When Ray and I rented our car, the woman behind the counter asked us where we were staying. I told her we had a vacation rental.

“And what town is it in?”

I looked down at my iPhone for the address. Makawao. I swallowed, knowing I would almost certainly butcher the pronoun citation. Since W usually sounds like V in Hawaiian, I gave it my best shot. “Ma-KA-va-oh?”

She shot me a puzzled look, and I spelled it for her. “Ma-ka-WOW,” she corrected with a smile. “It’s cold up there. But it’s beautiful.”

Turns out “cold” to Hawaiians is about 60 degrees; when we reached our house, the heater was on, and the landlady called to let us know that there were two more space heaters in case we got really chilly. I told her we were fine, and checked the weather back home: 30 degrees. We probably wouldn’t need the extra heaters.

Our house is situated halfway up the mountain on the way to the volcanic crater of Haleakala. The elevation does make the climate cooler, as does the thick forest of eucalyptus and ohia. The heavy scent of eucalyptus evokes memories of my childhood in the San Francisco Bay Area, but the sounds of the birds in the forest are distinctly Hawaiian.

Yesterday, we spent most of the day in the house, recuperating from the long flight and generally loafing around. The power went out around lunchtime — a common occurrence because of the trees, our landlord said — so we decided to head out and wander around the island for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

We picked up a driving map of Maui and sat in the car as Ray perused it. He pointed at one section on the map. “It says here, ‘There is a narrow section of road with a sheer cliff and no guard rail along here. Not for the faint-hearted. Drive at your own risk.’ That’s good to know.”

“We definitely shouldn’t attempt it at night, then.”


He put the map away and started driving, no real destination in mind.

Sunset over Lanai 2We drove around the western side of Maui, watching the sun as it set behind the island of Lanai. We passed resort after resort, mocking the gigantic buildings: ugly temples built to the gods of commerce jutting up against the pristine sky.

We made it past the very last golf course, and the state-maintained highway ended. The sun had set, and Ray asked if we should turn back.

I looked down at Google Maps on my iPhone. “Well, we’ve gone almost 3/4 around West Maui; we might as well keep going and finish the trip.” The road looked curvy on the map, but it didn’t look that bad. Plus, it had only taken us about 40 minutes to get more than halfway around. “It can’t be that bad.”

Oh yes, it can.

For the next hour or so, we traversed along 10 miles of treacherous roads and hairpin turns, with only our headlights and GPS to guide us. Hugging the mountain as best he could, Ray looked to his left and said, “They weren’t kidding when they said ‘sheer cliff.'”

They weren’t kidding about the lack of guard rails, either. Most of the road was only wide enough for one car, so we were both hoping nobody was crazy enough to be coming the other way at this time of night. There was no room to turn around, either, which meant that once we had committed ourselves, we had to see it through.

It doesn't look that bad...

Everyone tells us that the Road to Hana is curvy and difficult, and everyone goes very slowly; there are even t-shirts you can buy that say, “I survived the Road to Hana.” But I have a feeling that compared to last night’s adventure, that drive is going to be a cake walk.

Maui Wowee
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