Tuesday, (26th July, for anyone who’s lost track) and I’ve got a plane to catch.
Pack my bags. 45 minute shuttle to the airport (Sorry Kate, you’re too expensive for me!) check in, hang around, board plane, take off…
“You’re now free to move around the cabin”
…and we’re on our way to Maui, time to take the shoes off, recline the chair and read the guide book.
“Please retake your seats for landing”
38 minute flight, including take off, landing, and taxiing. I’ve spent longer than that waiting to deplane at Heathrow!
Maui airport is nice and small so I’m quickly at the rental desk for my Mustang.
“We’ve got a Sebring for you”
Oh, well that’s OK. The mustang wasn’t amazing and I haven’t tried a Sebring in 7 years.
“… or you can upgrade to a soft top Jeep”
Now that sounds interesting. I know some of the roads on Maui aren’t paved, so a Jeep would be useful, except they still forbid you from taking a rental car on them, making it a bit redundant. But it’ll be a nice change so I take the Jeep.
Well, it’s certainly a change, and this is an adventure. The guy shows me how to drop the top…
“First, you unzip the side panels”
That’s right, a car you can enter like a tent. To a Londoner, that’s ridiculous.
“Then you unclip the sun visors, unlatch this, pull this thing, scream because you’ve caught your thumb in the joint, fold this bit, swing this bit…and you’re done!”
I’m tempted to ask him to show me how to put it back up, but hey I’m an Engineer, and fitting is just the reversal of removal, right?
I bang “Maui Beach Vacation Club” into GPS and it just shrugs. Hmmm. I check the address and click on a hotel down the street. It’s only a 10 minute drive and South Kihei road is right by the sea. But my hotel isn’t.
I don’t mean it isn’t by the sea, I mean it isn’t. It doesn’t exist.
There’s several “Maui Beach” places, but no MBVC. After a couple of U-turns I pull into the Maui Beach Resort to ask for directions.
Before I can speak the guy says “surname?”
I respond automatically, but add, “I actually just wanted to ask if you knew where the…”
“Yep, we have you booked for 4 nights.”
“Oh! …Eh? …Oh?! …OK.”
Maui Beach Resort turns out to be a timeshare place that rents the rooms out as MBVC. It has a nice pool, balconies, kitchens, and Kihei beach across the street. I’ve finally found a place where I can get up and run on the beach in the morning.
…and that wasn’t relief, it’s hot and humid in the room. Incredibly there’s no aircon, so it’s open all the windows, crank up the fans and be glad I’m upstairs.
Meanwhile, I’ve left my luggage on display in my silly vehicle. I don’t suppose anyone’s likely to be running down the road trying to loosen the load of 20kg of my socks and pants, but still…
Except I can’t get the roof up. Bollocks!
My sense of adventure starts to wane as I struggle and fight with the tarpaulin in 90 degree heat and 90 percent humidity. (Probably - the Jeep doesn’t have a thermometer!) I ask the bloke from reception, he’s an islander so he’s probably seen loads of these. He doesn’t know, but he gives me a hand anyway, and teaches me a vital trick. It’s a Jeep, so you can climb all over it to get leverage.
With this added angle, I’m able to get the roof up in under 20 minutes. I’ll never complain about slow convertible roofs again! I hope it doesn’t rain around here.
But the next morning the Jeep makes sense again. I’m driving the “Road to Hana”. 40 miles of twists, turns and narrow bridges. I don’t need an off road vehicle, but the added height means I can see clearly over the barriers and down to the coast below. The best sights along the road require you to get out of the car and go for a walk. Regular readers will know this is not likely for me, especially since there’s no signs advertising the stops, but it means the road is packed with dawdling tourists and tour buses. By the time I reach Hana, the trip has been filed under “enjoyable, but not fantastic”.
Even my guidebook describes Hana as underwhelming. (Yes, I actually read something in my guidebook!) So I grab breakfast and head on down the road. Hana is only about halfway round the Eastern loop of Maui, but according to the map, completing the loop will “Violate my rental agreement”. However, it’s hard to tell what point I can’t pass, so I decide to head on until I see a great big sign.
The road gets narrower, and quieter. The tourists have turned back. It gets windier and windier, (more twisty and more blowy!) and more bumpy. I finally have the road to myself, just as the road stops being a road. But it’s still a clearly defined track. Bouncing along in my open top Jeep through dense forest, I can’t help but hum the theme from Jurassic Park.
As I swing round onto the Southern, leeward, side of the island, the scenery changes dramatically. This side doesn’t get the rain, so the forests give way to barren rocky slopes. This is more like it! I don’t understand why people, and guidebooks, would rather look at a waterfall surrounded by trees, than be able to see miles of open scenery.
I bounce onwards. The track becomes a road again, and I’m once again permitted to crash into things. Which is handy, because I’m engaged in a battle with the elements. The sun is endeavouring to burn my head to a crisp. My cap is hanging on manfully, but the wind, whipping unopposed across thousands of miles of open Ocean, is doing its utmost to separate me from my headgear.
As I reach the foot of the climb to Haleakala, I decide I’ve had enough fun for one day. It’s time to head back to the pool. I stop to put the roof up, and give my scalp some relief. I’m losing the fight when a car pulls up next to me. A bloke gets out and says:
“I have a Jeep, but mine has the hard top, would you mind if I look at your soft top?”
He turns out to be Danish, and his wife and kids sit in his car while we fight the good fight. Together, we get the roof on in under 10 minutes. I don’t think he’ll be changing car soon.
After partying in Waikiki I’m having a few quiet nights in front of the telly. Except it’s too quiet, the remote has stopped operating the TV. Catastrophe!
I have a bland remote with a Z on it, and a TV with ilo written on it, whoever they are. I manage to figure out that code 0115 will get the two on speaking terms again, and in less time than it takes to put the roof on a Jeep. Maybe I can still call myself an engineer!
Thursday. Early run, then time for another winding road. Western Maui has a very busy road that loops clockwise past the main resorts at Lahaina. It’s very busy because you’re not allowed to complete the loop around the Kahekili highway. So that’s today’s mission.
It’s a fantastic drive, a single lane road hugging near vertical cliffs, rising high above the ocean. Lots of twists and turns and not so many safety barriers spoiling the view. Eventually I return to civilisation and a car park full of people admiring views which pale into comparison with what I’ve just witnessed (by violating my agreement again), and when I say “phew” this time, it’s not from the heat!
I even succeed in getting my roof up alone, with only 5 minutes of struggling and swearing.
Friday, and time to ascend the Haleakala highway to 10 thousand feet to stare into the crater. Except today I’m just staring at grey. It’s a cloudy day and everything above two thousand feet is covered in fog. Tourists who’ve paid a hundred bucks to roll down the mountain on a bicycle, are doing so getting soaked, with no view to enjoy. The drive up isn’t a patch on the last two days and when I reach the top I don’t see the point paying to get into the National Park, when the only thing visible is the gift shop. Hopefully I’ll come back.
Although it’s Friday I’m pretty tired from spending the afternoon booking flights, hotels, and cars. I’m not sure I can be bothered with another night out, telling the same tale. But that’s going to make a dull blog, so I get my lazy backside out the door and find a sports bar.
There’s a bunch of grey haired bikers sitting round the bar as I pull up a stool. The guy next to me even introduces himself as “Gray” and tells me about his trip round the UK three years ago. They treated him well, and he wants to repay the favour by treating me well. He forces me to eat one of his ribs (from his dinner, you idiot!), buys me a beer, and introduces me to everyone who comes in the bar. There’s a live band, but they’re not playing for another hour, and I have to drive. Gray and his other half, Danielle, are leaving, but offer to show me another bar they’ve been talking about, near where I’m staying. It’s a small place, oddly named “the Sandwich” but it’s friendly and fun talking to the locals. The barmaid Trish makes a wicked milkshake sundae. I’ve still got the Jeep so when I return to the hotel I’m hoping there’s no laws against Driving Under the Influence of a sugar rush!