Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Leaving On A Jet Plane...

Soon I will be heading off into the sunset; this is my last day on the extraordinary Garden Island of Kauai. I can certainly understand why people return again and again. During a conversation with our waiter last night he told me he and his family had just moved here from California. They came for a visit, went back home, sold almost everything, packed what was left and relocated here. Certainly a bold move but one he does not regret. I certainly hope to return one day. The experience has been filled not only with grand opportunities to see the island by land and air but with the warmth of the Hawaiian people.

Before I go back to my room to finish packing I will leave you with some more virtual sightseeing and finish when I return home. Early in the week, as I was driving around the island I heard a promo for one of the libraries on the island. They were having a book sale! Books to a storyteller are like honey to bees so when I came back to the hotel I googled all of the libraries, since I couldn’t remember the name and without too much trouble located the one I needed. The next day I drove over and introduced myself to Mark, who was very happy to know I had heard the advertisement. I asked his help on finding stories of the Menehune (he was very pleased that I pronounced it correctly) and was very helpful in locating some lore and legend of the islands for me. I gave him my card and asked if he would pass it on to the director when he had a moment. I found a comfortable couch in the back of the room and curled up to read some of the tales. To my surprise the director appeared to say hello. We chatted briefly and then she excused herself to get things ready for the book sale, which was to begin the next day. I returned on Saturday to find a 1947 book by Isak Dinesen, Winter Tales, a bargain at only one dollar!

Saturday morning was the fantastic helicopter ride I mentioned earlier. If you come to Kauai don’t miss the chance to take one as there are parts of the island you can access that are not available to the human eye any other way. The helicopter was new, spacious, and I felt very safe.

Saturday and Sunday ran together so I am not sure now what was seen on what day but does it really matter? One day we took a drive around the island to see the Waimea Canyon, known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. If you have ever seen the Grand Canyon in AZ think of this as a more diminutive version, but incredibly impressive nonetheless. We stopped at various lookout points, some being a bit more majestic than others, but each offering its own unique view and beauty. We continued all the way to the top for what is hailed as “the best view in the Pacific.” Just as we exited the car raindrops began to fall. Undaunted we trekked our way up the incline to the lookout only to find ourselves enveloped in the clouds, which was pretty cool all on its own, but then the rain became more intense. Unable to catch any of the view we reluctantly headed back to the car; at least we tried!

Next stop, the Kilauea Lighthouse, a postcard perfect landmark, perched on a bluff that represents the northernmost part of the main Hawaiian Islands.
Built in 1913 it had the largest clamshell lens in existence until it was replaced by a beacon in the 1970’s. There is a bird sanctuary nearby as well and you can take a self-guided tour. Next time.

Later we drove to Ha'Ena Beach, said to be one of the ten best beaches on Hawaii.If you look in the background of the picture below you will see the "Bali Hai" mountain seen in the movie musical "South Pacific."
We took a relaxing walk along the shore but the waves were a bit angry to attempt a swim. As we strolled the beach two young men, about 12 or 13 approached us with leis to sell; I noticed them in the parking area when we arrived stringing the leis together. They were so earnest I selected fragrant creamy white and pink lei. They assured me they were using the money for school.

Today I decided to try and find the Menehune’s Fish Pond. The Menehune’s are (some say) mythical Hawaiian creatures, the size of Irish Leprechauns. They are also tricksters, speak with a low growl much like a dog and any feat they undertake must be finished in one day or leave it forever. Many Hawaiians say that the unfinished rock walls around the island are from their unfinished tasks. So today, armed with my GPS I set out to find the Menehune (Alekoko) Fishpond. According to legend, it was built in one night as a gift for a princess and her brother. Some say it is 1,000 years old.

I typed in the name of the road and off I went. I drove and drove, then drove some more, and finally decided to stop for lunch. I couldn’t imagine that it was much further. When I got back into the car I realized that the GPS (or was it the Menehunes?) had taken me in the opposite direction. Hmmmm I laughed to myself out loud and promised the Menehunes that I would be respectful if they allowed me to locate the pond and off I went. This time I was successful. Coincidence? You decide. The fishpond was truly impressive, with the jagged volcanic mountains jutting up all around. I took many pictures then headed out to find a secluded waterfall off the beaten path, Kipu Falls. Initially I passed right by the dirt road opening, there are no markers as the falls is on private land, but after crossing the one lane bridge I realized my mistake and turned around. Although it is private property local community activists contend that access has occurred for so long, a “prescriptive easement” exists.

So armed with camera and cell phone (just in case I was lost n the wilderness…hey it has happened to me before) I set off on the 10 minute hike down the dirt path. I was immediately surrounded by tall stalks of green sugar cane; after a few minutes I began to wonder if I was headed in the right direction but just then a couple passed by going the opposite way and assured me I was on the right path. Wouldn't it be nice if we could meet up with folks like that along the way in life? :)I began to hear the sound of the rushing water as I hiked closer and closer. When I arrived I had to scramble down lots of lava rocks leading to the waterfall and pool below. Unfortunately, I hadn’t packed my sneakers since this was a last minute diversion, and made the best of flip flops, alternating between hopping between the rocks and sliding down the red clay-like dirt.

It was we worth the effort, the area is serene, cool and lush, a perfect place to spend time and commune a bit with nature, the air was fresh, and filled with the scent of tropical flowers. Ahhhhh...The scent of the flowers on the island is so strong they actually use them as natural fragrances in public bathrooms.I found my way back without any trouble, satisfied and happy that I had taken the time to stop and smell the roses,or in this case, the hibiscus!

Before going to dinner last night a long walk on the beach was called for. The waves were high, rushing in quickly, making the white caps dance as they made their way to shore. A local woman was slowly dragging a net into the water and we stopped to ask her what she was trying to catch. She showed us some tiny sand turtles; their entire body is white and looks somewhat crablike although they don’t bite. I held one for a bit and shared how we catch clams in New England the old fashioned way, digging the sand with our toes until we strike a hard shell. We said our good-byes and went our separate ways.

Time for me to finish packing for the long flight home; Aloha for now!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Paradise Found!

It is getting close to ending my time on this gorgeous island so I will make this post brief so I can get out and enjoy the day!

While riding around enjoying the scenery on Friday I saw a sign that said, Opaeka'a Falls two miles" and said, "Why not!" I found it without any trouble but as I hopped out of the car the heaven's opened. I stood in the rain taking in the the lush greenery and gorgeous waterfall, oblivious to just how drenched I was becoming with each passing second. It was too lovely to leave but I soon relented and headed back to the hotel to get ready for the luau.

The luau was held at a lush and lovely botanical garden. Unfortunately, it was still raining so we were unable to walk around but the we treated to a leisurely riding tour instead, complete with narration by our driver. We ended the tour at the dinner location, walking past covered imu's roasting the pigs the traditional way, which would be part of our meal. When they were ready to uncover the pits they announced the occasion by summoning us via blowing into a conch shell. Dinner was delicious and I even tried poi for the first time. It is definitely not something I would make a point of having on my dinner table but I did give it a go. It is best eaten as a sort of dipping sauce so I tried it with with some of the fresh salmon and it was palatable. Give it a go if you every have the chance and then you can at least say you tried it!

During dinner we were treated to some island music and the hula. It is truly an elegant dance and after it was performed the dancer did it again, this time with one of the musicians narrating the movements. Every movement and chant tells the story; it is story and dance as one, simply lovely. A century ago the north shore of Kauai was home to one of the most prestigious halau (hula) schools in the world. For some interesting background information on this delicate dance visit

After dinner we were treated to a feast for the eyes, a two hour show of dances from the various cultures that inhabit the islands of Hawaii; China, New Zealand, Japan, the Philippines and the Maori of Australia. More on this later.

The next morning found us back at the airport, awaiting my first helicopter ride. We were given a safety briefing and then up, up and away! If you want to tour Kauai this is the way to go! We were able to view areas that would be impossible to reach any other way. At one point in the trip we were actually flown into an inactive (she says happily :) volcano crater. Waterfalls surrounded ups and the images were almost too surreal. Our pilot Toby took us down the Napoli coastline for a stunning view. Pictures do not do the site justice, the scope and grandeur of this rugged coastline truly do make it too beautiful for words. It was as if all of the sites we were seeing from the air were too much for our eyes to take in all at once.

Our pilot offered a wonderful narration of what we were viewing; the hour flew by! (no pun intended). There is so much more to share about this flight and the weekend but my time is running short on the island so I better get out and make the most of it! More virtual travel to come, stay tuned!