|October 11, 2011
Today we were leaving Molokai and although the checkout time is usually 10am, Cheryl had the bug guy coming over to give the apartment a spray. We decided to go for our breakfast at 9am, as the guy was arriving and then head off to the airport after that. Cheryl’s baked delight this morning was a lovely banana, cranberry and cinnamon pancake with chocolate on top. It was delicious and very filling and after a chat with Cheryl, it was soon time to finish packing up and go. We dropped the rental car back and checked in for our flight. Once again we were on a tiny plane and had some great views along with the six others on board and we were soon landing in Honolulu. I was sat on the opposite side this time so I got the great views of Diamond Head and the city of Honolulu which Elizabeth had previously. Given the nature of our small plane and the quick loading of all passengers and luggage, our flight actually landed before it was even due to take off! Our final destination wasn’t Honolulu though and we were escorted into the terminal to wait for our connection. This time we were flying to Kauai and this time the plane was a bit bigger! However, Elizabeth and I managed to pick the good side of the plane which gave us great views as we left Oahu and even better ones as we landed in Kauai. The air stewardess was really funny on the flight and she as she was from Kauai she was keen to tell us how great it was and some of the things we could do.
The Kauai airport was much busier than Molokai and we had to wait a while to get our hire car. The guy helping us seemed friendly enough but before long he turned into your normal car rental agency idiot who has to try and sell you every little extra. First of all, he tried to get us to upgrade by telling us how difficult the roads were here. That was an extra $11 per day. We declined. He tried to convince us again. We again declined. He then went on to the insurance which Elizabeth and I never take. The cars always come with basic insurance, we have travel insurance and we have additional coverage on our credit cards – why would we need more than that? Anyway, we once again declined his kind offer to rip us off and his response was “scary”. Just that one word – “scary”. I’m sure this works on some people but, shock horror, driving is not scary and if we had no insurance at all I’d be worried. He kept pushing the point, stating that Hawai’i is the only state with unlimited third party liability in the event of a claim and that the roads weren’t very good and all kinds of crap. He kept looking at Elizabeth, too, with a look that said she ought to make me reconsider but she knows as well as I do that this is an unnecessary, over-priced add on we just don’t need. By the time we were done with him I just wanted to get into our car and get to the hotel but when we got out to the parking lot, the row full of “compact” cars was empty and the unfriendly woman there said they didn’t have any and would upgrade us. We eventually ended up with a convertible which actually really pissed me off. For one, I wanted a small car as I hate driving this ridiculously long American cars and, two, the arsehole inside had tried to sell us an upgrade when they didn’t even have the car we wanted. He should have known that there were no compact cars and gave us the upgrade as we were at the desk rather than being a complete twat. To compound the issue, it took us almost 30 minutes to get out of the car park behind a queue of traffic having their vehicles inspected and pointing out damage to a barely understandable security guard.
The drive to the hotel was, of course, not scary and along a nicely paved and wide highway. We checked in at the Kauai Sands Hotel and the difference between the homestay in Molokai and the bigger hotel here was immediately apparent! Whilst Cheryl’s attention was sometimes a little bit much, the lack of it at the hotel here was a bit too far the other way! There should be a happy medium somewhere! In the late afternoon we read some of the brochures that Elizabeth had picked up about the island and decided what we wanted to do for the next few days.
In the evening we went out and had sushi for dinner. I really like sushi and Elizabeth can manage a bit of it and since we hadn’t had any for a while we decided to give it a go. There was a restaurant in the nearby town of Kapa’a which offered 10% discount so we decided to go there. Even though we were quite early, the restaurant was busy which is always a good sign. We ordered some cucumber and spicy tuna rolls, tuna and snapper sashimi and some of the restaurants specialty rolls – lava rolls and bushido rolls. The lava rolls were a mix of shrimp, lobster and crab surrounded by rice and seaweed and covered in salmon and the restaurant’s special sauce. The bushido rolls were mostly tuna with special sauce and more tuna on top! Elizabeth tried a bit of everything but it was obvious she preferred the spicy tuna rolls and the cucumber rolls as her fish tolerance was really tested, especially by the seafood special lava rolls! As always with sushi, I ended up eating a lot more than Elizabeth did but that’s OK by me and my appetite!
We stopped at the supermarket on the way back to pick up breakfast and lunch provisions and some drinks, including plenty of water for tomorrow.
October 12, 2011
The reason we needed plenty of water was that today we were heading to the north of Kauai to hike along one of the trails and to one of the waterfalls. The alarm went off early but it was too early for us so we dozed for another hour or so. When we got up we made breakfast for on the road and lunch for later. The drive to the northern coast took around an hour and we were surprised to find the car park at the start of the trail already busy. We went a little further back down the road to the second car park and left the car there. We’d had our breakfast of blueberry bagels with pineapple and mango jam so we were ready to go!
The first section of the walk from Ke’e Beach to Hanakapi’ai Beach along the Kalalau Trail was around 2 miles and we didn’t think this would be too tough. The trail is 11 miles long in total (22 mile round trip) and is part of the Na Pali Coast State Park. We decided 22 miles was a bit beyond us so went for the shorter and “easier” option of walking only part of the trail. However, the first mile was steeply up hill and the second mile ventured back down to the coast and it took us about an hour to complete this section. Despite the continuous ups and downs the trail had some lovely views along the way of the amazing coastline. This island is so green and picturesque and has a lot of jutting peaks and rocky cliffs. Part of the way along this section, Elizabeth managed to drop one of our water bottles and it went off the edge of the cliff, stopped about a metre or so down by the thick undergrowth. I couldn’t reach it without risking sliding all the way down so eventually I held Elizabeth while she reached down and grabbed it. Given how hot and sweaty we already were we knew we’d need the water later!
Once at Hanakapi’ai Beach we stopped for a rest and we dipped our feet in the water. There was a small pool between the forest and the main beach and so we paddled for a bit in that before walking along the beach itself. The water here was too dangerous to swim in and so we settled for the little pool to cool off in! It was so pretty and picturesque and even though there were a lot of people here, it didn’t detract from the setting. So many people had trekked this far but weren’t crossing the pool onto the beach and we couldn’t understand why you’d come all this way and not go on the beach!
From here we had two choices – we could head back or we could continue walking into the forest to the Hanakapi’ai Falls, another 2 miles. We decided we would tackle the trail to the waterfall, too, and this trail started quite easy but gradually got tougher. The walk was through the forest which meant we had great shade from the over-hanging trees. We were also surrounded by guava trees and the small of them as we walked was often overpowering. When the trail started getting steeper it also started getting quite rocky and there were also a few streams to cross. At various points, we both managed to fall in streams as we tried to cross, both losing our footing on the slippery rocks. This had the effect of making our feet/trainers wet and soggy and made the rocky trail even more precarious. This two mile walk took about 1.5hrs and we arrived here about midday, having left the car park around 9am. The waterfall was worth the trek though. It wasn’t really gushing heavily with water but it was quite a height and the pool at the bottom looked very inviting to swim in, which many people were doing. It had started to rain a bit as we arrived so we pushed our bag and clothes under a rock and headed for the pool. The water was freezing cold but it felt so refreshing, particularly on our sore, wet and hot feet! Elizabeth jumped right in first and I followed and we both swam right across to the waterfall. I wished I’d had my smaller camera with me so I could’ve taken some pictures in the water but it was not to be so we just enjoyed being cool and enjoying the peaceful surroundings. Although there were a fair few people here not many were braving the water so it was nice and quiet. After we came out of the pool, we dried off a bit and sat and ate our lunch, admiring the view. Once we were done we sat around for another 10 minutes or so but we soon realized we’d have to walk back eventually, the car wasn’t going to come to us!
The walk back was hard work and the stones were all the more slippery now as we had wet shoes. We were getting tired and although we’d only hiked just over 4 miles it was pretty tiring and we had to be careful with our footing. Our feet were so soaked we didn’t even bother trying to stay out of the streams, preferring to wade through and take the easier route. I fell at one point on the slippery rocks and cut my leg but it wasn’t too bad and nothing to stop our slow progress. The walk back took about the same time as going out which surprised me as I felt tired and slow and it seemed like the walk was taking forever.
Back at the beach, there is a stream which feeds into the ocean and when we reached the stream we both sat in the cold water to cool off. Elizabeth only really dipped her feet in but I sat right in it! We were hot, tired, running low on water and we still had the final 2 miles and the tough hill to go.
The last bit really was hell with the long stretch uphill. We were stopping regularly for small water breaks but we were running quite low. Thankfully, we’d filled our empty bottle up with water from the stream and whilst we couldn’t drink it, we were able to pour over our heads! Along this section there was a really slippery bit and in my daze of tiredness I managed to slip and I actually found myself clinging onto the edge of the cliff with barely a toe hold. Elizabeth heard me fall and I thought it was rather funny that rather than coming to help pull me back up onto the path, she just said “Are you OK?”! I’m pretty sure I didn’t look OK! We kept looking out for the one mile marker as a sign we were almost there but we hadn’t seen anything. Eventually, the trail started working downhill more and we were glad to see the 0.5mile point and the final stretch. The half mile marker was at a stunning view point and the view came complete with a lovely breeze which cooled us off. Along with the fillip of knowing we were close to home, the breeze felt amazing! We eventually got back to the car at 3.30pm after starting this morning just before 9am. With about 45 minutes of stop at the waterfall for lunch and another 20-30 around the beach, we’d spent the rest walking, about 5.5 hours and 8 long, looooong miles! We’ve walked further before, we’ve walked longer before, but rarely if ever have I felt so drained and I still had an hour of driving with blistered, wet feet before I could fully rest!
Back in the car we both ached and were having trouble even sitting down. The air con was a welcome relief but we were both overheating and very thirsty so we went straight to the nearest village and stopped at a shop for cold drinks. The thought of one drink just didn’t do the trick so I had to get a second one which was lucky given I downed half a litre of Gatorade! The full fat, sugar loaded Pepsi didn’t last long either! The walk had been painful, tough, energy sapping but completely worth it for the views along the way, the stunning beach but mostly the beautiful waterfall. My legs might not agree – I swear I heard my muscles crying on the last mile, just before I took an ibuprofen!
On the way back we made a couple of stops. The first was at Wai’oli Hui’ia Church and Wai’oli Mission House and the second was a scenic overlook just outside the town of Princeville. The church was quite interesting and the inside had a very green tinge as the light shone through the stained glass windows. The lookout was over the Hanalei Valley and it gave some great views. For such a small island, the landscape here is very dramatic and seems to have a lot of extremes. We also briefly saw the Episcopal Church which is made of lava but I was driving too fast and didn’t have the energy to stop and turn around to go back!
Once we got back to the hotel, I had trouble moving my muscles out of the car and we were so glad to be able to get cleaned up and showered. Elizabeth scrubbed and washed our trainers and put them out onto our balcony area to dry off. I wasn’t going to bother with mine but I was grateful she cleaned mine, too.
After some rest, not much, we decided to go and get some dinner. This evening we went to Bubba’s Burgers. This local burger joint was like an old fashioned burger hut and there were plenty of people eating there. We both ordered burgers (of course) although I went for the double burger with cheese and Elizabeth had a fat portion of onion rings with hers rather than fries. The food was really good and I was almost tempted to order seconds! They had some cool souvenirs at the shop, too, and although we were both tempted by t-shirts we settled on a cheaper magnet! Back at the hotel we both crashed and fell asleep, hoping the painkillers we took before bed would help us feel better tomorrow!
October 13, 2011
Despite the long walk and aching muscles, we were up early today for some diving. After another jam bagel for breakfast we set off for the dive sites. We were diving from a place on the south coast called Koloa Landing and were doing 2 shore dives. We weren’t looking forward to getting into the water with all our gear on after yesterday! We had a drive of about 45 minutes to find the dive sites and had to stop to ask for directions as the entry way to the water was not clear from the main road. We eventually found the short, narrow track down to the water and met our dive guide, Richard.
Our gear was already set up and when the other two people we were diving with arrived we all got ready and got going. The two other divers had only recently qualified and hadn’t done many dives so I was hoping that they knew what they were doing. I wasn’t totally convinced when one girl pulled out a disposable waterproof camera! After getting kitted up and walking down to the water we only had a short swim before we descended. Both dives were around the same area and for the first one we headed left. There was little to no current so it was a nice, easy dive just swimming around. There were a load of rocks that had been blasted out previously to make a wall for the shoreline that we explored and although the fish life wasn’t very abundant we saw lots of cool things. First of all, Richard spotted a surgeonfish and as he turned around to tell me he saw a turtle directly behind me and I was able to get some really good pictures from such a close distance.
Along the way we also saw a couple of small morays, sea urchins, sea stars, bannerfish, boxfish and a couple of brightly coloured nudibranchs. However, the best thing was getting to see a rare dragon eel. They are only found in this area and when we had visited the aquarium in Waikiki we had not been able to see the dragon eel. Richard managed to spot one hiding and with a bit of teasing he managed to get the shy creature to pop his head out a bit more. It was so cool to see and it really did look like a dragon and even had a couple of feelers sticking out of its head looking like horns. It really was shy but I was lucky enough to get some great pictures before it disappeared back under its rock. The two girls were a bit unsteady with their buoyancy and were using their arms a lot which was annoying when I was trying to get close to things to photograph them, or to even just see them! Near the end of the dive Richard picked up a cannon ball shot to hold and both of the girls obviously didn’t realize what it was and as they grabbed it they sank really quickly! Elizabeth and I were a bit more ready for it but even still it was enough weight to take us down a bit. Richard told us it was originally about 8lbs and given that I was using about 16lbs of weight to dive normally an extra 50% is quite a bit extra! As we ascended we saw another turtle and it was a good end to a good dive.
On the second dive only one of the girls came along but she was the one with the flappiest arms and the stupid camera! I’ve no idea what kind of pictures she got. As we descended and headed right, we saw a sleeping turtle and a massive nudibranch. We also saw lots of triggerfish, yellow tangs, orange-spotted surgeonfish, a weird-looking sea star, some pretty shells, a couple of really big morays and another turtle. This one wasn’t asleep but was partially hiding in the rocks trying to look like he was. With all the divers around, I don’t blame him! Near the end of the dive Richard found a sea hair. It looked kind of like a sea urchin but when he rubbed it a load of purple stuff spurted out. This is a kind of ink and is used by the sea hair as a defence mechanism. The attacking fish will get the ink caught in its gills and will have to swim away as the ink is thick and can kill them. It was so cool seeing the water around us turn purple as Richard agitated the sea hair. Both the dives were really good and despite being so close to shore we saw some amazing things and some things we’d never seen before.
After diving we headed to the nearby shopping centre where we found a café called Dude Dogs where we both enjoyed a really tasty chilli dog, with cheese and onions. It was a funky little local shop and the food was good, too. As we strolled around the shopping centre, we found a photography shop and we bought some pictures depicting some of the local scenery.
We decided to have a drive around the south part of the island as we were here and we started off at a beach called Shipwreck Beach. Elizabeth had got confused with another Shipwreck Beach so there was in fact no shipwreck here but it was still very pretty. The rocky outcrop to the side of the beach provided some great views from the top and it was a shame some of the large hotel resorts were encroaching on the coastline. Alongside one of the resorts was the golf course where the PGA Grand Slam of Golf used to be. The last few years this has been played in Bermuda and we were able to see it when we were there although there was some controversy when Tiger refused to come. It was a shame we hadn’t got to see him when we went but given how things have turned out it is no big deal!
Along the road leading from the south shore back to the main road is a section known as the tree tunnel and it literally was a tunnel made where the tree tops curved and met in the centre of the road. The next stop was the Koloa Rum Company where we were met by a really friendly woman who spoke to us extensively about the rums and the other products. We eventually went into the tasting room where we tried 4 rums – a light rum, a gold rum, a dark rum and a spiced rum. The spiced rum was by far the best one and with the others we made a mini Mai Tai. We didn’t buy anything though, rum-wise, as we didn’t want to carry it around on another flight and worry about it breaking. Elizabeth did get a cool little tile though.
On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a sewing shop for Elizabeth to have a look around but she was quickly in and out and we were soon back at the hotel. We both showered and had a nap and got some travel journaling done before heading out for dinner. On each of the islands we’ve picked up tourist brochures and these have had vouchers in them for special offers and we found one that offered a free Caesar salad with any large pizza. We decided this was a good option and we drove out to a small strip mall where the pizza shop was. Our free Caesar salad was big enough as it was but the “large” pizza was a real challenge! We barely managed half of it and ended up taking the rest of it back with us for later!
October 14, 2011
After another bagel and jam, we hit the road and headed past where we’d dived yesterday and towards Waimea Canyon. Along the way we had some lovely scenery and the different sides of the island were quite contrasting although they are equally picturesque. As we drove towards the canyon we had some great views and we stopped at the Hanapepe Valley lookout to take some pictures before diverting briefly to Port Allen to check out the “glass beach”. This beach used to be covered in glass fragments which were washed up with the tides but over the years, with tourists scouring for every piece, the beach is less glassy. However, there was still clear evidence of the glass amongst the sand and we were able to find a few larger pieces. We didn’t take them with us though, preferring to leave them for others to see rather than further destroy what could be quite a cool place. We’d seen a picture of this beach from about 10 years ago in a photography gallery we’d stopped in before and it looked much more impressive than it does now!
From Port Allen we carried on to Waimea and had two options to get to the canyon. We took the more scenic route along Waimea Canyon Drive and we weren’t disappointed. Of the two roads leading to the main viewpoints, this one followed the edge of the canyon and at a number of points the views were spectacular. The reds and grays of the canyon walls is wonderfully offset by the blues and whites in the sky and the green foliage clinging to the valley walls and lining the bottom. The colours were so vibrant in the sun, too. We got some views across the ocean, too, to the island of Ni’ihau. One of the stops was quite interesting as there were some red dirt rolling hills and there was a small stream and almost waterfalls flowing through it. On the opposite side of the road we were able to walk down to the edge of the canyon and the contrast in the landscape either side of the road was quite stark. We stopped quite a few times to take pictures and look around but it was quite funny watching some of the lazy tourists who pulled up in their cars and took pictures from their seats, not even bothering to get out. Why come to such a stunning place and stay in your car?
Our next major stop was the Waimea Canyon lookout where we had some great views and then the Koke’e State Park for the last couple of lookouts. The weather was quite overcast at times and as we drive further into the canyon we actually got a bit of rain but it still remained warm. The intermittent periods of rain and sunshine also gave us some lovely rainbows across the valleys and canyon.
We’d already eaten our leftover pizza and had our bagels for lunch so we decided to drive around and see what else we could find, having finished in the canyon. We headed first for the Waimea Brewing Co but found that they weren’t currently brewing beer as they were changing location and there old location was selling Kona beer, which we had tried before. I was trying to drink less so we didn’t see the point in just getting a beer for the sake of it. The next stop was “Kauai’s Biggest Little Town”, Hanapepe. Here there were lots of art shops and one had paintings which were supposed to be in a style like van Gogh. I couldn’t see that so much but there were still some cool things but we had no intention of buying anything over-priced! We also visited the Talk Story Bookstore which claims to be the westernmost in bookstore in the USA. It was full of old, dusty bookshelves and nothing was particularly marked down or cheap so we didn’t hang around for too long. The final stop in Hanapepe was the Banana Patch Studios which has a lot of really cool, locally produced art work from paintings and ornaments to ceramic tiles and even coffees and spices.
Our final stop for the day was at the Kauai Coffee Company. We hadn’t planned to stop here but we saw it as we drove along and decided to pop in, first and foremost to use the toilets! However, we did try some coffee while we were there and some of it was OK but nothing special. Even Elizabeth tried some but she wasn’t keen and I particularly didn’t like the flavoured coffees, with lots of coconut and chocolate and macadamia influences in various mixes. We thought about going to the Kauai Cookie Company after the coffee tasting but on finding out they closed at 4pm, we realized we were too late and started making our way back to the hotel. Unfortunately the traffic was quite heavy and it took us longer than we thought and we were both surprised by how heavy the traffic has been on Kauai. I guess you imagine a little island to be barely inhabited but in fact it is often the opposite, with high density population. Combine this with rare, or sometimes non-existent, public transport and everyone is on the roads in their cars, often carrying just the driver and no other passengers.
For dinner I fancied something with an Asian influence and we found a restaurant which sounded good. When we got there it had been taken over and although this place included “Asian-Hawaiian” fusion it didn’t do exactly what I was after but we went in anyway. The place was called Lemongrass and seemed quite upscale but it wasn’t really anything of the sort, at least not from the service, the atmosphere or the food we finally received. My steak was average and Elizabeth’s Thai curry was quite a strange recipe, using bok choy in a Thai dish. As for the atmosphere, it was a combination of crappy keyboard music akin to a Vegas showlounge and the woman next to us moaning about her food not turning up. At the end of the pricey meal with the poor service, the keyboard player offered us his card so we could “look him up online”. I felt obliged to blank him as a polite decline was way beyond me by this point!