Friday was our tour up the big volcano, Haleakala. We had 2 choices, get up at 2 AM to get there to see the sun rise or go at 7AM and just look around. See previous blog about things that are worth losing sleep for, we went on the later tour. It was a short bus with Charles our driver, he was born and raised on Maui, so was very knowledgeable about what we saw and also all the history of the islands. First we went to the small airport near Lahaina and picked up 5 people who had flown in from somewhere for a day tour of Maui. The drive to the eastern part of the island and up the 10,000 feet with all the switchbacks took some time. At the lower elevations there are some very nice houses with lush gardens, then as you climb the climate changes to pasture land, then cacti, then just dirt and rocks. We were above the clouds, it was windy and cold even with the sun shining bright. We saw lots of people riding bikes down (they go up in a trailer) but a few crazies biking up. The views are spectacular. There are a couple different research facilities at the top. We read in the paper while we were there that there was a freak snow storm at the top of the big volcano on Oahu and they had to evacuate the observatories there. Charles as very nice and offered to walk with my mom a while so I could climb the steps up to the tippy top. We took the long slow drive down and ended up in a totally non-descript restaurant for lunch. They must give the tour company some kind of kick back because the food was only so-so. After lunch, we headed to the Io valley (spelled eye-oh). The volcanic mountains on the islands are so tall that the windward side gets all the rain and the leeward sides are bone dry. The Io valley is on the rainy side with beautiful vegetation and a monolith that has resisted erosion and is a sort of an attraction, called the Io Needle. It was very pleasant with lots of flowers, including the shell ginger which we really liked.
We dropped the day trip people off in Lahaina, so they could look around while Charles delivered the rest of us to our hotels. It was about 4:15 when we got back and we had reservations for a luau at 5. It was in an area connected to our hotel so all we had to do was freshen up and go down the slope. There were a LOT of tables set up, a stage, a buffet line, a bar and some crappy craft stalls. I don’t know if it was because we were staying at the hotel or what, but we got front row seats. Very nice. Blue Hawaiians and Mai Tais were included in the price and the waiters kept bringing trays of drinks around. I got a little buzzed. They made a big deal of pulling the pig out of the hole in the ground with the hot rocks, etc. The best part of that was the young Hawaiian men doing the work in “native” costume. No shirts, sarong type skirts, muscles for days, it got my appetite going. They announced dinner and despite 6 buffet lines and hostesses herding people, the food line was a cluster. Then the food was mediocre at best, the pork had obviously been pulled out of the ground oven the day before, no way they had time to pull all the meat off the bones and serve it. There were funky teryaki beef things and some sort of fish baked in a dish with a lot of filler. What the hey, I found stuff to eat and had some coconut custard for dessert, I was eyeballing the mac and cheese at the kids table but decided not to make a German spectacle of myself. After everybody had been through the lines they started the entertainment. Some cheese ball MC sang, he had a drummer and 3 guitar back up, then he got a bunch of us ladies on stage and one of the dancers taught us some hula moves. I tried to get the Time Warp going but no luck. After that the professional dancers started. Men and women doing dances from various cultures. Hawaiian, Polynesian, Maori with the MC doing bits between the dances. Then he announced that Danny Couch was in the audience, evidently he is a fairly well know singer in Hawaii and he came up and sang 2 songs. Not my type of music but he did have a good voice. The dancers changed costumes depending on what culture they were representing, that was interesting and I could appreciate the amount of practice and effort that went into the dances. Some were very athletic. They ended with the fire dancing which was very dramatic. After the luau, we had to walk up the slope to the hotel. I was tired and my mom is so unsteady on her feet, especially in the dark, so I asked one of the guys herding the parking lot to call the hotel and ask a valet to come get us in a golf cart. No problem and a nice tip for the guy.