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Monday, November 21, 2011

Maui: Volcano Sunrise on Mount Haleakala; Bike Ride down the mountain to Pa’ia

This was a very early morning for us or depending on who you are, it was a late night (as in some of the party animals who were just boarding the ship as we were getting ready to leave for our bike ride). We got up at 2:30am to get prepared for our volcano sunrise and bike tour. We got dressed somewhat bleary eyed, and wondered if this trip would be worth it. We were picked up on the peer at 3:20am and taken to the departure point where we were given a waiver form to sign basically stating that doing the bike ride could have an element of danger – meaning, should we get injured or die, the company (Mountain Riders) would not be held responsible. Of course at 3:30 in the morning of the bike ride is a bit late to decide that you don’t want to ride after we each paid $100 to do the ride.
The guide told us to help ourselves to muffins and coffee while we watched the safety video about the ride. After that, we got into a mini-bus that seats 25 (there were 24 of us) and as with events happening to me on this trip, I was sitting in the last row of 5 seats just below the unit’s air conditioner. If you can’t anticipate where this is going, let me tell you. Part of the AC unit was broken and when the driver turned on the unit, the water, rather than collecting in the tray below the unit basically drenched me. I had to endure being saturated with an unintended early morning cold shower, with the AC vent blowing on me all the way to the mountain top. There was no use telling the driver. He sympathy extended to “Oh, you’re getting wet? That too bad” (but he said it in a nice way – if there is a nice way to tell someone that there is nothing that can be done if cold AC water drips on them for 1 hour and 15 minutes. The tour company lent us each a wind breaker and pants so I used that to try to get some of the water off my head. So that was the start to my day.

We got up to the Mount Haleakala (pronounced Hal-eh-ah-ka-la) which is volcanic mountain at 5:30am and sunrise was not expected for another hour. I tried to get a good viewing position but after changing numerous times, I decided that I would climb to a slightly higher elevation – at the very top of the mountain – to wait for the sunrise. I walked alone as it was dark and I had no idea where Bena, Karran and Sophie were. Mom stayed in the van. I got to about 2/3 of the way up (walking in the dark over rocky terrain with no flashlight and no one else with me) when I decided that this was a pretty stupid idea because if I fell and injured myself, I would have no one else to blame. So I turned around and headed down back to my original spot where there seemed to be dozens more people who had arrived while I was on my suicide mission to see the sunrise. The "almost" hike up warmed me up though.

I inched my way into an opening at the railing which was only two people deep at that spot and waited for the sun to come up. All this took about 30 minutes which allowed me to warm up considerably. The temperature at the top was 40F (about 5C) so it was not too bad, as I was dressed in several layers but I still had to wait for another 30 minutes for sunrise which was scheduled for 6:28am.It’s interesting to think that I am in Maui and I am wearing very near to winter wear. I pulled out my camera and started taking pictures as dawn was breaking. The sky turned all kinds of amazing colours while this was happening.
4:50am - Dawn at Mt Haleakala

4:51am - Dawn at Mt Haleakala

4:56am - Dawn at Mt Haleakala

4:58am - Dawn at Mt Haleakala

5:03am - Dawn at Mt Haleakala
My toes were starting to feel a bit numb from the cold but I was so intent on watching the magnitude of the beauty unfolding in front of my eyes, that I literally forgot that I was cold. The shades of the sky turned multiple shades of purple, orange, gold, red, pink, grey, silver and yellow – all the colours of the colour spectrum, but not all at the same time. I watched mesmerized at what I was seeing.
5:03am Dawan at Mt Haleakala
5:09am - Dawn at Mt Haleakala
5:11am - Dawn at Mt Haleakala
5:11am - Dawn at Mt Haleakala
5:13am - Dawn at Mt Haleakala
It’s not the first time that I have gone to a mountain top to see the sun rise (once in Chayi, Taiwan and once in Java, Indonesia) but each time I see it, it’s as if it’s the first time. It was such a perfect day. We were high above the clouds and could see perfectly. As the sun started to rise closer to the horizon, the crowd grew silent for a few moments and then someone started chanting a prayer just as the sun broke through the edge of the horizon. Then the cameras started to click in unison and the sound of hundreds of cameras filled the air. The woman standing next to me clasped her hands and started saying a prayer starting with “Om.” It made my skin shiver because I was sure Dad was standing right next to me. She continued praying and I continued clicking my camera to try to capture every bit of it but the beauty of that sunrise can never be captured in a photo, no matter how good your camera is. It can capture the colours of the sky but it cannot capture the emotion that I felt at that moment – feeling closer to the universe and realizing that the magnitude of the creator’s hands is ever powerful – more so than any and all of us combined. I could try to use words to describe it too but those would not do it any more justice than the pictures would do. So I will simply share some of my pictures and leave the rest to your imagination.
5:19 - Sunrise at Mt Haleakala
5:25am - Sunrise at Mt Haleakala
5:28 - Sunrise at Mt Haleakala

5:29 - Sunrise at Mt Haleakala

5:30am _ Sunrise at Mt Haleakala
5:31 - Sunrise at Mt Haleakala
  
5:32 - Sunrise at Mt Haleakala
5:32am
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5:32am
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5:35am

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5:36am

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5:36am

5:36am
Oooh, oooh, I forgot to mention this bit! Karran got a once in a lifetime video on the mountain of a man proposing to his girlfriend just as the sun was rising. Can you believe that? I bet that it will be a story that she will be telling for many years to come! I am not sure if Karran got the name of the couple so he can send them the video but that would be one to post in Youtube for sure as an unusual marriage proposal. What if he had done all that and she said no? Think of the stories that could have been told about that!

After all that excitement, it was time to head down the mountain just past the Haleakala Park gates to start our bike ride. During the trip down, we were sitting with an Indian family who had to be the most annoying people I’ve met in a long time There was the grandfather, grandmother, wife, husband, two sons about 12 and 14, a 4 year old daughter, a grandfather and a grandmother. I can only be grateful that I was still sitting under the drippy air conditioner on my way down. God must have been looking out for me after all. The younger son of the Indian family got motion sickness and was barfing into an Air Canada barf bag. He was sitting next to Mom so that was not a good thing but it was decidedly better than having him sit next to me! As soon as he would have started throwing up, if he was sitting next to me, I would certainly have been throwing up all over him and the rest of the van. I confess that I can handle blood and gore (think dad’s cancer) but I cannot handle vomit. That’s where I draw my ugly line. No throwing up around me and I don’t even want to hear the sound much less the smell, and I am sick to my stomach. Poor Mom. She said she felt bad for the kid but I would either have thrown him off the bus or walked down the rest of the 30 mile journey on foot if I had to. Fortunately for everyone, neither option had to happen.

Our lead rider was Mark and he looked like about the size of a jockey. He sat on the bike sort of side saddle most of the way down, like the way a jockey might ride his horse. I got a helmet got fitted for a bike. There were 10 riders in total – 4 in our group, 3 in the Indian family’s group and the lead rider. He reiterated the safety rules again and what we needed to do when there was traffic on the road. He stressed that we were to use our right hand brake which controls the rear wheel because if we used the left hand side to stop, we’d be careening over our bike handles. We started out for our 28 mile ride – yes you read that right - 28 miles down from the mountain to the sea! I was getting a bit concerned for the first part of the ride because the Indian woman was following me and I could hear her from the back saying that she was following me too closely (we were to stay about 25 feet behind the rider in front of us at all times to prevent an accident). She was not a good rider and neither was her 14 year old son so that was interesting. She also would not shut up so it was mildly annoying to constantly hear her high pitched voice a bit too close behind me. When we made our first stop, she wanted to ride behind Karran who was the back anchor rider but he told her firmly that she could not do that. She was not happy but she didn’t have a choice.
Sophie

Bena

Karran

Sandra

Now for the actual bike ride. We were told not to look down on the ground but look forward to the rider in front of us so we did that but the ride was basically riding the brakes almost all the way down. It was so amazing to be riding like that. We made a few stops along the way for breakfast and to take pictures. We stopped at a roadside café (and I use the word loosely) and I asked Mark if I could have a larger helmet because the one I was wearing was smashing my ears to my head and I was sure that after the ride, I would have a headache. He gave me a nice black one. We stopped to take pictures at another place and I took off my helmet which promptly fell into a meadow muffin – also known as cow poop. It was rolling down the slope collecting more poop and the bus driver said I shouldn’t worry about it. It’ll make my hair grow long when I put it back on my head. I wasn’t about to test his theory so I wiped it off on the grass and put it back on my head. At least it didn’t smell bad. We continued riding and it was such a glorious ride. We coasted most of the way down, pedaling occasionally in a few places. Mark pointed out farms and terrain that one would not ordinarily see if one was not on a bike.

The riding was amazing. Mark was in contact by walkie-talkie with the van driver who was behind the convoy of bikes so he would radio to Mark that traffic would be passing and we would move over to the side of the road (always riding) between the solid white line and the edge of the road. Once the traffic passed us, we would move back into the section of the road where your passenger side tire would be on the road and that’s where we stayed until he signaled us with the next set of traffic or signaled us to pull over to stop. It took us about 3.5 hours in total to do the 28 miles and that included stops along the way. Mark said that we were riding about 18-20 miles an hour. The ride finished at the beach at Pa’ia where the pounding surf is very strong.

It could not have been a more perfect day. The ride was exhilarating – at times making me feel like I had wings and at any moment, I would leave the ground and soar up in the air. At other times, I was going so fast around some of the hairpin turns that I felt the centrifugal force of the ride so much so that I took the turns like a motorcycle rider on a racing circuit! If you ever have the chance to do such a ride, do it. I could see why Mark said not to take our eyes off the road at any time. A few times I had to ride my brakes hard because I was going at such a speed, that I was on Bena’s or Sophie’s back wheel (I was following Bena for part of the way and Sophie for another part) and could easily have collided with them. For the last part of the ride, I was following Mark and then I got to ride with him as we all ended up in pairs. What a way to finish the ride - at the waterfront, paired with the lead rider! Who could ask for more?
Pa'ia

Pa'ia

Pa'ia
We got back to the ship about 12:00pm, had some lunch and vegged out by the pool for a couple of hours. Then we went back to our rooms to get cleaned up for dinner. Bena and Mom had a nap earlier. Sophie had one a bit later. Karran and I didn’t sleep but it’s now 10pm and I am dead tired. I’ve been up for 20 hours and I am feeling it, especially combined with the long few days I’ve had since Thursday. Tomorrow morning we arrive in Hilo, Big Island (of Hawaii). Karran will go off golfing and the rest of us will probably go to see the volcano and Rainbow Falls I forgot to mention that yesterday, I saw at least 4 rainbows. It’s supposed to be good luck if you see one rainbow. If I see 4 in one day, I should buy a lottery ticket. I am going to say good night. I told everyone that I wanted to go to sleep early tonight. Well guess what? Everyone else is sleeping and I am finishing my blog entry. Good night to you and you and you.

sandra

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