Ah Hawaii. Islands of the sea. Land of the Hukilau cafe. Home to Polynesian princess’, pineapples and palm trees. And more importantly, the 50th state…
A BUMPY START
Finally sat on a plane at Dallas Fort Worth airport, I was overcome with relief, and also rather aware that we’d been stationary at the gate for quite some time. The pilot aka ‘DJ Wings McGee’ came on the tannoy. His soothing words were to the effect of ‘A part of a plane isn’t working. In fact, we’re concerned it’s missing entirely. We just need to make sure everything’s ‘OK’ before taking you up to 30,000ft and letting you plunge to your death.“ I couldn’t help but marvel at such a flawless execution of customer care – DJ McGee clearly missed the training memo about ignorance being bliss.
To cut a long story short, I disembarked. The flight was cancelled and I was moved to another. The only casualty of the debacle being… Boudica. As I waited for her beautifully decorated pink gaffa taped cardboard box to appear in the oversized section at Honolulu, it dawned – she was AWOL. Amidst the kerfuffle in Dallas, someone had left her behind (so much for my detailed marker pen box instructions to ‘treat her like a lady’). Of course, I was never too worried, you’ve gotta keep the faith after all, and within two days she was safely back in my possession. I don’t need Ms Morisette to tell me how losing Boudica en route the 50th state would have been mildly ironic. “It’s like cycliiiinngggg, 49-states-and-losing-your-bike-on-the-plane…”
Boudica, with high hopes of not getting left behind at Dallas, and instructions to treat her like a lady
Way back in the heat of the Reno desert, when Hawaii was just a distant dream, a wise man named JP foretold of a mystical volcano on the Island of Maui, called Mount Haleakala. It was also foretold-er-ed that it was the longest, steepest paved road ascent in the world. Considering I was on the hunt for a special little sumthin-sumthin to round off the trip, that sounded perfect. So I floated the idea to my travel agent (AKA – Mum), and the plan was set – we’d nip to the island of Maui, and take on Haleakala.
Seeing as though my Dad was a) Going to be in Hawaii too and b) Loves destroying mind and body as much as I do, it was only fair that he join me on the climb. And, seeing as though he wasn’t going to be bringing his very own Pink ten-ton beast to the pedal party, I opted to leave Boudica behind on Oahu, and hire a little carbon number instead. She was Blue. She was beautiful. And I named her Wanda.
I’ll level with you, frightening as it sounds to ride from sea level to 10,023 ft in one go, Haleakala isn’t the hardest climb I’ve ever done. Far from it. The gradient is steady, the road is smooth, there are switchbacks to break up the slog and when you have a support car, you don’t even need to carry the many layers of kit required. But I’ll be darned if it’s not spectacularly unique. For a start, the climb takes you through 4 micro climates. And because the gradient is so steady, rather than splitting time equally between staring at the front wheel and trying to relocate your weaker lung, you actually get a rare chance to take it all in.
Usually when making the dizzy heights of 10,000 ft you’re surrounded by other mountains. So whilst the vista is a guaranteed spectacular, it’s largely comprised of neighbouring peaks. From the top of Haleakala all you can see is Maui. The whole of it. From one end to the other, and all the way across. Your eye line is spattered with views of the cinder desert landscape, the reef below, the offshore Molokini crater, lush green fields and endless delicate whisps of cloud – suspended as if someone hurridly dismantled an oversized candy floss and just… left it there. Reaching the top of Haleakala is pretty much the closest you’ll ever get to flying (well, aside from jumping off of the sofa, holding a Tesco bag above your head when you were seven. Just me? Oh, right, I see.)
I’m not a huge fan of descending. In fact, my level of fanship for the descent is on a par with my level of fanship for Justin Bieber. Suffice it to say, I would gladly never cycle down another hill in my entire life. But apparently old Isie Newton screwed me over way back when, and what goes up must come down. So down I went. Now I know the textbook du cycling says that you’re not supposed to brake whilst descending, but whatevs, I’m a braker. My Name’s Anna McNuff, and I’m addicted to braking. My Dad’s a braker too, I come from a family of brakers. It’s not my fault. And when you’re a braker, 90 minutes of downhill can take it’s toll. Halfway down, my forearms began to look like Popeye’s, my teeth had just about ground down to the gums and and both hands were stuck firmly in ‘the claw’ position. By the bottom I had no forearms. Nor gums. Nor hands.
THE DRIVE OF DEATH
Having seen Maui from on high, it was decided that we should do a little ground level exploring the following day. Within 30 minutes of setting off on a ‘short drive’, we were accidentally taking the scenic route to a town called Hana. That is, 30 miles of winding cliff top highway, with a speed limit of 10mph. Granted, it was incredibly beautiful – jutting in and out of tropical forests, past waterfalls, over tiny bridges and with ample opportunity to stop at ocean lookouts.
Following a stop for a hike up to a waterfall, the options to get home were either a 3 hour drive back the way we came, or via a more direct ‘category B’ road. Considering I was feeling rather car sick by this point, and firmly parked at chunder-junction, I requested that we take the direct route. After all, how B road, can a B road be? On Maui the answer is beyond B. So B-esc that I wouldn’t wish this road on anyone other than Indiana Jones. And possibly James Bond. After a few miles of tarmac, it turned to single track gravel. If you’d be so kind as to lend me a moment, I’d like to place you in the back seat of that car: Jostling around from side to side as if in a Star Tours simulator, with Mummy McNuff (who has a fear of heights) at the wheel. Driving an automatic, oversized SUV, on the wrong side of the road (yes this still matters in a single track). Round sharply banked corners, a sheer drop to the ocean on one side, and rough falling rocks on the other. Watching Dad in the passenger seat grip the door handle and utter soothing comments to an almost silent and shaking Mother Bear, as you try not to vomit for a further 2 hours. It was so frightening, that at one point I opened the window – thinking ‘Well if we plunge off the edge here, at least I have a way out’. Then I started wondering how I’d get Mum and Dad out too … Credit where credit’s due. Rally driver Snr Sue McNuff did well. And we actually make it home in one piece, just as the sun went down. A ‘relaxing drive’ my eye…
THE DOLE PINEAPPLE PLANTATION
There are many great unanswered questions in this world. Like, have you ever seen a baby pigeon? What happened to the cheerleading twins from Fun House and why is Floo powder not yet viable method of transportation? Yet, until now there was one huge philosophical consideration that had escaped the wanderings of my mind – how do Pineapples grow? Stop. Let it wash over you… There we go. You’ll now have found yourself in one of three camps:
Camp A) “Err duh. (rolls eyes). In the ground, of course”
Camp B) “Psssshh don’t be so silly, they grow on trees.”
Camp C) You know the truth.
Which is of course that they grow in a bush. Sort of like a Fruit-Fugees, hiding from the outside world, nestled between leafy splays of gigantic grass. And, I don’t want to blow your mind too much, but there’s more than one type. I tell you this from a throne of authority, having visited an enormous pineapple plantation on Northern Oahu. I’d love to relay how I spent hours learning about the humble pineapple. That it was my sole motive to go there and fill my brain with fruity facts. Alas – I heard that they had the best Pinapple ice cream in all of Earth-land. So I simply went to fill my belly, and learn a little bit on the side. The DoleWhip pinapple cone was more than worth the trip. The Pineapple revelation, a bonus.
The hard work (and a final ride on Boudica) done, I spent the rest of my time in Hawaii relaxing. I went snorkelling, which reminded me how much I missed swimming. I lay on a beach, which reminded me how much I missed sitting still (not much). And I drunk cocktails, which reminded me how much alcohol I’d consumed in the past 7 months (again, not much). Waikiki itself is a tourist trap, there’s no denying it – but I loved it. Unlike many busy tourists strips around the globe, at Waikiki there were a distinct lack of Pikies (American readers, you might have to urban dictionary that one). There were no lobster sunburnt, beer swilling, projectile vomiting, fishbowl fuelled louts with made in England tattoos across their shoulders and gold caps on their teeth. There were simply contented individuals, enjoying 24 hour paradise, a warm sea and a civilised Mai Tai or two at sunset. If I’m not allowed to be a snob in my last week, when am I.
THE FINAL COUNTDOWN
I can’t believe we’ve made it to this point, Five-O gang. If you’ll stick with me for one last week, as I squirm my way through jet lag and the return to normality, I’d like to write you all a final post. A comment on the trip as a whole – what I’ve learnt (about me and about others), the highs, the lows, and where I go from here. I promise not to get heavy on your asses, but I do promise to be honest. And who knows, I might even be humorous.
This week"s pictures are up on Flickr here
50 high fives to you all for each and every state,