In my sometimes vivid, sometimes hazy, sometimes mixed up memories of Hawaii from 30+ years ago, Kauai is the island I most associate with the words, “lush, green paradise.” I will confess that I may, more than once, have used the words, “most boring” with regard to Maui. This latest trip has proved to me how unfair that assessment may have been. Not in small part because one of the most vivid mental images I had of “lush, green paradise” was not actually on Kauai, but on Maui.
I remembered standing on a small, well paved path, looking up into the misty green mountains from a rainforest in a deep, cool valley. After a gentle, morning shower, the path was wet. A great stone pillar rose up into the clouds, and the sun began to peek out, ever so shyly.
Turn around, and you can see clear across to a patch of impossibly blue sky that bisects the island. Maui, that is. Not Kauai. This is the Iao Valley, and the Iao Needle.
The Hawaiian god Kāne is considered to be the procreator and the provider of life. He is associated with wai (fresh water) as well as clouds, rain, streams, and springs. Kanaloa, the Hawaiian god of the underworld, is represented by the phallic stone of the Iao Needle.
Kapawa, the king of Hawaiʻi prior to Pili, was buried here. Maui’s ruler Kakaʻe, in the late 15th century, designated Iao Valley as an aliʻi burial ground. The remains were buried in secret places. In 1790, the Battle of Kepaniwai took place there, in which Kamehameha the Great defeated Kalanikūpule and the Maui army during his campaign to unify the islands. The battle was said to be so bloody that dead bodies blocked Iao Stream, and the battle site was named Kepaniwai (“the damming of the waters”).
For some reason, I remember this most vividly from my first trip to Hawaii, when I was nine. My grandparents were there, and my parents. My aunt and uncle, and one of my cousins. We teased the younger of my two little cousins, for years, that he’d been to Hawaii – even though he wasn’t born yet. I vividly remember the interest my mom and my grandmother took in the Hawaiian Silversword plants atop Haleakala, and my dad and I shivering in the pre-dawn cold, despite our ski jackets.
I remembered that this spot in the Iao Valley was a sacred place, and there is something that touches the soul, here. I might be forgiven for moving it to a whole different island; after all, at nine, I was not in charge of transportation. I could drink it all in with my eyes; I wasn’t driving. That doesn’t explain why I mentally moved it despite coming here on two subsequent trips. But never mind, I was just glad I figured it out in time to suggest the trip and surprise J.J. with the view. He was as enchanted with it as I had been, all those years ago.
Driving across the island took about 20 minutes. We then took the scenic route up the coastal road through Kihei, stopped for some Hawaiian Shave Ice (my inner grammarian cringes, but I was told by my friend Carl Yoshihara never to call it “shaved ice” – it’s Shave Ice) atop creamy macadamia nut ice cream. We drove over to Ma’alaea Harbor, so I had some idea of where to go the next day for my snorkeling cruise to Molokini, a submerged volcanic crater with coral reefs and tropical fish, and Turtle Town, then headed for the Wailea Beach Resort by Marriott, where we’d stay for the rest of the week. This was the view from our lanai:
For some reason, an afternoon chill always seemed to set in – it wasn’t real, it was warm and still sunny – but I sensed the approach of dusk around 4:30 PM each day, and the air went from hot to pleasantly cool and breezy. It’s true that the winds seem to pick up as the day goes by, and the surf gets choppier in the afternoon and evening. I got some of the most beautiful pictures of the sunset, as well as the sunrise, in Maui. But I’ll save those for a later post.
We had dinner at the hotel, after a busy day of sightseeing (and lots of driving, for J.J. – we’d been up since 3 AM!) and I got to sleep early so that I could get up and drive to Ma’alaea Harbor at 6:30 AM for a snorkeling adventure on the Pride of Maui.