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 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.
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 http://www.bananapatchstudio.com/ a place full of really special island art and ceramics. My favorites were the watercolors of island women and turtles by Joanna Carolan, http://bananapatchstudio.com/catalog/prints/jcgiclees_legends.asp 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. http://www.alohaspice.com/
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.
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, http://www.kayakwailua.com/ 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.
http://www.smithskauai.com/luau.html 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.
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.