Enchanted Islands of Maui and Kauai

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(Part 2 and last article of our Hawaiian trip)


The beautiful tropical islands of Hawaii have their origins in the erupting volcanoes over the Pacific plates in the Pacific Ocean.  Being thousands of miles away from any sizable landmass, they have evolved into special, unique tropical paradises with live fiery volcanoes, numerous majestic waterfalls, and immense diversity of colorful flowers, plants and forests. In my prior article, I tried to give the readers our impressions and experiences of two of the islands, namely The Big Island (also known as Hawaii) and Oahu, where the capital city Honolulu is situated. Now, let me welcome you back with a big, Hawaiian ALOHA, and share with you our thoughts and pictures of two additional impressive islands, namely Maui and Kauai. 


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Map Of Hawaii (Credits: Aloha Airlines)


During the time that we (my wife Hilkka and I) traveled in October 2007, the primary means of visiting the islands was by air using the inter island airlines. They are known for their excellent service records and high quality service. Another option was and is by taking trips in a cruiseliner. Now, there is a third option, that of using an inter island ferry system known as "Superferry".  I believe they started operations beginning the last part of 2007. These services are limited to a few islands and winter storms and rough waves during that period should be considerations in travel planning by the ferry system during the winter months.


ISLAND OF MAUI


Maui is consistently rated in the list of top islands (most of the time as the "best") for leisure travel by reputed travel magazines.  This type of ratings is not to be taken as absolute because the outcome is limited by the definitions of what is important. However, they are pretty good indicators of relative significance and Maui is certainly one of great places to visit and travel.


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Kaanapali Beach Area In Maui


Maui is the second largest island in the group of Hawaiian Islands. Maui is named after the Demigod Maui. As the local legend goes, the mythical Demigod threw a giant fishhook and pulled an island out of the deep blue ocean. This reminds me of the mythological legend of "Parashurama Shristi" of my coastal Mangalore area. As that legend goes, the mighty hero Parashurama, son of sage Jamadagni, threw his mighty axe (Parashu) into the sea and retrieved a large stretch of land  from the king of the sea. Then he declared and blessed this land to be free of natural disasters and for the inhabitants to live peacefully. As one travels through various parts of the world, it is fascinating to see and hear similarities in legends and mythologies, even though geographically these areas are utterly remote and disconnected.




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Golden Sand Beaches, Kaanapali, Maui


Maui has many beautiful and uncrowded beaches as the one in the above picture. Kaanapali beach area is one of the more popular ones. It is a great place for swimming and snorkeling and other sea activities. From December to May, a four-mile stretch of Kaanapli area becomes the home to over 3,000 giant humpback whales, as they leave the cold waters of Alaska to the warm waters of Maui.  On to the left of the picture is the island of Molokai, which is known for its old ways and unspoiled, undeveloped landscapes.


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Rainbow Over Kaanapali, Maui


During our trip of about two weeks, we saw at least a dozen beautiful rainbows. Hawaii is known for rainbows ? they suddenly appear at different times of the day and at many places. We saw the one in the picture above near the Kaanapali beach. We were attending a Luau party with the traditional Hawaiian feast and Hula dancing performance, when suddenly an evening shower chased us all under the roofs. Within a few minutes, the skies opened up with this glorious rainbow.


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Iao Needle And Mountains And Valleys, Maui


This valley area in Maui is famous for its lush forests, pristine streams, deep gorges and rock outcroppings. The rock walls are almost a mile high. The "Iao needle" is a green jacketed outcropping that rises over 1,200 feet from the valley floor.


HALEAKALA AND WATCHING SUNRISE FROM THE SUMMIT
 
Haleakala National Park is in the middle of the island of Maui. The volcanic crater is at the top of the mountain. The summit is 10,023 feet above sea level. Watching sunrise from the top of this summit is a special, personal, spiritual experience. Travelling from the coastline to the summit to view the sunrise takes about three hours. The road is curvy with hairpin turns. The grade is pretty steep all the way. Reaching 10,000 feet altitude from sea level in less than three hours is possible because of this type steep highway.


It was in October 2007 when we made this memorable trip. The day we visited, the sun rose at 6:13AM.  Our tour mini-van picked us up at our hotel in Kaanapali beach at 2:30AM (which means hardly any sleep that night). With all the excitement of the night mountain trip and anticipation of a glorious experience ahead of us, it was hard to sleep anyway. The plan was to be at the summit about one hour before the sunrise. We had a fantastic driver, who kept us informed of the local nature and geography as well as entertained with his stories and we reached the summit at about 5:30AM. It was very quiet; you can barely see anything. We assembled at the edge of the crater. Weatherwise, it was a perfect day. That is one’s luck, because you can never plan this trip based on forecasts. The weather at the summit can change suddenly without informing the forecasters!! About half an hour before the actual sunrise, all different colors appear on the sky.  They transition from color to color and you get the feeling that that it must have been orchestrated by divine stage setting?and then,??Wow?the Glorious Sun appear over the eastern sky, over a blanket of clouds and over the Haleakala crater. Slowly, the shaft of light, still soft but getting brighter, illuminates the inside of the crater. Now, we see what is below the edge that we have been standing and waiting so long.


Along with the rise of the sun, the crater landscape on the inside goes through its own color transformations. The Cinder cones left by the earlier eruptions, look like finely planned and placed artistic masterpieces. This is a dormant but live volcano. The last actual eruption took place in 1790.


As the sun is just about to peek and rise on the horizon, a National Park ranger blows loudly a conch shell, breaking the eerie silence of the surroundings and then in the Hawaiian language chants a song welcoming the Sun.  It was a divine experience for all of us who were there on that day and time and of course it repeats everyday for every one who visit there.  Because of the changes in seasons and the fast changes in weather at the top, the experience will be somewhat different and unique everyday.


Here are a few pictures from my collections that hopefully illustrate the beauty of the sunrise that we saw on Haleakala.




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Sunrise Over Haleakala, Maui..October 12, 2007 About 6:13 Am


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Haleakala Sunrise..As The Sun Rays Light Up The Crater


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As The Morning Rays Bring Out Fascinating Colors In The Crater


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Cinder Cone Displays From Old Volcanoes In Morning Glory


The Silversword Plant


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Ahinahina Plant Survives At The Summit Of Haleakala


One of the very rare native plants that is seen only in Maui and only at high elevation is the Silversword plant. At the Haleakala Park there are several of these rare plants. In the Hawaiian language, it is called as "Ahinahina".  For plant life, on top of the mountains at over 10,000 feet high, conditions are very harsh for growth and survival. Ahinahina is a rare plant that survives in this location. It is still an endangered species. Due to the special handling and protections by the National Park Service, the species is recovering nicely.  The plant produces its huge flowering spike only once after growing for twenty years or so and then dies.


ISLAND OF KAUAI


Kauai is the oldest of all the Hawaiian main islands. Current scientific estimate is that the island was born out of the volcanoes about 5.1 million years ago and all volcanic activities are extinct by now. This was the fourth and the last island that we visited in this trip. It is a lush green island with picturesque tropical panoramas all over. This island is the setting for many famous Hollywood movies including South Pacific, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, African Queen, and many Elvis Presley movies. The pace is fairly slow here; there is only one major road going around the island. Even that road does not circle the entire island, because of the natural barriers in the areas of the Na Pali coast. Because of this, commercial development is fairly limited and the pristine nature is left mostly untouched by human interventions.


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Kauai..The Garden Isle Of Hawaii


The island gets a lot of rain dispersed throughout the year and as such has lots of waterfalls. Above is one such waterfall laced with beautiful wild flowers in the surrounding hills. We took a river cruise on the Wailua River, which we were told was the setting for some shots in the movie "African Queen". There are small villages with thatched huts on the riversides.


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"Fern Grotto" In The Wailua Rivervalley, Kauai


We reached an area that is a dense forest with giant ferns of all kinds. There is a cave under the mountain and is covered on the outside with plants and ferns. This area is known as the " Fern grotto". Due to a severe storm a few years ago in this area, a lot of the lush plant life have died and now slowly they are regenerating.




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Flying Over The Beautiful Na Pali Coast, Kauai


NA PALI COAST


Kauai’s Na Pali  ("Napali" means "cliffs" in Hawaiian language) coast is regarded by many as the most beautiful coastline in the world.  Having seen magnificent pictures of the landscapes in travel magazines and in movies, I was hoping for a long time to see it myself and to be able to take my own pictures. The images of majestic cliffs over the ragged, chiseled mountains, rising thousands of feet straight out of the Pacific blue ocean and stretching for many miles had made a great impression in me and I was greatly looking forward to actually seeing it. Once you are in Kauai, there are several ways to see this coast and the cliffs. There are no roads here, so seeing by car is not an option. One can travel on the ocean and look up at the cliffs and valleys or take a helicopter ride over the cliffs and inside its valleys. There is also a strenuous 15-mile long hiking trail that would take about two days.  For us a helicopter tour was the better option. This helicopter had the seating for a total of four passengers besides the pilot. In the picture above, on the lower left side is a small part of the cockpit of the helicopter and the rest is the rugged, chiseled edges of the Na Pali mountains and cliffs.


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Na Pali Coastline, Kauai


After flying over the mountains and the cliffs, helicopter took a turn and flew parallel to the coastal mountains to get a better view of the mountains meeting the ocean. Getting good pictures from inside of a helicopter is tough.   Helicopter is moving forward and going up and down and circling constantly and there is no time for "steady, 1,2,3 click". I took lots of pictures and only a few came pretty good and those are the ones that I am sharing here.


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Inside The Na Pali Cost…Valleys And Waterfalls, Kauai


From the coastal view, the helicopter tour took us to see the inside valleys, gorges and numerous waterfalls.  The shot above is the valley, where supposedly part of the Jurassic Park was filmed. There are many deep and high gorges such as this with high waterfalls cascading all over. This area of Kauai is one of the wettest places in the world, similar to Cherrapunji and Mawsynram in the Meghalaya ("house of clouds" in Sanskrit) in India and couple of other places in the Columbian highlands. A major difference is that in Kauai mountains, it rains practically throughout the year, which creates and sustains the lush mountains and the waterfalls all the time. The rainfall in this area is supposed to be well over 450 inches per year.


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Wailua Waterfalls, Kauai  As Seen From Helicopter


WAIMEA CANYON


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Waimea Canyon Chasms, Kauai


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Waimea Canyon "Grand Canyon Of The Pacific"


This is another one of the natural wonders in Kauai. Waimea canyon is located on the West Side of the island and is 10 miles long, one mile wide and about 3,600 feet deep.  Stretching far into the horizon, we saw chasms, gorges, mountains all painted in dramatic colors of red, green, purple, lavenders and many other hues. The canyon was chiseled and carved by thousands of years of floods and rivers flowing from the mountain summit which gets over 400 inches of rain a year. Mark Twain (whose travel reports from Hawaii to The Sacramento Union in  1866 is still considered among the best travelogues on Hawaii) called Waimea as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific".  Na Pali coast and Waimea canyon are truly among the great natural wonders of the planet.


Let me wish you all a pleasant reading and Mahalo (thanks in Hawaiian) and Aloha until we see here again.

Author: J. M. Bhandary- USA