As a recent subscriber to Bon Appetit magazine, I’m loving the armchair journeys that I get to take to kitchens, dishes and places around the world. I was thumbing halfway through the March issue when I glanced at a title that said, “A Slice of Paradise.” The byline was “Twelve hours in coach for a loaf of banana bread.” It took me seconds to be transported to Maui from the comfort of my home. Once there, I discovered the magic created in so many places across the island by that humble combination of locally abundant bananas, sugar, eggs and oil.
Andrew McCarthy’s prose made me want to sample every kind available. Why were you so late writing this Andrew? We were in Maui twice and missed this local treasure. On a day long trip on the Road to Hana, Julia’s banana bread would have added that perfect start to our day.
Julia’s roadside stand sells some of the best banana bread on the island. Given that an actual meeting with Julia’s concoction may not happen for some time, I decided to pay her a virtual reality visit – I baked a loaf of her famous banana bread from the recipe provided in the article.
The bread was scrumptious. Crisp on the outside, soft flecks of banana creating a mosaic like landscape on the interior. A bread that was more indulgent and rich than the many dozens I had baked in the past.
I was not alone in my reaction to the article. A quick web search revealed a legion of travelers and bakers opining on the merits and demerits of the bread….I discovered an entire discussion thread on Tripadvisor talking about the taste differences between various types of bananas.
If you’d like to escape to McCarthy’s Maui, you can read his article here:
“It’s time!” The jeep driver said, smiling cheekily in the rear-view mirror. In front of us stood a little bridge, way too small to support our white Ford Escape that had already been through quite a beating. Regardless of whether or not we wanted to proceed, he slammed on the accelerator, and the car bounced along the stone-paved roads and took a hairpin turn to the right. This was the point of no return, we had crossed the line that divided civilization from the untamed forces of Mother Nature. It was here where anything could happen, where triumph could turn to tragedy in an instant.
I look out my window and marvel at the reassuring sight of driving adjacent to a solid hundred foot drop with nothing to protect you other than the lush canopy of trees swaying gently in the Hawaiian wind. We were passengers aboard the luxurious Pride of America about to spend the next two hours battling wilderness. The truck continued, ascending like a roller coaster without a peak. The road looked as if it went on forever until it eventually met with the sky. Everyone was pin-drop silent as the vehicle careened around closer corners and scaled steep heights.
Our journey to the top reminded me of the duality of nature. On one hand, here we are, a suburban family of four cruising along on one of the most dangerous drives on the planet. This is nothing like Jersey, this is nothing like anything we’ve ever seen before. This was miles and miles of pure adrenaline, with surprises at every turn. While some of these unplanned events seemed threatening, most were calming, like unnamed waterfalls cascading down shimmering rocks and falling into beautiful canyons. The lush rain forest, with its exotic smells and sounds, brought us one step closer to a simpler life , and yet, one where every day is a battle against the unknown.
The apex revealed a picturesque sight of the Pacific open, looking out towards Tahiti and Australia. The crystal-clear blue waters provided a fresh contrast from the grey rocks that separated us from the waves below. We got back in the Escape and the driver pulled a sharp right turn, almost sending half of us to the roaring waters below. We cruised down the mountain, winding back in and out of the rainforest like a serpent hunting its prey.
The drive in Maui, more commonly known as the Road to Hana is only crossed by a handful of people every day, due to its unpaved roads and uncharted hidden passageways. This excursion is meant for the truly adventurous, those who embrace nature and are not afraid to see danger at every turn.
Some insight from Siddhi:
I also did the Road to Hana when my family and I were in Hawaii. We decided to pump the thrill factor to yet another level by going solo. Meaning, still in a jeep, but without a professional driver. We drove on our own. Everything Rohan described nails it when it comes to encapsulating the experience. If you’re truly an adventure-seeker ,then consider renting your own vehicle- preferably a convertible- and taking on Hana on your own. It’s really an unforgettable experience.
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)