Waiting impatiently for my travel buddy to get ready for our day trip, I was reminded of why I do things alone – leave when I’m ready, go where I want, and stay as long as I’d like. But I’d offered shotgun to anyone that wanted to join me for the day and I am true to my word so I took a few deep breaths, decided I could stretch my comfort a bit and hoped the day wouldn’t go as crappy as it seemed to be starting. Naomi wasn’t only embracing Aloha time, she was also pregnant and prone to car-sickness. I was REALLY stretching my patience imagining all that could go wrong on our drive to Hana.
It was also a rainy morning and I wasn’t as prepared for the day as I usually am, having not fully read about each of the sights and attractions along the way so I would know which ones I wanted to stop at and which ones were okay to pass up given we only had one day. The Road to Hana, as every single guidebook and travel blog post will tell you, is definitely not about the destination! Did I mention I’d only met Naomi a few days earlier, a cousin of a friend for whom we were in Hawaii to celebrate a 50th birthday.
We finally reached the “starting point” in Paia about an hour later than I’d imagined and I still wasn’t convinced this was going to be a good day. That’s where we picked up Sam, our travel guide for the day. This was the best decision we made all day, as Naomi was likely not going to be a reliable co-pilot given her condition and propensity for vomiting! Sam didn’t come with a name, but through some kismet of bonding, Naomi and I dreamed the name up at the same time so it stuck. Sam proved to be more helpful than just telling us about the sights we were passing and the local history, his wit and insights also provided common ground for me and Naomi to laugh together or question his integrity. Sam was a uniting force. He was also pretty amusing, mentioning more than once that “I’m just an app” after offering alternative routes or suggestions and pointing out that the decision was entirely ours!
The rain hindered visibility but it didn’t dampen our fun. As the miles twisted by, creeping along the cliffsides of Makaiwa Bay, we were greeted with vibrant tropical plants and flowers along the roadside but had to imagine the sweeping vista of Pacific Ocean to our left. Naomi showed no signs of car sickness and wasn’t a nervous passenger, so my mood quickly lightened. We stopped a few times and stretched our legs, taking goofy pictures and getting our feet muddy. We fussed at Sam for skipping ahead or forgetting to tell us something, we collectively hoped the weather would clear at least for the return drive, and both white knuckled it a few times through some nuttily narrow hairpin turns.
At Waianapanapa State Park we trekked down to the black sand beach and watched kids and grown-ups alike play in the surf while a mermaid posed for a photo shoot on the lava rocks at the far end of the beach. We also crawled through a cave, hesitating only a few seconds but holding hands, and bravely stood under a blow hole – thankful it was ebb tide!
We made it to Hana and even a little further, visiting the pools and waterfalls at Ohe’o Gulch, in the Kipahulu District of Haleakalā National Park and doing our best to stand up straight in the bruising wind rushing up the cliff. The sun had We heeded Sam’s subtle suggestion to turn around for the return drive from here as he clearly would not be a willing participant for any further adventures around the south part of the island. Talked out and a little road weary, we quietly listened to Sam’s commentary about the history of Hawaii and it’s people during our two hour return trip – stopping only once for a quick leg stretch and potty break.
Turns out that Sam, and all those other Road To Hana writeups are spot-on; it really is about the journey. If you’d like Sam to be your guide, I recommend Gypsy Guide, but I can’t promise he’s on every trip – as a preview of today’s Hale Akala adventure sounds way more feminine. If you’d like Naomi to be your new friend, well you’ll have to wait a few months as she’s got a few months left to make a human. But assuming the Aloha attitude, enjoying the journey and going with the flow – that’s doable for even the most inflexible of all of us!