Friday, September 20, 2013

And you thought I was done...

Odds and ends from Kaua'i that didn't fit in to other posts.

I mentioned that Honolulu Airport was of the open-air variety. There were several pigeons (or doves, or something) wandering around eating little tidbits from the floor, and sometimes scaring us by flying close to our heads. It wasn't until almost the end of our long layover that we noticed they all had injured feet. Most were missing toes, one was missing its whole foot.
On the way home, we asked one of the ticket agents why that was, and she said it was because they sit on power lines. 
A dubious explanation at best.
So the mystery remains.

I have mentioned the outdoor showers.
This is the second one.
The one with all the mosquitoes.
Other than the pesky mozzies, I thought it was kind of a nice idea.
Except for in the morning when there was no hot water because the water is solar-powered.

The tricky part is the no door thing, which we somewhat alleviated by tying my beautiful new sarong across it.

Which brings me to another point, ladies.
If you ever go to Hawaii, you need a sarong. Sarongs have many uses, as illustrated above. Some days, when we returned to the cottage, all hot and sweaty and tired, it was heavenly to strip off and go native in the sarong. I'm afraid that if I lived there, you would have trouble getting me to wear real clothes.

Carrying on.

Our "rustic" cottage was a haven for pooping geckos and many varieties of insects. I am pretty sure I saw a few cockroaches, and the ants appeared every time there was something lying around that looked remotely like food. 
Take, for example, this one. I was sitting on the gecko-poopy couch one afternoon, reading The Book, and I happened to look down on the floor. A few tiny ants were scouting around and one had found this rather large beetle. Darn me if the ant didn't manage to pull the beetle a few inches. He gave up and we left the cottage a short time thereafter, but when we returned, the beetle was gone. I have to assume that Mr. Ant gathered his friends and subsequently demolished Mr. Beetle.
Pretty impressive.

We have not discussed the chickens of Kaua'i, other than to complain about the roosters crowing at night. 
The joke is that chickens, especially roosters, are Kauai's state bird. All kinds of touristy paraphernalia sport slogans and pictures of the colourful roosters.
They rule parking lots, highway shoulders, back yards, everywhere. 

Little chicks following their mom is a common sight.

This is the garden of our first rental. See the chickens on the grass?

Rooster by the ficus trees of Allerton Gardens.

The reason for the prevalence of feral chickens on Kaua'i is debated, but it is certain that the Polynesians brought them to the islands as a food source. The numbers seemed to proliferate after Hurricane Iniki, when many chicken coops were destroyed and cockfighting roosters were also released. Add to that the lack of any predators on the island and I guess it's a perfect storm for an abundance of chickens. 
They say that the chickens are tough old birds and not worth cooking. 
I say, Let me at 'em. I would find a way to make them edible.

On our last night, we drove up to Hanalei to see the McMasters in concert. Doug is a masterful slack key guitarist and Sandy accompanies on a tenor ukelele. 
Slack key is a fascinating and gorgeous style of guitar music. The evening was one of the highlights of our trip. Sandy's talk of aloha and how it can affect our lives deeply affected me. Doug has to be seen to be believed. He is so relaxed and his fingers move so easily on the frets that his guitar almost looks like it is playing itself.

I highly recommend watching this short video for an extremely abbreviated history and explanation of slack key guitar.

You can see more of Doug's playing style in this video, as well as some of the island sights. 
Slack key guitar is probably the most relaxing music I have ever heard.

It rained hard the night before we left and Saturday was grossly humid. We decided it was a good day to be leaving. We hung out at Starbucks in Kapa'a for a few hours, enjoying the air conditioning and using their wi-fi. One more casualty before we left. I got caught up in my netbook cord as I arose from my chair and the Acer fell to the floor, damaging one of the hinges. It still works, but doesn't close properly.
This trip was a bit wearing on our belongings. 
And our bodies, considering I came home with about a hundred mosquito bites. 
Jeff got about ten, but his nose was much more sun-burned than mine.
By the time we were about to embark on the second leg of our flight home, we were feeling very travel-weary. So when the ticket agent offered first class upgrades for a couple of hundred each, I looked at Jeff, he looked back at me, and I said "Wanna do it?"
So we did it.
It was the best six-hour flight of our lives. To be honest, it was somewhat intimidating. We had no idea how to work all the gizmos on the seats and we were constantly making gaffes that showed up our first-class naivete. 
Jeff slept the whole time and I didn't want to get off the plane when we arrived at San Fran. 
It may be a dangerous precedent.

Things I loved about Kaua'i:
It's a small island. Everything is within about an hour's drive if you stay somewhere central.
Gorgeous scenery. Everywhere.
Shopping. We spent hours looking for the perfect Hawaiian shirt for Jeff, who is very picky.
Slack key guitar. If we ever go again (which is doubtful) I would go to several concerts.
Hiking. Especially accidental hiking friends, whom you meet wherever you go.
Art galleries. I would have come home with so much more art if we had checked luggage and if Jeff didn't get that look on his face every time I suggest we buy something.
Gingerbread Rental Cars.
Ficus trees.
Jeff's list: 
Driving. The speed limit never goes above 50 mph.
The boat ride.
The helicopter ride.
Zip lines.
The Alaka'i Swamp.
Hawaiian shirts.

Things I didn't like:
Mosquitoes. But you already knew that.
Pooping geckos.
Stall owners at the markets who would tell you anything to get you to buy their wares. I'm pretty sure they were all liars.
Angry men with pit bulls.
Roosters crowing in the middle of the night.
Tour guides who tell you a bunch of baloney. 
Shave ice.
Jeff's list:
Outside showers.

And that, I think, is that.
Hope you had fun along with us.
Next stop: Gettysburg and the little darlings in North Carolina.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Some beaches

The question has been raised, "What about the beaches?"
The short answer is, Jeff and I are not lazing-on-the-beach kind of people. 
In fact, Jeff doesn't like to do anything on the beach, as you will see later.
However, shortly after we arrived on Kaua'i, and on the recommendation of our hostess, Sunni, we drove a little way along the road and found this, Moloa'a Beach. Our room was very hot, it was early evening, and I talked the driver into donning our swimsuits and going swimming.

The sun was low in the sky on the other side of the island and the sky was a delicious tint of sunset.

The water was warm, but dropped off rather alarmingly about three feet from the shore. That, combined with all the rocks, made me reluctant to immerse myself. Jeff was wearing shoes. I said, Why don't you take those off? So he did. And then we climbed on a rock and he slipped and cut his finger rather badly.
So we hurried back to the house, blood dripping from his finger, and I constructed a bandage for his finger from gauze and Scotch tape. The house was chillingly unprepared in the way of First Aid supplies. I ferreted in the bathroom cabinet and found some thyme oil, which I applied liberally, hoping its claims of being an aid to healing were true. 
His finger healed quickly, so I have become a fan of thyme oil.

We didn't hit the beach again until our second-to-last day, when we were somewhat weary of adventures. Jeff was reluctant, as usual, but I told him that I had endured queasiness and bruises for his sake, so he could jolly well follow me to some beaches.

First, we went back to Moloa'a Beach and it was much nicer. The trees were shady and the breeze was cooling. This old Hawaiian was fishing rather successfully. He was happy to show us his catch and describe to us, in great detail, how he was going to cook it.

We finally found a nice, unoccupied, shady tree and made ourselves comfortable.
Well, one of us did.
And it wasn't Jeff.
This is his idea of relaxing at the beach.

I, on the other hand, lay down on my towel and enjoyed the view.
This, in front...

...and this, if I tilted my head back.

Even further.

Watching the ocean got boring after a while, so we headed back to the car.
See how we are?
I got scared by a black crab on the rocks on the way back and nearly fell on my face.

I like how the locals sit on the tangled roots of these trees.

We drove north to Larsen Beach, which was given a good review in The Book. It was a steep hike down to the beach. It is a very rocky beach.

I walked around on the edge of the tide for a while, just so that it wasn't a waste of a short, steep hike.
And then I went and lay on the sand.
It wasn't as peaceful as the last beach, and I could feel Jeff getting antsy.

So we left.

Buh-bye, Larsen Beach.

And that was the short, sweet story of our Kaua'i beaches.
Pitiful, eh?

Zipping here, zipping there...

Our last grand adventure was on Thursday, when we went zip lining with Princeville Ranch Adventures. This is a working ranch, with cows and everything. They farm sustainably and supply grass finished beef to North Shore markets and cafes. It would seem to be a brilliant combination of revenue sources.

The tour we did took over four hours, had nine zip lines, lunch, and some time in a swimming hole. The tours are limited to twelve people.
The gear is intimidating.

After we geared up, we took a wild drive in an old Austrian army vehicle to the beginning of the lines.
My heart was in my throat.
Not literally.

The first line was less than 400 feet, but I was petrified. After the guide finished explaining all the do's and don'ts, he asked who was still scared.
I, in my ignorance, said "Me."
And I was up first.

It took a few seconds to make that leap off the platform, but the pressure of all those people waiting behind me was a good motivator.
I clung so tightly to the strap that my wrists were traumatised by the time I reached the second platform.
I may have screamed, just a little.

Jeff had no such qualms.

Just having the time of his life.

Things got a little easier as the day went on, but I never quite lost the trepidation of that leap into nothingness.

At one point, we had to cross this bridge, which I think they made scary on purpose.
It was harder than it looks, and the drop beneath was maybe a hundred feet.
I was clipped on with my carabiner, but, honestly, who wants to dangle in space from a mere carabiner?
And why does Blogger think that "carabiner" is not a word?

The lines got progressively longer and higher off the ground.

The gear was heavy and awkward, especially the carabiners, which dangled uncomfortably in front of our thighs and, I swear, left bruises. 

Our slightly crazy guides, who made sure that they earned every last penny of their gratuity.

This was a little worrying.

After a break for a delicious lunch and some refreshing swimming by a small waterfall (what else), it was time for the Big Casino.
King Kong.
1,200 feet long and starting 26 feet off the ground.

Let me tell you, it was no small feat just getting up that ramp.

You can barely even see the other platform.

And, to make things even trickier (and more scary), this was the place they took photos of you and your partner holding hands as you left the platform, so you had to jump off together (no girding of the loins on this one!) and hold hands and smile. And then pay a small fortune for the photo at the office, which may have been the scariest part, come to think of it.
I do not look as relaxed as I would have liked.
And that is because I WASN'T!

It was a fun, hot, and tiring day, and I would have enjoyed probably an hour less.
And Jeff would have liked more.
Sound familiar?
And, back at the office, there were actual MONEY TREES for the gratuities. 
No subtlety there. 
I think it encouraged generosity competition among the participants.

I will zip line again some day. 
As soon as I lose the bruises on my legs from this one.

Friday, September 13, 2013

What makes a husband happy

In the same spirit of "we'll never be here again so we might as well do it large", I booked the seven-hour boat tour with Holo-Holo Charters. It left from Port Allen in the south and traveled all the way up to the Napali Coast, with an hour of snorkeling at Niihau Island on the way.

We left just after sunrise, having awoken at 4:30. I had Bethany call us just to make sure we woke up on time, although we had been running on Oregon time ever since we arrived.

First stop: Niihau Island, also known as the Forbidden Island. It has an interesting history. Some of it is told on this marker from the Pihea Trail.

The rest of it was heard in snippets from various guides we encountered and is thus suspect as to authenticity.
The island was purchased from the Kingdom of Hawaii by Elizabeth Sinclair in 1864 for $10,000. It ended a long story of migration for the Sinclair family, starting in their native Scotland, then moving to New Zealand and Canada before landing in Hawaii. Her descendants, the Robinson family, still own the island.
I have been unable to substantiate most of the tales that were told by guides, so I won't repeat them here. But this much is true. The island inhabitants mostly speak Hawaiian. They have no running water and no central power system. No paved roads, telephones, or cars. Most food is brought in from Kaua'i and is canned. A shell lei from Niihau, for which it can take years to collect the shells and then construct, sells for hundreds or thousands of dollars. Entrance to the island has been forbidden by the Robinsons since 1915, in order to preserve the way of life of the islanders.
It is a strange place indeed. You can take a half-day helicopter tour of the island for a mere $385, including snorkeling. Go here and here if you want to read more about the island.
We should have done it.

We, ourselves, spent an hour snorkeling on a coral reef on the island. The Robinsons allow boat tours to approach the reef as long as they are not intrusive. 
I never knew how much I wanted to do it, until I did. It was one of the best hours of my life. I was a little petrified (although not as much as when I leaped into thin air on the first zip line of the next day), but was immediately enthralled by the myriads of varieties of colourful fish that swam just beneath me on the reef.  I got a little teary, it was so beautiful and I loved it so much. I swam and swam and didn't want to get out. Jeff stayed in close proximity, not trusting me to stay out of trouble. 
I was the last one out of the water.
And I can't wait to do it again.
Did you know you can get prescription masks? It was like a little miracle.
Too bad I didn't have an underwater camera. I could have inundated you with fishy pictures.

Here we are, in front of the keyhole. 
I think that is what it's called.
I am always windblown and/or sweaty in these holiday photos.

We booked it up the coast to get some close-up time with the Napali Coast. I confess, I felt a little nauseous, but managed to breathe deeply and did not disgrace myself.
Jeff, on the other hand, was in his element. One of the biggest surprises of the day was how much my husband loves being on a boat. I'm not talking cruise ship type of boat here, but a smaller one that is more at the mercy of the sea. When we were going very fast and noisily and everyone was sitting down and holding on tight, Jeff was standing next to the rail, holding on with one hand, his face to the spray that was being kicked up by our passage, getting soaked to the skin, and with a most beautific smile on his face. How I wished that I had my camera handy, but it was on the other side of the boat and I couldn't move for fear of losing my continental breakfast. The image is burned into my mind forever. 
He is a true Coastie at heart.

Here we are, back at the Napali Coast, only at sea level this time.

As I mentioned before, many of these beaches are only accessible by boat. Hippies live on some of them, illegally, and the locals hate it. The captain said that sometimes there are nudists. I took this close-up just to check, but I'm pretty sure they all have clothes.

To put that last photo in perspective, here is an un-zoomed photo. The captain said the dune on the beach is over 100 feet high. You can barely (ha ha, get it?) see the people as wee specks on the beach.

 I think he said the coastal cliffs here are the second-highest in the world.

Lots of caves, waterfalls, scenes used in movies, blah blah blah.

And Jeff's joy did not diminish as the day went on.

Especially since he had access to unlimited pop.

The tour was a tad longer than I would have liked, but Jeff would have taken a few more hours, so I guess it evened out.

Casualty of the day: Jeff's favourite Coastguard hat, complete with Antarctica pin. He had been sitting down, minding his own business, when he noticed a wasp on a part of his personage that was kind of embarrassing to swat. The boat was moving very fast, meaning lots of strong wind, so I told him to stand up and I would brush it off with a towel. Well, he stood up and that wind whipped the hat right off his head. It didn't stand a chance.
Neither did the wasp.