Hawaiian Getaway on Road to Hana


 

Far from Kihei and Lahaina rests another side of Maui. A remarkably picturesque three-hour drive leads you into the heart of a rain forest, and an astounding number of bridges, waterfalls and lookouts punctuate the trip.

Known as the Road to Hana, the route is so popular it supports a small industry of audio tours that narrate the journey and serve up the island’s history. The Hana Highway dates back to 1926, when much of it was constructed with cinders. It wasn’t until 1962 that the state paved over it with asphalt, but countless potholes helped coin the phrase, “I survived the Hana Highway.” Only in the early 1990s did major upgrades make it a much more pleasant experience.

Although the drive now is quite smooth, it still inspires numerous stops at charming one-lane bridges. It’s almost impossible to resist the amazing photo opportunities, the mouth-watering papayas and bananas sold roadside and the chance to explore fascinating sites along the way. (Remember to exercise caution when driving to Hana. Safely pull over and let other cars pass if you’re holding up traffic — locals use the route to commute.)

Among a plethora of gorgeous parks and beaches are these highlights:

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• The Ke’anae Arboretum boasts the popular plants and flowers of Hawaii. And the Ke’anae Peninsula offers great photo ops.

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• The most picturesque waterfall on the way is Wailua Falls. (Don’t get too close to the edge of cliffs or waterfalls. Sudden changes in weather can put you in danger.)

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• Walking tours at Ka’eleku Caverns, near the Hana Airport, guide visitors through one of the largest lava tube systems in the world. A series of massive underground tunnels, these bug- and bat-free caverns reach 40 feet high in some sections and include some fantastic skylights. Chocolate lovers, bring along a candy bar: the cocoa-colored volcanic rock bears a remarkable resemblance to hot fudge, brownies and Nestle’s Crunch.

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• The Wai’anapanapa State Park’s stunning black sand beach boasts striking volcanic outgrowths in the surf. It also features a trail along the shore that stretches almost all the way to Hana.

When you finally reach what the locals call “Hana town,” you’ll also want time to view the hills near the Hotel Hana-Maui, where cows lazily graze, and Hana Bay, the one safe snorkeling spot on the drive.

You’ll need at least an hour or two beyond Hana for the truly spectacular Haleakala National Park at Kipahula, home of the “Seven Sacred Pools.” The Waikamoi Ridge Trail includes an easy hiking trail loop for families, but the waterfalls and pools are the real treasures.

We began our trip to Hana from Kihei at 8:30 a.m. By the time we arrived at the Kipahula National Park at 4:30 p.m., we were very ready for a swim. After a short hike we left our shoes and cameras behind, jumped into a freshwater pool and swam straight for the falls. We stood on the rocks under the fall, screaming with exhilaration, letting the water pour over us. We were up for more adventure, so we continued our trip around the east side of the island beyond Hana.

Eventually we drove through the outposts of Maui’s civilization, off paved roads, at the island’s very edge. At times, little more than a few inches separated us from the cliffs below. Most rental car companies forbid this route for anything but four-wheel drive vehicles. Our Hana audiotape also tried to dissuade us, but we were determined.

As it turned out, the drive along the “back way” was among the highlights of the trip. There were hardly any cars in sight, although cows occasionally blocked parts of the seven-mile unpaved stretch of Kaupo Road. They only added to the appeal of the vast, rolling green hills set against the breathtakingly blue sea. With the waves practically breaking under us and the sun setting off ahead, I was overcome by Maui’s incredible beauty.

The experience reminded me of a teaching from Rabbi Chanan Feld of Beit Midrash Ohr HaHaim in Berkeley. As he explains, such astounding natural wonders are actually an expression of Hashem’s anivut, or humility.

“Hashem is so great you can’t comprehend Him,” Feld said. “The fact that you can even appreciate this aspect of Creation reflects Hashem’s humility in the form of a zimzum, a contracting of Himself, so that you can at least comprehend such amazing beauty.”

When visiting Ka’eleku Caverns at the 31-mile marker along the Hana Highway, children 9 to 17 must be accompanied by an adult. Call (808) 248-7308 for reservations or visit their Web site at www.mauicave.com.

For more information on Maui, visit

Jerusalem’s Old City Finds Twin in Girona


 

With their narrow passageways and cobblestone streets, picturesque Girona and Jerusalem’s Old City share more than just a certain outward appearance.

As early as the 12th century, artists from this Catalan city portrayed Jerusalem and its Jewish residents in a magnificent tapestry depicting the creation story. And Girona’s most illustrious Jewish resident, Moses ben Nachman, also known as the Ramban or Nachmanides, traveled to Jerusalem for his dying days. In letters to his kin, the Ramban describes his longing for his family and rich Jewish life in Girona in the face of a desolated, 13th century Jerusalem left in ruins.

These are just some of the many fascinating bits of information served up by the Centre Bonastruc ca Porta, a leading educational and cultural foundation named for the Ramban in Girona’s restored Jewish Quarter.

The Call, as the quarter is known in Catalan, dates back to the year 890 when 25 families from the surrounding region moved into former houses of clergy near the city’s large cathedral. Over time, the Jewish district expanded to include a larger area that once housed more than 300 Jews. In return for financial tribute, the Spanish kings protected the Call, as it did all other Jewish communities under the Crown of Catalonia and nearby Aragon. The quarter’s main thoroughfare was Carrer de la Forca, or La Forca Street, which is where the Centre Bonastruc ca Porta now stands.

The Centre represents recent efforts to reclaim the region’s Jewish heritage. Located about 40 minutes north of Barcelona, the Centre is also the headquarters for the Network of Spanish Jewish Sites-Roads of Sepharad. It coordinates a wide spectrum of activities, run almost entirely by and for non-Jews committed to furthering awareness of a lost community that left deep impressions on Spain’s culture and economy.

Until recently, Spain had preserved relatively few examples of architecture that testified to the presence of Jewish communities in Catalan cities throughout the Middle Ages. But in the 1970s, private investors began renovating some buildings within the Call. And by 1990, the Girona City Council had managed to purchase the various buildings that now make up the Centre Bonastruc ca Porta. It was another 10 years before part of its permanent exhibit opened to the public in July 2000.

Within its walls, you’ll find exhibits and cultural activities, concerts and theater productions. There are also lectures, round-table discussions, classes for tour guides, courses on medieval Spanish Jewry and kabbalah, relations between Jews, Christians and Muslims and modern Hebrew. You can also take guided tours through the Nachmanides Institute for Jewish Studies, which hosts visiting scholars, and the Museum of the History of the Jews. This relatively small museum depicts Girona’s Jewish history, including its tragic fate with the Spanish Inquisition in 1492.

Despite popular understanding, the terror actually began 100 years earlier with a pogrom on Tisha B’Av 1391. It led to innumerable conversions, seizure of property and the closing of synagogues throughout Spain well before final expulsion.

Although Girona was once home to two synagogues that were easily identified, its last synagogue’s location is disputed. It was positioned intum callum judaycum or within the Jewry, in a discrete spot inside the Call that was maintained until 1492. Some say it was based in the very building now occupied by the Bonastruc ca Porta Centre, where Nachmanides may have himself prayed and studied Kabbalah. A bill of sale signed by the Council of the Jewry in 1492 shows the building was a fairly large structure containing two batei midrash — one for men, another for women — as well as mikvahs and a hospital.

That is just one of the more than 1,200 documents pertaining to Girona Jewry that the Centre has identified in two city archives. Other papers include manuscripts written by the Catalan kabbalists, many of whom lived in Girona, commentaries of Ezra ben Solomon on the “Song of Songs” and treatises of Ariel of Girona on prayer.

The Centre also preserves archaeological remains from tombs and long-abandoned funeral stones that were left on the city’s Montjuic, or Jewish mountain, where the cemetery once stood. You’ll see such treasured remnants of Girona’s lost community within the museum. Some are poignantly exhibited on a dramatic latex floor displaying photos of green fields and yellow wildflowers — exactly how they were found.

For more information on Centre Bonastruc ca Porta, visit www.ajuntament.gi; for Spanish Jewry in general, visit www.redjuderias.org/index_en.php. The Centre Bonastruc ca Porta is affiliated with a nonprofit organization, the American Friends of the Girona Museum and Institute. For more information, contact the Friends at 501 Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10017; (212) 583-3181; shihorn@aol.com.

Lisa Alcalay Klug, a former staff writer for the Associated Press and Los Angeles Times, writes for The Jerusalem Post, The New York Times and other publications.