Thursday saw us up very early - ready for us to catch our 7:00am flight from the island of Kaua'i to the island of Maui. We drove to the airport in a pre-dawn rainstorm, hoping that we would have nice weather upon arrival in Maui.
I had originally booked a direct flight from Kaua'i to Maui with regional carrier Go! Mokulele, but a few weeks before our trip, that flight got cancelled. I managed to find a similarly-timed flight with Hawaiian Airlines, but it involved having to stopover at Honolulu airport along the way. As a result, our departure time was quite a bit earlier.
Maui is known as 'The Valley Isle' because it has two main mountainous areas connected by a wide, low saddle (which is the 'valley'). The higher of the two mountainous areas is formed by the large volcano known as Haleakala, which rises 10,000 feet (3000+ metres) above sea level. Haleakala (and the park in which much of its land is preserved - Haleakala National Park) is one of the principle attractions on Maui.
Arriving in Maui at an early hour was very important to our plans. This, the central part of our trip, was a highly-planned and orchestrated set of activities, and there was little room for late arrivals or other delays. Significantly, most of our time on Maui would be spent without a rental car. Our itinerary was such that it just wasn't logistically useful to have one.
Before I start recounting our experiences, I will first outline the plan for our five days on Maui:
- we had three adventures planned: a sea-to-summit climb of Haleakala; a bike ride down the other side of the Haleakala; and a day of snorkeling
- the logistics to set up the adventures would take place on day 1
- the climb of the volcano would take place on days 2, 3, and 4
- the bike ride down and the snorkeling would take place on day 5
Our plan for the Haleakala climb was for us to climb up the southern aspect of the mountain, then bike ride down its northern aspect - in effect, we would be doing a complete traversal of the huge peak; up one side, then down the other. In fact, in doing so, we would be traversing about half of the island of Maui itself.
Having no car meant that I had to carefully arrange for everything in advance. I spent quite a bit of time weeks before our trip securing a taxi driver that would not only take us to a dropoff point at the remote southern side of the island, but also assist us in obtaining our camp stove's fuel, checking in at the bike company with whom which we would be renting our downhill bikes, and getting to one of Haleakala National Park's visitor centers so that we could get our backcountry permit.
A detailed internet search led me to the sunny-sounding company called 'Surf Maui Taxi'. Of all of the organizations I'd researched, this one seemed the most amenable to weird requests and out-of-the-way locations. I engaged with Steve - the owner of Surf Maui Taxi - over e-mail, and it appeared that all of our requirements could be met.
The next step was arranging for our bike ride down. Now, cycling down from Haleakala via the paved park road (there is a paved park road which winds up the northern slope of the mountain to the top) is a very popular activity on Maui, and many tourists and locals alike do it. The usual plan is that you rent a downhill bike from one of many bike shops, and you get taken up in a shuttle bus with the bikes, and then you cycle back down. Our situation, obviously, was a little different - we wanted to show up on the mountain with our packs (having just finished a 3-day climb up the other side), have them arrive with some bikes, and we make an exchange - they take our packs, we take the bikes, and off we go down the mountain, re-uniting back at the bike shop. This was not a possibility mentioned on any bike shop's web page!
So, more careful research on the internet. Weed out the bike shops that don't do unguided rides (the last thing we wanted). Then, some phone calls, hopefully with enough diplomatic cajoling to make them comfortable with my non-standard idea. I had settled on the Haleakala Bike Company (website here
), so I gave them a call.
The first person I talked to informed me (unsurprisingly) that they didn't do dropoffs of the sort I described. However, she suggested that I call back later and talk to Lew. So, I did that. A few days later I talked with Lew, and described to him our plans, making sure that I impressed upon him that we would absolutely align with their existing time schedules, that we would pay full price, and that they were under no obligation if we were a no-show at the appointed time. And, all in my best possible oh-please-would-you-be-willing-to-help-us-out voice. And happily, Len said yes. Also of note: no one had ever asked them to do this sort of thing before. Curious. Am I that strange?
Next came a few more days of phone calls and e-mails, hammering out the details of how this would all hang together: First, we'd show up on the day of our arrival in Maui, to complete the paperwork and to be fitted for our bike and helmets (normally this is done the day of your rental, but that couldn't be done in our case). Then, on the day of our descent, we were to present ourselves at the bike company's standard dropoff point high up on the mountain at 7:00am. With our cellphone, we would call the bike shop to confirm our presence. They would then take our packs, we would take the bikes, and we would bike down 6,000 feet and nearly 38km to the bike shop, where we would turn the bikes in and get our packs.
So, as our plane taxiied into the gate at the airport in Maui, I had all of these logistics lined up, ready to go. To start it all rolling, I'd arranged with Steve (the owner of Surf Maui Taxi) to pick us up at the airport.
As we came down the escalator into the baggage pickup area, Steve was waiting there, holding up an 'Andrew Lavigne' sign. He was, shall we say, a lot more flamboyant than I had expected. Steve was a tall guy, dressed in an interesting mix of styles: a Hawaiian-print collared shirt and Khaki pants, sporting a light beige fedora and wearing foot-glove sandals. And matrix-style sunglasses.
He introduced himself loudly and warmly, and immediately placed the three Hawaiian leis he had draped over his arm around each of our necks. "Welcome to Maui", he proclaimed.
As we stood around, a bit surprised by his welcome ritual, he noticed our big duffel bags. He immediately offered to get us a cart to help us carry them to his taxi, and shot off down the corridor before we could tell him that we were ok to carry them.
Steve soon reappeared, pushing not a standard baggage cart but rather a bariatric wheelchair. Obviously, it would have no problem carrying our 175 pounds of baggage!
Out in the parking lot, Steve led us to his taxi - a 2005 Honda Pilot. This is an 8-passenger SUV, so we would have no problem fitting all ourselves and gear in (one of the many reasons why I chose Steve's taxi service).
It was before 9am and we were rolling in Steve's taxi - that meant we were so far on schedule. So far, so good. Steve noticed that the parking lot attendant was one of his neighbours, and skillfully engaged her in a short conversation about the details of a fix he'd made on her washing machine. She let him go without paying.
Next up was camp fuel. I had done some research that told me that the local ACE hardware stores in Kahului (the main town on Maui) stocked gas canisters that worked with my stove. So, Steve dutifully guided the taxi to the store, and I went in to purchase a fuel canister. Sure enough, I sound found the shelf that had the label for the appropriate fuel canisters. Except there was no stock. I went up to the nearby sports goods counter and asked about the canisters. No, the person behind the counter told me perfunctorily, they were out of stock and had been so for many weeks. "Oh, and no other store in town has them either". And that was it, the attendant turned his attention quickly to someone else - no looking in the back, no checking to see if they'd ordered new stock, or if more were coming in soon.
Well, that was helpful. And anyway, if the store had been out of stock for weeks, isn't that an indication that they are selling well and should order more? Who the hell was running this place? They weren't doing a very good job.
This was a major snag. We were going to be making camp dinners and breakfasts for the next four days. We needed some way of boiling water. I went back out to the others, and Steve suggested that we visit some other stores.
Out of the blue, Steve excitedly exclaimed that he thought he might have a fuel canister of the type I described back at his house. So, we took a short drive out of town to have a look. I stood in Steve's kitchen for about ten minutes as he rifled about under his sink and then a storage room, before triumphantly coming out with the canister. Unfortunately, it was an ancient-looking enclosure with an old french bluet-style fuel canister inside. Not what we needed.
We spend the next hour cruising the streets of Kahului, coming up empty everywhere we went. Steve even suggested we check out Jesse's - a somewhat suspect-looking army surplus store that seemed more into selling exotic weapons and camo gear than stocking camp fuel. Jesse's was closed, in any case, so we didn't get to find out if they did.
With my carefully laid logistical plans about to come undone, we decided to go into the local Walmart for one last try. Unsurprisingly, they didn't have the proper fuel canisters, and we decided that we should cut our losses and just by some el-cheapo camp stove and fuel, which would be better than nothing. We ended up buying a small foldable stove in which we could put a can of sterno. If you don't already know, sterno is the brand name for a gel-like paste that burns in a small can, and which is usually used to heat up fondu or the trays at buffets. I was dubious, but it was cheap and not bulky. The little foldable stove, though, was surprisingly heavy.
So, the stove fiasco was out of the way. Next we made our way into the little town of Haiku, a short ways uphill from Kahului. Haiku was the headquarters of the Haleakala Bike company, which we needed to visit in order to arrange for our bike rental down the mountain, four days hence.
Steve waited patiently outside as we went into the store and met Lew, Brian and other staffers. We got outfitted for both the bikes - which were green Fischer mountain bikes with a single speed and disc brakes - and our helmets - which were slightly dorky-looking full-face motocross helmets. We had two duffel bags that contained all of the baggage that we didn't need on our backpack (we had nowhere else to store it, so the bike company graciously agreed to keep it in a corner of the store. Many thanks for accommodating us on that, guys!).
Whew! With all of that out of the way, we were ready for Steve to drive us around to the other side of Haleakala, to the location of the start of our adventure. We were still reasonably on schedule, too.