Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Road from Kapalua to Waihe'e

Lee and I are exploring the Hawaiian island of Maui this week. Day before yesterday in the morning, we headed off from our amazing resort digs on the southern stretch of the west coast intending to explore two towns north and further west. We'd understood these places represented some history, but they were resort towns, mostly duplicating the features of any contemporary beach resort.

Continuing north and rounding the northern coast headed east, I thought I'd treat my mate to a scenic coastal drive. The Kahekili Highway follows the shoreline for about twenty-five miles. But we use the expression 'highway' very loosely here.

To the friends who advised us that Maui was touristy and commercial, we're making book you missed Route 340, also known as Kahekili.

As we continued north and east, the roadway narrowed and wound past spectacular views and glorious breakers. The sides of the road were parked solid and rock beaches below were full of families, couples and groups.

Then gradually the road twisted and narrowed. When a sign warned of winding, challenging passage for the next 17 miles, I noted my odometer: something-73; we should complete the demanding stretch at something-90. And nothing seemed too overwhelming yet – more primitive than we’ve seen in a long time, but do-able.

By something-79, however, my mate was beginning to ask how much longer this would be taking, in between ohhs and ahhs at the scenery.

Then about something-81, the roadway narrowed again, now barely as wide as my car, with a steep drop to my left. Meeting a car coming from the other way would mean driving backward in reverse on this path. I couldn’t see around the next curve but could clearly see the same narrow passage on the hillside across from me.

As I decided we’d come as far as we dared, my companion developed determination. So, at his prompting, I moved forward, slowly, carefully, hands in a death grip. For the next 45 minutes, we inched along, timing movements so we hit wider patches as we approached cars coming the other way. Luckily these switchbacks do allow drivers to spot one another well in advance of the meeting.

At about something-88, we greeting a companion headed the other way: “How long until we reach something resembling a regular roadway?” “Oh, just a couple more miles,” he laughingly confirmed my original calculations.

Unfortunately, in our family, the driver that morning is also the primary photographer and, at least on a first pass, I couldn’t manage much picture taking. I would be posting a couple of shots which don’t come close to doing justice to this very special trip, except I am posting from a public computer and find no slot for my media card -- oh, well, not a big loss.

And despite my deep sigh of relief when we were again on an ol’ ordinary street, I’d be off again for a slower, more photo-oriented pass – if I could convince one of you to come along.

1 comment:

Georgi said...

Waihe'e is also translated as wheeeeeeee-whooooooooooo