After a relaxing day yesterday we were ready and firing to go to Lobuche. It had been a long afternoon yesterday and most of us were just eager to get even further into the trek. We left Dingboche around 8am and headed off the same direction as yesterday – up.
Once we climbed a little we walked into a huge valley which appeared to be a massive wind tunnel. The fierce gales of wind were enough to blow you into Tibet. We settled into single file and hiked in silence with our heads down, suddenly wishing we were back in the cosy lodge in Dingboche. The views around us were simply stunning (I didn’t want the day to come where I became blasé about these mountains) but the vicious winds meant keeping my head down and pushing onwards. We hiked this way for about two hours and by the time we were out of the windy valley I was exhausted. We crossed a very hairy looking bridge and had a break in a small village wedged into the mountain, safely out of the wind.
Staying here for an hour, Krishna allowed us to go on while he waited for the final members of the group to arrive. The six of us who had been sticking together the whole time (the Super Six, thank you very much!) marched off ready to tackle the next part of the trail – a brutal uphill climb to Chukla Lare where there is a memorial for all those who never made it off the mountain. The uphill stretch was tough as per usual but once it was done, the beautiful views took my mind off my aching legs. it was another perfect, clear day and the mountains around us looked spectacular!
Once we reached the top at Chukla Lare, we took a break to pay our respects to those who have died attempting to climb Mt Everest. Here lay stone memorials and prayer flags recognising the fallen. It was a sobering moment – here we were thinking we were doing something brave and heroic hiking to Base Camp – yet these unbelievable humans had gone even further and reached (or almost reached) the roof of the world. Reading the headstones, the fact that these people once stood where I stood really hit home. One headstone in particular stuck out to me of a young woman climber. I’m not sure whether it was because it was the only headstone for a woman I could see, or the fact that she had actually summitted Everest and had passed away on the way back down but it stayed on my mind for the rest of the day. I’d come into this trek with not much knowledge about the mountain, other than it was the highest in the world and to learn so many people had lost their lives was extremely sad. There is so much respect to be had to these trekkers and their dedication to climbing. They devote their whole life to trekking and it return the mightiest of mountains takes their dedication away. It made me realise not only how hard trekking and climbing actually can be and it doesn’t matter how passionate you are about it, the mountains always have the last say.
We stayed there for awhile before deciding to head on to Lobuche. We walked again in single file, immersed in our own thoughts. I think I wasn’t the only one affected by the memorial. The last stretch to Lobuche was not a good time. While it was only ‘Nepali Flat’ (small hills) I couldn’t find the energy to keep walking. It was hard because Lobuche was nowhere in sight and it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. Every step was a battle and I felt like I was hungover (except 10x worse) Was this the beginning of altitude sickness? I hoped not, but slowly made my way to Lobuche along with the others.
We’d long left the green, forest coated mountains and were now amongst the monochromatic colours of wind-blown rocks and ice. Like we’d stepped on another planet, the hundreds of thousands of stones had made for an ankle-breaking walk but provided a more dramatic and unique view than what we’d been seeing for the past few days. It was definitely starting to feel like we were high in the Himalayas.
After about two hours we came around a corner and finally, finally Lobuche came into sight! At 4930m above sea level I’d never been happier to see a small dingy village! We found our lodge and ordered lunch straight away. My mood was turned around instantly when i discovered they had peanut butter on the menu! I ordered vegetable soup and peanut butter on toast. The other two Aussie girls went crazy for the peanut butter as well, much to the confusion of the Brits and the Germans! Feeling a tonne better after eating, I was more positive about the rest of the hike.
It was another early night for the group. Tomorrow we had an early start to hike to Gorak Shep and then on to BASE CAMP! Now the fun begins!
The last couple of days went by so fast. We’d been nearly all around the island, been through coastal, rainforest and volcanic landscapes and eaten our body weight in M&Ms (they have some many different kinds!)
We had big plans for a massive last day in Maui so we woke early ready for more adventures. Grabbing another delicious acai bowl from the Farmacy we then headed south past Kihei to Makena in hopes in finding Turtle Town. We’d come across Turtle Town on the internet which promised heaps of turtles all year round in this elusive bay. After finding the bay, we discovered that a) the Internet lied again and b) snorkelling in a choppy ocean is not a good time. Giving up on the turtle hunt, we sunbaked for awhile before heading back to Kihei for lunch. We were feeling way too lazy to do anything productive so after another ABC lunch (aka whatever random things we found at the convenience store) we sprawled out on the beach once more, trying to get at least a shade darker. It was crazy how un-sunburnt we were getting. I know sun-baking frowned upon but we spent days and days in the sun without getting any darker. If we had tried this at home we would be looking like tomatoes. I guess the hole in the ozone layer isn’t so big over Hawaii, we were pretty well protected.
Deciding to finally be active we went for a snorkel for the last time. Buying our own snorkel set was probably the smartest thing we did. It was so nice to get out anywhere and be able to go for a snorkel. It also helps that Hawaii has reefs right on the beach. Within metres you can see the coral and sea life. We snorkelled for awhile, checking out the fish and coral until we came across a beautiful green sea turtle. He/She was just gorgeous and I spent at least 40 minutes floating above him/her going about their day. Turtles seemed to have the cruisiest life. Just floating about, eating seaweed and making friends with lost clownfish. I watched the turtle until he swam off into the distance before I headed back to the shore.
We hung out by the beach for the rest of the afternoon, only moving from the sand to the shade in the grass for a quick nanna nap. While we didn’t do as much as we had planned, it was nice to just chill out and relax. After running around Oahu and Maui ticking off bucket list items, it was great to just stop and have a break.Though as always it didn’t last long, we had one big thing to do before we left Maui. Around 4pm we grabbed a Coke ($1.50 for an XL, I need to leave Maui before my pants don’t fit), filled up the Jeep and headed towards the Haleakala National Park to catch the sunset.
Haleakala is Hawaiian for ‘house of the sun’. From Kihei it took us about two hours to reach the summit. While the distance wasn’t long, the road was super windy and we kept stopping in awe of the view. It was crazy; from the bottom of the volcano the weather turned bad with a heavy fog surrounding us. We drove through the white mist, laughing about how we chose the worst day to witness the sunset – we couldn’t even see 10 metres in front of us. However as we climbed higher, we drove out of the fog and back into sunshine and blue skies. Below us sat the heavy fog and created the most amazing view!
We reached the summit at approximately 10,000 feet and quickly changed into warmer clothes. The air was fresh and cool up here which was a stark contrast to the hot weather by the beach. We raced over to the edge to find a good viewing spot and waited patiently for its descent. According to my dear friend Wikipedia, the summit area of Haleakala ranks one of the best sites in the world for viewing the night sky due to having almost zero light pollution, above turbulent atmospheric conditions and little atmosphere. And I had to agree, the sky was flawless.
The sky turned from blue to pink to orange. The clouds looked out out of this world as they glowed in the last of the days sun. It was definitely one of the nicest sunsets I’d ever seen. However the beauty of the sunset also brought on a little sadness. It was like a metaphor for the trip, it had been so beautiful but it had to end. Tomorrow we fly back to Oahu for a final day before K and L head back to Australia and I continue onto Peru – which was slightly scary to think about!
We left the summit as the sky turned to black and made our way back to the Banana Bungalow. First we made a dinner stop at Whole Foods, picking up some wine and cheese to toast the end of our trip. K and L had never been to a Whole Foods before so we spent a good 45 minutes in there wandering through the aisles lost in the decision making process. Finally immersing from the store with way more food than we intended we set up a perch for dinner in the common area at the Banana Bungalow and devoured our Whole Foods feast.
Tomorrow brings an early start as we have to be at the airport for our flight to Oahu at 9am.
We left Joe’s early ready for another day of exploring the coast of Maui. This part of the island was often bypassed because the road is a bit unstable for a few kilometres and can void a rental car agreement if an accident occurs. Also, the ‘tourist’ way to go is to drive to Hana and back in one day, but that is the silliest idea since canned cheese. You hardly see anything! A local told us that the road was okay to drive, especially with a Jeep. I for one, am so glad we decided to drive it – it ended up being one of the most incredible drives I’ve been on.
Our first stop was at the Barefoot café in Hana Bay for breakfast – which was more like a little canteen by the water. The thing about Hana is that not many tourists stay the night to experience the sleepy seaside town. While mostly the reason is because most people only make it a day trip, it could have something to do with the locals. They tend to give off a vibe of not wanting tourists there which is understandable, but it was such a change from the rest of Hawaii where the locals are so warm and welcoming. Apart from the chilly reception at the café, the pancakes were the absolute bomb. Three massive pancakes drowned in syrup were exactly what my waistline didn’t need but I had to indulge anyway!
Our mission for the morning was to find the elusive red sand beach. We’d consulted the ever so trusty Google to help us find Kaihalulu Beach, which seemed to be this mystery bay that was impossible to get to. However after the very over the top advice about the Stairway to Heaven, we were a little hesitant to believe what Mr Google had to say. According to Google, the hike to Kaihaluu Beach was quite slipper, steep and could be…wait for it…fatal! DAH DAH DAHHHH!
Alright, I’ll honest here. The track to Kaihalulu Beach is not fatal, not that steep and only a tiny bit slippery. Mr. Cautious must have written the warnings because honestly it was a five minute walk around the edge of the not-very-high cliff to the bay. We parked on Uakea Road right near the Hana Community Centre and walked across the green lawn to the well worn path down to the water. Taking a left we walked along the track (okay its a bit slippery here due to the red cinder cones) which led us right around to the beautiful bay. I’ve read a dozen websites stating that this hike is so scary, so dangerous and potentially fatal. I can’t tell whether some people are just overcautious or downright unadventurous. Obviously use some common sense – if its raining don’t go – but the hike isn’t difficult, you wouldn’t even call it a hike!
The bay itself was glorious. The dark red sand – caused by lava cinder cliffs – make the water appear a PhotoShop-like turquoise. Kaihalulu Beach ain’t got no time for filters, it woke up like this. We raced down to the sand and stripped down to our swimmers. The bay was supposed to be a nudist beach but the few other people that were there were clothed so we followed suit. Walking across the red sand was a strange sensation in itself, this beach is one of few red sand beaches in the world and it felt like no other sand I’ve felt before. The water was cool and refreshing and we spent the next hour snorkelling around the bay.
Remembering we had a whole day of driving to do, we reluctantly walked back around the trail to the Jeep and drove off to our next stop. Like yesterday we were pretty much just jumping in without a plan so when we came across our next stop, it was the best surprise! Still in our swimmers from the beach we found another massive waterfall. No idea what it was called, but it wasn’t far from Hana. Jumping out of the Jeep for a look, I noticed a track beside the bridge that was just calling my name. Walking town the track to the base of the waterfall, it took a moment of hesitation before I was in the frigid fresh water. Not long after K and L followed and we splashed about in the freezing water and washed the salt from our bodies. There was a ledge at the bottom of the waterfall you could sit on and let the water rush over your head. It was awesome!
Numb from the cold, we jumped back in the Jeep to continue our journey – we were barely 10km out of Hana! We didn’t get much further before we reached the Pools of ‘Ohe’o (aka The Seven Sacred Pools) which apparently was a stop not to be missed.
Pulling into the car park we paid our 15$ and went for an explore. Deciding to hike uphill first we trekked through the rainforest on the Pipiwai Trail, following the lush greenery for half an hour or so. There is a Waimoku waterfall at the end of this trail but we were cutting it fine with the time so we headed back down towards the beach and the pools.
I’m going to be honest here again. The Seven Sacred Pools weren’t THAT fantastic. It could have been the combination of the lack of rain and the masses of people (even at 10am in the morning!) but the sacredness of the pools weren’t apparent. I think the waterfalls we had seen this morning and yesterday easily triumphed the pools, but each to their own. It is one of the highlight stops of the Road to Hana trip but I guess its all about the timing.
We left the pools a little downcast, but finally on track to get some driving done. Within kilometres we reached the infamous dirt road and suddenly understood why rental car companies don’t like it. The road is so windy, full of potholes and very narrow. In saying this, in a Jeep it was fantastic! The views were unbelievable and the closeness to the edge of the cliff was crazy. It was a slow journey on the road but an awesome on – and if you’re feeling bad for driving your rental car on there, don’t. Behind us was a Mercedes convertible that obviously missed the memo about not driving the road.
As we drove the scenery changed dramatically from the lush rainforest to a desolate volcanic landscape. The sky greyed and dark clouds threatened to bomb us with rain, but it made our surroundings look even more eerie. This side of Maui was so, so different to the rest of the island. The volcanic rocks stood hauntingly along the coastline and the dry grass swayed in the wind. It was such a shock to see how different this part of the island was, Maui was the place that just keeps giving!
We made a pit stop at Kaupo Store, which was this old fashioned general store full of knick knacks and historic paraphernalia. We grabbed some snacks and headed off again. The sky had darkened some more and within minutes the rain started to spit down. Of course, we had the top off the Jeep, because views, so after finding a safe place to park, we executed the quickest roof change known to man! Safe and dry we drove on, eyes glued to the cowboy-town like scenery.
Reaching Makawao just after lunch time we were absolutely ravenous. It was still drizzling with rain and the infamous cowboy town didn’t have the same appeal as we’d hoped. In our state of hunger all we wanted was mass food and pronto. Luckily, we didn’t have to go to far until we found Polli Polli’s Mexican. Stuffing ourselves with a feast of Mexican, the hangryness disappeared and we felt like our normal selves again. Now ready to have a better look around, we wandered the streets of Makawao. It was a very touristy town, full of boutiques and art galleries.
By late afternoon we were in the Jeep again and en route to Wailuku where we were staying at the Banana Bungalow again. After swimming at beaches, in waterfalls and getting caught in the rain I was so keen for a shower and rest.
Its our last day in Maui tomorrow so we have big plans to tick off a few more things! Stay tuned! 🙂
Truth be told, I didn’t really know anything about the Road to Hana before I booked my flights to Hawaii. But now having done it, all I want to do is tell the world how fantastic it is. The road that spans over approximately 54 miles, has over 600 curves and 59 bridges show cases all of Maui’s beautiful landscapes, from the lush green mountains to the azure coloured ocean, to the rushing waterfalls and even the harsh desolate volcanic hills. It has everything a nature lover could possibly want.
First of all before we delve into the wonder of the Road to Hana I’m going to give y’all a big, fat, monumental piece of advice. Don’t do this drive in one day. Just don’t. Too many people get in the car, race around to all the stops like madmen and turn around in Hana without even getting out of the car. Not only is it a massive day but you miss out on so, so much. My advice, be like the Hawaiians and go a few paces slower. Enjoy the drive, stop at your leisure and heck, make it a two day journey! Also rent a soft top Jeep, because if there is one car built for the Road to Hana, its the Jeep Wrangler.
The road – known as the Hana Highway – is marked out with mile markers that guide you where to stop and what there is to see. I tried my hardest to keep an eye out for mile markers but I have to admit I was too busy staring out the window admiring the scenery. When we saw something we liked, we stopped. Having no expectations of what we were going to find was way better than having a rigid route to follow anyway.
We left Pai’a early, in hopes of beating the hordes of tourists that drive the Hana Highway everyday. Passing the small town of Haiku we waved at the famous surf break Jaws as we passed. Our first stop on our journey was the tiny fruit stand of Huelo selling fresh coconuts, pineapples and a delicious looking selection of breakfast options, making us regret eating breakfast at the hostel.
Getting back in the Jeep, we drove on. The scenery was never short of beautiful. One side of the road was the ocean; sparkling under the morning sun and to our other side was the mountainous ranges, alive with greenery. The road was narrow and at times only a single lane. Sometimes if I waved my arm out the window I would touch the bushes growing on the mountain edges that paralleled us. We pulled in at the bamboo forest, one of the first popular tourist hotspots. There were only a few cars parked on the side of the road so we joined them and went to explore.
It was somewhat spooky to walk through the dark bamboo forest. There were several different tracks through the forest and within steps you could lose where you are. The three of us stuck together and climbed down the muddy track, over a wooden plank until we came to a large opening with many rock pools. It would have been less than 100 metres from the road but the silence was deafening, like our own little quiet haven away from the busy tourist trail.
After playing in the bamboo and by the rock pools we continued on our journey. Our next stop at the Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees wasn’t far at all, only a few minutes drive. Spotting the trees, we pulled over on the side of the road and went to look at this amazing case of Mother Nature’s beauty. The Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees are only found in a few places around the world so it was really special to see them in real life.
We drove on, enjoying the scenery and the still semi-quiet roads. Definitely an advantage to leaving early! Our next stop was the Waikamoi Ridge Track. This short hike takes about 30 minutes and takes you high along the ridge with views out to the ocean. It was a nice break to driving (because we had been driving for SO long – not) but it gave us an excuse to eat bulk food, which we would be doing shortly.
Making a quick stop at Honomanu Bay, which was accessible by a dirt track. I’d advise to only go down this track if you have a 4-wheel drive, it was a pretty hairy looking road – luckily our Jeep handled it easily. The bay itself is one of the few black sand beaches in Maui. It wasn’t the prettiest of the beaches, but the phenomenon of the black sand beach was enough to make us thrilled. We paddled in the cool water before moving on to find some food.
Not much further down the road was a stop that we had been advised to go to. Keanae was a small community off the Hana Highway, which was famous for their homemade banana bread. While you can get banana bread all around Maui, Aunty Sandy’s in Keanae is supposed to be the best, and I tell you after almost demolishing a loaf to myself – it is! I’m a self-proclaimed banana bread expert and this warm and delectable cake was the best I’ve had. I needed to find Aunty Sandy and get her recipe – she is a genius! We sat by the water and ate our banana bread under the hot sun, watching the waves smash into the black volcanic rocks.
We got back into the Jeep and continued on our way until we reached the famous Halfway to Hana stop. Really it is just a small road stand with toilets and some food options but it was one of those stops you just have to do. I wouldn’t recommend making this a huge stop on your journey, there are much better places for food and drink along the way.
We were keen to see some waterfalls, as there hadn’t been too many so far. There hadn’t been rain in a couple of weeks, so most of the roadside waterfalls were dry but we were determined to find ones we could swim in.
Alas, we didn’t have to go too much further! Driving around the windy roads, we came across this huge bridge and waterfall. This is what we were looking for! I’m not too sure which waterfall we were at, I still sucked at finding mile markers, but it was under a huge bridge. We parked the Jeep up the road where there was some space and raced down the rocky path by the bridge until we were at the rock pools and waterfall. Plunging into the icy cold water, we swam quickly to the waterfall and let the fresh water cascade over us. It was such a surreal and wonderful feeling. Within seconds, my body was numb from the cold but it felt amazing to be swimming in freshwater. We floated about for a while, playing under the waterfall and screaming like little girls at how cold it was.
It was such a glorious place and we had it all to ourselves, you couldn’t even hear the cars passing by on the bridge up ahead. It was our own little natural oasis.We stayed for a while before climbing back up the muddy track to the road. I think the important thing about doing the Road to Hana is to not be afraid to explore. The best parts usually take some climbing to get to and you need to be prepared to stop a lot.
Driving on further we came across another massive waterfall that started on one side of the bridge and fell down to the other side. Still wet from the first waterfall we pulled over and climbed over the bridge to the small, steep track down to the falls. Unlike the first one, we were at the top of the waterfall now and the sharp drop down onto the rocks loomed before us. K and I were too intrigued to not check it out so we carefully climbed out to the top of the waterfall. Perching on the edge, it was probably a 25 metre drop to the bottom; a slightly precarious place to be sitting but the view was perf!
Slightly scary but such an awesome view!
Crawling back to the safety of the rocks we clambered back up the steep track and into the Jeep. The banana bread we had earlier was now feeling like a distant memory so we drove on in search of lunch. Like everything on the road to Hana, we didn’t have to go very far. Pulling up at a random roadside stand we ordered hotdogs, chilli rice and pulled pork burgers to fix our hunger pains. It was exactly what the doctor ordered. We ate beside another waterfall that seemed to be a popular tourist stop because there were several buses parked up and people milling about everywhere. A group of Hawaiian boys sauntered in as if they owned the joint and broke up the crowd hovering around a bridge that stood over a lagoon of water. Several moments later one of the boys stood up on the railing of the bridge and made the massive leap into the water below. There was a hush over the crowd of people and as the boys took turns jumping off the bridge, the tourists videoed everything on their phones.
We watched in wonder as the boys leapt for their lives. There were a lot of rocks that stood between the bridge and the water and if the boys miscalculated their jump it could have ended nastily. After all the boys had jumped in, the crowd dispersed and it looked like the show was over. We jumped back in the Jeep in haste to beat the buses and drove back into the beautiful scenery. It had been all of 15 minutes before we were stopping again for food. This was definitely turning into the food tour of Maui!
Coconut Glen’s was a kaleidoscope of colours and had a fantastical whim about it. We pulled in after seeing the rainbow coloured sign advertising their natural ice cream. Assuring ourselves we needed a sugar hit to do the last leg of the trip, we ordered the delicious coconut ice cream and learnt the story of Coconut Glen’s.
Originally from Boston, Glen moved to Maui and opened his vegan ice cream stand in 2008. Since then, Conde Naste has voted him the second best ice cream in the world, which is no mean feat! Giving off a Willy Wonka type vibe, Coconut Glen wants to promote natural and healthy ice cream. Cleverly marketed as ‘ice cream that grows on trees’ its easy to see why its so popular with children and adults alike.
We left Coconut Glen’s full of healthy, coconutty goodness which fired us up for our last stop before Hana. The Wai’anapanapa State Park was one of the major highlights of the Road to Hana, with several different things to see. We drove down the road to the parking area which wasn’t so busy much to our delight. It was getting late in the afternoon now and most Road to Hana go-ers would be on their way back now so we were chuffed with ourselves for choosing to stay the night.
We first wandered over to the blowhole which wasn’t blowing because of low tide. The dark volcanic rocks contrasted brilliantly against the sapphire coloured water. Despite the loud thrashing of the waves against the rocks, I had an urge to jump in for a swim. Opting to wait until we reached the black sand beach, we had a quick wander through the sea caves where we learnt about the legend of the Wai’anapanapa Caves.It was too dark in the caves and we weren’t feeling brave enough to plunge into the back waters to find the princesses secret hiding spot so we walked back to the beach for a swim.
Pebble beaches are definitely better than sand beaches. While not necessary as pretty, the pebbles don’t stick around in absolutely every for days after like the way sand does. We dropped our stuff by the water and raced in. The water was cool, refreshing and ridiculously clear. We floated in the water, talking about the day and finally taking a proper break to relax.
It was about 4:30pm by the time we went back to the Jeep. Most of the other tourists had long left the Road to Hana and as we drove into the tiny, quiet town there were hardly any tourists.
Finding our accommodation for the night easily, we parked into Joe’s Rentals and were shown to our room. The old beach house was ours for the night, with only one other person staying there. It was old and decrepit but the space and privacy was exactly what we wanted.
Going out in search of dinner, we drove through the tiny town of Hana and found some roadside food trucks. K got a burrito from the Mexican truck and L and I opted for Thai. Sitting down devouring our food we talked about the trip so far. It was coming to an end so quickly and there was still so much to do and see.
We were in bed early, the long day of exploring finally taking a toll of us. Tomorrow we’re doing the backside of Hana back to Wailuku, a trip that many people skip. I was excited to see what it brings!
After our monumental hike, we had to hightail back to Waikiki to drop off our Jeep and go to the airport to catch our flight to Maui. Fuelled by coffee, we managed to get to Waikiki in record time and after doing a few circles in search of a fuel station we said goodbye to our little Jeep and got a taxi to the airport.
Everything was going smoothly until I checked my phone case where I had stashed my bank card and lo and behold, the stupid thing was missing. In the rush I had thrown it in my phone case, despite the case being broken and hadn’t thought about it since. After a mild panic we worked out it would still be possible for me to get money out using K’s card so I could keep it until I got a new card sent over from Australia. Panic over we waited for our flight in the tiny airport and caught our breath after racing around all morning.
The flight to Maui was quick and full of beautiful views. We had barely finished ascending before the pilot started to get ready for landing. Arriving into Maui, the landscape was very different to Oahu. It seemed more dry and arid, with lone palm trees swaying in the wind. There was a haze in the sky, which we later learnt was called vog – aka volcanic fog – and would pollute the skies for most of the day. We picked up our new Jeep – a beautiful cherry red one – and headed off in the direction of Wailuku where we were staying for the night.
The drive was short and before we knew it, we were pulling up at our hostel, the Banana Bungalow ready to check in. The Banana Bungalow was a typical fun hostel. Brightly coloured, with posters about free tours and places to go lining the walls. There was also an awesome back drop of a huge mountain that loomed behind the houses. We dropped our bags off, checked out the place and had a quick shower and went out in search of food.
The guys at the hostel recommend a little vegetarian café a couple of blocks away called The Farmacy, which sounded perfect after eating solid junk food for the last couple of days. We ordered some veggie burgers and wolfed them down. I was starving; we hadn’t eaten since we left Kaneohe this morning which was a rare feat. After a quick stroll around the town we headed back to the hostel for a sneaky nap. Wailuku itself doesn’t have a whole lot going for it, but it’s a great base because it’s in the middle of everything. We planned our activities for the next day and joined the free beer and burger night that the hostel was holding. This was the first night that we were at a really social hostel so it was nice to meet some new people. We ended up grabbing more drinks once the keg rain out and played flip cup with our new friends until late.
Waking up with slightly sore heads, we were slow to get ready for the day. Heading back to The Farmacy for breakfast, we had the most delicious acai bowls and smoothies. I say the most delicious with a bit of bias, because it was actually the first acai bowl I’ve ever had. But it was great to eat something healthy and fulfilling.
We drove off in the direction of Pai’a, which was a whole 25-minute drive away. Dropping our gear off at our next hostel, the Aloha Surf Hostel we realised we were living the life our luxury in our private room. The Aloha Surf Hostel is run by the same owners, but is much more nicer than the Banana Bungalow. We dwelled in our lush new room before continuing on with our day.
Driving another half an hour or so, we reached Kihei where we were planning to spend the afternoon. Kihei was a beautiful area, with dark blue water and that soft white sand. A popular resort area, the place was packed with people holidaying and living the life of leisure. We found a park near to the water and found some paddleboards to rent.
It was only my second time paddleboarding, but it was much easier than the first. I guess because I wasn’t so nervous about falling in. We paddled around the bay, past all the snorkelers and out in the open water in hope that we might see some humpback whales. There had been stories about people encountering the whales as they did their yearly migration but unfortunately we missed seeing them. We floated about on the paddle boards for awhile, enjoying the gentle sway of the ocean and appreciating the vog that covered the harsh sun. After awhile, a boat sailed past us and the men in the boat were doing the universal hand signals for shark. Jumping to our feet we paddled as quickly as we could to shore, we weren’t sure if they actually meant shark but we weren’t ones to risk it!
Deciding to pass on being shark bait, we returned the boards and went for a wander to find some lunch. Coming across a very appealing looking fish and chip shop, we ordered way more than we needed and walked over to a grassy area near the water to devour our feast. It was too nice of an afternoon – we ate, sunbaked and slept in the shade of the beach park. Too chilled out to do anything we didn’t move until about 4:30pm.
Finally deciding to move, we jumped back in the Jeep and drove to Pai’a for a look around. The little surfy town had a similar vibe to Byron Bay. Laidback, a little hippy and full of boutique type stores, we wandered the streets until the sun went down. Heading back to the hostel, we relished in the fact we had our own private room and made ourselves right at home. Within five minutes, our many bags were spread out from wall to wall. We certainly had a knack for making a mess!
We showered and did some washing before walking back down the street to the main part of Pai’a for some dinner. During our walk, we came across the Flatbread Company, which was a wood-fire pizza restaurant. The other restaurants didn’t even get a look in, we were sold on the delicious sounding flatbreads. It seemed the entire town had the same idea and we had to wait 25 minutes for a table. Walking over to a bar, the girls grabbed a drink while I sipped a lemon, lime and bitters, because clever old me didn’t bring her I.D out. I get so used to never having to use it anymore that I forget to bring it with me. Unfortunately the drinking laws are much stricter here and if you don’t have your I.D, you don’t drink.
K and L finished their drinks and we walked back over to the Flatbread Company. The place had quietened down only slightly as we were escorted to our table. Placing our orders, we waited in anticipation as we watched the chefs expertly put the fires in and out of the hot woodfire oven.
As expected, the pizzas (sorry, flatbreads) were absolutely delicious. The base was light and fluffy and the toppings were fresh and flavoursome. Definitely impressed with the food so far in Maui, it was looking to be a delicious couple of days!
Tomorrow we had big plans to start our Road to Hana journey so we headed back to the hostel for a good nights sleep in our flash private room. It was a tough life!
Disclaimer: This hike is illegal to do in Oahu. To reach the Stairway to Heaven you have to trespass on government property. While people still continue to climb the stairs, if you are caught there is a chance you will be fined. I, in no way condone this activity… However I thoroughly recommend it.
I watched the clock on my phone change from 2:54am to 2:55am and shut off the alarm before it even began buzzing. It was the first of three alarms I had set in fear that I would sleep through them. A useless precaution, I had barely slept a wink all night.
I rolled onto my back and stared at the ceiling, smiling to myself. What an odd predicament the three of us girls had gotten ourselves into. We were sleeping in a strange family’s living room on the east coast of Hawaii as they slept soundly just down the hall. When we were searching for an Airbnb place, we had thought a private room would mean a completely private room – with a door. Instead we were in the living room that opened into the kitchen and dining room. I wasn’t complaining; it was clean and quiet, unlike the previous nights at the hostel.
When I first mentioned the Stairway to Heaven to my travel buddies K and L, I had left out a fair bit of important information. Using the incredible photos from Instagram as ammo, I convinced them that we should do this climb whilst in Oahu. I failed to mention how difficult it is and the fact that it’s actually illegal. As soon as the girls saw the photos though, they were in. We got to planning the logistics, started talking to people and before we knew it we were buying headlamps and muesli bars and sourcing out the location of the entrance. In the back of my mind I thought that we’d never go through with it and that we’d just always talk about the time that we went to Hawaii and nearly climbed the Stairway to Heaven. As the other two girls stirred beside me, I realised that we were actually going through with this.
My next alarm buzzed and I was quick to switch it off.
“Already?” I heard my sister K whisper, “I swear I just laid down”
“At least you got some sleep, I’ve been tossing and turning all night” I retorted.
Sitting up, I rubbed my eyes. As a part of my preparation I was already in my hiking clothes, bar my uncomfortable sports bra. I got off the sofa and tiptoed to the bathroom, trying to be as quiet as possible so not to wake our hosts.
When I returned K and L had both gotten up and were quietly getting dressed.
“You know we could just go back to sleep and say we did it” K lamented.
“Not a chance” I said “We’re going”, I whispered back.
Suddenly the anxious anticipation I’d been feeling all night turned to adrenaline. There was no way I was backing out.
We slid out of the house barefoot, another part of our preparation. We didn’t want our clunky hiking boots to wake the family. Silently we got into our boots, put on our backpacks and started to walk up the street towards the entrance we discovered yesterday. It was dark, but the full moon illuminated the sky making it feel later than it actually was. The crisp, morning air was invigorating, better at waking me up than any alarm would. We passed a lone dog walker and he gave us a knowing smile.
“Be safe girls” he said, knowing exactly what we were up to.
Reaching the gate that we had sourced out yesterday, our first problem arose. Unlike yesterday where the gate was wide open, it was now padlocked shut and the big signs saying ‘NO TRESPASSERS ALLOWED’ that we hadn’t seen yesterday suddenly loomed in front of us. For a nanosecond I considered turning back. I think the girls were having the same thought. We stood in silence for a moment and then K said
“There’s a track on this contour bank, we must be able to climb around it”
Surprised but thankful at her bravery we clambered up the contour bank using the bamboo that was growing wild on it. Trying to be as quiet as possible we managed to get to the top of the contour bank and followed the path through the bamboo until we were on the other side of the gate. I went first and jumped down the contour bank, falling on my butt in the dirt. It wasn’t as graceful as I had anticipated, but I was through!
I was shaking with adrenaline. This is definitely the most badass thing I had done in a very long time. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to break the law. However, my optimism was cut short when we heard a car pull up and lights flash in the direction of the gate.
“Sh**!” I whispered, “It’s the cops!”
Panic rose through me and a lump started to build in my chest.
“Don’t move, don’t move” L whispered hastily as she crouched on the top of the contour bank
“Be a tree, be a tree”, I thought silently to myself. Lying against the contour bank with my face centimetres from the dirt I waited, not brave enough to move an inch. The car rumbled just metres away and the person inside flashed their torch through the window at us.
“Don’t move” K whispered slowly. She needn’t had said it, I wasn’t moving a muscle.
Suddenly the car drove off, giving up on catching a criminal. I let out my breath in a sigh of relief. We could still hear the car engine running, it sounded as though they parked it a bit further away.
“What do I do?” I whispered to the girls
“Get back up!” L replied and the both of them helped me up the contour bank just as a flashlight shone through the gate. Holding onto the girls, we waited with baited breath until the flashlight turned away and we heard the car drive off.
Looking at each other in the midst of the bamboo we heaved with silent giggles. What a close call! We jumped quickly down off the contour bank and walked swiftly up the hill not saying a word.
Reaching the gap in the bamboo forest that lined the road that we had found yesterday, we were now right out of sight from the street and the locked gate. Feeling brave enough to speak K asked
“Do you think that was actually the guard? Or just someone coming to try and climb the stairs?”
That hadn’t even crossed my mind, the only thought going through my head were if the jails in Hawaii were like they were on Orange is the New Black. Pondering this out loud I said, “I guess if it was the cops, why wouldn’t they come through the gate?”
Feeling more confident, we continued on the track through the bamboo until we came to a large opening where the track diverged three ways.
The instructions we had found on Google hadn’t mentioned the gap we had first went through, it had said to continue on the road until it forked off in two directions. Though yesterday afternoon I had raced up this track until this clearing, convinced that this was another way to get there. We hedged our bets and went with the track that led us in the direction of the huge motorway above us. With me in the lead with the most powerful torch, followed by L and then K, we trekked through the bushy track in silence, concentrating on not slipping over in the mud.
The track came to another opening and this time we were left with two options. One way had a big opening but after several steps the track disappeared, so we turned around and tried the other option. A low hanging branch covered this one, but the path was clear once we pushed through.
“Look!” L exclaimed, pointing to footprints in the mud, “People have been here!”
Feeling a sense of relief we walked on, only slowing to clamber through the bushes that hung low over the track.
After awhile we reached a steel fence with a large hole in it. There was a track that had been made along the fence but my gut said to go through the hole as it was in the direction of the motorway, and hopefully the Stairs.
“We doin’ this?” I asked the girls and their already sweaty faces looked back at me with an expression of doubt.
“Lets go” L said.
We climbed through the hole and within several metres we had reached a gravel road. Almost leaping with delight, we hastened our pace as we walked up the road. It was nearly 4am and if what the Internet said was true, the guard at the Stairs would be just arriving for his shift.
Walking up the road using the full moon as the torch, we reached another fork in the road. To our right were some buildings, which we assumed were a part of the school around here. To our left the road ascended, and we could only hope that it was the right path. There was no sign of where the guard might be, but I was aware he might pop out at any time.
“Is that a person?” I said startled. My already bad eyesight was playing tricks on me in the dark.
“ I think it’s just a tree, keep going” K hustled.
I stopped and let her take the lead, suddenly feeling like I needed my big sister to take over. She strode up the steps towards the dark shadow and L and I followed behind.
“Guys, there’s stairs… I think this could be it.” K said
We walked quickly, taking two steps at a time until we reached a steel fence that stood about five metres wide.
“What a useful fence” We giggled as we clambered around it, trying not to fall ass up in the mud.
I turned to keep walking when suddenly it dawned on me.
“I’ve seen these stairs before, and this handrail. It’s like the ones of Instagram. You guys… I think this is it!”
We squealed in excitement. It was like discovering the Holy Grail. Until now I had just thought we would keep walking around, only to discover the Stairway were an urban myth. But here they were! They were real!
We bounced up the first lot of stairs, ecstatic to actually be here. I took the lead with the strong flashlight guiding where my feet should go. The steel steps were mostly even, but slippery from the mud and wet grass. Within minutes the steps started to get steeper and steeper and it was starting to feel like we were climbing a ladder instead of stairs.
Step by step, I pulled myself higher and higher. I don’t know whether it was my few weeks of preparation on the Stairmaster back home at the gym, or the fact that I was too terrified to be puffed, but I breathed evenly as I ascended up the stairs.
After awhile the stairs flattened back out and we took a quick breather. The motorway that had loomed above our heads was now looking more like a small path. We were getting high! Continuing on, the stairs went steeper again until a vertical ladder stood before me. I stopped and turned to face the girls. They were a few steps below me and had yet to see to the vertical ascent that was to come. I took a deep breath and started climbing – if I kept going, they might just follow.
Trying not to think of the fact that I was climbing a mountain face, with just a slippery handrail to hold me, I pulled myself higher and higher.
“Are you f***ing kidding me!?” I heard L mutter as she reached the steep ascent. I had to laugh – what we were doing was absolutely ridiculous.
After what felt like an eternity, I reached the top of the ladder and the steps got less steep. Pausing for breath and a look around, I was in awe of how high we were. It was probably a good thing we had left so early, there was no way I’d climb this in the daylight!
We climbed further until our torches flashed upon a mess of steel poles and mud. This must be the infamous part of the track that had been destroyed in a landslide last year. About four metres long, the handrails were knocked over, covering the stairs meaning we would have to climb over this to continue the hike. I kept looking at it until K and L reached me.
“What should we do?” K asked. “Is this the worst part do you think?”
We discussed what we should do and came to an agreement to just sit down and wait until it starts to get lighter so we could properly see what we have to deal with.
Making ourselves as comfy as we could on cold, hard steps we nestled in and waiting for the rising sun. I tried to catch some Z’s, my lack of sleep from the previous night was suddenly catching up on me and I felt tired and worn out.
L, having drunk a Redbull at the start of the stairs chattered away with K for a while, until we all sat in silence playing the waiting game. It felt like an eternity had passed
“Ah, there’s someone there!” L exclaimed
My mind quickly raced to the police scare we had earlier, had they followed us up the stairs?
“Oh hey!” a male voice said with surprise “Ah, what are you doing?”
We laughed and told him our story. He introduced himself as Bear and said he had done this climb before and was taking his friend up for fun.
“This is the worst part, the stairs go back to normal after this. Want to follow us?”
Still half asleep and slightly in shock, from meeting someone else on the stairs we got up quickly and let Bear and his friend past. We dutifully followed them as they climbed over the broken staircase with ease.
Saying goodbye to Bear we slowly kept climbing the stairs. I had given up on my torch, just letting the light of the full moon guide me. One by one the stairs disappeared and my body felt like an automated machine. Step, grab rail, pull up, step, grab rail, pull up. The staircase was like a wave, some parts were quite horizontal and easy to climb whereas others we were past the point of vertical and if I braved looking down I would be standing directly on top of K.
After an eternity of stairs, we reached a viewing platform where Bear and his friend greeted us again. Elated to be somewhere near the top, we whooped loudly. We were actually here on the Stairway to Heaven! Unbelievable!
Swapping stories with Bear and his friend, we chatted while fuelling up with bananas and Hershey’s Kisses. They told us how they got to the stairs, how they walked straight past the guard without saying a word and were in disbelief when we shared our adventure.
“I have no idea what way you girls went” Bear laughed “You’re so lucky you found it”
We laughed in agreement; honestly we couldn’t believe it either.
“Ready for the final bit?” Bear asked
“There’s more?” replied L with a look of dread
He smiled at us “Not much further, the view is totally worth it!”
Deciding to rest for a bit longer we said good bye to Bear and his friend once more and sat down on the platform, reeling in what we have achieved.
Intrigued, I wanted to go further up. L was adamant she was staying put so K and I put our backpacks back on and approached the ladder once more. We climbed and climbed for another 15 minutes or so. It was just as steep as before, except now we didn’t have bushes protecting us from the wind. The staircase clung to the edge of the mountain, with not a tree in sight. We were so exposed to the elements that one strong wind would probably knock us off the edge.
Every time I thought I was near the top, another set of steps appeared. It felt like we were actually going to keep walking to Heaven! A heavy fog had settled in at the top, but we could faintly see where we had to keep going.
“This is crazy, I don’t think I can go any higher, we still have to get down this damn thing”, K said “Plus the sun is about to come up.”
I had to agree, it was scary enough climbing up the stairs, I hadn’t even thought about how I would climb down them. We were almost at the top and I knew I would regret stopping so close to the top, but my legs were shaking in protest at the thought of going higher.
We climbed a bit further until the steps flattened out once more. Within minutes the world around us turned to light and the city below us started to come alive. It was an incredible feeling, being this high up. Amazed by the view, we just stood and watched. I can’t even comprehend how to explain the view, it’s just one you have to experience for yourself. It also made our hike to Diamond Head the other day look like a stroll in the park.
Staying for a while, I took as many videos and photos as I could, sad that I would never capture this incredible view in a way to give it any justice.
K and I headed back down the stairs to L and I was surprised how easy to it was get down. The sun had fully risen by now and we could see for miles. I can’t believe our luck with the weather, you couldn’t have picked a clearer day. We took more photos and hung out of the platform some more, soaking in this incredible feeling.
Reluctantly we started the descent down. K took the lead and flew down the stairs, I followed alternating between climbing down facing the stairs and facing the world, pending on how steep the stairs were. L took the rear, slowly making her way down facing the steps.
We reached the broken part of the stairs and climbed over it like it was nothing. What we had read on Google had made it sound so hard to get around, but compared to other parts of the climb, it was a breeze. My arms were started to tire from my constant clenching of the handrails and my calves were shaking from the climb but there was no wiping the smile off my face. We kept climbing down until we reached the steel fence that had greeted us just a few hours earlier.
“Ah is that a car?” K asked, as we climbed past the very obvious ‘NO TRESPASSING SIGN’.
“Sh**’, I think it is” I replied and like guilty children we walked slowly down to the gravel road.
The navy blue four-wheel drive stood waiting for us and a stern looking lady sat in the drivers seat with steam coming from her ears. We quickly power-walked past her with our heads down, pretending we didn’t exist.
“Do you think she will report us?” I wondered, my inner goody-two shoes getting worried.
“I think she’s just more mad that she didn’t catch us on the way up” L laughed.
We headed back down the gravel road, eager to get away from the Stairway and from any trouble. We were meet by a different steel gate lined with barbed wire this time and realising we took a wrong turn somewhere we either had to turn back and walk past the pissed off guard, or continue to break the law and jump the massive fence. Opting for the latter, my inner ninja came alive and within two seconds I was over the fence. Using the neighbour’s brick wall for stability I hoped for the best and for once in my life, my coordination was on my side!
We quickly walked the streets, thankful for K’s GPS on her phone so we could find our street. Somehow we had come out several blocks away from where we had started, which had totally disorientated us. We walked with our heads down, trying to avoid the glares from locals driving by. They didn’t like people trespassing to climb the Stairs, and with good reason but I didn’t regret it for a second.
After the longest walk of my life, we finally reached out apartment block. Stopping at the Jeep to pull off my muddy hiking boots, I could have almost laid out on the bitumen right there. We dawdled up the stairs to the door and languished in the empty house. Never in my life had a shower felt so good.
While we didn’t quite reach the top of the Stairway to Heaven, I was still so impressed with our efforts. It’s an experience I will never forget, and honestly I wasn’t quite ready to walk all the way to Heaven yet. I still wanted more time on this Earth 😛
Last night I slept hard, like uber hard. When I woke at 8am it was so hard to open my eyes. We were four days into the trip but I felt like the jetlag was just kicking in. I guess going from full-time work to full-time travel is harder than it sounds. Forcing myself out of bed, K and L and I packed up our gear and headed off in search of breakfast. Grabbing more nutritious delights from Foodland (ha!) we ate quickly and drove to our stop for the morning, Turtle Bay.
Turtle Bay funnily enough, is named after the large amounts of green sea turtles which inhabit the water and used to lay their eggs in the sand. Until a huge resort was built around the bay and now only some turtles still return to the bay. Turtle Bay Resort is a huge and rather ugly hotel complex where all the rich and famous stay on the North Shore. Locals are fighting to stop expansion of the resort to avoid it turning into another Waikiki. As you drive the road around the North Shore many signs and banners are hanging say to stop expansion and to ‘Keep the country country’. I’m so on the locals side, the North Shore is busy enough as it is, but to lose the laid-back vibe that they possess to evil money-maker hoteliers would just be sad. On a completely different note, here’s a bit of trivia for you though, Turtle Bay Resort is where they filmed Forgetting Sarah Marshall!
We parked in the public parking area and walked towards the beach. Their still is a public beach at Turtle Bay for everyone, however it is overrun with hotel guests. We found a spot on the sand and K and I headed straight into the water to do some snorkelling. The weather still wasn’t fanatastic, it was cloudy and the wind was slightly chilly but every now and then the sun would come out and brighten the day. K and I snorkelled around one side of the bay, getting pulled around by the waves. Despite the rough waters, the visibility was still quite good. We headed for the other side of the bay when suddenly I hear K making shrieking noises into her snorkel.I quickly turned around and heard her say ‘Turtle!’ so I stuck my head under the water and there he/she was, the beautiful and calm turtle. K and I watched him (I’m just going to call him a him, he was a bigger fella) going about his day, floating in the water and stopping to eat the occasional bit of sea grass. I could have stayed their all day watching him swim about, it looked like such a peaceful life.
We’d been out for about an hour so we decided to head back in and see what L was up to. I cleared my mask and ducked under again and almost ran into another turtle. Shocked and surprised made a series of weird noises and got K’s attention. This dude was a little smaller than the last but no less chilled. He cruised about, not even bothered that we nearly had a head on collision. Distracted by him again, we watched his swim around until he got too far away before swimming to shore to tell L about our encounters.
It was just after 11am so we packed up and headed out of Turtle Bay Resort to continue our day. About to head south we realized we still had the key for the hostel because we’d forgotten to officially check out! Racing back to the hostel we were thankful for their relaxed vibe and not minding that we’d been late in checking out.
Heading back in the direction we were supposed to we pulled over at a fruit stand for a natural sugar hit and the world biggest coconuts before driving on. We were heading back down south, the same way we had driven up, as this was where our next night’s accommodation was. Tomorrow was our last day in Oahu and we had big plans, but more on that later :p
Stopping in for a toilet break, we noticed a ceremonial road on the opposite side of the road. Intrigued we drove over and low and behold, we were at the grounds where the Byodo-in Temple was. The girls had no idea what it was and I only knew about it on Instagram, but this temple apparently this temple was dedicated in August 1968 to commemorate 100-year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. We wandered through the temple and the bamboo gardens for awhile before continuing our journey south.
By the time we reached Waimanalo Beach we were hungry again so stopping at the same lot of food trucks as we did on the way up a couple of days ago, we grabbed a greasy but delicious feast and headed to the beach to gorge ourselves. The beaches were back to the white soft sand and clear blue waters, which was a perfect place to chill out for the afternoon. The warm sun was a nice change from the dreary, overcast weather we had at the North Shore so we soaked up the sun for the afternoon.
Around 3pm we forced ourselves from the beach to pick up a few things before checking into our accommodation for the night. Tomorrow’s activity required a hardware store and a supermarket run so we picked up our supplies in Kailua before driving to Kaneohe where we were staying for the night.
Alright, because you asked so nicely, I will tell you what we have planned for tomorrow… Are you ready? You sure? I don’t think I am!
Tomorrow morning we are climbing the Haiku Stairs, otherwise known as The Stairway To Heaven!! If you don’t know what that is, Google it right now and come back. Got a visual? Yep, that’s what we’re doing.
We had this pretty planned, we had bought torches, snacks and water. We had booked an Airbnb place right near the start so we wouldn’t have to drive anywhere and we had sussed out the entrance so at 3:30am in the morning we wont be fumbling around in the dark. We were as ready as we could ever be… We just had to climb it. Easy, right?
We settled into our Airbnb place, which was a little apartment in an area called Haiku. Our host Brittany was lovely and very accommodating – she even settled our pre-Stairway to Heaven worries by telling us her husband climbs it for fun.
Heading out to find some dinner we got distracted by a discount clothes store called Ross, that had a huge variety of brand label clothes for extremely cheap. We picked up some things and searched for dinner, resorting to Denny’s restaurant for a fatty but yummy dinner with unlimited drink refills. This concept was insane, as soon as my glass was almost empty, another full was swooped in and took its place. It seemed like such a wasteful way of doing things, but of course I couldn’t help but drink what was in front of me!
We went back to our place and packed our backpacks for the trek we would be doing in a few hours. Between feeling so full from dinner and being nervous from anticipation about what we were doing tomorrow, there was no way I would be sleeping much tonight.