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Flora, Fauna and Fantasy
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Flora, Fauna and Fantasy
  Maui Travel Tale

by Lorry Patton ...

sailboat.jpg What is your most frequent getaway fantasy? Is it running on hot sand in the dark with your sweetheart by your side? Is it the two of you sipping Mai Tai's against the rustle of swaying hula dancers singing love songs with their hands? Or is 4-wheeling it through bamboo forests, green and blue ravines and black lava flows?

Does your fantasy have anything to do with sweet-smelling blossoms, gorgeous fireball sunsets, rainbows, warm moonlit nights and wild cockatoos? Does it have visions of old whaling villages, frolicking whales and oodles and oodles of water the color of blue ink? It does? Then Hawaii could be for you. More explicitly, the island of Maui could be for you.

Maui, like the rest of the Hawaiian islands, began with a bang. Millions of years ago, two volcanoes, Puu Kukui and Haleakala, exploded and gave birth to ' the Valley Isle '.

Eastern Haleakala, rising 10,023 feet above sea level, is one of the largest dormant volcanoes on earth. ( Last know activity was in 1790. ) The volcano was sacred to the old Hawaiians. They believed it to be the center of earth's spiritual powers. And no wonder. The crater is awesome. It measures 7 1/2 miles long, 2 1/2 miles wide and about 3000 feet deep. Thirty miles of horse trails trickle down the crater's sides for those who wish to explore the crater floor.

The drive to the crater's rim and a visitor's viewpoint is slow climbing up a narrow and snaky road, but it's well worth the effort. That is, if the clouds and the sun cooperate. Fog has been known to cover the crater just as the sun begins to rise. A disappointment to those that get up in plenty of time so as not to miss the enlightening show. It is truly a spectacular sight.

The sun and Haleakala, meaning ' House of the Sun," are important parts of Hawaiian legend. It was here that the demigod Maui ( while fishing ) hooked the ball of fire. He then kept it captive until it promised to stay up a little longer so that the fishermen could have more daylight time to fish. On the other hand, and on the other side of the island, the west side, a small seaside village was named "Lahaina", meaning cruel sun, because here the burning rays dried up the farmer's sugar and pineapple plantations.

However, back in mid-1800's it wasn't pineapples and sugar that supported picturesque Lahaina, it was the lusty sailors off the whaling ships -- much to the dismay of at least one missionary who wrote Lahaina was " . . . a sight to make a missionary weep."

Lahaina, the first capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom, used to be an active whaling village. In 1846, over 300 whalers were anchored at her docks. The discovery of petroleum in 1859, the purposeful sinking of forty whaling ships to block the southern harbors during the civil war, and the loss of thirty-three whale ships in an ice flow off north west Alaska brought poverty to the sailors and an end to the whaling era. Many were pleased to see the end, especially the humpback whales that came and continue to come to breed and to mate between the months of November and May -- safe and secure in the same pacific waters that once harbored death.

Through careful preservation, Lahaina retains its rambunctious character. Restaurants speak of the days gone by with names such as Whale's Tale, Harpooner's Lanai, and the Whaler's Bar. And although the whaling ships have been replaced with sailing ships, private yachts and excursion vessels, there is one authentic 19th century ship, the Carthaginian, moored across from the Pioneer Inn. It is a floating museum, a tribute to the enigma whale -- now, the officially declared Hawaiian State marine mammal.

Meanwhile, on the northwest side of the island, the volcano Puu Kukui doesn't see too much sun. It is regularly covered with clouds and rain, creating the thickest and greenest forests imaginable. It was in this valley jungle that a battle was fought between King Kamehameha and the Maui Chieftain. The mile high walls of the Iao Valley spelled disaster for the chief's army who was trapped and destroyed by the King's soldiers in this natural col-de-sac. Today, it is a state park. An easy four-mile drive off the highway ends at a heavenly shelter, a colorful botanical garden and a monumental 1200 foot rock precipice covered in thick greenery.

Somewhat longer is the winding road to Hana traversing through bamboo forests, fishing settlements, deep gorges and cascading waterfalls. You'll need patience and a love of magical rainbows and bright wild birds -- that appear out of the blue -- to survive the 3-hour 50-mile trip with its ( at least ) six hundred curves and fifty miniature bridges.

Just beyond Hana, the road to 'Ohe'o gulch and the famous and wondrous seven pools is best left alone, unless you're in a 4-wheel drive. Ah . . . and a bit of heaven awaits you if you are.

A little closer is the Waianapanapa State Park and Cave. The cave, reached by diving in a pool and swimming under water, was a secret meeting place for lovers and the birth place of many legends: Supposedly, one legend goes, a Hawaiian princess was slain after her jealous husband -- who had stopped to rest at the cave -- saw her reflection in the pool. Now every April the pool turns blood red and the murdered crying princess can be heard as the water rushes in and out. Aren't legends notoriously passionate?

Fantasies are notoriously passionate, too. Does yours have anything to do with the two of you getting married, again, this time in a paradise drenched in a shower of orchid petals? It does? Then you'll be happy to know such marriage ceremonies are performed regularly by genuine Hawaiian priests. And, you'll be happy to know, unlike legends, fantasies do come true. More explicitly, fantasies do come true on Maui.

And why not? " Maui No Ka Oi ." Maui is the best.

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