Saturday, November 18, 2006

16 November 2006 (7:20 AM HST)
I am sitting on the lanai at Classic Vacation Cottages on the island of Kauai. We’ve been on the go the last couple of days, which means that this journal has slipped into the past-tense narrative again.

On Tuesday, November 14, we moved from upcountry on the eastside of Maui to a resort on the beach on the western shore. Maui has two distinct mountains from two separate volcanic episodes with an expanse of lowland in between. The day started off rainy and overcast, but we’ve learned that weather is very geographic and changes quickly in the islands. Our first stop was the Iao Valley, which is incised into the eastern slope of the West Maui Mountains. The rain and clouds followed us, but what it took away in panoramic views it gave back in drama and mystique. The drive up the valley ended at a walkway along a beautiful stream which cascades down the mountainside. They had interpretive signs which explained some of the history of the island. Again, it was interesting to note how the valley was described as the site of the biggest battle the island has ever experienced where the bodies filled the streams when Kamehameha I overran the island in order to “unite the islands”. It always sounds so altruistic when you see it presented on the information signs. As always, the conquerors get to write the history. I’m not sure why the signs have such a strong prejudice for the reign of King Kamehameha I.

As I mentioned, we had intended on snorkeling a lot on Tuesday, but a parting comment from Gary as we were leaving left a pall over our plans. He mentioned that he was not going wind-surfing because he thought it was a bad idea to be in the water when it was overcast or the water was murky, because sharks couldn’t see as well and it was too dangerous. Jerry on Oahu had also mentioned that he didn’t go surfing after a rain because the fresh water flowing into the sea brought with it runoff that attracted the sharks in to shore and the mix of salt and fresh water was not as clear. The rain had stopped and it was starting to clear when we got to the first spot where someone had recommended snorkeling (the 14 mile marker on Rt. 30, the Honoapil’ilani Highway, on the south shore). We found good parking (a rarity) and a few other people snorkeling. We also found signs posted along the beach which said, “Swim at your own risk. Shark attacks have occurred along this area.” We decided that even if it was great snorkeling, it would be hard to relax and enjoy it. This coastline is also within sight, although not very close, to where a man got bitten by a shark a few days earlier only 30’ from shore. We decided to find a more protected area.

This time we were trying to find Black Rock north of Napili. We knew where it was, but found it very difficult to get past the “No Public Access” signs at all of the resorts that line that area of the coast. By the time we found the small sign indicating beach access, the rain had started again and didn’t look like it would let up soon. We ended up spending the day going through art galleries in Lahaina. We checked into The Mauian and I got to swim a little at their very nice sand beach while Julie talked on the cell phone to the kids. We relaxed in the evening and started packing for another inter-island flight the next day.

We decided to make one more attempt at snorkeling along this coast in the morning (Wednesday, November 15) at Honolua Bay. Just after sunrise we headed out to find this area which is supposed to be one of the best in Maui. We traveled light, which is a change for me, leaving my camera, wallet, and other valuables back in the room so we wouldn’t need to worry about them while we were both in the water. We only had about 45 minutes before we had to be back to get ready to head to the airport, so we were a little stressed. We had gotten detailed directions from a woman who had been there before, so we felt good when the landmarks all fell together and we found a good parking pull-off. As we walked down the path to the beach we passed a crudely-lettered sign that said that there was a $5 fee for accessing the preserve along this path (to pay for upkeep and portalettes). Being 7:00 in the morning, we hoped that whoever had posted the sign would not be around to collect their fee. Unfortunately, we were met down near the water by a man who claimed to own the property fronting the beach, and he would not let us enter without paying. I wish that I had told him that it would just be for 45 minutes and asked for a break, but he was pretty brusque and I didn’t think of it.

We got back in our car and tried unsuccessfully to find another way to get to the water. Finally, we found a nice, government owned and maintained trail down to the bay next to the area we were trying to find. It led to a beautiful beach with a calm surf. I was sure that we had used up all of our time, but Julie insisted that we could make up the time somewhere else and suggested that we go snorkeling for 15 minutes. By the time we had gotten our gear, there was a “set” of waves rolling into the beach that were probably four feet high. They didn’t last long though and we pushed out into the water. The snorkeling was not as good as it looked like it would have been in Honolua Bay, but it was still nice and we saw a lot of fish and the biggest sea turtle that we have seen to date. It was well worth the effort, even after the very spooky swim back through the churned up water at the surf’s edge. I’m okay swimming where I can see into the distance, but I’m very uneasy in close to the beach.

We spent the rest of the morning packing and taking the plane to Kauai by way of Oahu. We still haven’t learned these security ropes yet. I had done a good job of making sure that my water bottle was empty before going through security, but managed to forget that I had my Swiss army knife in my fanny pack. The ticket desk put it in a cardboard box which I could check through. Julie had to give up her suntan lotion since it was over their 3 oz. maximum for a carry-on.

After having a new rental car on Maui, we chose to have a less sporty looking car for Kauai. It’s not a good idea for your car to look too much like a tourist’s when parked at some of the waysides. There are some people who break into cars to get valuables, and others that vandalize the cars of tourists to discourage intrusion on their local space.

On the way to our new lodging, we stopped for a picnic lunch at Poipu Beach. The book said it was good for body-surfing, but the bay was filled with coral that made it much better for snorkeling. It was probably the best fish-viewing that we have seen. We then headed upcountry to Classic Vacation Cottages in Kalaheo where we are staying. Julie describes it as a "quaint cottage nestled in lush vegetation and very nice," aside from the overwhelming smell of mildew. Fortunately, we don’t have to spend too much time inside. At $45/night it helps make this vacation in paradise more affordable.

16 November 2006 (11:12 PM HST)
Today was a great day visiting the Waimea Canyon on the west side of Kauai. The canyon was formed by the combination of a fault and erosion by the Waimea River. It is described as The Grand Canyon of the Pacific, and while it doesn’t compare to the Grand Canyon, it is still very impressive (two miles across in some places and 3000’ deep). We stopped at some great overlooks and hiked a two mile trail around the rim of a gorge that led down to the Na Pali Coast. The first mile of the walk was along a road that was closed, even though it looked in perfect condition and was probably newly paved. The second mile was along a very rough trail of red, sticky mud that made the hiking kind of difficult. Fortunately, the trail was wide, because it ran along the edge of a huge drop-off. We had hoped to see more native birds along this trail, because it does run through native vegetation and is above the “mosquito line”, but the only birds we saw were the native ‘apapane and the introduced Erckel’s Frankolin (which we had never seen or heard of before). We also got a quick view of an owl flying overhead, which we assume was the native pueo. The trail ended in a very steep climb over red clay knobs which led to a knoll with a 360 degree view of the surrounding gorges. Gorgeous!

We headed back down the mountain and stopped in Hanapepe to do some more Art Gallery gawking. We treated ourselves to ice cream; a two dip sundae cost $7.30 so we shared it. It was delicious! We did our grocery shopping for the rest of our stay and headed home.

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