This travel article is pretty good, but the headline is just wrong. I'm not saying anything against the town of Hana, because it's a lovely place. But the road that takes you up there... I would never ever call it a "Highway to Heaven." Quite the contrary. The result of a recent poll of people in this room (i.e., me and The Man) clearly shows the correct term would be something like "hellish." Granted, we experienced this road together, so we had the same trip to the Underworld, but think about this: other people who'd been there told us that driving a rental car up the road to Hana would void our rental agreement. That's not a good sign, in my book.
We didn't even intend to go to Hana on that trip, but I got mixed up and turned east when I should have gone west. By the time I realized what I'd done, there was no place to turn the car around. We drove that whole 52 miles up the winding narrow cliff road as the sun went down and rude mainlanders whizzed back at us (in many cases, cursing loudly and shaking their fists). I'd say it was the most nerve-wracking couple of hours I'd ever had, but the trip up was nothing compared to the trip down.
I wished we'd had the time (or resources) to stay the night, but our stuff was waiting for us across the island at the Royal Lahaina. Night had fallen and boy, we city folk know nothing about how dark night can be until we experience it in someplace as remote as this. I was terrified to try to drive that same road in the dark; at least on the way up, you're on the inside lane. One wrong move on the trip down, and you won't be returning that rental car-- ever. So we decided to try the road that led out the opposite side of Hana town. The map didn't say exactly what kind of road it was or what exactly it passed through, but we could tell it wasn't on a cliff.
No, it wasn't on a cliff. It went right out through the middle of a never-ending sugar cane field. In the absolute pitch black. In a Dodge Neon. Now, lest you think that's not too bad, and maybe even a little romantic, let me describe sugar-cane roads for you. If I just mention that they're rutted dirt roads that pass right through the middle of vast fields of cane, nothing but tall stalks for miles and miles, you just won't get it. I asked The Man (TM) for his opinion on them, and he shuddered. "Don't drive on them!" was all he could muster. They don't look as evil as they really are, jolting (as it seems) your entire vehicle to pieces no matter how slow you go, and never ever ending...
That was bad enough. But then this enormous beast came roaring at us out of nowhere. After the first second of terror, I realized that it wasn't a gigantic dragon with glowing eyes. In fact, it probably had a name like "Chevrolet" printed somewhere on it, but compared to our tiny rental, this monster truck was enormous. And it was going fast. Our headlights were on, so I'm sure it could see us; nothing else was lit for miles around. The road was narrow, so I pulled the little Neon as close to the side as I could and slowed almost to a stop before the beast attacked-- it did! It lunged at our little car, scraping the paint and taking our side mirror with it as it fled into the night.
I was still shaking as I pulled our little car into a restaurant parking lot in Lahaina. I had never been so glad to see asphalt and artificial illumination. Of course, the restaurant by this time was about to close, along with all other eateries on Maui, so we crawled back to our hotel, battered and traumatized, and went to sleep hungry. Remind me sometime, and I'll write about the rest of our miserable trip. 'Cause it didn't get any better from there. No, I don't remember Maui with fondness at all, and The Man-- he hates it. Highway to heaven indeed.