Monday, November 20, 2006

17 November 2006
When we made the reservations at Classic Vacation Cottages we were intrigued by the suggestion in their literature that they were very close to a golf course that overlooked the water and charged only $8 to play nine holes. The Cottage’s owner even had golf clubs to loan. While neither of us are golfers, it sounded like a great opportunity and a nice way to spend a few hours. We were a little intimidated as we drove into Kukuiolono Park, which was donated to the public and is supported through some sort of trust. We had to wait about 45 minutes for our turn so we went to the driving range and hit a $2 bucket of balls. Julie described the experience as “humbling”. We were paired up with two gentlemen from Arizona, who also were walking the course, and their wives who walked along to cheer us on. At the last minute a gentleman who lives in the area tagged onto our group. He knew the course very well and gave us pointers on how to play it. They were very patient with our level of play. (Julie actually drove her first ball onto the green on one of the par 3 holes.. I thought I was being set up!) It was a beautiful setting and a lot of fun.

After golf we stopped into a local place for lunch and followed up hamburgers with a slice of Sour Cream Apple Pie and Pineapple Macadamia Nut Cream Cheese Pie. The cream cheese pie was great! Then we checked out and drove to Kapa’a on the islands east side.
We had reservations to spend the night at the Kauai Beach House, which we had high hopes for, since it was right on the beach. After some trouble finding it (they had absolutely no signage) we parked and were shown around the place. We had a private room reserved, but most of the accommodations were what I can best describe as berths: a bed set into a cubby hole with a curtain across the front. I’m sure it would have been fine, but we did not feel completely comfortable there. (Julie describes it as a ramshackle hippie joint.)
Instead we found that the place where we would be spending the next two nights had our room available, so we decided to check in there a day early. It saved another day packing. The International Hostel has a sign on the front gate which says that the area inside is a sanctuary for its guests. It felt like that when we walked through the gate. Except for the initial uneasiness of walking into a strange place with people who you don’t know, it had a very relaxed atmosphere. We have a private room with our own bath, which is luxury for a hostel (but also costs $75/night, which is higher than some other choices).

18 November 2006
We headed out this morning for the Kilauea Lighthouse on the north shore of the island. The lighthouse is now a wildlife sanctuary with an emphasis on preserving marine bird habitat. We got to the front gate before it opened at 10:00 and waited at a wonderful overlook outside their gate. There were dozens of Red-footed Boobies swooping across a beautiful bay and perched along the cliffs on the sides. We got to see them very well, which was satisfying since I thought that I had seen them earlier on the trip, but was unsure of my identification. As we walked up to the lighthouse we passed by the occupied nesting holes of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters which were close enough to touch (if it were allowed or a good idea). It was a beautiful view of the coastline from the lighthouse. We were hoping to see some Laysan Albatross but were disappointed (for the moment).

We had gotten directions to a “swimming hole” called the Queen’s Bath from the owner of Classic Vacation Cottages, and actually managed to find it. It is an area on the coastline where the black rock has been eroded away to form a pool which is separated from the pounding surf by a natural wall of rock. It was only about 25’ by 75’ but was fun to swim in. There were fish to see and every time a wave crashed on the wall it sent a wave of bubbles into the pool. We had a picnic lunch of bread and cheese sitting on the rocks overlooking the pool and the rest of the coastline.

As we were leaving the area we were driving through the Princeville Golf Course and saw a large bird sitting along the fairway under a tree. It turned out to be the Albatross we were looking for. It would have been nice to see it in a more natural setting, but it was fun to see anyway. He even awoke from his nap long enough to lift his head for a few pictures.

We drove along the north coast stopping at several beaches which were too wavy to swim at, but made some nice pictures. I even tried some infrared photography using a filter that I have which blocks all visible light. It made the exposure 15 to 30 second which had an interesting effect on the waves. Unfortunately, they all look blurry, which is probably a combination of the fact that IR light focuses differently than visible light and that the filter may not be very good. Hopefully it doesn’t mean that my camera is having problems focusing again (it has been sent in once for that already). It would be very disappointing to have a focusing problem with all of the pictures I have taken so far.

We ended up at the farthest point that you can drive to on Kauai, Kee Beach. It was fairly busy, possibly because others, like us, had ended there by default. It was also one of the few beaches that were protected enough from the surf to allow swimming. We went snorkeling, which was fun, but it was very shallow and the water was not very clear. We headed home and stopped back at the lighthouse to finish off the day. The adult shearwaters were supposed to come in to feed their young, but we couldn’t see any.

Back at the hostel we had lettuce topped with chicken, avocado, tomato, and dried cherries for dinner.

19 November 2006
Today our goal was to get up early and drive to the “end” of the island to hike a trail along the Na Pali Coast. We had volunteered to drive another couple from Germany to a beach on Hanalei Bay. Because of the way the hostel is organized, residents with private rooms get the kitchen to themselves until 8:00 when the manager opens the front door. We agreed to leave at 8:15 to give them time to get in and have breakfast. By the time that we got to the trailhead it was 9:30. The trail is 4 miles in to a waterfall and then back out again for a total of 8 miles. We had been told that the trail generally takes about 6 ½ hours, but we travel at photographer/birder pace, so we figured on 8 hours. Since the sun sets at 6:00, we did not think that we gave ourselves much lee way.

It would have been a good place to cool off in the surf, except for all of the warning signs that let you know that it was dangerous to even go near the water. The waves just off shore were huge and the currents in the little cove were all over the place. There was a sign that tallied the 82 deaths that have occurred at that beach. Needless to say, we didn’t go swimming.

From there the trail headed inland up a stream that flowed over well rounded volcanic rock. The trail actually was higher on the wall of the gorge, so that we could hear the stream, but rarely see it. The times that you could see it were when the trail dropped down and crossed the stream, which meant jumping from rock to rock. (Julie’s favorite activity!) This trail was also supposed to start out level, but was quite a climb as far as I was concerned. At about 12:00 we passed someone who estimated that we had about another mile left to go to the falls, and that the way got steep enough that you would have to use your hands in places. Julie was starting to get worried that we would complete the trail and be out before dark. It was not a trail that you wanted to be on with bad light. At 12:30 she decided that she would just enjoy the stream and sent me on up to the fall at a faster pace. By about 1:00 I arrived at the base of Hanakapiai Falls, which internet sources say is somewhere between 300’ and 450’. It was very impressive. (Shhhh! I told Julie that it was nothing special.) We ended up making much better time on the return trip, so we were back by 4:15. If we had it to do over again, Julie would have made the final climb. We stopped for Hawaiian Ice at Hanalei Bay and headed back to the hostel to begin packing for our trip back home.

Sunday night the hostel records a web broadcast of Chefff Jeff (extra “f” intentional) cooking different food types. Tonight it was Native American. They recorded a 20 minute segment with the guests as a studio audience, then we had an incredible meal that included pine-needle smoked salmon, cranberry glazed Cornish hens, acorn squash, squash bisque, maple syrup beans, and much, much more. It was an incredible spread. You can view the show at their website at

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