Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Round The World 2004

Above the clouds - by car!

I slept until about 0815, which meant that I was going to be too late for the 'orientation briefing' in the hotel lobby, that guests were invited to attend on their first full day. Probably just as well, I thought - these things are usually about persuading you to take part in lots of expensive physical activity that's best left to others   I had breakfast at a near-deserted Burger King and set off in the car. My main objective for today was to drive the Haleakala Highway to the summit of Red Hill, which is 10,023 ft above sea level.

I had made the ascent and descent during my visit here in 1997, on that occasion combining the mountain trip into a huge day tour of the eastern part of Maui, including the Hana Highway (my main objective for Monday on this trip) and a section of unpaved road between Kula and Palapala that you're not supposed to use in rental cars. Sshhh, don't tell!   How I fitted all that into one day, I just don't know.

Anyway, back to the present. The weather was looking a bit threatening, but I decided to go ahead on the basis that the drive might actually take me above much of the cloud. I soon found my way to the start of Route 378 and began the series of hairpin bends and steep grades that continues for 22 miles to the summit. As it happens, I had chosen the one day of the year when a race takes place on the road. As something of a weakling physically, I have to marvel at the achievement of the people taking part in this. Apparently the race starts near the airport, which means that it's a long run just to get to the foot of Highway 378. Just think : having done all that, you are then faced with a further 22 miles, during which you will climb to 10,000ft above sea level, an altitude at which even the fittest of people must take care due to the air being appreciably thinner. A quite astounding feat.

Due to the race, I had to park the car about 1 mile from the summit and continue on a little shuttle that had been laid on for the day. Unfortunately the visibility was poor, so the pictures don't show any stunning views of the vistas below - just a few gaps in the cloud

When I felt I had spent enough time in the slightly chilly mountain-top conditions, I made the descent, being very careful to give the remaining race participants a wide berth. Like last time, I noted that most drivers have no concept of engine braking. Half an hour of constant braking on these slopes is not good!

As I reached the end of 378, it started raining heavily. On reaching Kahului, I had a salad lunch and then drove back to Lahaina to see if it would be possible to have a ride on the Sugar Cane Train. It was now quite well on in the afternoon and I had missed the last possibility of doing a round trip on the train. (There was no point in taking it one way and finding myself stranded somewhere!) I took a few photos and returned to the hotel to do what many people like to do here : lounge around doing nothing in particular

Sunday 28 Mar

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