Road to Hana

On Sunday morning the Elon group got up early to head for the Hana Highway from our hotel on the west coast of Maui.

The road we drove on hugged the side of the mountains and was very slow and windy.  This was a strong contrast to the flat and populated area around Kaluhui less than 15 miles away.  Kahului is a vast expanse of roads, buildings, and farmland.  It would not be hard to argue that humans have molded the area around the city into a space mainly for their own use with little thought given to the native ecosystem.  The area we drove through was rugged and gave the sense that nature had a firm hold on the land and that humans can do little to change that.  The road reminded me of the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Appalachian mountains and roads connected to it.  Both run across steep slopes and have tight turns that follow the curves of the land.  They both stir feelings of fear and excitement as the wheels of the vehicle avoid slipping off the road and tumbling down a mountain by mere feet.  However, the Hana Highway is narrower and windier than the roads on the mainland.

After several stops to look at scenery and eat, our main stop was a taro farm.  We turned off the Hana Highway onto a steep, unpaved, dirt path through the woods to get to the farm.  The untamed qualities of the path disconnected the farm from the nature-conquering feel of the paved road.  The farm felt secluded and far from many man-made influences.  When we arrived the farmers welcomed us with a deep feeling of aloha.  They greeted us with open arms and were happy to tell us all about their farm. The farmers want to be self-sustaining by growing all their food by themselves.  They do this to keep old Hawaiian traditions and culture alive.  Taro is a sacred plant and a very important food source in Hawaiian culture.   The first taro plant is believed to have grown from where the first human, who was stillborn, was buried.  Taro is a symbol for life because it provides a good source of nourishment and because all natives Hawaiians are said to be related to the first human.

In addition to taro, other food crops like bananas, coconuts, sugar cane, Tahitian apples, and passion fruit were growing on the farm.  We were given a chance to try some of them.  I tried the fruits listed above.  They were all rich in flavor and were some of the best fruit I have eaten.  They all tasted very fresh and nutritious compared to what you could find in a typical supermarket.  The methods used by ancient Hawaiian farmers are a part of their culture and identity that has been passed down for many generations.  Unfortunately, as with other aspects of Hawaiian culture, these natural farming techniques are being lost.  More commercialized agriculture is more appealing to farmers because it is cheaper and usually provides more profit.  Many modern farmers use synthetic chemicals that increase yields but also have the power to do significant damage to the surrounding ecosystem.  Hawaiian farming methods are slowly being lost but they can be preserved if more people are willing to practice them.

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49 Comments

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