On day five of our trip to Maui, we had scheduled to do a bike tour down from Haleakalā crater. This had been on my list of things to do since I lived in Oahu in the early 90’s. We had bought a “Things to do in Hawaii” VHS tape with the plan to visit the other islands while we lived there. I hate to admit it, but we never visit one of the other islands. We were there 4 years, but expected to be there a couple more years. Our tour was cut short when my billet went away during the downsizing of the Marine Corps after the first Gulf War. So this was my chance to do something I had wanted to do for quite some time.
The tour company, Maui Mountain Cruisers, got us to the top of Haleakalā well before sunset. Since we all got up very early it was a quiet trip. A few lucky folks even got in a nap. I rested, but was awake for vans sprint up the curvy road. Just before the park the caravan of vehicles pulled to the side of the road to disconnect the trailer with our bikes. We would be returning to this point, just outside the park to start our bike ride down the mountain, after a visit to the crater to see the sunrise. At the crater, everyone got out quietly, stretched and visited the restrooms in the visitor’s center. It was dark and cold, but calm. We had separated with no designated rendezvous location, so it took a few minutes to reconnect. Even though there as a large group of people around, the calm quiet and dark surroundings gave me a sense of peaceful loneliness and other worldly isolation. Once we reconnected, Jenny and I looked for a good place to observe the sunrise. All of the spots close to the crater were 3-4 people deep, so we headed up hill to find a clear view. Although it was very dark around us, the clouds below us were bright with the pre-dawn light.
This picture shows some of the people waiting for the sunrise. We had separated from Dave and Wendy. They were likely down closer to the rim of the crater.
After getting several photos of the clouds we decided to move down closer to join the crowd. Just before the sun rose above the clouds was the best time to get a good picture.
I took a video of the sunrise. A couple of ladies led a Hawaiian chant as the sun rose. The chant definitely added to the experience, so I’m glad I took the video. The audio is much better than the video, so I won’t likely post the video. I did pan around the crowd of people watching the sunrise and happened to find Dave and Wendy finally in the crowd
The video stopped right as the sun rose above the clouds.
After the sunrise the glare from the sun made it difficult to get a good picture. This one of the crater was one of my favorite.
The pictures I took of people didn’t turn out very good. To much back lighting. This one of Jenny and Wendy with the crater in the background turned out the best.
Once the sun was fully up, everyone took advantage of the restrooms one more time, then we loaded back in the vans to head back down to the trailer with the bikes, just outside the park. Apparently several years ago, the park changed their policy about bike tours and all of the biking companies now have to start their bike tours from locations just below the entrance to the park. Only people who bring their own bikes up to the crater can ride from the top.
There are several options for tour companies. Some allow you to ride down at your own pace, but we chose a company that guides you down. The main advantage of that is that a van with a trailer drove behind the last bike in the center of the road so cars would not be able to pass us without warning. Every few miles we would pull over to let cars pass. This was much safer and let us focus on the road ahead and the view. This arrangement also allowed anyone who was not enjoying the steep downhill curves to opt out and ride down in the van. I can’t imagine doing that, but if you are not sure you will be good with this ride, this gives you the option to at least try.
At one of the most scenic pullouts, we did a few poses for the camera.
Although this was not my favorite thing I did in Maui (snorkeling with the turtles gets that prize), I’m glad we decided to do this tour. It was definitely a unique experience. There aren’t many other places in the world where you can watch a sunrise over a volcanic crater above the clouds and then ride a bike 20+ miles downhill.
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