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“While visiting the beautiful city of Montreux, Switzerland during their fabulous Montreux Jazz Festival, I made sure to visit the famous Freddy Mercury statue that faces the amazing Lake Geneva and captured a photo with Alive! The Alps are in the background and their waterfront is just to be admired.”
— Cecilia Moreno, Harbor
“This photo was taken above the town of Grindelwald, Switzerland. The Eiger Mountain of the Alps is in the background. That’s me in the photo. We took a 25-minute gondola ride from the village to this location, with its spectacular scenery.”
— Patrick Tomcheck, Retired, Airports
“Alberobello, Italy: This small town in the Puglia region of southern Italy is famous for its unique ‘trulli’ buildings. They are whitewashed stone huts with mortar-less conical roofs. They have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996.”
— Norman Faner, Retired, LADWP, and Florian Faner, Retired, General Services
Plumbing at the Top of the World
Letter From Lahaina, Pt. 2
The Haleakala Volcano, or, in English, the house of the sun, sits 10,023 feet above sea level and forms more than three-quarters of Maui’s 727 square miles. The rest of the island is formed by another volcano, called Mauna Kahalawai.
To reach the crater at the summit, you have to pass through the Haleakala National Park. A long, winding well-maintained road, containing many blind turns, very steep drop-offs without guardrails, and 32 switchbacks, holds the world record for climbing to the highest elevation in the shortest distance, 35 miles.
Sometimes cows and geese cross the highway; watch out for them when the conditions are foggy. The National Park Service has suspended commercial bicycle tours within the park after many fatal bike accidents; they are still a danger on the lower slopes of the highway, especially on blind corners when the cyclists tend to swing wide.
The last place for food or petrol is in Makawao, but there is a clean restroom at the visitor center restrooms halfway up and at the crater car park at the top. It takes about 90 minutes to drive the road without stopping to admire the “moonlike” scenery. The car park in the crater holds only 75 cars, which is not a problem during the daytime, but for romantics wishing to see the sunrise, it is a big problem as you need a reservation; the Park Ranger allows no last-minute drive-ups at the entrance. (You must book one-to-two months in advance) Note: The sunset is just as magnificent, and not as crowded.
From the summit, when looking down into a massive barren depression, see if you can spot a silversword plant. It grows only here and nowhere else on Earth.
The crater car park is dotted with numerous rare Ahinahina plants and Nene (Hawaiian geese), and can be seen wandering around near the car park restrooms and the steps leading up to the observatory.
Even at this high altitude, plumbers are needed. We watched them, dressed like astronauts, resolving the car park’s plumbing problems
For hikers, there are two trails leading into the crater from the summit area — the Halemau’u and Sliding Sands trails. The unusually clear views of the night sky here make Haleakala one of the best places in the United States for amateur astronomy, so bring your binoculars or telescopes. This is also the site of Hawaii’s first astronomical research observatory, whose twin 30-foot Keck Observatory telescopes is open to the public only by appointment.
The sun sets at about 5:30 p.m. in the winter and 7 p.m. in the summer, and for early mornings and late evenings visits, I recommend that you bring a sweater or in winter a coat, as flip flops and a tank top, even though fashionable, won’t keep you warm as it gets cold and windy at this high altitude. Also, if you plan on stargazing, bringing something to sit on would also be nice. I recommend viewing the stars about an hour after sunset
Tip: Buy a senior National Park pass for $20 from the park warden. It covers the entrance for the whole car, plus it can be used for all the other parks nationwide.