Gliding the Road to Hana


Driving, not gliding, is the term most used when referring to the 617 curves and 59 one-lane bridges of the Hana Highway between Kahului and Hana, a little jewel of Hawaiian history nestled on the easter coast of Maui. But gliding we did, aboard the Hana Ho 12-passenger luxury van, thanks to our master tour guide and driver, Walter, of Valley Isle Excursions. For the 12-hour loop around the base of Haleakala, Walter made us laugh, taught us about Maui history and geology, pointed out botanical facts, served us lunch, gave us plenty of time (you can’t take that much time if you want to get back before dark) to see and experience Maui’s unique beauty, and returned all twelve of us back in time for dinner and another magnificent sunset.

The way to Hana takes us through the town Pai’a with its numerous little art shops and eateries. According to Walter, Willie Nelson—Uncle Willie they call him here—fell in love with Pai’a; “he may just be sitting on the barstool next to you at Charley’s, if you stop in…” This first section of the drive winds through valleys and meadows (yes, there are cows, chickens, and roosters on Maui!) and offers expansive views of the rugged lava coastline dotted with sandy beaches. We soon encounter the first of many curves and climbs; the landscape changes to a lush tropical rainforest, with dense bamboo, koa (only grows in Hawaii), rainbow-bark eucalyptus, papaya, plumeria (with its bare branches, but beautiful and heavenly-scented flowers), towering Cook pines—solitary or in small clumps, skinny, they resemble green fishbone skeletons—and banyan trees. According to Walter, “Our parents couldn’t tell us to go play in traffic (no roads, no traffic back then), instead they sent us to play in the banyan tree. If you grew up with a banyan tree in the backyard, life was good.

Hidden in the midst of the forest are a number of beautiful falls: roadside stops provide ready access to some of them, others require hiking to reach them, and a few we only saw quickly as Walter pointed them out as we drove by. Carved in the rocks by thousands of years of erosion, nested among deep greens and colourful flowers, their beauty provides a sense of calm and serenity… The road moves a little further inland as we approach Hana, the landscape transforms into a more ordered collection where human influence is evident: sugar cane and macadamia nut plantations (Jim Nabors, a.k.a. Gomer Pyle, still operates a MacNut farm here), and ranches. But a surprise left turn takes us to Waianapanapa State Park. There, we walk on a black sand beach, which felt like nothing my toes had ever experienced. The coarse grains of graphite-like sand don’t stick to your feet and instead provide a dreamy pedicure as you walk in and out of the surf; almost like walking in a tub of tiny steel shot (I imagine). I would later find out from Walter that black sand is created when 2,500C lava supercools almost instantly from the outside in, as it hits the (relatively) cold Pacific waters, forming lava glass, which quickly shatters into millions of tiny black particles that become black sand.


We leave Hana in our rearview mirror after a typical Hawaiian lunch and a stroll in colourful botanical gardens. Lush tropical rainforest gives way to a more arid steppe-like terrain; greens have been replaced by yellows and browns. Trees that had been so thick and tall now give way to shorter and drier ones along with shrubs. We stop by Charles Lindbergh’s grave on Kipahulu Point where one can read the following inscription: “…If I take the wings in the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea…” We eventually reach what Walter had warned us about, a few miles stretch of the Hana Highway he referred to as “the full body massage,” a stark contrast from the first-class blacktop we’ve been following most of the way, a bumpy ride reminiscent of home, hui! We eventually head east again through Maui’s up-country with towns named Keokea, Kula (and drive by Oprah’s ranch) and Pukalani. I make a mental note to later visit close-by Makawao, just because I love the name.

What a day, immersed in beauty, awe, and history. Life is good.

Painting Haleakalā Crater

A visit to the summit of Haleakalā Crater is bound to create lifelong memories, and I’m not even talking about the drive. Once I found my mountain legs, which took a few  minutes after getting out of the car at the Visitors Centre (and later at the summit), I needed to find my mountain lungs. Trekking at 10,000 ft altitude takes a little getting used to.

No matter the viewpoint, every look is as grandiose and breathtaking—I did catch my breath eventually—as the previous. The crater’s rocky rim with its jagged edges, like a giant mixing bowl, runs down to the centre where a number of reddish chimneys (volcanic cones) are visible among what looks like endless rock slides. Clouds file in from Pai’a direction and others spill over the southern rim, like fingers of a hand holding on for dear life to the edge of the crater. Everything has a lunar landscape feel to it, with much brighter colours.

Reluctantly, and after what seems much too soon, we begin the 8,000 ft descent down Maui County Hwy 378 with its 30 hairpin switchback curves, when a small sign that reads Kalahaku Overlook draws our attention. Just one more look… Along the eastern edge of the crater, we’re treated to more breathtaking views and a new sightline of the reddish chimneys. Sheltered by the rocky wall above us, the wind has stopped where we stand. We’re alone. We swear we could hear a pin drop on the crater floor; all is perfectly quiet, magical. Everything stands still save for the clouds sliding into and across the crater. We could stay here for an eternity—there’s a certain calm, zen, all around us, peace, feels so good—but I don’t want to drive down in the dark…

But we weren’t alone. A young lady artist was busy mixing oil colours and applying them to her canvas, the spirit and life of the crater appearing with every stroke of her brush. Her face is well protected from the hot sun by the shade of her wide-brimmed hat, and covered with a thick white layer of sunscreen. She smiles at my surprise, realizing that we were not alone. I ask permission to photograph her, all too aware that I am disturbing her concentration and inspiration. She explains the painting in progress briefly and returns to her work. The name on the card she graciously offered is Hiu Lai Chong, from Maryland, here for the Maui Plein Air Painting Show.

Haleakala Crater viewed from Kalahaku Overlook, Maui, HI

Haleakala Haikus

High above the clouds
Peace, awe, and serenity
Cool wind and thin air

Awe of destruction
Lava flowed 200 years hence
Pele rests in peace

High in the blue sky
Enchantment, dreams come easy
My feet on the ground

The fright of the climb
The reward awaits the brave
Sights like no others


Pastels on Mokule’ia Bay

Driving the Honoapiilani Highway, on Maui’s northwest tip, we came upon Slaughterhouse Beach, a name stemming from the Honolua Ranch slaughterhouse and tanning/storage shed (torn down long ago) that were located on the cliff’s edge above the ocean.

On the sand, near the sharp black lava rocks, where the waves break with much fury and white spray, I met Montana artist Aaron Schuerr putting the finishing touches to a pastel painting of the beautiful landscape of the bay. Aaron graciously answered my many questions about his art and inspiration as he put away the hundreds of little coloured pastel sticks; each stick in its place, forming a neat kaleidoscope in the flat artist’s box.

The painting—a pastel drawing is called a painting, I learned—Aaron produced over the previous three hours captured the scene with emotion, depicting the flow of the water among the sharp lava and onto the warm sand, mixing colours and light expertly.

It’s easy to find inspiration out here. But from a quick look at Aaron’s portfolio, he seems to know a thousand more places where to find inspiration…

Pleasure meeting you, Aaron!

Haïgas on the Bay

Softness of pastels
Lend colour to a gray day
Contrast sharp edges

Rainbow in a box
Colour of the scenery
Crash, sound of the waves

The scene at Mokule’ia Bay captured with my camera





Simple images
Powerful feelings
Complex emotions

Dawn, dusk, twilight
Pastel colours with no name
Golden, blue, and then
The celestial body appears
Very slowly at first

C’était la dernière page de mon livre-photos, et donc le dernier de cette série qui avait débuté le 7 janvier ici. Je devrai donc penser à quelque chose de nouveau pour mes prochains posts… Un gros merci à vous tous qui avez visité—et même aimé—ces agencements de photos et de poèmes.

This was the last page of my photobook, and therefore the last of this series which began on January 7th here. I’ll have to think of something new for my next posts… A huge thank you to all of you who visited—and even liked—these combinations of photographs and poems.

L’air familier… de l’eau


The Familiar Air… of the Water

Listen. Can you hear it?
Downstream. Upstream.
From far away in the forest,
Where the stream runs.
Its melody courses through the trees
At times inviting, piano and adagio;
Sometimes intimidating, fortissimo and allegro.
Quite a pair!
The water’s familiar air.

Water’s trickling sound
Light and dark green blades of grass
On a drab morning

Ma prairie


My Prairie

… the surrounding beauty
continually amazed in all its colours.
The fragrance of the fields
And the dampness in the air
Dazed the senses.
The sharp scent of flowering canola stood out
From the sweet smell of corn.
Yellow flowers covering vast undulated areas
At times disappeared in the shadows,
Only to re-appear in bright sunlight.
What magic the danse of colours and light!