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  • Annmarie Throckmorton, M.A.

Beautiful Maui and the Road to Hana.

It is said that the road to Hana is the most beautiful in the world. I never found out, being deterred by the “617 curves, 54 one-lane bridges, tropical rainforests, bamboo jungles, waterfalls, tropical streams and pools, and spectacular cliffs”. Frankly, according to the map, Hana is located at the business end of Haleakalā volcano, and by that time in my Hawaiian vacation I had seen enough of volcanoes. After a few tight curves around steep cliffs, I turned my little rental car around the other way and went looking for a botanical garden.

I wanted to see a collection of Hawaiian flora all in one place, with name plates and maybe even descriptions, to learn more about the beautiful plants that grew so lushly there. With some regret I did not venture up the mountainsides (which are technically dormant volcanoes) into the humid jungle with its exotic, potentially dangerous flora and fauna, not to mention any surprise renewals of lava flows. Therefore I did not see native Hawaiian orchids in situ. But the Hawaiian roadsides flourished with towering masses of flowers that I would soon come to know as: yellow Allemande flowers; purple or white Azalea; white, pink, red, orange, peach, yellow, or purple Hibiscus shrubs; and Beach Naupaka bushes that grew up to sixteen feet tall and which, with its white, ovoid fruit and flowers, are among the prettiest plants I have ever seen. However, Beach Naupaka are classified as invasive weeds. Apparently Beach Naupaka destroys beaches through some complex ecological machinations with and/or against other plants, which is not a battle I want in on. I saw many plants with small flowers growing with determination on the slopes of Hawaiian volcanoes but I did not walked away from the road, out onto the crust to take a closer look at them, as if the road was a magical safe zone. The mind takes comfort where it can. There are half a dozen botanical gardens on Maui, I think I toured Maui Nui Botanical Garden.

Along the north coast of Maui, I saw windsurfers tossed in the wind and waves, tiny figures far out to sea, exhilarating in the whims of the Pacific Ocean. At one point many cars had stopped haphazardly along the cliff road, and I also briefly stopped to watch, but I could not enjoy such hazardous adventure as windsurfing. On Maui “the waves are biggest in winter, with north pacific storms near Japan and bearing straights producing huge winds and waves. These wave trains travel 1000’s of miles to hit Hawaii’s northern facing shores. The large winter surf hits the northern exposures the hardest, but can also wrap around the islands to create plenty of surf-able waves at various island locations. In winter the trade-wind producing high pressure systems move farther south and create winds from the east and southeast. When the wind get south enough the wind flow direction across Maui reverses, producing a Kona (or leeward) wind. Kona Winds are from the south and are usually ridden in the south shore beaches. Kihei and Ka’anapali become the hot spots. And just a few daring pros might venture out at “Lanes” but this is definitely a high risk venture with the possibility of losing all their gear out to sea.”


Along the road to Hana, I noticed a tall, thin, black-haired, pale-skinned hitchhiker getting picked up by a truck, along with his dog, which is lucky because some people would not let a dog in their vehicle. I thought, well, good for him. Then when I was going the other way on the road from Hana I saw that the hitchhiker had been let out on the roadside again, and that he was sitting on the ground with his knees up and his head in his hands, his dog at his side. I NEVER pick up hitchhikers, but with his dog, his despair, and je ne sais quoi (he looked like a Frenchman to me), I picked him up. He did not say much, just yes, I have a few miles left to go, thanks for the ride. I wondered about him, and I am a very good listener.

Soon, he told me his story. It has been twenty years, he was forty-something then, so I think that it can be retold now, here. He was native-born Hawaiian, but was of white French ancestry. Ha, mon Dieu, j'avais raison! He had worked for many years as a master gardener in one of the many botanical gardens on Maui, and it was his habit to occasionally trek up into the highlands for pleasure, and to check the lush tropical vegetation which was his specialty. He took his dog, no weapon of any kind, and he had always felt safe and comfortable there. He had friends up there, native Hawaiians of Hawaiian or mixed ancestry. But this week had been different, horribly different. He was visibly shaken as he told me that he had been run off, chased down to the lowlands, by hostile men, some of whom he had thought were his friends. He said he never imaged that could, would happen. “They even shot at my dog.” He said shaking his head in disbelief, and he hugged the thin, rangy spaniel-mix to his own thin rangy chest. To see a pleasant, grown man on the verge of weeping with confusion was heart-breaking. He did not know if the problem was him, had they been drinking, was it a race problem? Was it because he was white? For whatever reason, they ran him off with guns. If he did not know, how could I know? Not knowing the circumstance, not knowing what the complaints or angers might have been, all I could do was spend some time commiserating with him. We walked around the lovely garden, he asked me to stay a while, but I left my sad new friend, and ever since I have wondered what had happened to him.

Caption: Memorial On The Road To Hana.

—photograph by Annmarie Throckmorton,

Island of Maui, State of Hawaii 1998.

Caption: Azalea And Allemande Flowers.

—photographs by Annmarie Throckmorton, Hawaii 1998.

Caption: Beach Naupaka.

—photographs by Annmarie Throckmorton, Hawaii 1998.

Caption: Winter Hawaii.

—photographs by Annmarie Throckmorton, Hawaii 1998.

Caption: Windsurfing Off The North Coast Of Maui.

—photograph by Annmarie Throckmorton, Hawaii 1998.jpg

Caption: map of the Island of Maui, with Haleakala volcano,

and the road to Hana-public domain 2017.

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