October 2005

Maui No Ka Oi
Maui is the Best
by Sheridan Bentson

There they were, spinner dolphins playing in the waves below our high perch on the cliff. These small charming dolphins get their name from their straight up twisty jump, which they seem to love to do. Across the way, the other side of the small settlement of Honokōhau, we could see road up the side of the cliff, known locally as The Wall.

This is wild country, just a few miles from civilization, but eons in image.

The Wall by Honokōhau

If you want to bike on Maui, you can climb the 10,000 ft volcano Haleakala; you can share the road with tour busses on the switchbacks on the road to Hana; or you can ride up around the spectacular north end into the beautifully-paved lonely wilderness. When we are on Maui, we stay on the west side, up by Napili, and many mornings find us biking north past the underwater preserve Honolua Bay. To The Wall and back is about 16 miles, a nice morning warm-up of rolling hills and spectacular views. (Coming down The Wall is not as exciting as it used to be, before they cleaned the sand off the bumpy sharp right turn at the bottom and tied up the dog.) Two miles beyond Honokōhau is a trail to the Nakalele Blowhole, another natural wonder.

The trip all the way around the top of the island to Kahului is 30-35 miles (depending on where you start), but they are interesting miles indeed. It’s important to start early, since the Trade Winds blowing in from the northeast – those same winds that carried the tea ships from San Francisco to China – come up in the morning, and battling a 30 mph headwind is really no fun. It’s also important to carry lots of water, since you will probably see no one for a long hot-and-dry time. There are small settlements of a house or two here and there but not many – the land is pristine and raw and volcanic, the foliage natural and native. And unattended. The first section is normal road, with a few locals in pickups and pineapple trucks coming from the fields. But that ends, tourist cars are not supposed to continue, and for awhile, the visible population drops to zero. If there have been rains, there will be rock fallen from the cliffs onto the road. The free-range section contains cows not really used to people, certainly not used to bicycles – not like European cows at all – and it’s best to be wary of them.

The ancient fishing village of Kahakuloa
The section into the old fishing village of Kahakuloa is one lane – and I do not mean one lane in each direction. When a car comes along, a cyclist may have to be plastered against the cliff to give the car enough room to pass. The reward is a stop in Kahakuloa at Lorraine’s for the world’s best shave ice (although she’s only there Memorial Day to Labor Day). Then it’s on into the West Maui Mountains, where rain is inevitable but warm and short-lasting – it’s best to just hide under an overhang for the few minutes. The ride through Wailulu into Kahului is suburban and uninteresting, but quick, and we tend to get an early lunch of udon at Ichiban in the Kahului Shopping Center.
This ride is actually of greater magnitude than it seems from the description. The views are world-class and not to be rushed through. The rolling hills, cliff down to streambed and back up to cliff, are unrelenting. The air is very dry and becomes quite warm. There is no real way to avoid the wind, only to go in lesser wind. If you ride both ways in a day, you will be riding home in the heat of the day – a greater feat than it seems at first glance.

But it makes a magnificent day!

The sign says "Do not walk tractor on road", although we never figured out what that means.

Note: Haleakala is 10,000 feet up from sea level, about 6,000 feet from the highway entrance to the park. In fact, there is a race each year up Haleakala called Cycle To The Sun, won in 2004 by La Granger Mike Zagorski. The one road up is quite busy with tourist cars and busses, even early in the morning. If you decide to climb it, it’s best to have a support vehicle behind you on the way down, since you will want the entire lane sometimes.

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