By the third flight after the initial landing on the mother island O'ahu, we were approaching the southeastern edge of the Hawaii and its dramatic Big Island. Maui, the second largest in the archipelago, was the ocean stepping stone that followed. The plane lands on the runway at Kahului airport.
The Portuguese Affiliation of Immediate in Action
We retrieved our bags and hurried to the Al West rent-a-car counter. We were provided with a reserve. Even so, the service employee tells us that he cannot honor the contract. We didn't want to waste time so we immediately looked for an alternative.
Across the street, a Maui Rent-a-Car was advertised. When we explain the situation, the employee regrets but tells us that he has no cars available. “Oh, wait a minute!”, they stop us when he notices one of our passports. We have some there that are going to be sold.
They are better than the ones in the category you had rented but it doesn't matter.” We were surprised at the turnaround. When we look more closely at the “Oliveira” on the badge that identified him, everything makes sense. Out of kind bloody solidarity, we left the airport with a much more spacious and expensive Chrysler 200.
Maui is officially twinned with Funchal. The historic intimacy of the Madeira archipelago with the Hawaiian justifies our luck, this status and much more.
Madeirans and Azoreans: diaspora from the North Atlantic to the North Pacific
In the late 10th century, just when Hawaii needed to increase its sugar supply to California, too many native sugarcane plantation workers were succumbing to disease. They were replaced by thousands of Chinese who, at one point, made up XNUMX% of the archipelago's population.
Even if productive, their reputation was quickly tarnished by increasingly problematic gambling, opium consumption and prostitution exploitation.
The government looked for an alternative. Jason Perry (originally Jacinto Pereira), the Portuguese Consul to Hawaii, suggested to farm owners that they should recruit workers from Madeira and the Azores, where the landscape and climate resembled those of Hawaii and sugarcane has long been a key raw material.
Farmers followed the advice. Between 1878 and 1887, several vessels docked in the Hawaii over 3.300 Portuguese islanders.
Counting the women, children and other relatives who joined them, the number increased. In 1911, the Portuguese in Hawaii numbered more than fifteen thousand. Almost all landed on the island of O'ahu. Many moved to Kauai and others.
They were described as short, slender and dark-skinned due to the many hours they worked in the sun. Some looked so dark that in the first census of the USA, were registered as black.
the Portuguese of Maui
Maui was one of the islands that welcomed them and, over time, learned to respect and value them. This explains the proud Maui Portuguese Cultural Club, now chaired by Sandy Furtado Guadagni, headquartered in the same village where we had landed and met the worthy Mr. Oliveira.
On the website's homepage, the president appears with Ramana Oliveira, identified as a world famous fado singer, who performed in Maui with her “guitarró” Brad Bivens and there he sang the soulful songs of Portugal, called Fado.
The adulterations of the fado singer's name and the definition of the musician prove the inevitable Americanization of the Portuguese in Hawaii, similar to other parts of the USA, and as obvious as your effort to preserve the roots. The site also promotes "From Our Good Home to Your Home” a book of culinary recipes from Madeira and the Azores.
Some time ago, several members of the club traveled on an excursion to discover four of the nine Azorean islands.
We settled in a small inn in Pa'ia and departed from there the following mornings excited to explore Maui.
The Diverse Roots of Pa'ia
Pa'ia is a small town with less than three thousand inhabitants that was established in 1896 around a providential sugar mill and developed as a result of the profits from the sugarcane plantations.
The success of this mill attracted a flurry of settlers from the China, Philippines. Japan, Korea, Puerto Rico and Portugal. The current residents, in turn, are a multiethnic and multicultural assortment of their descendants. But not only.
In April 1946, World War II had ended on its Pacific stage just a few months before, the village was devastated by a tsunami generated by a strong earthquake in the Aleutian Islands.
It proved the biggest tsunami ever recorded in Hawaii. One hundred and fifty-nine people lost their lives across the archipelago.
Pa'ia only had one victim but suffered massive destruction that took a long time to recover, not least because most of its inhabitants moved to Kahului, at the time known as “dream city”. Today, the population of Pa'ia is even more diverse than it was then.
The Hawaiian Mecca of Windsurfing
A large number of its one-story wooden houses, or little more than that, were transformed into inns, bars, restaurants and the like. Also in a prolific succession of sporting goods stores, especially for surfing and windsurfing.
With the 70s already losing some of its Flower Power, a group of sea lovers visited the island when they discovered that the conditions off Pa'ia were perfect for windsurfing.
The information circulated. In the 80's and 90's, a mighty wave of windsurfers from the four corners of the Earth washed ashore there. Pa'ia was promoted to world windsurfing Mecca.
We spent some time in the village, especially around breakfast, dinner and short walks. Marine sports were not our thing, however, and we had the convenient Chrysler 200 in service.
Travel around Maui
We crossed Kahului. We proceed to the northwest side of the island's volcanic shield.
There was the deep, rainy, verdant valley of Iao that housed a park with a Japanese Buddhist temple that contributes to Hawaii's current spirit of welcome. But not always the aloha ruled.
The park perpetuates what is considered one of the bloodiest battles in the archipelago's history. In 1790, an army from Maui was faced with an attack from the rival island of Hawaii (Big Island). The two forces had an identical number of men.
After two days of confrontation, none had surrendered. On the third day of the Battle of Kepaniwai (Battle of the Damned Waters), the river below ran red from so much blood but Hawaii it only gained control of Maui, as early as the XNUMXth century.
When we passed there, an intense rain lashed the valley and all the surrounding mountain forest made it impossible to walk along the narrow trails. Little interested in ending up like the warriors, we decided to continue.
We return to Wailuki and to road 340 that skirted the rugged coastline of the upper half of the island's rough eight. We passed villages and places with hardly more Hawaiian names: Kahakuloa, Nakalele, Kapalua.
We keep an eye out for the coral-protected lagoon offshore, which provided natives and thousands of visitors with a magnificent bathing recreation.
Some bathed on wild beaches, others surfed the mighty waves of the North Pacific. Still others had fun aboard catamarans and festive boats of the kind.
In the far north of Maui, Highway 340 becomes 30. From that area downwards and for tens of kilometers, the western coast is safe from the north wind and becomes sunnier.
Unsurprisingly, it's filled with resorts and golf courses that drain the island's natural beauty and genuineness.
Lahaina: The Old Capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom
So we accelerate towards the south. We only stop at Lahaina (cruel sun, in Hawaiian) the former royal capital of the Hawaii until, in 1845, it moved to present day Honolulu.
Lahaina was also a whaling hub on the island, in spite of the permanent conflict with the resident Christian missionaries who refused to allow boats to dock there, to disembark there, sailors and workers who were full of vices and eager to escape.
Today, its Front Street and the panorama of the adjacent marginal reflect the modernization and sophistication of the city, benefiting from the financial relief of the millionaires of the continental United States that there moor luxury yachts at the disposal of their vacationers whims.
Lahaina is also home to the largest banyan tree of the USA which records indicate was planted in 1873 and is now 18 meters tall. The tree branches into 16 trunks that extend over an area of 0.30 hectares. We admire it with the vegetable respect it deserves.
But not only. A street band because we had passed through the upright and picturesque center of the village had been run by the authorities.
The five elements then played the violin, the banjo, the guitar and the cello, in the shadow of the endless branches.
However, we found that, at the end of the afternoon, one of the hotels on the waterfront was going to host a Polynesian luau. Interested in watching but also in traveling the stretch of the island's most scenic road, Hana, we hurried back to the starting point.
Hana Highway Above. Even Kaupo
From Pa'ia we continue southeast. For some reason, authorities dubbed the road we're on the Hana Highway.
On the road, there was little. Highway absolutely nothing.
Somewhere along the wild, narrow coast between the ocean and the slopes of Koolau Forest, Hana Hwy shrinks to one-way breadth but continues to be traveled in both.
We advance, with strategic stops in idyllic corners of the island, such as the Hana Falls where we bathed and refreshed.
On the way back to the asphalt, a golf cart that was driving horses to a farm stopped us. The strange grid slows us down for a good five kilometers. By way of compensation, on the verge of Hana and the far east of the island, the great spaces of Maui return to the scene.
Through the foothills of the Great Haleakala
Black sand beaches alternate with pebble ones. A windy, rocky peninsula marks the passage from east to south.
Around Kaupo, lava from Maui's supreme volcano, Haleakala, fills gentle slopes. In certain areas it remains too rough to admit vegetation. In others, it welcomes lush meadows that extend to the edge of the Pacifico bluebird.
An inclement wind lashes this coast. Whipping the golden trees wiliwili (Erythrina Sandwickensis) and strip them of the few remaining leaves.
Still, local ranchers successfully deliver their resilient cattle to such rough pastures, judging by the size and opulence of their properties.
We shivered on our way to Haleakala crater, but the mystical cloudiness that persisted in the heights hides the island's Olympian summit.
In an hour, young dancers would perform in Lahaina the graceful dances that Hawaii's ocean, volcanoes and lush landscapes had long inspired. Since the gods rejected us, let us not waste the best unholy Maui could offer us.
More information about the Hawaiian archipelago and Maui at Go Hawaii.