We started with a visit to Iao Valley, or what we have come to call “All-Vowel Valley,” which lies on the east side of the ancient West Maui volcano. It is a lush valley nestled among steep cliffs, but the drive and the ending parking lot and trails offers little chance to actually enjoy much of the valley. The highlight, however, was getting the chance to see a bonifide god penis. There is a needle formation, likely the result of volcanic karst geology, rising sharply out of the valley and presenting as a dominant feature at the end of the road. The information at the park indicated that it was the phallic stone for the god Kanaloa, who is the god of the underworld. Even though the lighting wasn’t the best, I had to take a picture; I was certain I did not have any god penises in my stock library.
On our way back out the valley, we stopped at a fruit stand offering smoothies. I had a passion fruit and banana smoothie, Michelle had a coconut-pineapple smoothie. On our way out of Wailuku, we stopped at a taco stand, called Amigo’s Express. We took advantage of the $1 taco special, and sat down for a real culinary treat. My chicken had clearly been marinated in its subtle but savory spices for quite a while, not merely seasoned as cooked. The homemade hot salsa was absolutely fantastic, adding some nice hot without overpowering the food. Our fruit smoothies were the perfect compliment to the spices.
After our tacos, we chatted with the owner, Ricardo. He told us he was from Oaxaca, Mexico, and that he used to work in more upscale restaurants on the island before opening his own business. He told us a great authentic salsa recipe. Take dried whole chili peppers and put them in a gallon Ziploc, then shake to get out the seeds. Heat up olive oil in a pan, then add the whole seedless peppers and sauté. Take out the peppers, keeping the oil in the pan, then add whole garlic cloves to the peppered oil. After a while, add the whole peppers back in and sauté. Add salt, pepper and cumin (very little) to taste. Then, take the whole mixture and blend it to a puree. I cannot wait to make that when we get home. Thanks, Ricardo for the great tacos and the recipe.
We then headed out on Highway 340 toward the north side of the island in hopes of catching a sunset from the northwest corner. It took us about two hours to go twenty miles. I have driven on many roads in the United States and overseas, and this was without question the narrowest, windiest road I have ever driven. It is not really sketchy, just narrow and windy with lots of blind curves. So long as you approach the blind curves cautiously and peek around the corner as you are rounding it, the curves are quite manageable. However, it only works if the other drivers approach blind curves the way you do. There was one harrowing moment when we came around the curve at around 15-20 mph and came face-to-face with a large white truck not taking the curve cautiously. Fortunately, we both came to a complete stop at six feet apart. Along the way, we stopped at a couple of art galleries (Michelle is always looking for new art or jewelry), and I stopped to photograph a nice pastoral scene with coastline, cliffs and rolling green fields with … cows being chased by egrets. Yes, the cows were grazing and one of the cows and her calf was being shepherded along by a taunting egret.
Unfortunately, the sunset was a bust, but before we rounded the top of the island, there was some beautiful light falling on the far side of Honokohau Bay.
The next day, we went up to the Tedeschi Winery. We were told by our concierge that it was the only winery on the islands. Then we had to correct him when we informed him we had visited the Volcano Winery near Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. Michelle and I always make it a point to visit wineries when we travel. Together or separately we have visited wineries and vineyards in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, Sonoma Valley and Napa Valley in California, the Texas Hill Country near Fredericksburg, and South Dakota. And, of course, both of us have visited breweries, two meaderies and one winery in Alaska. I provide this back story because I wanted to give some context, to indicate that we have some experience in the tasting room atmosphere at a winery.
If you want a great tasting room experience, don’t go to the Tedeschi Winery. First of all, they only had four wines they were sampling. Then, they sampled them in the wrong order. They started with a strong-flavored wine and followed it with a milder one. They also did not rinse glasses in between samples and provided nothing to clear the pallet between tastes. But that was only part of the problem. The other part was the speed with which they wanted to move you through, in between the busloads of tours being dropped off and rushed through the tasting room. There was no personal attention, no explanation of the wines, no suggestions for pairings. There were written pairing suggestions, but they were all wrong. The “Maui Splash,” which was the only wine we were inspired to purchase, is a sweet, pineapple-passion fruit wine. Their suggested pairing was with cheese or fruit. But a sweet white wine should not be paired with sweet, but with spicy, like Thai food, or even savory. The highlight of the visit was the winery Russian blue cat (named “Blue”), stretched out and lying in the grass on the grounds in the open sun, accepting pets from anyone who came by as it purred and kneaded the open air. Needless to say, it was dissimilar to any wine tasting room experience we had ever had. If you want a good experience in Hawai’i, then visit the winery on the Big Island.
On our way back down the mountainside, we stopped at a pullout and sat in the beach chairs for a snack. The view included Kihei as well as the western side of the island, then Molokai, Molokini, and Lanai. Definitely a great view for a snack picnic. On our way back into Kihei, we stopped at a beach with a row of outrigger canoes to enjoy the sunset. I photographed the Hawaiian ocean canoes, the sunset, a paddle boarder, and the rich colors of dusk. It was definitely a great way to end the day.