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Maui Up and Down

June 23, 2016

Darlene and I still couldn’t entice any of the boys to join us on any part of our ongoing island exploration tour, but we were delighted when Carolyn agreed to tag along for an Upcountry adventure, specifically driving to the top of Haleakala, Maui’s big, fancy volcano (in its non-eruptive phase).

Volcano day!

We did give some consideration to getting there in time to see its famed sunrise, but decided to save that one for another time. Making it on time to see the event, given sixty four miles and a two-hour drive, seemed a stretch.

So, we collected Carolyn at her place at the reasonable time of 9:00am and headed out.

First stop, Makawao.

First stop in Makawao: the Komoda Store and Bakery–one hundred years old this year!

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Yali recommended we swing by and get some of their famous donuts. Not a hard sell. We bought a bunch and headed across the street to a cafe where we could get some coffee…

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Guava malasadas, donut sticks, glazed donuts, a turnovery thing… got them all and others besides.  We also got a bunch of sticks to-go and a pack of their famous butter rolls, which we saw people line up for and grab by the dozens, and dozens. A very popular item!

Makawao was appealing… had both a hippie vibe and a cowboy vibe (lots of horses in the area). There were numerous tiny stores, boutiques and galleries to explore, alluring nooks, crannies and alleyways, and chickens, chickens everywhere, which we weren’t supposed to feed.

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But no time for shopping; we had a volcano to ascend. We began the long, winding road up, with she who is most susceptible to car sickness–me–behind the wheel. Did I mention, we were going from sea level to 10,000′?  From the tropics to the mountains in just a couple of hours!

(Fun fact: Haleakala is one of our National Parks, which felt surprisingly comforting and familiar. Like, of course we’d go. We love our National Parks!)

Our first hint that it might be cold at the summit was at the entrance–misty, windy, chilly–and when we got out at the first Visitor’s Center to change clothes. So novel!

And actually, the entire mountain was completely socked in. Almost from the get go, it was so foggy we couldn’t see anything.  Not even trees, not even cows, not even lavender fields. We’d heard there was typically a ring of clouds that circled the middle part of the mountain,  like a donut, and that once we passed through it, the skies above would be clear and the view spectacular, but that was not our experience. Yet.

The view at the summit Visitor Center looked like this:

 

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Nada to see.

We hung out and pestered the rangers, looked at giant maps, browsed through books, and walked around in the cold fog anyway. I managed to take lots of photos that showed nothing.

Like, us at the summit sign. That outfit of mine… every single piece of clothing I had that had sleeves.. four or five layers of padded goodness. Temps were in the high 40s, low 50s. Sometimes it snows up there.

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Here’s a nice graphic:

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We also learned about Maui Silversword, a rare plant, considered endangered, but, through careful monitoring and protection, has became a successful conservation story. They say it only grows on the summit of Haleakala (though, in fact, there are some at the highest elevations of Mauna Kea volcano on the Big Island). Silverswords live for about 10 to 50 years as a low, round bush. At the end of their life, they send up a flowering stalk that can grow over 6 feet tall within a few weeks, and produce up to 600 flower heads. Then they die.
We saw a bunch of these! Here’s the plant…

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Here’s the flower…

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It’s part of the sunflower family, worth reading about.

Anyway, we waited and waited… among others who were waiting and waiting…

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I just love this picture. Today’s tourists.

After spending about an hour up there with our fingers crossed, we finally got some clearing…

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This a shot down into “the valley,” technically not a crater, but people call it that anyway. The valley walls are steep, the tallest rising about 2600′ above the floor. You can hike and camp in there, walk along ridges, etc. Seems like a wealth of stuff to do on a return trip. The little mountain-ettes in the so-called valley are actually all cinder cones.

Meanwhile, if you look behind you while on this peak, or anywhere beyond the valley, you see sweeping views of Maui below, as well as the vast Pacific Ocean beyond and other Hawaiian islands in the distance. We caught some of this between the clouds. As we drove down, and the clouds really started to clear, we got a much better sense of the both the terrain and the views:

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(That’s a view of West Maui with the island of Moloka’i in the background.)

We decided to return to Makawao for some coffee, at a different cafe (Carolyn is a San Francisco barista and was doing a little research). Tried Sip Me… and had both a fabulous cup of coffee and a super wonderful cheese bun.. reminiscent of Brazilian Pao de Queijo. It was a very hip place (this was a painting on the wall).

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We three decided to forgo the group sushi outing back in West Maui and visit instead the south part of the island… the environs of Kihei and Wailea… we knew there was good food to be had there… and we were going to find it.

We had fair success with various phone apps and web searches, and even made ourselves some reservations at what seemed a popular South Maui foodie destination. But checking in with my friend Judy, who owns a condo in that part of Maui and who knows her restaurants, was even more successful. She and her husband were traveling in Alaska, but a series of texts proved very productive, and she redirected us to a place called Monkeypod–a new and happening place in the Wailea area. We were able to get in, but had some time to kill. She suggested a beach to explore in the meantime, so we did that…

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Not too shabs.

Monkeypod is gaining a reputation for its menu, innovation and cocktails (Judy said best Mai Tai on the island.) (And by the way, Mai Tais did not originate in Hawaii.)

This review said:

Monkeypod has quickly become one of Maui’s most popular dining destinations.

Their fusion menu is diverse, blending many cultural flavors and local ingredients in a fresh new way […] and with the best homemade cream pies on Maui, it is obvious that Monkeypod knows what they’re doing.

Without a doubt, Monkeypod Kitchen in Wailea has one of the best lunch and dinner menus in Hawaii. What makes their menu so unique is their twist on traditional and modern lunch classics with a fusion of Hawaii Regional Cuisine.

All of the above. How can you miss with handcrafted dishes made using socially conscious ingredients?
We got Mai Tais.. which delivered on Judy’s promise.

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And the three of us split three of their regional fish entrees. It was an extremely worthwhile venture, would recommend it highly and can’t wait to go back.

And that was our day. We dropped Carolyn back at her place and headed off to our new condo. I’d only been able to get five nights at the Kuleana Airbnb unit (frowny face! we hated to leave), so were hoping against hope that our new place–the Maui Kai–was going to be as fulfilling.

It was .. different. A ten story high rise, with a bit of a funky lobby, and very much a this-needs-an-update feel about it… but first looks are a little deceiving.

First of all, there was a warm welcome to the day’s guests (weird, but kind of nice):

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Our room was on the 9th floor. It was a rickety ride up to a hallway that was somewhat long in the tooth. The place itself, however, seemed way more than adequate–actually pretty great–and looking over the balcony provided this dramatic nighttime view:

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The waves, crashing on the rocks below, were thunderous.

It was late. It was Darlene’s turn to have the bed, so I set up the lounge chair on lanai with a pillow and blanket (blanket unnecessary).. and settled in.

Photos tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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