White Chocolate Ginger Papaya Bread and Mt. Haleakala

by Irvin on September 26, 2011 · 9 comments

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My parents grew up in a third world country and moved here with little money to spare. So it is no wonder that they have a thriftiness that sometimes borders on obsession, especially when it comes to food. Wasting food is probably one of the worst things that one can do in their eyes, and when they left Hawaii, they handed me a number of items, including a papaya that they had not had a chance to eat. Papaya is one of those types of fruit that I enjoy, but not immensely. The soft texture and the perfume like flavor is wonderful for a bite or two, but anymore and I get overwhelmed by it. Not sure what to do with an entire papaya, I decided I needed to turn it into a breakfast bread for AJ and I, as we were heading up to Mt. Haleakala for the sunrise and a long hike. Turns out we would need the nourishment, as our hike was a 7 hour grueling but gorgeous hike into the lava fields, but luckily we had my White Chocolate Ginger Papaya Bread to give us energy.

White Chocolate Ginger Papaya Bread. jpg White Chocolate Ginger Papaya Bread

Maui is a gorgeous island, as most of my Hawaii posts have shown. Though a lot of the island have their own unique attractions, one of the top ones in Maui (besides the Road to Hana) is the trip up to the top of Mt. Haleakala to see the sunrise. The one problem with it, however, is that you have to wake up REALLY early to do it. We set our alarm at 3:30am to do the hike, hyped on coffee & papaya bread, and headed up to the mountain.

Just before the sunrise at Mt. Haleakala. jpg Just before the sunrise at Mt. Haleakala.

I rarely see the sunrise. I’m not an early riser, being very much a night owl. But there’s something mystical and near spiritual to watch the sun rise over the clouds, clouds that are actually below you. The elevation up is 10,000 feet, well above the clouds, and watching the spectacular sun is worth the lack of sleep and drive. AJ and I walked down the trail ever so slightly, away from the crowds of tourists and watched the golden fiery red sky burst into flames as the sun started to peak over the clouds by ourselves. It’s as silent and as still as any place I’ve ever been, with very little wildlife and all I could think of is how magical the entire experience is.

The sun just starting to crest at Mt. Haleakala. jpg The sun just starting to crest over the clouds at Mt. Haleakala. The sun rise is spectacular at Mt. Haleakala. jpg Once up, the view is spectacular at Mt. Haleakala.

Because most people come up just for the sunrise (often in tour buses), they miss the wonder of hiking down into the lava fields and the cinder cones. AJ and my sister and brother-in-law had gone hiking into the cinder cones a week before, something AJ and I did a few years ago. I had stayed home, recovering from my rogue wave accident, so instead AJ and I headed down the long trail to check out the lava fields, something we hadn’t hiked too yet.

The cindercone that my sister & brother-in-law hiked to with AJ. jpg The cindercone that my sister & brother-in-law hiked to with AJ. The different colors in the cinder cone are gorgeous. jpg The different colors you see on the hike down to the cinder cones are gorgeous.

One of the first things they tell you about in the hike is to wear lots of sunscreen and bring lots of water. There is no shade and nowhere to get water. You are hiking into national park that feels like Mars (or a set from a Star Trek episode). Red rocks, and vibrant streaks of color make the landscape feel completely alien, and though you want to keep taking pictures (at least I do) I know that photos will not do the place justice. There are certain times that nothing but the real life experience will do. But it didn’t stop me from taking photo after photo.

The start of the hike in the morning at Mt. Haleakala. jpg The start of the hike in the morning at Mt. Haleakala. The hike down in the national park of Mt. Haleakala. jpg The hike down in the national park of Mt. Haleakala.

As we walked down, there is scant vegetation, but AJ and I did encounter the Haleakala silversword plant, a specific species of plant that is endangered. Though there are other variants of this plant on other Hawaiian volcanoes, this silversword is only found on Maui, on Mt. Haleakala, between the elevation of 6,900 ft and 9,800 ft (no wonder it’s endangered). What makes the plant more unique (and adds to the alien landscape that we were hiking is) is that the plants is covered with a furry silver skin, designed to capture the sun light and reflect it back into the center of the plant, keeping it warm enough to survive the harsh climate of the volcano. On top of that, the plants can live up to 50 years, before they flower once, and then die. We were lucky to traveling during the flowering season (between July and October) and saw numerous silverswords in various stages of flowering.

Silverswords plants spot the alien landscape of Mt. Haleakala. jpg Silverswords plants spot the alien landscape of Mt. Haleakala. The silvery green plant is starting to flower here. jpg The silvery green plant is starting to flower here. After what could be 50 years, this plant has flowered and will soon die. jpg After what could be 50 years, this plant has flowered and will soon die.

The hike down is beautiful and barren, with the final lava field that we arrived at, after three hours of hiking, seemingly devoid of life, other than a few stubborn shrubs peaking out in the black field of rocks. The path through the lava field led further on, beckoning and calling to us to continue toward the alien unknown, but after hiking fifteen more minutes, we turned back, knowing that the hike up to the parking lot would be harder and more arduous than the hike down was (especially as we gain altitude). Perhaps next time we get a cabin in the park, which would allow us to hike all day and camp out overnight.

Lava rock formation on the hike in Mt. Haleakala National Park. jpg Lava rock formation on the hike in Mt. Haleakala National Park. The barren otherworldly landscape was silent and surreal. jpg The barren otherworldly landscape was silent and surreal. The trail continued through the lava field but we turned around. jpg The trail continued through the lava field but we turned around.

On the airplane flight back to the mainland, days after we did the hike, I picked up the Hawaiian Airlines magazine “HanaHou!” and flipped to an article about the silence of Mt. Haleakala. In it, the writer talks about how he searched high and low to find true natural silence in a world that is filled with noise, whether it is from the clatter and clank of the modern world, to the noise of wildlife and rustling winds. It was only in an unspecified area of the park that the author is able to find true natural silence, where he can hear his own pulse and the pulse of the island. I don’t know if AJ and found that particular space, but I know that we saw perhaps one other couple on a hike early on in our trip down, and then no one else. We were alone, together in an alien world, savoring the last of our trip to Hawaii, and enjoying what little time we had left on paradise, knowing that we would be heading back to the “real world” soon. We were alone but we never felt lonely, because we had each other, the spirit of Mt. Haleakala and Maui and my fresh baked papaya bread to keep us company.

AJ and I alone in the alien landscape. jpg AJ and I alone in the alien landscape. On the hike back we took a few photos of ourselves, as we were all alone. jpg On the hike back we took a few photos of ourselves, as we were all alone. And a single photo of us back at the top, with the volcano park in the back. jpg And a single photo of us back at the top, with the volcano park in the back.
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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Mariko September 26, 2011 at 7:57 am

Hiking through lava fields is never as fun as it sounds, but you did find the beauty in it with these pictures. This is a beautiful post. I should probably go check out the sunrise since I’m accidentally up at 3:30 am myself.

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Belinda @zomppa September 26, 2011 at 8:25 am

Sign me up! What a gorgeous time of day and what an experience. Great use of papaya – no fear of waste there.

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Jonathan September 26, 2011 at 11:29 am

This post completely transported me. Thank you for this recipe for papaya bread. Your choice and use of ingredients is always creative, fun, and inspiring. And thank you as well for the lovely photos. Even if they don’t do the landscape justice (I think they come very close), then that’s just all the more reason for others to go see and experience it first-hand. Definitely one for the bucket list.

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Pat September 26, 2011 at 12:17 pm

Beautiful, Irvin — thanks so much. It was thrilling to see the silversword in bloom, and I can only imagine what it was like in person! And thanks to your parents, you created a lovely recipe.

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anneliesz September 26, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Um that photo of mt halekelana at sunrise above the clouds is stunning. I didn’t know you and AJ were Martians- that terrain really does look like mars!

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BigFatBaker September 26, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Beautiful pictures! I love Maui and that is exactly what this bread makes me think of. I can’t wait to give it a try!

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Tarn September 27, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Wow, Maui looks stunning (much more glamorous than where I’m sitting at the moment, oh well) And White Chocolate, Ginger and Papaya bread! Yum!

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merri October 24, 2011 at 11:39 am

wow so pretty you had such a fantastic vacation month.

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Lori November 11, 2011 at 11:52 am

Om nom nom! Amazing cupcake recipe! Thanks for blogging your adventures!

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