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!

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!

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 4×4 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.