Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Maui: Haleakala

From what I learned from the locals and some scam-y spend-your-money-by-booking-expensive-activities lady from Expedia, Maui means "valley" because of the fact that it was created by two shield volcanoes (which is a type of volcano formed from fluid lava flow) that merged to form one island with a great valley in between. That, and the fact that the now dormant volcanoes have eroded and there are lots of valleys everywhere, or something to that degree. I guess I wasn't paying great attention.

There's Maui Komohana, or the West Maui Volcano, to the west (obviously), and Haleakala, the House of the Sun, to the east. Everyone goes to see the sun rise at Haleakala because it's breathtaking and spiritual and amazing. However, my family opted to do the sunset instead for a few reasons.
  • You have to wake up at 3am for the sunrise. It takes a little less than 2 hours to get there (from Kihei) but it will be dark so you'll need extra time to maneuver the curves of the mountain and you need to get there early enough to get a good spot. It's a v. popular activity so there are a lot of people and limited parking spots and viewing areas.
  • Alternatively, to see the sunset, we headed to the mountain around 3pm and spent a few hours exploring and hiking before we reached the summit. The drive was easy because it was bright out. The drive back down was just as easy because the sun was still giving off a nice hazy light to guide us down.
  • It is cold and dark when you arrive on top of the mountain. 40 degrees doesn't sound too bad but combine it with gusting winds and fog and clouds and high altitude and the fact that your body is accustomed to 80 degree beach weather and it is severe.
  • Alternatively, it was pretty warm when we were climbing the mountain. I'd say it was in the mid 50s and the we didn't feel the severity of the cold until the sun actually started to drop.
Justifiably, there are many benefits to seeing the sunrise, after all, Haleakala is called the House of the Sun for a reason.
  • You'll catch an amazing view of the stars as you're driving up, the sun rises over the big crater so it looks amazing.
  • When the sun sets, it falls behind the observatory area so it's not as majestic of a view.
  • You have the rest of the day ahead of you to swim, play, and do whatever activities you want.
Some tips/warnings:

  1. Wear warm clothing, layer up, and bring blankets. Nothing will ruin your experience more than feeling miserable and cranky because your body is frozen solid.
  2. Bring water and food. Sating your body and keeping it energized will help you in the cold and in the high altitude.
  3. Take it easy! I was an idiot and I ran around at the 10,000ft high summit, fooling around and being silly and I paid for it. The air was so thin and I was so lightheaded. I got nauseated and felt horrible on the drive down.
  4. The sunrise is a super spiritual moment for the natives and the mountain itself and the sensitive ecosystems need to be treated with care. The mele oli (chanted poetry/prayer) is usually performed at dawn so keep quiet and be respectful.
  5. Be wary of all of the "DO NOT WALK HERE" signs. I saw so many people violating the warnings and it was v. disconcerting. Many of the plants here are v. sensitive (the silversword plants will die if you place too much pressure on the roots) so be vigilant and aware of your surroundings.
the hills are alive!
can you spot the bird?
pretending to be nenes
(pretending to be) in agony because of the cold
my best yeti impression
The colors were so vivid and amazing. These photos don't do it justice.
 Nature!

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