Photographer Walks the King’s Highway on Maui

Daniel Sullivan Photography

A Maui-based photographer is now focusing his talents — sharpened over years of globe-spanning travels — on his island home.

When he’s not taking pictures, Daniel Sullivan and his wife CaraMiya Davies-Reid run the Indigo gallery shop in Paia, which they opened after moving to Maui in 2005. But he has been traveling the world, before and since, exploring Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Sullivan’s photography has documented the lives of Afghanistan’s refugees, the tribes of Ethiopia, and the hunters of Mongolia.

His first book, “Waking Dream,” was self-published, documenting nearly a decade of change in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tibet, and Cambodia between 1999 and 2007. “Tribes of the Omo Valley” followed in 2012, capturing some of the most isolated tribes on the planet. But now he’s working on a new book that’s focused on a fascinating thread of Maui history.

“During the summer of 2013, I hiked 220 miles along Maui’s Coast, crossing sheer cliffs, white water and dense jungle to reach the depths of the King’s Highway,” Sullivan says. “the King’s Highway is a living link to the ancient history of Maui, which is quickly disappearing.”

The King’s Highway, also known as Hoapili Trail, was built over 500 years ago by King Pi’ilani, who ruled the island in the 16th century. Once the island’s main artery, today much of it has faded away, overgrown or eroded or simply destroyed.

“There is no preservation or protection for this valuable cultural heritage, which was once at the heart of Hawaiian culture,” Sullivan says.

There are still some segments of the King’s Highway today, which form some of Maui’s more interesting hikes, but Sullivan wanted to experience the whole route. He told the UK’s Daily Mail that he’d been searching for it for 10 years and ended up embarking on the hike when his family left on a 10-day trip to visit his in-laws in Idaho.

Sullivan endured blisters and sore muscles and often thirsted for water, but the journey inspired him to act. He told the Daily Mail:

I think much more could and should have been done to preserve the King’s Highway. Large sections have been paved over, bulldozed or left neglected. The trail was an amazing feat of craftsmanship 500 years ago, laying hundreds of thousands of small stones through cliffs and gorges. The fact that sections of it still remain is a testament to the people who built it. The King’s Highway should be protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site, but sadly there is no state of federal protection or funds to protect most of it.

He launched a Kickstarter campaign last week to help fund a new book, “The Maui Coast: Legacy of the King’s Highway.” He hoped to raise $8,000 in “only 40 days,” but ended up meeting that goal by the weekend. As of this writing, he’s raised $9,995 from 71 backers, with more than a month left to go.

The large hardcover art book includes over 100 photographs, and you can browse a large collection of his King’s Highway images on the web. You can get an electronic version of the book for a $10 pledge, or a signed hardcover copy for $55 (for a limited time). Sullivan has already found one backer at the $1,000 level, for which he is offering to personally take supporters on a Maui photo safari.

The new book is being published by Honolulu-based Mutual Publishing. Sullivan says finding a publisher was his biggest challenge with “Tribes of the Omo Valley” (which was also launched on Kickstarter), so now that he has a publisher from the outset, his goals are even bigger.

“I am hoping to use Mutual Publishing for printing and distribution nationwide, to get my book placed in independent and major bookstores and to reach a larger audience,” he says.

And if more people fall in love with the King’s Highway, perhaps more voices will rise to preserve it.

Daniel Sullivan Photography

1 Response

  1. December 18, 2015

    […] globetrotting photographer launched a Kickstarter campaign to publish the book in January after walking the entire 220-mile length of the fast fading road, a segment of which is known today as the Hoapili […]

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