine between me and it.  There was a beautiful white bird that flew from the waterfall side of the ravine to the other side, level with my gaze.  He soared, a long tail waving elegantly behind him.  I took a deep breath, feeling gratitude and awe at witnessing nature’s creations.

I hiked on, coming up to a huge banyan tree next.  The trail curved up and around a slight corner, the banyan tree presenting itself, set to the right of my view.  The branches stretched feet across to the left and to continue on the trail you had to go under them.  I walked up to the tree, excited to touch my palm to the smooth bark made rough by all the initials people had carved into it. My hand touched the tree, I closed my eyes, and took a deep breath.  A surge of energy rushed my body, shooting through my feet and into the ground. I smiled, taking it all in, staying in the present moment with this energy.

Opening my eyes slowly, I moved around the tree looking at the initials and hearts and plus signs, representing love and connection.  I chose to not put my initials in the tree and continued on the path, coming up on a few beautiful bridges.

There were two small waterfalls, one after the other that flowed into little pools of deep green water. Viewing them from the side of a bridge, I could see a few people sitting by the pools of water and for the first time in my life, I wanted to go into an unknown pool of water to cool down.  It was hot, humid, and the sun was shining brightly. I decided to keep going, anticipating the gorgeous waterfall at the end of the hike.

And before I knew it, there the bamboo forest appeared. I remembered back to sitting in my living room in New Hampshire looking up on the internet “fun things to do in Maui” and staring longingly at the pictures of the bamboo forest.  It stretched and contorted my mind to think that now I was here.

The bamboo was green, tall, round, and thin. No leaves shot out from the “trunks” of the bamboo but instead waited to burst out at the top of the stalks.  It was once again cool, damp, and relatively dark in this part of the forest.  The trail turned into a twisting and turning wooden boardwalk and continued for longer than I imagined.  It felt as if I was in a totally different place than the rest of the trail since the terrain had changed so many times in just a few miles.

The path became rocky and slippery wet, with a beautiful stream appearing on the right. The trees were no longer bamboo, and the sun shone through as the trail became wider. I looked up and saw it: the 400ft Waimoku Falls.  It was such a shockingly beautiful sight, I gasped, stopped, and looked up at the waterfall peeking through in the distance. My pace quickened, excitement and wonderment filling every part of me.

A sign warned me of flash floods and I stopped in my tracks.  Nervous to cross the stream that looked like it could flood in a matter of seconds, I took a deep breath. I remembered my boyfriend’s advice of “confident steps,” placing my right foot on the closest slick rock. I bent down, arms stretched out and legs working fast, and before I knew it I was on the other side, with the falls looming high above me.  I could see the entire waterfall now, beautiful soft white against the dark rock.

I sat on the rocks, gazing up and taking my time before heading back.  It had taken a lot of dedication to get to Maui, then to Hana, and finally to Waimoku Falls.  I knew I’d be back one day, but it wouldn’t be for a while.

Hiking back to the car I moved at a quicker pace.  My eyes focused at the terrain below my feet, sometimes running down the trail.  I made brief eye contact with others hiking up the trail, smiling and cheering them on, everyone’s breathing labored.  The trail opened up, the grass once again on either side of the path, and the sun bearing down on me again.

I hopped into the Jeep and took a breath.  I was sweating from head to toe, some of it dripping down my forehead but most of it wetting my shirt in the middle of my back. I had decided to take the southern route home instead of back tracking west on the road to Hana.  The road to Hana was so incredibly tedious, I was hoping the southern side of the island would be easier.  Boy, was I wrong!

The road was much less maintained and traveled, some of it washed out all along the cliffside.  The road was even narrower than the road to Hana, and much closer to the cliffside than I’d ever seen.  I had to go much slower on this side of the island, and it took me just as long to get back to the west coast, but it was worth the adventure.  The views on the south side of the island were completely different than on the road to Hana and were a must see even if the road was treacherous!

That night I rested deeply.  Tired.  Satisfied. Content.

Santosha in pure living form.

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