Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Sue and Mo at Harris Beach
Sue and Mo at Harris Beach

Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday March 13

Home in Rocky Point. Mo is outside plowing the snow as it continues to come down. Not a blizzard by any means, but it's still real snow. I am keeping the fire going and trying to catch up on internet duties using the dialup that we have here. ahh.

I have updated the travels, but will have to wait until I get back to the world of hi-speed to add photos, so for the time being we are left with boring text. I know from reading other blogs that photos make them way more fun, so photos will be added in a few days.

March 12 Leaving Kauai

March 12 Time to go home

There aren’t many flights from Lihue on Alaska and our reservation didn’t leave the island until 10:30 pm, so we were wondering a bit what we would do during the 10:00 am checkout time and the 9:00 pm turninthecar time. But Karl and Rene came to the rescue with the offer to stay on at the suite since there wasn’t anyone coming in today. What a treat. It made what could have been a very tiring day into a delightful rest and easy packing day.

We walked down to the beach, visited with Karl and Rene a bit to thank them for everything, got a tour of their great new house and listened to Rene’s garden stories. She grows more bromileads than anyone anywhere, just poking them in every nook and cranny. Her favorite trick is to use the water in the little vases that they form in their crowns to root just about anything that grows. Sh
e also puts miracle-gro on her rock pathways so all the tree roots grow under and around the rocks and anchors them so they don’t slip around in the Kauai red clay.

She and Karl of course had some choice words for the politicians trying to stop the homeowners from renting their homes to visitors, saying that the big hotels are really the culprits and that it has nothing to do with culture and such. They pay several thousand dollars a month in room taxes, and Karl was snorting about just how the island economy was going to run without all that money.

Then of course, there was the car rental. I opted for the auto fill at the beginning of the contract so we wouldn’t have to find gas at the last minute. But I didn’t read the fine print, and it seems that that option is a full tank of gas, prepaid, no matter what you have in the tank when you return the car. Oops. And Mo being Mo couldn’t stand the thought of that, so we decided that instead of hanging out on a beach somewhere we needed to DRIVE.

LOL so off we went, but on an island with a 90 mile perimeter and a road that doesn’t even go all the way around the island, that took some imagination. We had a lot of fun exploring neighborhoods and side roads, and byways and canyons that we would have never seen any other way. And since Waimea was all the way to the west side of the island, we decided to go there once again. Turned out to be a really good choice, because this time the canyons were clear, and when we got to the viewpoint, there was no fog obscuring that fabulous world class view. I stood there thinking, gee, this is one of the primo spots in the entire world, on the entire planet, and here I am. What a treat.

Drove back down the canyon to Waimea and had the other great delight of the Shrimp Factory coconut shrimp, and my last incredible tropical shave ice, while Mo found a beach dress in the shop we had visited earlier. Perfect.

We got home early enough to pack and leave for the airport in plenty of time. Check in was a breeze, except for the soil in my suitcase. The USDA doesn’t allow soil to leave the island because of the nematodes, but to my delight, they did allow sand, so I will have some sand for my daughter Melody, who promised to make mincemeat of me if I didn’t bring her sand from the islands.

We were already primed for our red-eye flight and knew that the 7 hour layover in Seattle would be a bear after being up all night. But as we started to board, the announcement came, “we are canceling boarding of this flight temporarily due to an equipment malfunction”. Hmmm. Same old story. So more than 200 people sat in a closed airport with explicit instructions NOT to leave the secure area for 4 hours while Alaska Airlines supposedly had the handle to a fire extinguisher flown from Honolulu to Lihue. Hmmm again. It wasn’t particularly fun waiting in this tiny airport with no amenities, and way too much air conditioning, but eventually it ended and we boarded our flight for the mainland. The best part of all this was that there was a tail wind and what was normally a 6 hour flight turned into must 4.5 hours to get from Lihue to Seattle. Wow!

In Seattle it was gray and rainy and very cool, so we had breakfast at a restaurant there, watched the skies and shopped a bit. The 3 hour layover was much easier than the 7hour would have been, and I even got a massage at one of those massage bars.

The Horizon flight from Seattle to Medford was delightful as usual, with complimentary wine and some kind of great organic chips and a windy wild landing. Once on the ground the luggage came out in a manner of minutes, Mo got the truck, and we were finished. Home. Well, not quite. We had the long drive from Medford to Klamath, IN THE SNOW!!!, to pick up Abby at the boarding facility, and then back to the SNOW at Rocky Point, but once there, and once the fire was built, we were happy to be home.

March 11 Back to Hanalei

March 11 Last full day on the island

We had no major plans for our last full day on Kauai, thinking initially we would use this day to return to whatever part of the island called to us most. That turned out to be the north side. We went to the Kilauea Lighthouse to view the incredible view of the coast and the bird refuge, thrilled that the clarity and breezes had returned to the island. Still not the trades, but at least breezy enough to make for incredible views and great cloud formations. We stopped in to visit some shops and galleries at the little shopping area in Kilauea and truly loved the a place full of really special island art and ceramics. My favorites were the watercolors of island women and turtles by Joanna Carolan, and watercolors of the turtles by her mother Nancy Forbes. Another treat found there was the Aloha Spice Company and their amazing organic island seasonings. Yum.

I had a photo project for the Hanalei Valley Soil Survey Update, so with GPS and directions in hand, I attempted to find the exact locations for photos requested by the Soil Data Quality Specialist in charge of the project, but back in Davis, California, where he tried to figure out where best to get some much needed illustrations. Some of the sites were easy, but as is of ten the case in soil survey, other sites were behind fences and no trespassing signs. It was still fun, though, and took us on some back roads up the valley that we might not have seen otherwise.

After the photo project, we continued north to the Tunnels Beach, supposedly the best location for snorkeling. Once again, our trusty guidebook led us to the hidden parking and access for the beach and we even found a parking place thanks to someone leaving the area and stopping to let us know there was a place to park. Once more we weren’t disappointed. This beach is the one made famous in the movie, “South Pacific” as the location for the mythical Bali Hai. We packed down to the beach with heavenly stir-fry veggies leftover from my wok cooking adventures and our snorkel gear. It was a perfectly magical Kauai dream afternoon. The sun was perfect, with some clouds coming and going and causing the light on the palis to change and shift. The fish were everywhere, with a shallow reef deepening into a very scary deep channel. Mo and I were both underwater snorkeling toward the deeper water and when we hit the edge of that deep dark thing we both burst to the surface at the same time, laughing hard. Neither one of us was ready to fly out over that underwater cliff. Later on I got a little bit more brave and snorkeled along the edge of it, but never too far out. I heard later from Karl that the current there is deadly, and can take you out to sea with the force of a freight train. Lucky for us, we were too scared of the very deep underwater canyon to get caught in it, although sometimes going back to shore was like swimming backwards. Now and then it could get a bit scary when swimming as hard as you can takes you out rather than in. But the fish were great, huge things.

I once had a salt water aquarium and saw many old friends out there, only much bigger. Our Achilles Tang was so fragile and maybe 4 inches long and I saw Achilles Tangs a foot long swimming in the shallow channels along the reef, along with Picasso Trigger fish that were a foot long as well. We saw several varieties of butterfly fish, tangs, and the big silver fish with black stripes, schooling and flying about the way that the geese do, looking like someone waving a sheet in the wind. It was wonderful, and I didn’t even swallow any sea water. A couple of times we tried the fins, but both of us just felt way too ungainly with them on so I snorkeled with my Keen’s and Mo just did it barefoot. The barefoot part wasn’t very easy, though, and next time we will buy the cheap reef shoes at K-Mart.

After a long and very sweet afternoon on the beach we returned home via HWY 56 and stopped in to check out the China Market in Hanalei, which was funky and not as interesting actually as the Coconut Market back in Kapa’a. There was more to see in Hanalei, and we never made it out to the very high end Princeville Resort. On this last day on Kauai, we discovered that there were a few things on the list that we didn’t manage to get to, but we just looked at each other and thought, oh well. We loved every thing we did get to for sure.

Back home in time to relax a bit before our planned night out at a great restaurant. We weren’t sure of our choice, so talked with Karl and he recommended “CocoNuts”, which turned out to be the perfect place. It wasn’t too busy, with a great local flavor, but not at all kitchy, just refined and tropical. It was a bit pricey, but oh so worth it.

Karl had recommended the Ono, but when our waiter described the special I was instantly hooked. My dinner consisted of Mahi Mahi with a light dusting of coconut, finished with a thai ginger curry sauce, with fresh red ginger, pineapple coconut, and a slaw that echoed the pineapple thai ginner curry flavors. Amazing amazing. Mo had salmon finished with a very dark sticky teriyaki sauce with pineapple rice and veggies. Entrees ran about 30 each but by this time we were a bit used to island prices, and remember our 50 dollar lunch on our first day out and didn’t mind. Had a Sonoma chardonnay that was great, and I can’t remember the name of the winery, but once again, add some warm tones of oak to anything and we usually like it. Ahh what a dinner.

We went home very content and happy with the way we spent our last day on the island.

March 10 The Wailua River

No trade winds are blowing this morning, everything is quiet as the winds do their spring time turning. It’s humid and still, the surf is low, and the clarity that was so incredible the first couple of days that we were here isn’t as striking today.

We were up reasonably early for vacation time, since we were to meet in Wailua for our guided tour before 9. We looked at several options for this first-time trip, with a large number of choices available, but thought that maybe a guided trip would be ok for us and there might be some information we would get this way that we might not on our own. Of course, there was also the problem of how to get a rented kayak from the store to the river on our little rental car, so that problem was solved with the guided trip as well.

We went with Kayak Wailua, and our group was led by a young man born on Kauai whose father actually owned the company. He seemed fairly quiet and reserved until you asked a question, and then it was clear that he loved to talk. He told us all about the family business and the interactions of his mother and siblings with his father, the reason Hawaii became a state, and how it was really the Hawaiians that sold out to the US because of the money involved in the sugar cane business and the powerful politicians connected to that industry. He said Hawaii was definitely a Democratic/Liberal state, although he seemed to think that it was originally more conservative and was the antidote to the entry of the liberal Alaska to the union. He talked about the trees and the plants and the people and it was all kind of fun in a way that we wouldn’t have experienced on our own. There were 12 people on the tour, the legal maximum, and who knows why but they were all young people, 3 couples from Utah traveling together and another young honeymooning couple from Minnesota. Our guide Jonathan, led us up the hidden channel to the hidden trail and all its twists and turns that went to Secret Falls. I suppose we could have found it all on our own eventually if we had followed the rest of the kayakers on the river, but for 50 bucks each, we both decided that the trip was a pretty good value.

For me, Sue, this was the highlight of the trip. The river is easy, with an easy current that makes paddling effortless, and hiking through the forest along the stream was what I had somehow imagined our Kalalau hike would be. Lovely, green, soft ground underfoot, wading streams and gentle ups and downs until we came to the falls. Secret Falls itself is all that you might imagine a tropical waterfall to be. It’s about 120 feet tall, and ends in a perfect pool surrounded by lava rock. Of course, there were people there, but somehow that didn’t really matter. The water was about 64 degrees on this day, a bit cool when you first get in, but wonderful once you are swimming. I can’t really describe how it feels to be in this place, but it is everything magical that I wanted to experience on my dream trip to Kauai. I swam to the waterfall and felt that water pounding my body sharp and hard, and surprisingly at least 10 degrees warmer than the pool itself. I then floated on my back looking up at the falls for a long time, finally ending with another moment of the falls pounding on my head. Looking at pictures of the falls and the pools, even being there and looking at people swimming and watching the falls doesn’t come close to the actual experience of being in the pool and feeling the energy of the place. I’m so grateful for this experience and won’t forget the feelings, even though I can’t even come close to describing them at all.

We hiked back down, and enjoyed the kayak trip back to the marina, although the time on the river itself seemed much to short. If we ever go back, we will definitely rent a boat on our own and take our time in this place, exploring much more than we had the chance to do on the trip.

Home in time for a rest and a shower before driving again to Kapa’a and Wailua State Park to experience the Smith Family Luau and Tropical Gardens. As with everything else on Kauai, there isn’t really any kind of dress code, and many people, including us, were wearing the standard shorts and sandals. But others seemed to use this luau as a chance to dress up, and dressing up most of all seems to be the classic matching Hawaiian shirts for the men and dresses for the women. We even saw an entire family in the same matching print, all from Hilo Hattie’s, of course. It was fun. Especially fun were the young couples, obviously honeymooners, in their matching outfits. The gardens were lovely, and made up a bit for our choice to skip the botanical gardens. Lots of beautiful plants and trees all with name tags and introduced to us by the driver of the tram. “and on your left….” We enjoyed the silly tram ride, and the luau itself was fun. The “Imu” ceremony was classic, with the conch shell blowing, and the strapping young guys in their native sarongs taking out the pig. The food was served in a large open shelter and there were close to 500 people there, with free MaiTais and drinks and huge buffet lines. The food itself wasn’t exactly memorable, the kahlua pork isn’t as smoky as it smelled coming out of the pit, and it pretty salty. There was some fried rice and salads, some teriyaki beef that MMo liked and some chicken thing that was forgettable. But we had been forwarned that Hawaiian tastes were different so we didn’t really expect fabulous food anyway. I ate poi with lomi lomi salmon and actually thought it was quite good. Mo had tried poi when she was in the islands a long time ago and had no desire to experience it ever again.

The music was classic kitschy Hawaiian with ukeleles and a lovely hula dancer. I had expected something a bit more traditional, but it was still fun. The show after dinner was held in the theater area, with a fake volcano spitting fire and dances from many places. Tahitian dancing always seems to be popular in Hawaii because it’s faster and wilder than traditional hula, and of course the fire dancer thing is always dramatic and a crowd pleaser. The whole thing was fun and the moon through the clouds silhouetting the palms against the sky made it especially lovely. We went home feeling satisfied with our Wailua day.

March 8 hanging at home

Saturday March 8

This day we decided to just hang around the lovely home we were living in and appreciate all the delights of a quiet day on the island. The suite had laundry facilities just out the door that were shared by the residents, but we had no problem finding the washing machine available, and every once in awhile, a chance meeting at the dryer gave us a chance to interact a bit with the neighbors, exchange pleasantries about interesting things to do, and visit a bit. Our day was lovely, with perfect weather and skies, and another extra provided with the suite was leftover snorkeling gear. Rene was sure to tell us that they couldn’t officially rent out gear, but we were welcome to use whatever was left on the shelf in the laundry room, so we found some stuff and headed down Rene’s trail to the local beach.

It was Sue’s first time to snorkel, and just a little bit intimidating but Mo had done it before so we strapped on the masks and headed into the water. Of course, Sue’s snorkel was a bit leaky and a noseful and then a mouthful of salt water was a bit daunting. But I remembered what a coworker told me about staying with it, and of course switching out masks with Mo was a big help. That one didn’t leak, so I eventually got the hang of it and was rewarded with the magical appearance of tropical island fish right under my nose. We were in what is called Aliomanu Beach, and according to our well worn guidebook, this is the beach where local Hawaiians go to do net fishing and to gather other underwater treasures. A man and his wife were hanging out and he showed us how to use some local succulent beach leaves to wipe out the inside of the snorkel so it wouldn’t fog up. I still managed to swallow a good deal of salt water while getting used to it all, and am not sure if the upset stomach was from all that water or maybe I was just seasick. A quiet rest on the beach in the sun and shadows of passing clouds made it all ok in a short time, though.

The rest of the afternoon passed quietly, with actual relaxation a real part of the whole day. Late in the day we went in to Kapa’a and the Coconut Market which turned out to be a delightful touristy area, that we enjoyed completely. There was even Hawaiian music on the plaza, and all the “stuff” for sale that you expect in Hawaii, including those wiggly hula girls for the dashboard of your classic car if you happen to have one. Sue found a great Hawaiian dress coverup at Bodacious and we ambled back in the late evening to a home cooked simple supper and early bedtime to the music of the ocean and breezes.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

March 9 South side towns

Sunday March 9

Quiet morning here with early morning news. It’s the first morning where things have felt a bit cool and we even had to turn off the big fans that have run almost constantly since we arrived. Nice this morning that the internet is again working and I have a chance to update the blogs and upload photos. Of course, in the process, I realize that I am losing days in spite of my commitment to keeping track of what we are doing. I know that in the blur of all that we are doing, if I don’t write about it on a regular basis, the whole thing will run together in one big chunk and Mo and I will look at each other and say, now when did we do that? Where was that? What year was that?

I guess that’s the whole reason for the MoHoTravels blog in the first place, somewhere that we can go besides a tattered old journal to try to remember when we did what. The fact that it can be shared if I choose is just a little bonus, and also forces me to spell and at least think a little bit about what I am writing. That’s good for me even if no one but Mo or I ever read anything at all. Of course, the main reason is that I can type about a zillion times faster than I can write, and I am at the point in my life where I can no longer read my own writing. Ha!

The day is unfolding quietly, with thoughts of going back to the Poipu area and checking out the tropical arboretum there and the Spouting Horn, and maybe walking around the town of Koloa.

We decided to explore the southern coast today and check out the little historic towns of Koloa and Hanapepe, then on to Poipu. It's still amazing to me just how different the southern and western side of the island is compared to the east and north where we are staying. The historic aspect of Koloa plantation history could have been interesting, but most things don't open until noon in these little resort towns, and as we discovered, Sunday is a very quiet day all over the island, except for the churches. Many shops and attractions are closed on Sunday, so if you decide to visit, plan Sunday as a beach day or a home day. Although the beaches were fairly busy with the addition of locals to all the tourists. We also found out that this is the quietest time of year, a lucky thing for us. Winter and summer are much busier, with traffic jams and long lines waiting to get into any restaurants, so we smiled at our totallly random luck. When we planned this trip, we were just thinking off the best time to leave late winter early spring snows behind us. Great timing!

We left Koloa and drove up the coast a mile or two to see the famous Spouting Horn, a typical blow hole kind of feature with the addition of a very noisy vent that sounded exactly as you might imagine that a dragon would sound. In spite of all the warnings about not going behind the fence, people were all around the blow hole and I went down there as well to try to catch a photo of the water exploding like a geyser. Photos didn't quite get it, but I did get to be up close to the very scary dragon sound! spooky!!

We had also planned to go the tropical botanical gardens, one of 5 in the world, but decided that the $30 price tag was too high for our plans so skipped that one. After viewing the Spouting Horn we continued north on HWY 50 to the little town of Hanapepe, the art center of the island. Everything was very very quiet, with most stores and galleries closed, but we walked across the swinging bridge, and talked with one artist in her studio who filled us in on some of the more controversial issues that are plaguing the island in this day of millionaires and absentee owners. The problems sound the same as many other places in the world, gentrification and second homes eating up all the real estate, inflating the prices far beyond what a working person can possibly afford, and killing the local culture while it feeds the economy is ways that don't help the masses very much.

We returned home in the late afternoon to more relaxation, and I cooked a truly wonderful stir-fry with chicken and some truly sweet pineapple. I haven't mentioned the pineapple, but omigosh, it is every bit as sweet and non acidic as the pineapple I loved so much last year in Thailand. Ahhh! and great little very sweet bananas, called "apple bananas" are also wonderful. This time of year is quiet as far as fruit and veggies, go but the pineapple lived up the the dream!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

March 8 stories

Here is a photo of the world in action. Computer Dave we call him. The first morning that Mo and I were on Kauai, we went walking and found Dave. I called him the florid man who showed us the way to Rene's Trail. As our internet connection continued to baffle Karl and Rene, they asked their friend for help. He knocked on the door, and lo and behold it was Dave. Dave is a great guy, every time we see him he is smiling and happy and helpful. When he wasn't able to correct the cable problem, he offered his home office for me to check email and print our vouchers for the kayak trip we ordered online. (gotta remember that part about travel, computers, and online orders, there has to be a printer somewhere!!)

So we walked down the road, over Rene's hidden trail, along the beach and up a little sand bar to this magnificent home overlooking the water. Dave's house. Everything was all open and breezy and lovely in that island way, and his wife was standing at the sink, looking a bit pertubed that friendly Dave was hauling some strange woman into the house, probably not for the first time. He took me up to his climate contolled office the only room in the house that has air conditioning and where he keeps all his equipment. He makes his living now doing computer consulting when he feels like it. What he told me is that he worked in San Jose and retired in 91, and his stock options bought this house, he moved to Hawaii, and the market crashed 6 months later. No wonder he is so happy all the time!

March 7 Waimea Canyon

After seeing the south and east side of the island on our first day out, we decided that today we wanted to see the famous Waimea Canyon, Grand Canyon of the Pacific, as it is referred to. Our typical granola and banana breakfast and we were on the road by 8 am, traveling south on 56 and then west on 50 through the towns of Hanapepe, which we saved for another trip, and Waimea, and up Canyon Road. Interesting that the road to the canyon isn’t well marked because the powers that be actually want you to miss it so that you will continue on to the next town of Kekaha to hopefully spend some more money before continuing up this other route to the canyons. We had our trusty guidebook which warned us of this little problem, so even though we also missed the turn, we knew enough to turn around and fine the hidden turn.

The road goes up very fast, from sea level to 1500 feet in about 2 miles and then it settles down to a bit more reasonable elevation. There are several wide spots in the road for views, and the main lookouts are marked well with parking and of course, lots of people. We were glad to have stopped at one of the earlier unmarked areas for the first view of the canyon because we had the dramatic run of a herd of wild goats running along the cliff sides. Of course, the telephoto on my camera works great, but I can’t seen anything in the viewfinder in the bright sunlight so I have a closeup of some very pretty rocks, and no goats. But we at least got to see them. On up the canyon, we stopped at each of the bigger viewpoints, including the main Waimea Canyon Lookout where I bought fresh pineapple (a hit) and ice cold coconut floating in coconut water (a miss). We also stopped at the Pu’u Ka Pele and the Pu’u Hinahina Lookouts where you can see the lovely Waipo’o Falls in the canyon and the forbidden island of NiHau in the west. We got much better views of Nihau later in the day but it was fun to see it from the high point of the canyon drive.

As we drove higher, over 3500 feet, the fog started coming in and the views lessened. We drove past the Koke’e State Park and on to the end of the road and the two lookouts that give views off the Kalalau valley and those famous vertical green cliffs and the Pacific Ocean. The road wasn’t as potholed as suggested in the guidebook, but the clouds were there and the views were not. Ah well. I looked at the photos and imagined what I might see if my timing were better. There are several trails that take off from the last viewpoint, including the Pihea Trail and the Alaka’i Swamp Trail. All trails that would have beckoned us another time, but on this day our legs were still complaining about what we did yesterday on the Kalalau trail so we looked at each other and said, “Hey, who needs to hike in the fog, we couldn’t see anything anyway. Let’s go find a beach”.
On the way back down the canyon we decided lunch was a good idea and stopped at the Koke’e Lodge for a surprisingly nice meal and some fun watching the feral chickens doing their chicken thing. Chickens on Kauai are like seagulls on the Oregon coast. They are everywhere, brought here originally by the first settlers with their pigs and dogs, but since Hurricane Iniki they have multiplied even more. According to Rene they are a good thing, eating roaches and centipedes, two bugs that were also imported here. The feral cats seems to keep the population of the feral chickens to a manageable number as well. It was shocking to find a feral cat half the way into the wild area on the Kalalau trail, and out on the distant beaches of Polihale. A sound in my memory of Kauai will be of roosters crowing. All the time, in town, in the country, at home, everywhere.

After our refreshing lunch we continued back down to the western beaches, long long stretches of sand and hot sun. It was amazing just how much hotter it was down here, and the clouds of the mountains completely dissipated as we drove to the end of the road and Polihale Beach. Here the sand dunes are 100 feet high and the sand is HOT. We were happy again to have the guidebook that directed us to go left at the monkeypod tree to find the Queen’s Pond and the southern end of Polihale beach. The surf on this side of the island is huge and strong and scary, and this is supposedly a nice gentle place to swim safely. We tramped across the deep hot sand to plop down next to this lovely spot and swim. I love it, the keiki (baby) beach, and it was plenty strong for me. I swam and swam and played in the waves and felt the strength of it and remembered childhood days at Huntington Beach in California, getting pounded into the sand by waves and wondering if I was ever going to surface. Just outside the boundaries of this little reef area there were huge waves, so big the a couple of surfers trying to get into the water walked up and down the beach and finally gave up. We swam and rested and swam some more before finally decided to leave this lovely place. Drove a bit farther north into the state park to check out the picnic area and camping and after checking out the wild surf we were really glad to have found our baby beach at Queen’s Pond.

Heading back along the coast to Waimea we stopped at the famous Jo’Jo’s Shave Ice and had the tropical treat. If you have never had a shave ice, believe me, it is NOT a snow cone. The ice is shaved really fine, and the best way I can describe it is like the texture off eating a really good crispy watermelon. It ‘s ground really fine, then covered with fresh tasting tropical juices and all on top of a scoop of macadamia ice cream. Unbelieveable. Like the best watermelon you ever had, and maybe something like a tropical root beer float as well. Ahhhhh! Another perfect end to a perfect day. Home at sunset to reading and relaxing and enjoying our tropical breezes and home.

March 6 Kalalau Trail

The book we are using is called, “The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook, 5th Edition” by Wizard Publications. At first it was a bit disconcerting, because they talk about things to see and then direct you to another part of the book for more information regarding hiking, or whatever, so until I got used to it, I couldn’t find anything. But as I get used to using it, I like it better and better. The writers have a great sense of humor and a ton of really good information once you find it.

We woke early again to the sound of the ocean and the birds. I’ll never get tired of that, I am sure. Having granola and sweet baby bananas for breakfast before we headed north on HWY 56 to the north side of the island. Driving north from Anahola leads into a lovely rural area of gentle sloping terraces that face the ocean backed by those amazing vertical green mountains to the east. There are mango and other kinds of orchards along the way, and even a fresh fruit stand where I got a pineapple and banana tropical smoothie that was perfect. As we approached Kilauea we found a roadside stand with 2 little girls and their mom selling banana bread as part of their home schooling in economics. Of course, we bought a very tiny loaf for 5 bucks, and it wasn’t that great, but the pictures were cute.

On through small towns and to the famous overlook of the Hanalei Valley, where most of the taro plant is grown in wet fields, much like rice. We passed through Princeville and Hanalei, with our destination in mind, expecting to return another time to explore the shops of both those charming little towns. We did have to stop to take photos of the famous green church with the mountain backdrop. It was truly lovely.

The road on the north side narrows considerably with 7 one lane bridges. Everyone is polite, and there is a certain island etiquette as to how to cross these bridges. We followed a road just so incredibly beautiful it defies description until we arrived at the end at the Ke’e Beach. This is the end of the road, as far as you can drive This seems to be a very popular place because even as early as we were there was very little parking available. There are two huge caves, one dry and one wet, and the beach is quite a distance from the main parking lot and the main trailhead.

The Kalalau trail is according to all our books not only the most famous in Kauai, but the most famous in all of Hawaii. It follows the precipitous north coast along the cliffs with a sheer drop to the ocean below. I had imagined a lovely tropical hike with waterfalls and ocean views. There weren’t that many waterfalls, but the ocean views were breathtaking. So was the hike! It was a perfect temperature, and with all the elevation ups and downs I was really glad to be hiking at mostly sea level or close to it. The hike is beautiful. It goes for 11 miles along the cliffs of the inaccessible Na Pail coastline, to beaches and waterfalls, and ends at the Kalalau valley and beach in the midst of this magnificent coast. This is the part of the island that is usually seen only by helicopter or by expensive charter catamaran trips. We decided to opt out of either of those, but thought that the shorter part of the hike to Hanakapi’ai beach would do just fine. 2 miles each way, piece of cake, right? We do that all the time. Well, let me tell you, 2 miles up and down on slippery volcanic rock is not a piece of cake. It was a wonderful trip, and we began fairly early in the morning, and by the time we limped to the end of the trail it was mid afternoon. Lovely. Mo and I laughed and said, ‘I wonder how much longer we are going to be able to do this kind of thing?” Well, hopefully a bit longer anyway.

Aching knees made the cool salty waters of Ke’e beach call to me and I went directly into the cool clear water and what an amazing feeling. The surf didn’t look heavy at all, but as soon as I relaxed into the water, I noticed that I was going out to sea very very quickly. I swam hard and went nowhere and laughed a lot as I let the current take me where it wanted, and eventually went back into shore. The sandy bottom was perfect and clean and I could see it as clearly as if I had on a mask. I loved that part especially. Swimming felt so good on my legs, and when I finally got out and attempted to walk up the beach I remembered again that they were tired. Back to the car and comfortably settled into our seats, we traveled the lovely roads home to Anahola without any thought whatsoever of checking out a single thing!

Nice to come home to our lovely little house, make a great stir fry dinner and relax with some reading and writing and the gentle afternoon breezes. The end of a very perfect day!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

March 5 Wednesday first explorations

I woke at 5 this morning, in the soft darkness, listening to the sounds of the ocean and soft night rustlings. It was a test in learning patience, waiting for the daylight, waiting to see this place where we landed on this island. I knew that our windows faced east, knew that we were above the ocean, but not on it, and while I could hear it, I wasn’t sure at all whether or not I would see it. Even in the dark, the gardens were impressive, so I knew that facet of our stay would be delightful.

The place where we are staying is called the Aloha Suite at the Kauai Gardens on Anahola Bay. Some guidebooks place us on the north side of the island, some on the east side, and some just leave Anahola out altogether. We are in between east and north, so for me that is simply “northeast”. It’s a quiet rural area, about 4 miles from Kapa’a and 12 miles from Lihue. (after many misses, I learned that it is pronounced “Li-hooey”). That first night it seemed a long way, but as we have explored more we are happy with our location. It’s perfect really, with accessibility and silence.

First impressions this morning were of silence and darkness. Blessed darkness. No street lights, house lights, porch lights, nothing to mar the loveliness of that tropical night. As the sun rose, the bird sounds started up, all bird sounds I have never heard, so mentally I added “bird id book” to my accumulating list. The air is pure velvet, and caresses your body as you move about the way that the finest silk velvet slides over your body. Not hot, not cold, somehow perfect body temperature, with breezes that slide by that are just enough cooler for you to feel them. I have been hot sometimes here, but never more than a moment or two.

Watching the morning break in the gardens was so magnificent, and light illuminating the interior spaces of our home was another treat. This place was built 8 years ago by Karl and Reney, he’s the German builder and she’s the magical gardener. The gardens are a magical maze of palms and bromeliads, succulents and tropical vines that Reney has created in only 8 years, using plants from the dump! The huge row of Royal Palms that lines the driveway are only 8 years old and the grey palms outside the back terrace she grew from seed just five years ago. Looking at the photos of these gardens you will think you are in a landscape that has been developing for years and years, so this information from Reney was a true surprise. Reney herself is a surprise, a lovely woman with long hair with tiny streaks of gray, all tied in a knot wearing a long Hawaiian print sundress that she says is 6 years old, her permanent garden costume. She’s originally from New Orleans and the sound of the south is still in her voice.

But when we took our first walk, we hadn’t yet met Reney and wandered down the driveway to the main road in search of the beach. We could see it and hear it, but between us and the beach were many private homes and walls and jungles. Shortly we passed a florid man happily walking and sweating and he seemed friendly so we asked him if he knew how to get to the beach. He said, “Oh you haven’t found Reney’s trail yet” “Let me show you” and he proceeded to take us over a wall, though a jungle to a private beach, all the while telling us the story of Reney who planted gardens for the man who owns the property in exchange for a path to the beach. Our first introduction to Reney. And the beach itself was lovely, too, small and close, with some homes along the way, some rocks and some sand, and of course, that legendary clear water.

We walked the beach a bit and then decided to let this first day be one of exploration. But before I go to that part of the day, let me return to the wonderful place where we are staying.

Often we try to stay in very reasonable accommodations, and while there are cheaper places to stay on this island, I really wanted this vacation to be relaxing and the fulfillment of my dream of a tropical vacation, so here we are. The most amazing thing about it is the quality of the environment itself. The walls are all beautiful whitewashed pine, it’s all timber frame construction with bamboo mat ceilings, and big silent air fans. The floors are smooth and shiny Brazilian cherry, grown on a farm in Portland, Oregon, according to Reney, and silky and cool underfoot. The furnishings are an eclectic mix of rattan and carved Asian influences and tropical touches. The counters are granite, the coffeemaker is a Cuisine Art, and there are all the goodies that only a cook would think of, such as really good knives, and a garlic press and a big excellent electric wok. Everything is incredibly spotless, and pure and fresh and clean. One of my favorite things are the guidebooks that are thumbed and worn, and are the best guidebooks on the island. We have used them every day. Outside our bedroom door is a lanai with our own personal hot tub and a table for evening drinks or morning coffee with a bit off a view of the ocean, although that view is somewhat truncated by all the foliage. I love the foliage, though, it’s the reason I wanted to be on Kauai.

After a cup of tea and some breakfast bars I had in my bag, which was our only option on this first morning, we headed to town to explore and shop. First stop was the coffee bar in Kapaa and a great cappuccino and a lemon bar. Ahh. Then we decided to travel a bit inland and explored the HWY 580 that goes as far inland as it seems you can go on a road.

The Opaeka’a Falls Lookout was lovely, although you can see houses on the upper part of the falls, and there were lots of tourists stopping at the same pullouts. This is a busy tourist road it seems, but also interesting to see the homes and neighborhoods along here. We drove to the end of the pavement into the Keahua Arboretum, crossing the upper reaches of the Wailua River with the car. From here, the road is dirt and suggests that a 4x4 is needed to continue on to the Kuilau Trail, which we decided was something for another day after we knew more about the island and what we might want to spend our time doing.

Just breathing the air in this place was wonderful, as the book said, a giant oxygen factory. I don’t think I have even smelled air like this anywhere, ever. The greens were so brilliant they hurt your eyes, and the popping orange of the African Tulip Tree (Spathodea campanulata) made the blue skies even bluer and the white clouds were so pure they could have come directly from heaven itself. I was in awe on this whole trip, just in awe. As we drove back down the highway, we took a bit more time stopping at the various viewpoints, watching the kayakers going up and down the Wailua River, and seeing the first of the Hawaiian temple sites with their altars and history.

Our goal was to drive around the Island and get an overview of everything but we were waylaid once more by the side trip from just east of Lihue up to Wailua Falls. This is the falls that you see in all the photos of Kauai, a beautiful double fall with rainbows at the bottom. We took the obligatory photo from the tourist crowded lookout and looked around for other trails to the pools below. After seeing a hiker emerge from one of those trails covered with more than 75 huge welts from the mosquitos and looking at the condition of the trail, we thought that maybe we could save that adventure for another time as well.

Back down to the main road 56, to Lihue, a nondescript place, at least along HWY 56 and 50 as it passes through, and on to Poipu, the southern coast. We drove around a bit, and realized that we were getting really hungry so started looking for a restaurant. Surprising how hard that is to find sometimes, and we drove through Koloa before returning to Poipu to find the Keoki’s Paradise, a place not to miss with a special sort of tropical ambiance. We had a great lunch there, salad, and Hawaiian fish with a Mai Tai once more and a view of waterfalls and gardens and open air dining on the terrace. Perfect spot for a point in the day where we were feeling a bit underwhelmed with everything. Before our late lunch, we thought we might go home, but afterward, feeling refreshed and re-energized, we decided to look for some of those famous Poipu beaches. Our waitress was great and told us about the Mahaulepu beaches and our handy guidebook had some detailed maps and directions, a good thing since it is off the beaten path and the roads that lead there aren’t really on the main maps. It isn’t even listed on the main beach page of most of the Kauai magazines either. So with guide book in hand, we headed off across the dirt roads north of Poipu. Once found, there were three beaches to choose from, and since it was late and we were tired, we chose the easiest. Another lovely beach walk, but both of us in shorts and not swimsuits meant that it was a walk and a wade and not a swim. We didn’t actually swim once on this first day, but the walk was beautiful, and we even got a close up of a monk seal, endangered here with only a few hundred individuals left. Feeling happy and beach satisfied, we headed back through Kapa’a to find the Safeway store so that we could stock up.

Speaking of that, sticker shock is a big deal here. Food in the restaurants is high, but what you would expect from a resort area and such, but the idea that you can save money by cooking it isn’t so enticing when you see the prices of stuff, even with the Safeway card. I think the one that got us the most was the mayonnaise, 9.51 for a quart of Best Foods. Yeah, that’s dollars. What planet have I been living in? The wine was 15 bucks which would normally be 10 and milk was 2 gallons for 10 bucks. We bought enough groceries to last for most of the week and spent almost 200 bucks. Best deal however was the Hawaiian drinks, at 1.89 for a six pack of passion fruit, guava juice in pure water with no fake sugar, just the real thing from sugar cane. Hmmm. But sooooo refreshing.

Lunch sufficed for dinner for us and when we finally returned to our little home we were ready for a much needed rest. Once again, dark night sounds, no ambient light to speak of, and the sounds of the ocean lulled me to sleep for happy tropical dreams.

March 4 traveling to Kauai

Traveling to Hawaii isn’t what it used to be. I remember the 5 day crossing as a 5 year old on a gray Navy ship, my mother and baby sister sick below deck for most of the crossing, and me watching the horizon with the two Navy nurses who offered to help, above deck was the only way I got through it, even at 5. Returning from Hawaii was a 12 hour flight on the Mars seaplane, watching the ocean below as if it were right there, but confused because there were clouds between us and the water.

Traveling by air now is so much more mundane, been in the sky too many times. I think I get more excited about toodling down the road in the MoHo than I do thinking about getting on a plane. Too bad. The price of old age and lots of travels. Still, waiting in the Seattle airport for our flight was nice, and not too long, and everything was on perfect schedule. Our flight on Alaska was comfortable, and even the ordinary class seats weren’t too tight. Especially nice since Mo and I managed an aisle and a window seat with no one in between. Space enough for a rousing card game and still have room for our drinks. The flight was just about 6 hours, and they gave us Mai Tai’s and Macadamia nuts in the beginning, to make up for the fact that all food now is “available for purchase”. Not a bad flight though, and we arrived ahead of schedule at 8:30 PM Kauai time,

Once landed, the disorientation of a new place in the dark is always a bit challenging. We found the shuttle to the car rental, managed to get all our luggage without anything lost and found the last economy car on the lot. I guess 4x4’s and convertibles are the big deal here, but we had other things to spend out money on this time around. Mo drove and we followed the directions to our vacation rental, north on HWY 51 to HWY 56 and then on to Aliomanu Road to the last culdesac and up the hill. Now all this sounds so simple, unless it’s dark and the roads are dark and it’s a brand new world. And the car feels something like a roller skate scooting along the ground. Mo looked like some kind of low rider behind the wheel. Took her another day to actually find the button that would let her lower the steering wheel enough to see over it! Most everything was closed as we drove through Kapaa toward Anahola, but we found a quick fast food bite to get us through to morning, realizing that of course, we had no supplies for our vacation home stay.

The directions were clear, the door was open, the key on the table with a vase of fresh flowers and a bottle of champagne in the fridge. Ahh, Kauai. I am here.

The adventure of arriving at a new destination in the dark is worth the disorientation I think. I could smell everything and hear the ocean and the night sounds, but it all was a mystery waiting to unfold with the morning light.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


Trying to come up with a title for today's post and I just come up with nothing but "Kauai". I suppose after I am here for a couple of days things will come to mind. I am not sure that I can title a post "air", but it would be fitting. "Clarity" would be another apt title. Air and Clarity. Two things I am always searching for and both are here in amazing abundance. The air in this place is clearer than just about any air I have ever experienced, even with clouds and mist and humidity, as one guidebook said, breath deep, because it's like a huge oxygen factory here in the mountains and you can almost hyperventilate just breathing. I will write about the adventures of getting here, the surprises of being here, where we are staying and what we are doing, but first, I had to just say "it is the air, most of all it is the air"