Kaua’i Day 11

8/12/2010 Thursday 3:47 am

Today was the rainiest we’ve seen yet in Kaua’i.  I do not think we’ve had a single day with zero rain, but in nearly all the cases the rain is very fleeting except overnight.  Overnight, the heavier showers tend to come.  This morning, though, the rain showers were quite persistent!

Here's what our morning looked like from the deck today.

We used the morning to read and enjoy each others’ company (we always do that second part anyway!).  Glenda continued with Eat, Pray, Man, Woman, and I spent time making edits to my book and practicing the guitar.

After lunch, it cleared up and we took the opportunity to head down to our beach and do some snorkeling.  It appears as though the tides have risen, and they brought with them seaweed bits and general murkiness.  We saw tons of interesting fish today, but we’re crossing our fingers that the waters will clear up a bit by tomorrow.

This was all in preparation for our big outing of the day.  Glenda had booked us a Luau show!  On the way, though, we stopped off in Kilauea for a quick dinner:

Glenda with our soups. Hers was a corn and pepper soup, mine was a thick purple sweet potato soup. Yum!

We had pizza too, but this eclair was the icing on the cake, so to speak. A Lilikoi (Guava) cream inside a tasty eclair topped with chocolate and coconut. Sooo tasty! In this shot I've caught Glenda in mid-lick of her fingers that came in contact with the eclair's choco-topping.

OK, so then it was off to Smith’s in Wailua for our Luau surprise!

Glenda in her lovely flowery dress, in front of the main entrance!

It's cool inside! Reminds me of a "Survivor" episode with water and tiki torches galore!

We're in an outdoor theater. The ladies here are dancing across from a moat - there's water between us and them. Throughout the show they dance close to us, far away, on both sides there are tree-covered mini-stages, and there was even an erupting volcano! Lots of lighting and fire effects! The show was set up as a tour of the different cultures that make up the early Hawaiian settlers, so we saw dances considered to be from Tahiti, New Zealand, Japan, China, The Philippines, and, of course, Hawaii.

This was the Tahitian part!

The ladies up close doing a Tahitian dance.

Wait! Those aren't ladies!

One of those cool Chinese Lunar New Year dragons made an appearance! They even had fire crackers.

A Samoan Fire Dancer. This was the highlight. This guy had a giant flaming knife and he twirled it, threw it and caught it, sucked the flame into his mouth and lit the other end of the torch with the flame still burning in his mouth, he held the flaming ends of the thing on his feet while lying on his back, and then he did another dance with two instead of one! Quite remarkable!

We have two more days here in Kaua’i – then we take off on Saturday at 1PM locally.  We arrive back in Austin Sunday morning around 8:30AM!  We feel incredibly lucky to have been able to spend this time together in such an enchanting place.  And we’ve got two more days – so we’ll see what adventures await!

Kaua’i Day 10

8/11/2010 Wednesday 3:30 am

Hinsley woke up suddenly, sun streaming in through the wide Andersen double-pane picture window.  The wind was whistling through the palms and he realized something was very, very wrong.  The sun.  It was streaming!  What time was it? As he struggled to open his eyes the memories came rushing back.  They were tumbling over one another, elbowing forward in his consciousness: the Directorate, Nick Bryson, the lovely yet distant Elena, headquarters destroyed (!), and at the bottom of it all?  Ludlum.  LUDLUM!!!

I was up very late finishing The Prometheus Deception, by Robert Ludlum, last night!

Here's the last thing I saw, before drifting off to sleep...

Today was a big day!  Destination Po’ipu!  Poipu is considered south Kaua’i and it is, more or the less, the only drive-able part of the island we have not at least cursorily investigated.  Today our mission was to see “Spouting Horn” and the Allerton Garden of the National Tropical Botanical Gardens (this is one of five NTBGs – 4 in Hawaii and 1 in Florida – we’ve been to the one in Florida!).

On the way, we couldn’t resist stopping for the Pineapple Frosty at Banana Joe’s we’ve been hearing so much about:

Banana Joe's!

Glenda in front of pretty flowers she liked. The pineapple smoothy was oh-so-tasty, I would've thought they blend ice cream and fresh pineapple, it's so mm mm good, but Glenda assures me there is NO ice cream which means there must be some little magic elf back there making this stuff incredibly tasty in the "au natural" way.

To get to Po’ipu, we drove south on 56 through Lihu’e, got on 50 west and then headed south on 520 toward the southern-most tip of Kaua’i.  No sooner do you turn onto 520 then you find yourself in this amazing covered drive:

The Tree Tunnel

Our first major destination was “Spouting Horn”.  It’s a blow hole – yes that’s what they call it – that is a peculiar formation in the volcanic coastline resulting in a geyser-like effect when waves crash against it.

This is not the Spouting Horn blow hole, this is, however... our "Chicken of the Day" picture! It's hard to fully appreciate with no others around, But this guy attracted our attention because he was huge - nearly twice the size of the others.

Another non-Spouting Horn shot, though we're very close, this is looking due south at the Spouting Horn site - frothy waves today!

And the moment you've waiting for, Spouting Horn! That's it, right in the middle! That little, feeble bit of H2O flubbering up through the rock there. OK so it's not that impressive, and I bet you're thinking, gee, Matt could have caught the blow hole at a slightly better moment... maybe stuck around a bit for a better shot. And my answer to you is no, Matt could not have "stuck around a bit" and gotten a better shot because that's as good as it got today. Let's just say that the blow hole, well... it blew!

Not to be dissuaded, we decided to head to the botanical garden, but that meant first having lunch.  Lunch included this cool purple sweet potato salad – mmm.

OK, so here’s the quick history: Sam Allerton made ridiculous amounts of money buying hogs during the big freeze of the 19th century for cheap out west and then selling them for a premium back east.  Loads and loads of money.  His son, Robert, was not into business, but was very into art and eventually found his calling in landscape design.  He designed and built, over 14 years, the Allerton Garden in Po’ipu Kaua’i, here we go:

A shot down at the Allerton residence, now where the curator lives.

We took a tram over, and here's a shot back down the path we've just traveled. Ferns, vines, water seeping from rocks - otherworldly.

Robert Allerton created "rooms" with his landscapes. We're about to enter the first. The pineapple statues mark the entrance...

Room 1: the Thanksgiving Room. Cool gazebo, reflecting pool, neat vertical elements.

All around were not only incredible trees, but also things living on the trees, orchids and so much more.

After walking through the orchard, we arrived in the Diana Room. You might be able to make out the statue of the Greek Diana at the end of the pool.

...and here's what Diana sees, looking back up the "room" from her perspective.

My personal favorite, the "three pools" rooms.

Here's a close up of the drain at the bottom of the third of the three pools. Here's the deal. There are no pumps anywhere in the gardens. All the fountains are gravity powered. The water starts way up high, gets trapped in cisterns, then feeds down into the top-most pools, and when its done it runs into drains like this one, and flows dow to power the fountains of a lower section of the garden - genius.

Half way up "Three Pools", and to the left, is an amazing waterfall, it starts out all naturalistic and gradually progresses to more and more "man-made" in appearance.

3 pools from the top looking back.

Walking up the path with the little streamlet running along side, reminded me of the Alhambra in Spain.

We're at the apex of the gardens, this waterfall feeds that streamlet we just saw...

Walking down from the apex, we see another streamlet... and Glenda!

The Bamboo room - complete with Buddha!

The Mermaid Room. Check out that long water conduit! Its hour glass form causes the water to begin flowing smoothly at the top, but end up sloshing back and forth by the time it reaches the bottom.

Ryan, our tour guide. A super-nice guy. He's standing at the bottom of the hour-glass thing.

Lot's of Hollywood movies are filmed here. Pirates of the Caribbean 4 was just filmed across the river from the Bamboo Room, which means now I'm gonna have to see it - goodness knows I wouldn't have otherwise! This field is where Harrison Ford got chased by natives in Raiders of the Lost Ark!

These crazy trees are called Morton Bay Figs. The second one on the left is where they discovered the Raptor Eggs in Jurassic Park 1.

Glenda and Morton Bay Fig Tree - amazing!

Matt and Glenda posing as Raptor Eggs.

This pretty waterfall is where the pool from the "Diana Room" drains. From here its into a small river and out into the ocean.

One surprise after another at the Allerton Gardens, this was a real treat.

We stayed in for dinner. I raided the fridge and made stuffed mushrooms, herbed croutons on tossed salad (ala Newman) baked Asian Eggplant with spaghetti and tomato sauce served "all done up" as "Matty's mini tourettes".

What an adventure.  I’m not sure we saved the world today, like Nick Bryson, but we had a simply marvelous time – in the company of some great folks – in a beautiful place.

Kaua’i Day 9

8/10/2010 Tuesday 4:21 am

Well, for Matt, today was pretty much dominated by one thing:

This book is dangerous!

OK, I admit it.  The truth is that I’m a sucker for international espionage and caper thrillers in book and movie form.  Ludlum does it for me!  I began reading Prometheus Deception yesterday, but today I became totally obsessed.

I was able to put the book down long enough for Glenda and I to take a hike down to our private beach (it’s called Sea Lodge Beach).  Its not technically private, but today it was!  For nearly the entire 3-hours we were there snorkeling (and reading Ludlum a teensy bit) we were the only ones there.  Simply a marvelous time, the seas were very calm and the snorkeling incredible.  I returned several times to the place we first spied our sea turtle, but I’ve not seen him again.  Many sea cucumbers, though, which are cool too – the way they lie there like that – totally still.

After lunch (and an afternoon stint with Ludlum), we decided to take an outing to the Thai 2 Go food trailer off of 56 about 5 miles south of here.  We heard it was fabulous, and we were not disappointed…

Glenda awaits the arrival of Thai 2 go tastiness.

The Thai 2 go environs, the trailer is behind the palm tree!

Our "Chicken of the Day" picture. Much like our dog-friend at Kilauea, this Chicken seemed to be very interested in our food. We couldn't resist, and found out that chickens love Musman curried peanuts and tofu. We decided not see if he would like the Green Curry Chicken...

Between Thai 2 Go and our condo there is Anini Beach.  We hadn’t been before, and it was approaching sunset, so we thought we’d head over there for a stroll.

Glenda looking happy and lovely on Anini Beach. There's a light house on the point behind her - Kilauea Light House, and off the point, a tiny island which is a bird sanctuary.

We strolled all the way to the west end of the beach. This shot shows the water on the right, the end of the beach, and then one of the nice homes along the waterfront on the left.

The sun was going down. We had started to walk back toward the car when Glenda pointed out how long our shadows were!

The sun is setting. Check out how calm the water is here - it's amazing!

Setting...

Set!

So we happily and somewhat hastily drove back to the condo.  At least one of us was hasty, in his desire to know what Nick Bryson would do once he arrived in Beijing.  It was just terrible that he had been deceived by that nasty Ted Waller and the Directorate, and Layla (!), what a complete shock.  It’s like you can’t trust anyone!

Kaua’i Day 8

8/9/2010 Monday 2:26 am

Well, there was trouble in paradise this morning.  Specifically, it was cloudy and raining and blowing like crazy in the early hours.  The weather seemed so determined to frown on the day that we were driven to brainstorm ideas for indoor activities.  This, of course, simply just “outs” us as the novices we are.  We’ve heard that Kaua’i weather turns on a dime, we’ve even witnessed it, but we had not seen it turn from such an extreme gloom into extreme gorgeous as would end up happening by this afternoon.  Here’s what we faced this morning:

Kaua'i out our condo window this morning. Note the blow-i-ness and generally foreboding grey. It was raining too, I swear!

So I elected to do what I always do when the weather is lousy.  Take off my shirt and cook!

That's not technically true, I don't always do that. But in this case Glenda had read about a fabulous Sunday brunch and called for reservations last night only to be told that the place is no longer offering Sunday brunch! So I decided to try and lift her spirits with a little taste of Matty's Kountry Kitchen Home-Kookin'!

Matty's Kountry Kitchen Kakes, Omelets, and Taters!

Our first and only happy customer of the day!

After breakfast, the morning hours were spent doing homespun things.  I finished editing my book (this pass anyway) and Glenda read “Eat, Pray, Man, Woman, Love” which she seems to be thoroughly enjoying.

We (and by “we”, I mean “Glenda”) were itching to get out and do something by lunch time, though, and the dial landed on waterfalls.  If you head south from where we are on 56 to Kapa’a, at just about the mid-point of the east side of the island, you hit route 581 west which connects you with 580 west and delivers you out to Opaeka’a falls.

Opaeka'a Falls! I like this picture particularly because Glenda's pretty flowery top echos the flowers opposite. If you squint in the distance you'll see the falls. If you squint even more you'll see that there are two forks of the falls, the rather robust fork to the right and the diminutive little fork to the left. My understanding from a conversation I overheard today - though I don't understand how this could be possible - is that Canada actually owns the right-hand side...

Across the street from this waterfall is a great overlook treating you to a view of the Wailua River.  This river, as we’ll see later, opens up in the ocean in the town of Wailua.

From left to right: Glenda, a sign about Wailua Heritage Trail (and river), and Wailua River.

Hey! Its the second rainiest place on earth! Mount Wai'ale'ale! We saw this yesterday from the west side atop route 550, and now we can see it from the east. The Wailua River is snaking along below, of course.

We went back toward Wailua and Kapa'a, but pulled off for this view of the Wailua River approaching the ocean. In the mid-left foreground there's even a chicken!

Which brings us to today's "Chicken of the day" picture. We thought this guy was particularly pretty. He didn't like me getting too close, so this is the best we've got. I chased him around a bit, but it got embarrassing with all the international tourists watching me, the American, chasing a chicken at a lookout point. There is one more chicken in our future today, though, so stay alert.

Our waterfall adventures were not yet over, oh no.  Next on the list was Wailua Falls.  To get there we went back out to the main north-south road along the east side of the island, route 56, headed south to Lihu’e (where the airport is) and headed inland once more.

We're at Waialua Falls! But this is not the falls. I've just always gotten a kick out of signs riddled with bullet holes. Here I am making my "six-shooters" gesture - I am comforted by the honest belief that the international tourists who witnessed me posing for this were not the same ones observing the chicken incident.

Wailaua Falls! Now THAT's a waterfall. No offense, Opaeka'a. Short and wide beats tall and skinny, when it comes to waterfalls, any day.

This waterfall made Glenda hungry, and she had read about this fabulous noodle house in Lihu’e – so off we went to find it!

Saimin's Noodle House!

The Saimin's Noodle scene... lotsa locals, always a good sign.

Mmm, noodles. We ordered the "Small Regular" because we discovered they only take cash and we had only $7 with us, and the "Small Regular" was the only thing on the menu that gave us leftover for a descent tip. I understand it was delish!

Next was a walk along the beach in Wailua.  Lihu’e, Wailua, and Kapa’a are all nearby, more or less in the middle of the east coast of Kaua’i.

Lydgate Beach Park in Wailua. I like this shot. On the right you see crazy waves (!) with all manner of signs basically saying "don't get in the water or you will die". Then in the middle you see a man-made break, and on the left you see nice calm water on the other side of the break. They made what amounts to a salt water swimming pool here - great for parents and kids to swim or learn how to snorkel.

I call this portrait, in honor of Jessica Simpson, "The chicken of the sea".

We walked to the north end of Lydgate Beach Park and found that it terminates nowhere but the place the Wailua River empties into the ocean!  How cool!  I’ve always wanted to see a river emptying into the ocean…

The Wailua River meets the pacific Ocean - Lydgate Beach Park in Wailua, Kaua'i.

And that was our big trip.  We started making the trip north to return to our condo and passed Kealia Beach which is a favorite spot for surfers.  There were tons today!  I wish you could see ’em better in this picture.  We sat and watched them for quite a while.

Lots and lots of tiny surfers!

And then it was “home gain, home again, lickety split JF” (what Harrison Ford movie is that from?).

Here's Matt with cards, Maui Potato Chips, and a Pina Colada on the condo deck. We had a great talk with Matt's Mom for a bit today and, among other things, got the rules for a new (to us) bridge game we can play with just two called "Devil's Bridge". Loads of fun, when you win, anyway, otherwise it stinks.

And finally, our beautiful sunset. What a transformation from this morning's blustery, rainy, torrent!

The whole day is not planned for tomorrow, but we seem in agreement that it begins with a snorkel.  We’ll see what happens after that!

Kaua’i Day 7

8/8/2010 Sunday 2:35 am

Today we decided to take the bull by the horns and head out early into uncharted territory.  That meant south along route 56 – which runs along the east side of Kaua’i – past the airport in Lihue, and the west along the south side of the island on route 50.  Our destination: Waimea Canyon!

The day began with an interesting view out the window at sunrise, however: low tide.  We hadn’t seen this before, but at low tide it appears as though reefs that are normally covered with water (and make for excellent snorkeling) emerge above the surface.

Sunrise this morning. If you look out in the water to the left of the palm, you can see the black tops of reefs. Usually these are not visible! Several people actually walked right out on the water this morning - all the way out to where the big waves were breaking. If you look closely on the grass, to the right of the palm, you can also see a wild mother hen who lives nearby - she appears like a black blob in this picture. She's actually sitting on 7 baby chicks!

But we had no time to dally today.  We were in the car and gone by 8:10!  Off to see Waimea!

Here's a close-up of Matt in the convertible today. Kaua'i, as I've mentioned, has very unpredictable weather. The top came up and down a bunch today as we drove in and out of rainy patches.

So south we went… and then west along the south side of the island on route 50.  We went almost as far as you can go before stopping in Waimea (the town) for the “best coffee on the island” served up by a very enthusiastic lady.  We took the occasion to enthusiastically use the rest room before heading up the mountain!

We've begun our ascent along a ridge that will take us to the top of Waimea canyon and beyond. Think of the road up Rocky Mountain National Park if you've ever had the "pleasure" of driving that one. We stopped here to take a shot south, back down the hill, and over the town of Waimea and the enthusiastic coffee lady. Out in the water you may be able to see Nihau - the privately-owned Hawaiian island.

A touch further up the road, we saw this water fall, running down through a patch of the famous Kaua'i "red dirt". The red dirt is popular here - it stains! In fact, they even have a popular T-shirt company where the shirts are all colored using Kaua'i red dirt (ends up looking curiously like UT burnt orange - Hook 'em!)

So some explanation is now required.  In the above picture we’re part-way up route 550, which starts on the south-west corner of Kaua’i (roughly) and heads north rising above Waimea Canyon on the inland (east) side.  550 ends, 20 miles later, towering high above not only the northern-most  part of the canyon to the east, but also something called the Na Pali coast to the west.  The Na Pali coast is 22 miles of Kaua’i coastline along the northwest part of the island that is entirely inaccessible by car.  So inaccessible, in fact, that if you’re in North Kaua’i and you want to drive to west Kaua’i you have to do what we did today and drive to the east coast, south to the south coast, west to the west coast, and THEN head north to get to wherever you want to go.  The Na Pali coast, then, is most often viewed by boat or helicopter or, from above, from the northern-most tip of route 550.  That’s where we are here:

Ooooo. Na Pali Coast. Gorgeous, peaceful, cool, quiet - apart from the chatter of the tourists. We saw tourists from India, Germany, Japan, and the US.

Glenda with Na Pali backdrop.

OK, time for more explanation.  First, you’re right, we have not yet actually seen Waimea Canyon – which was the stated reason for the trip.  We’re getting to it!  We drove along it on the way up, but we decided to get to the tippy top first, see Na Pali, and then work our way back down.  Second, at the top of 550 you’ve got Na Pali to the west and you’ve got Waimea Canyon to the east – actually to the south east.  To the due east, from the top of 550, you’ve got Mount Wai’ale’ale which is the second wettest place on earth.  That’s right, it rains on Mount Wai’ale’ale virtually all the time.  Check it out!

See that dark cloud obscuring that mountain top? That's crazy rain falling on Mount Wai'ale'ale - the second wettest place on earth!

Matt and Glenda hiked around the top-o-550 zone a bit, and a nice couple took our picture together!

Matt with Na Pali in background.

Glenda with Na Pali in background!

Pretty orange day lilies grabbed Glenda's attention as we left the summit.

…and leave we did.  We headed back down the ridge-top road known as 550 and eventually pulled over to get a good look at:

Waimea Canyon! It was really impressive, and very peaceful.

Perhaps it was the majesty of Waimea, or the ethereal splendor of Na Pali, but this next moment on the road south struck us with an unusual poignant existential force.  Witnessing this scene stirred in me a question that I’m still trying to define.  Is it Why?  What?  Where?  Something is scratching at the surface, perhaps once we sleep on it, all will be revealed:

???

Whew, what a brain teaser!

Anyway, we made it back to Waimea and sought out what we’d heard was the best shave ice place in southern Kaua’i (its been well-established, I hope, that Wishing Well is the Holy Grail of shave ice in the north).

Jo Jo's! Hole in the wall ambience, surly je ne sais quois from the wait staff, what more could you hope for?

We ordered a "Tropical Rainbow", that's a trio of Lilikoi (Guava), Orange, and Mango ice over Mac-nut ice cream. Totally perf! (Or "solid!" as they say here when they mean "totally perf".)

We had a touch more juice in us after Waimea and Jo Jo’s, and we decided to stop in Hanapepe on our way home.  Hanapepe is just west of dead center on the south side of the island which, I should say, is a good bit warmer and drier than up north where we’ve spent most of our time.  Hanapepe is an old town and they are just now revitalizing.  We toured some art galleries and then headed for the “swinging bridge”.

This is not the swinging bridge - but these flowers were gorgeous, and they are invisible out from under the tree! How unusual! We were heading to the swinging bridge (next photo) and we were totally surprised by these pretty flowers hiding under the canopy of this tree.

The Swinging Bridge! This was fun. Basically it swings a bit while you walk on it! Worth going up and back...once!

And that’s it!  We were bushed.  It was early afternoon, and our trip to see Waimea canyon and Na Pali from the top of 550 was a raging success!  We made it home in the mid-afternoon after a round trip that probably took a bit over 6 hours.  We’ll do at least one more big trip south, to see Po’ipu while we’re “on island”.  On the whole, though, we’re really glad to be staying on the north side.  Here’s Matt back in the condo this afternoon:

Still editing that book! I made it through chapter 9 today...

No plans for tomorrow have been proposed and agreed upon by the council here.  So we’ll take a “wait and see” approach.  I imagine some snorkeling, or possibly tennis, is on the horizon, though.