Barren and dry are what you’ll see upon arriving into the Kaupo area. The tropical vegetation disappears dramatically. Parched pastures and grasslands being overtaken by basalt (volcanic) rock instead of vegetation are the result of Haleakala’s rain shadow, which prevents moisture from accumulating often enough to sustain the area’s plant life. Upon leaving Kaupo village the dirt road becomes rough and difficult to navigate through as the potholed, patchworked, painfully neglected pathway becomes more challenging than any video game. Hit a few of those and you’re stuck, literally, without an extra tire or two, great shocks and 4WD it may be a rough trip back. It is the direct opposite of the wet, lush environment experienced earlier in the day on the Road to Hana along the northern coast. It is important to note that most car rental companies forbid you to take their rentals down this route. You should expect that you will have to sign a release stating that either you will be directly responsible for any damage or you simply will not drive that route on the island. If you don’t sign, they won’t rent to you. Also, it is not uncommon for this route to be closed due to events like rock slides and dangerous gale force winds.
The Kaupo Store
The quirky Kaupo store is found on the south end of Kaupo along the road towards Kula. The quaint little store has a good choice of snacks, cold drinks, unique antiques and a mini-museum. The locals will probably invite you to have a sit on the porch, eat and “talk story”. It feels as if time has slowed down, and it has because this is “Maui time”. And, don’t be surprised to see a Paniolo (cowboy), ride up and hitch up a horse to the post in front of the store.