30 Mile Bike Ride Down Haleakala Volcano- The Seeds of an Adrenaline Junkie

Haleakala Volcano in Maui

By: Siddhi

Few things in life fulfill me as much as adventure. If all I could do for the rest of my life is cycle and hike through the incredible expanses of this world with a camera around my neck and a pen in hand, I would do it in a heartbeat. Having been fortunate enough to experience so much of the world at such a young age, I’ve gathered an eclectic collection of memories – often consisting of interactions with locals and the places they inhabit- that continue to guide me as a I grow and mature as an individual. But some of the most memorable and defining moments for me have occurred when I have been far away from civilization. On the edge of a building attached to merely a thin bungee cord, on the open door of a plane with a parachute on my back, on a hand glider hundreds of feet in the air…the thrill of existence is what I crave and live for.

And one of the most enduring experiences that nurtured my adrenaline needs was a 30 mile bike ride down Haleakala Volcano in Maui. I was an aloof middle schooler who didn’t know where to channel her energy. But free-fall mountain biking down one of the most picturesque sites in Hawaii gave me a sense of purpose that has helped carved out my identity over the years.

We started the warm summer morning in a stuffy bus loaded with people and bikes. Clad in special wind-protection cycling gear, we made our fairly long ascent up the winding roads of Haleakala National Park, where Maui’s tallest peak rests at towering height of 10,023 feet.  I can do this, I thought to myself as we climbed higher and higher up the rocky terrain. The views that surrounded me all 360 degrees were mind-blowing. I could see all of Maui below me. The ocean, the stunning landscape, the smaller peaks that our van had just climbed…it was one of those unforgettable rides where everything I saw looked like a postcard, one of those experiences that make you feel like there is beauty in this world that nothing can surpass.

We were finally at the summit of Haleakala. I saw professional bikers finishing their physically demanding ascent up 30 miles of a tough and twisting mountain. It was amongst their heavy breathing, the bustle of tourists and photographers, and our guide’s series of warnings and precautions that a sudden wave of panic swept over me like no other.

This volcano had no side railings. If I braked a couple seconds too late the momentum of the wind pushing me forward would either throw me off my cycle or off the side of the mountain into an abyss of who knew what. If I didn’t keep my hands on my bike- something that I’m famous for doing to show off to myself that I can ride long distances without handlebars- I would be taking a life-threatening risk. The fear I felt in the moments leading up to my descent that lasted well into the first leg of the ride was unlike anything I had felt before.

And then, I started going down. Down a mountain that seemed to unravel forever into an infinite nature, down rolling hills that twisted endlessly into to presence of drop dead beauty. What was initially fear that had escalated into heart-pounding horror was beginning to transform into this strange sensation of exciting half-control. I was barely pedaling, the wind and gravity were pushing me forward, thrusting me into everything there was to love and appreciate about Maui. Everyone was riding at their respective paces, leaving me alone at several points. Just me and and nature. And once I bottled my fear, nothing stood in the way of my complete enjoyment and appreciation of the ride.

When we had reached the base of Haleakala, we rode back on main streets to the bike shop we began, marking a saddening end to an adventure that had, undoubtedly, instilled in me a deep sense of risk and passion for thrills.

Conquering my fears on Haleakala has led me to hand glide, skydive, bungee jump off buildings, and more. It was the crucial step in building the adrenaline-seeker I am today, and one that I will never forget.

(There are several bike tour companies that offer this experience. Google does wonders)

A Slice of Modern Art in South Beach- The Sagamore

Sagamore at South Beach

By: Rohan 

Shrouded by the endless rows of art-deco hotels in downtown South Beach, rests the Sagamore, a small white building dwarfed by the Ritz-Carlton next door. While the facade may not have much to offer visually, there is plenty of eye-candy that awaits behind its doors. The lobby is truly unique, sporting an interesting collection of modern art from all over the world. To your left, a picture of a group of people crowded in a busy Parisian street. To your right, paintings of a hibiscus flower that capture every detail while paying homage to the city’s heritage. The lobby has little furniture, a circular couch on one side of the room is the only place to sit. But you won’t need it thanks to the sheer amount of artwork and photography to arouse all your senses.

As you enter the main hallway, the left side of the wall slowly becomes covered in black and white photographs that together define the United States. The glitz and glamor of Hollywood is captured with the stunning Marilyn Monroe flashing her endearing smile and glittery white dress. Right next to it, a car pierced with bullet holes is the only sanctuary for a young African-American boy during the apex of the Civil Rights Movement.

Walk further down and you will find the hotel’s only restaurant, that changes its cuisine depending on the time of day. At breakfast, enjoy fresh rolls and delicious pastries with homemade jam. As the sun begins to set, the breakfast buffet transforms into a twenty-first century pizzeria, serving thin crust flat breads topped with mounds of vegetables and meats. It is here where you will find one of the most fascinating pieces of art in the entire hotel. The work is divided into four pieces and shows a young Muslim girl slowly losing her identity and blending in with society. Its design is simple, but its message is powerful.

As you exit the main building, you reach the pool area. A standard rectangular pool with cabanas and lounge chairs awaits with lush gardens and plasma screen televisions showing slideshows of famous artwork you can find around the hotel. As nightfall approaches, the pool deck conforms to the city’s art-deco style, vibrant in light, music, and of course, food. The palm trees resemble something out of a Dr. Seuss book, illuminated by colored lights and swaying gently in the breeze. The evening’s soundtrack is a medley of the waves of the ocean combined with soft rock music.

The rooms are spacious, stylish, and modern, resembling something out of a Star Wars movie. The furniture takes on shades of white and beige to contrast the color and vibrance that defines South Beach. Each room is a bungalow, containing two floors with two separate patios. Perfect for enjoying the Miami sunset while sipping on a delicious smoothie.

If you’re looking into comfortable lodging in one of the most iconic places in America, look no further than the Sagamore.

The Sagamore is located on Collins Avenue and is a short walk away from the shops and restaurants on Lincoln Road.

You can visit their site here:

http://www.sagamorehotel.com/ 


Lunch at the Four Seasons Sultanahmet, Istanbul – Great history, uninspiring meal

Four Seasons Sultanahmet

By: Lakshmi 

We wanted our last day in Istanbul to be special, so we headed over for a late lunch to the Four Seasons Sultanahmet in the heart of the old city.  Located a stone’s throw from the 17th century Blue Mosque and a short walk from the grand bazaar, the site was on our list of places to visit since Conde Naste Traveler had done a write-up on how a former Turkish prison had been converted into this luxury hotel.

From the moment we approached the yellow colored facade of the hotel, each of us was trying to envision what the place might have looked like as a prison.  We imagined prisoners looking out of the window into the inner courtyard, visualized them exercising in the central area, and of course saw the stark environment that must have prevailed in place of the perfectly landscaped space with an abundance of perfect topiary and blooms.

After walking through the absolutely stunning property, we settled on dining at  the Season’s Restaurant.  It felt ostentatious to have three people attending to our needs, but the service was discreet, yet efficient.  We ordered the Selection Turkish Mezze Plate, Homemade Ricotta Ravioli – Pine Nut, Dry Fig, Braised Eggplant and Red Currants, Sage Sauce and the Red Lentil Soup – Yoghurt and Crispy Pita Bread.  Every dish was fresh, but lacked flavor.  We were taken aback that a property with access to some of the freshest ingredients could disappoint.  The dessert with ice-cream and an assortment of turkish sweets was mediocre as well.  We had tasted better in less grander surroundings.

As we finished paying for a pretty pricey lunch, the big question was, would we do it again?  And the answer was YES….. the hotel is a must do visit, albeit the next time, we will settle for coffee or drinks.

To read more about the Four Seasons Sultanahmet, click here.

http://www.fourseasons.com/istanbul/

With Food, Travel and Experiences

%d bloggers like this: