Monday, October 29, 2007

The Travelogue Finale: Kauai

Hello everyone,

Yes, now that it has been two months, I can write the final chapter of our summer travels and write about our trip to Kauai. Yes, it was at the end of August, and yes it seems basically irrelevant now, but here it is....

Picking up where I left off, on Saturday, August 18th we drove home from the Rogers Family Reunion in California. We arrived home at 1:30 am, went to church on Sunday, then on Monday Dave flew to Kauai for his work conference. He spent the week going to seminars, doing projects, working on the terrace overlooking the pool and ocean, going to a luau, etc (I know, sounds like a rough week of work). I spent the week without him vainly trying to clean up the house, helping with an Enrichment cooking group activity, and generally trying to stay sane. On Friday, August 25th, I took the kids to stay with some friends and off I went to Hawaii. It was a long flight, but I pleasantly diverted myself until we arrived in the Honolulu airport. I had to change planes to catch my inter-island flight to Kauai. Even with my fabulous sense of direction and maps, the signs mapping out the different terminals and where the Wiki-Wiki Bus stops were that took you to the terminals were absolutely unintelligible. I did, however, eventually figure out where my Wiki-Wiki Bus stop was and caught my plane to Kauai. The flight to Kauai was short: you basically take off, they throw juice at you and you land. When we landed in Kauai at 5:30pm I was surprised to see that unlike the crowded and un-navigable Honolulu airport, the airport was a small one-story series of buildings surrounded by palm trees-- it was basically a series of waiting rooms, a few luggage conveyor belts and a small security checkpoint at the front-- as crowded as a snow-cone stand in December. I made my way down a short hall to get my luggage and saw a familiar face: Dave met me at the airport, so we picked up my luggage, got our rental car and were off. We drove to Lawai (a small town near Poipu and the south shore), checked into our bed and breakfast and then went to get pizza for dinner, after which I discovered that I was still on California time and ready to go to sleep..

After sleeping in until past 7:30 or 8:00 Saturday morning (yes, I was still on California time) we went off to the beach. We borrowed snorkel stuff from our bed and breakfast and went straight to Poipu Beach for my very first attempt at snorkeling. Dave jumped in and was successfully snorkeling immediately. I spent 10 minutes trying to figure out how to walk over sand dotted with lava rocks with flippers on and waves hitting me before I got out the requisite 10 feet into the water. Then, while Dave splashed around, telling me how great it was, I spent 30 minutes attempting to snorkel and feeling like a complete failure. Every time I stuck my face under, I would try to start swimming only to have my mask fill with water immediately. I tried an infinite number of mask adjustments, repeatedly getting my eyes stung by the salt water, before finally trading masks with Dave. Only then did we realize that I was not a snorkel incompetent-- my mask was broken and THAT was why my mask kept filling up with water. We went and rented snorkel equipment for the rest of the week and the returned to Poipu for Snorkeling Take 2.

This time I got in the water, stuck my head in and immediately started swimming around. This wasn't so hard after all! We saw all kinds of tropical fish, right in calm waters about 15 feet from shore. When we finally got out, there was an endangered Hawaiian monk seal sitting right smack on the beach about 10 feet away from us (apparently he frequents that spot, because they had signs up warning not to touch him and little posts with rope to stake out his nap spot so people wouldn't bother him). After a great morning of snorkeling we went to lunch at Keoki's Paradise-- complete with grass hut booths and "hula pie." Then we drove to see a blow-hole (where a wave comes in and water blows up out of a rock-- this one even made a moaning sound when it blew) and browse a botanical garden before going snorkeling again. This time we went snorkeling at Lawai Beach-- on the South Shore right by the Beach House restauarant. This beach had much higher surf so after a challenging snorkel session we went home exhausted.

We were going to go to the Beach House Restaurant for dinner until we realized that we were both so tired from snorkeling that we would rather just veg. So, on the way home we went to store to pick up something for dinner and groceries for sunday. We considered having salad until we saw that a normal-sized bag of romaine was $7. Hmmm, maybe a salad doesn't sound so good after all. Luckily we eventually found some stuff for dinner and even some locally-grown lettuce that was a bit more affordable. I really wanted to get something Hawaiian-ish for a treat: what would be better than a box of Macadamia Nut Cookies!! We decided to pass on the Pepperidge Farms and try to go with something more local and authentic-- after all we were in Hawaii. I grabbed a box of cookies in the bakery, but upon further examination we found they were from Ogden, Utah. Hmmmm. Not as exotic as I had hoped. So I looked until I found a different brand of cookies in the bakery-- only this time they were from Tualatin, Oregon. That was a little bit too much. Fine, no treat. So we went home, made soup in the microwave, and vegged in front of the TV to relax our tired muscles until we went to sleep.

Sunday we woke up to... pouring rain (and the sound of roosters, of course--- they wander wild all over Kauai). We went to church in Kalaheo, came home for lunch, then drove to the west side of the island to see Waimea Canyon since it had cleared up a bit. The first lookout we made it to was spectacular: red rock cliffs dotted with waterfalls, the canyon half-filled with misty drifts of clouds. But then it started raining. Hard. The last two lookouts were a total whiteout. We could have had a busy K-Mart in front of us instead of one of the most gorgeous views of the Pacific, but we wouldn't have been able to tell. We took a picture anyway and went back to our inn (where it was sunny and clear, incidentally). We made a quasi-gourmet dinner (how 'bout that frozen lasagna and microwave vegetables!) and ate on our balcony overlooking lush forest. After dinner we drove to Poipu Beach and walked down the beach as the sun was setting and the moon rose (yes, it really is as romantic as it looks in movies). We then went to the Hyatt Resort and walked around, just to have a peek at how the other half REALLY visits Kauai (BTW, they have several swimming pools surrounded by a series of waterfall/stream pools and picturesque bridges, several amazing expensive restaurants-- including a restaurant underneath a thatched grass roof surrounded by water and tiki torches, and wooden swings in the immaculately manicured gardens where you can sit and contemplate the beauty of the white-sand beach in front of you).

On Monday, we checked out early and left for Waimea on the west side to check in for our boat tour of the Na Pali Coast (which you can only see by boat, helicopter or hike). For the first little while we cruised in the beautiful Hawaiian sunshine past fairly boring uninhabited pristine white-sand beaches and distant views of the forbidden island of Ni'ihau. Then we saw a sea turtle and ran across some spinner dolphins who swam closer and closer to our boat until they were literally right along side it. Finally we got to the Na Pali coast where we cruised past miles of surreal green thousand-foot cliffs. It was absolutely amazing-- we saw miles of gorgeous, jungle-covered cliffs; beautiful untouched waterfalls and beaches; and went into a sea cave (in our boat) to a spot that broke through to the sky with sheer rock cliffs on all sides. It was incredible! Then we snorkeled in a protected cove in the ocean, ate lunch and went back to Waimea. We made a stop to get shave ice with Macadamia Nut Ice Cream on the bottom and browse the souvenirs, before setting off for further adventures.

That afternoon, we went to Kipu Falls, making sure to drive through the tree tunnel near Koloa on our way. There's a small unmarked path off of a little road that takes you to the falls. You have an easy 5 minute hike through jungle and then you reach a 15-20 foot cliff and waterfall that feeds a beautiful green pool of water below. On one side there is a rope swing, where you can swing into the water (someone has attached a metal ladder to the side of the drop-off, making it easier to get back up to the top). So Dave took several swings off the rope swing and hurled himself off the waterfall cliff into the water (I actually caught this moment on film...). I really wanted to try the rope-swing, but finally decided that it was probably not the smartest thing to do when you are 6 months pregnant (Note: Baby- I hope you appreciate what I go through and forego for you!). So I just climbed down the ladder and swam in the pool beneath waterfall. Dave and I both took advantage of the chance to sit underneath a waterfall with it flowing over you (one of those things I've always wanted to do for some reason). Later that afternoon we drove to see Waimea Falls and Opaekaa Falls. We went for a quick snorkel at Lydgate Park, where they have a cove where you can snorkel protected from the waves by a barrier of huge rocks. There were tons of tropical fish-- at one point I was surrounded by a whole school of silver fish that all turned and looked at me. We finished the day by checking into the Marriott (hooray for corporate discounts!) and having dinner at Duke's Restaurant, eating fabulous fresh seafood while overlooking the ocean surrounded by tiki torches. Yes, it was a rough day.

On Tuesday we had a quick breakfast overlooking the Marriott pool (which is the largest pool in Hawaii-- a huge circle with a bridge over it and five different hot tubs sitting under roman-columned patios), we left for our Helicopter Tour of the island. This seemed like quite a splurge to me, but our guidebook said that going to Kauai and not going on a helicopter tour is like going to the Sistine Chapel and not looking up. So we temporarily ignored the budget and common sense and went on the tour anyway. It was amazing: we got to see Waimea Canyon, "Jurassic Park" falls, the cliffs of the Na Pali coast (from a completely different angle), and the crater beneath Mt. Waihale (the wettest spot on earth). The crater was my favorite part-- we were surrounded by sheer cliffs covered in green tropical foliage with thousand-foot waterfalls all around us on every side. Wow.

After our helicopter tour, we headed out to explore the North Shore. We assumed our typical battle positions: Dave driving our little rental car down the two-lane roads with me madly flipping through the guidebook trying to find and navigate us to our next adventure or eating spot. We stopped to get a hamburger for lunch from the highly recommended Duane's Ono-Char Burger, which turned out to be little more than a roadside shack-- and mmmm was it good... perfectly grilled burgers with pineapple and teriyaki and melted cheese. Yum. We stopped by a farmer's market and got lilikoi (passionfruit) and starfruit for 25 cents a piece (by far the best 25 cents ever spent-- fresh starfruit is so yummy). We also stopped at Tropical Taco (I couldn't make up my mind between it and the burger place, so we went to both) and had a fresh and filling fish burrito. Then we went to Tunnels Beach, the supposed mecca for snorkeling nirvana in the summer months. I have to say, it wasn't far from the truth. It was amazing snorkeling. We saw tropical fish, big fish, swam through beautiful canyons of coral and even saw two sea turtles. One of the sea turtles we swam with for about 5 minutes-- it was incredible. The beach itself wasn't bad either: beautiful white sand in the sun with jungle covered cliffs in the background.

After our snorkeling outing we made a trip to Queens Bath. You take a 10-minute easy walk through the jungle and on lava rocks along the coast until you come to a perfectly calm pool of salt water in between the rocks, with the occasional wave splashing over the rocks and trickling into the pool. We swam in the pool with tropical fish (of course) as we watched the waves crash on nearby rocks and the sun set. Then we had a late dinner of --what else-- incredible fresh fish at Coconuts.

Wednesday dawned, and alas, it was our last day in Kauai. After checking out of our hotel we got apple turnovers at a bakery for breakfast and then made a mad dash to the North Shore to try to snorkel at the famed Ke'e beach. Unfortunately, despite my mad navigational skills and Dave's death-defying driving techniques, there is no way to "dash" on slow two-lane roads that go across one-lane bridges until you reach the end of humanity. We did finally get to the beach (which is literally at the end of the road) , but the minimal nearby parking lot was completely full, so Dave dropped me off and parked the car. We ended up losing each other for about 20 minutes as I walked up and down the beach and then finally went back out to the edge of the parking lot just as Dave arrived at the beach from another direction and started walking up and down it himself. We finally found each other and had a grand 20 minutes left to explore one of the most famous snorkel spots on the island before we had to leave for our Kayak Tour of the Wailua River. Luckily we knew where to get lunch: at our favorite hamburger shack-- Duane's Ono-Char Burgers. We did actually (barely) make it to our Kayak Tour. We shared a kayak and rowed up the Wailua River, stopping for a swim at a swimming hole with a rope swing off a tree (which I had to forego-- again-- Did I mention that you, Mr. Baby, should be grateful at my great sacrifice?). We also went on a hike through the woods and to the "green room": a space that is entirely surrounded by walls of green (like a huge room made out of plants) before rowing back. We had dinner at Cafe Cocco, a cute health-foody/gourmet restaurant, with good food and cute ambience (Albeit a little less than I would expect for a place that was almost $20/plate-- we're talking plastic lawn furniture on gravel, outdoors with a little bit of mood lighting. Welcome to Kauai...). But, it did look like it would be fast enough for us to eat and still make our plane. We even took turns changing out of our swim clothes in the bathroom while we were awaiting our food (yes, it was that casual). Then we stopped by Wal-mart for another mad dash to get souvenirs and large pillows for the red-eye flight back to Portland. We took way too long and so were very stressed as we returned our car and raced to get to the airport with not even remotely enough time to spare..... except I had forgotten that this was Kauai. We raced into the airport, toting luggage and pillows in hand and there was one person in front of us at security, so we made it through and walked three doors down to our terminal in about 5 minutes.

So after our stop in Honolulu to change planes, we were on our way back to Portland, armed with huge Wal-Mart pillows for the trip. We spent the first few days back home lamenting the end of the trip and mourning its loss.... "I miss Kauai. I want to go back," as we comforted ourselves with Kauai Cookies and Dark Chocolate-Covered Macadamia Nuts. And thus was our trip and the end of our summer travel adventures.


P.S. As I wrote part of this (a few weeks ago....) Camryn came in with dress-ups on: a bright sequined turquoise-blue dance costume, a purple-sparkly fairy apron, purple and cream head bow, purple shoes with fur and roses and "Bull's Eye" (the horse from Toy Story 2) on over it all. Very creative.....

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