After a very bumpy flight into Maui, Jared and I stepped out of OGG into exactly the kind of weather we'd been hoping for - hot, tropical, and most importantly SUNNY! A brief cab ride to Kihei and we arrived at our first stop: Aloha Campers. Our friends Erin and John had gone to Maui earlier in the year and rented a VW Westfalia to take camping around the island for the first part of their trip. We loved the idea so much we decided to do the exact same thing! The plan was to camp for 5 days, and stay at a nice resort for the last 4. But we started to question that plan when we pulled up to pick up the Westie. The Aloha Campers sign is basically Sharpie on cardboard and it more closely resembled a junk yard than a car rental place. But this was supposed to be an adventure, right? And Erin and John are good, normal people who would have told us if this was a shady operation, right? Thankfully, the manager arrived shortly after us and put our minds at ease. He showed us around our late 80s/early 90s Westfalia - white, automatic, sink, stove, fold down bed, pop-up roof with a 2nd bed and vented windows. Neither of us had ever been in a Westfalia before, much less driven one, but nervous excitement carried us from Kihei back up to Kahului where we picked up food and supplies for the next 5 days. After that, we hit the Hana Highway!
(Somewhere between Kahului and Pa'ia I decided we should nickname our Westie "Betty White." She was old but still kicking, and had us laughing from the start. This nickname naturally led to many immature jokes throughout the rest of the trip... particularly when periods of rain made it rather hot and muggy inside the van. I'll leave the rest to your imagination.)
Our first stop was Pa'ia, a very cute little beach town that reminded me a bit of my days in Venice Beach. It has a lot of character - probably the most of any town we visited in Maui - and felt less touristy than we expected. We ate lunch at Charley's, which is owned by Willie Nelson and named after his late dog. We both had salads and got our first sampling of local beer from the Maui Brewing Company. I had the Bikini Blonde Lager and Jared had the Big Swell IPA. We both agreed mine was better.
We drove the Hana Highway to Ke'anea and came very close to dying several times. The Hana Highway is no joke - it's narrow, windy, hilly, and pretty much terrifying (especially in a clunky old van that we were still getting used to driving.) Betty White was a champ, though. I think she handled the drive better than we did.
We stopped at the YMCA camp in Ke'anea for the night. It had great views of the ocean, lush greenery, and hot showers. Another Westfalia was already there, so we chatted with them for a bit... Wendy and Joe from San Fran, celebrating their 5 yr anniversary, also rented from Aloha Campers. They were jealous of Betty's condition, as their's was stick-shift, had a bit of rust around the kitchen area, and didn't have the side vents in the pop-up top. When you're stuck in a van together for 5 days these things start to matter.
We had some drinks, played several rounds of Gin Rummy, and called it a night. (If I admitted that Jared whooped me at cards that first night I'd also have to admit that I returned the favor nearly every night from that point on and that would be insensitive, so why bring it up? I'm way more mature than that.) ;)
Stay tuned for Day 2, when we get our first taste of the best banana bread on the planet, go waterfall hunting, and finally get in some beach time...