Do Not Drive a Rental Car on This Road

Trip Start Dec 27, 2008
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Flag of United States  , Hawaii
Saturday, December 29, 2007

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Do Not Drive a Rental Car on this Road

Today's exploration of the northern tip of Maui was promising to be a short drive as just beyond Honokohau Bay the thick grey line on the map that represented the road was marked with an ominous message.

There was no mistaking the intent as a note on the map clearly stated "Do Not Drive Between These Points - Driving on unauthorized roads violates rental car contracts".

In retrospect when we rented a car on Oahu and Big Island we had to initial a section of the contracts that had the same prohibition about certain roads on those islands.

Undoubtedly it was the same here on the island of Maui.

As I indicated in Blog no. 101: How Not To Fly From Big Island to Maui, due to my unscheduled absence, it was Barbara who signed the rental agreement for the car on Maui and as a result she was the only authorized driver.

Within a half hour of having left the green rolling hills of the Plantations Golf Course we had reached the end of beautiful Honokohau Bay only to be faced with a disappearing road.

What had been a relatively wide, red asphalt coastal highway that undulated along the coast all of a sudden lost one of its lanes.

Surprisingly the only warning was a small sign stating "Warning Winding Road Next 8 Miles".

"Winding Road" - never mind the winding road, the road had been quite windy for the last 8 miles. What the sign should have said was "Warning for the next 8 miles there is two-lane traffic on a narrow one-lane road in dangerous mountainous terrain". I guess that would have been too long a message to put on a sign. But it would have been closer to the truth.

Nevertheless it was astounding that the emphatic message printed on the tourist map of Maui was not repeated at this point.

Suffice it to say, we got the message. Looking at the steep mountainous terrain that bordered the bays of the Pacific Ocean this was not the type of terrain that allowed for the construction of a two-lane road without removing a good part of the mountains.

So at this point we were content with enjoying the scenery and longingly reading the green sign which promised free samples of "Julia's Best Banana Bread on the Planet" only three miles ahead.

By this time we had gotten addicted to having the tasty banana bread of Hawaii with our afternoon coffee.

Personally I was willing to go for it and drive the road regardless of any restrictions on the rental contract. We were only going to be here once and it was either now or never.

Realizing the potential danger I was nevertheless not going to impose my view upon Barbara, our designated driver for the week.

It was thus that we made a U-turn and started heading back towards Lahaina.

Shortly thereafter we noted several cars coming in the opposite direction. That raised enough curiosity to make another U-turn to go back and see what these cars would do upon reaching the one lane road.

To our surprise the three cars proceeded to snake their way along the narrow road clinging to the steep terrain that plunged to the chasm below.

Then I thought, that's the way to do it - drive the road in a "caravan" in the company of others, There would be strength in numbers against on-coming traffic. That after all was the fear - on-coming traffic because the road certainly did not appear to be wide enough for two passing vehicles and because of the terrain there were no shoulders to speak of.

I could see that the sight of the three cars driving along this road was starting to have its effect upon Barbara as she ventured forward with, "well, maybe we should try it too".

Considering her almost hysterical reaction to driving the precarious road to the 13,000 foot summit of Mauna Kea I found this surprising.

Nevertheless it was what I was waiting to hear - some sign of a green light to go ahead.

The concept of driving in a "convoy" never did materialize as no other cars came along the road for the next ten minutes while we patiently waited.

We therefore took a deep breath and with Barbara driving launched ourselves into the unknown.

For one car there was no problem but sure enough about five minutes into the drive the first vehicle appeared from the opposite direction.

Looking at the amount of space that our car took up on the road and looking at the width of the Jeep that was slowly coming against us, there was a sinking feeling as the laws of physics seemed to preclude two solids occupying at least part of the same space.

On the one side was a steep ascending rocky wall, on the other side, well let's not talk about it because beyond the asphalt there was nothing but space dropping off into the deep valley below.

I could feel Barbara tensing up. Never mind Barbara, I could feel myself tensing up considerably.

What to do? In retrospect I should have gotten behind the steering wheel. Since we were already in contravention of the rental agreement anyway, what difference would it have made if I would have been driving? I didn't think of that.

I have to admit that my attached photos don't back up the intensity of this story but photography was the furthest thing from my mind as we encountered oncoming cars on this road. Front and center was a very basic human need and emotion - survival.

I could see that the situation called for slow, measured action. I therefore jumped out of the car, examined the side of the road behind us and tried to find a bit of flat terrain onto which Barbara could back up. That would hopefully leave enough real estate to for the oncoming car to get by us.

As this maneuver was executed I was concerned that communications between Barbara and me would break down with the end result being that the side rear of the car would be crunched up against the rock wall. Thankfully with the ascending crescendo of my voice, the car came to a stop within two inches of solid rock.

After collapsing the side mirrors on both cars, next came the delicate task of coaxing the driver of the other car to go for it. It was a slow process which I guided along from my position outside the car. I could see by the fear in her eyes that the other driver was even more in a precarious position because to her right was nothing but open space; at least we were positioned against the rock wall.

Within inches to spare and at a snail's pace the two cars passed each other on this narrow mountain ledge of a road connecting Honokohau Bay with Waiee located on the eastern side of West Maui.

Mercifully this meeting of another car on this narrow road only repeated itself about four more times. The other times the procedure seemed to go a little better and was less stressful.

It also helped our cause when we made a stop three miles into our adventure to have some of "Julia's Best Banana Bread on the Planet". With the car safely parked we could laugh about the experience we had just gone through and savour the tasty morsels dispensed by Julia.

We weren't quite out of the woods yet with our drive but the worst was behind us.

In retrospect I wish I would have remembered to take photos during the encounters with other cars but like I said earlier, photography was not a priority at that point in time.

On the whole I was amazed at the aplomb with which Barbara drove this stretch of road.

I would not recommend this drive to anyone, especially in a rental car. I wonder about the consequences of an accident in view of the fact that the trend in rental cars, at least in Hawaii, is that it is your own car insurance which covers any incurred liability.

Surely my own car insurance would not be null and void because we drive a dangerous road.

Fortunately we did not have to ponder such legal issues but it does illustrate how a vacation can turn into something more than one bargains for very quickly.

While our drive was not something I would want to do again it did lead us to an area on the other side of West Maui which made the rest of the day another highlight.

Coming Soon:

Wailuku and Iao Valley State Park

Footnote:

In Blog no. 101  How Not to Fly from Big Island to Maui, Barbara had to drive from Lahaina to the Kahului Airport to pick me up.

It was the pilot of her flight into Lahaina who told her that I would be flying into Kahului and who also told her specifically not to drive the northern route to Kahului even though it was the shortest route.

I could just imagine Barbara ending up on the cliffs road we had just driven together to get to Kahului Airport. That day may have ended up even more bizarre than it did.
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