Saturday, October 27, 2007

Oahu & Kauai Part 1 of 2

Before we launch into our day by day adventures we think that a little information about the island of Kauai would help a lot. The Hawaiian islands are part of a chain of volcanoes that stretch to Siberia. The islands tectonic plate moves 3 inches to the northwest each year.

KAUAI - The volcanic island is 533 sq miles with 90 miles of beaches. Its population is about 55,000. Its nickname is "The Garden Isle." Its famous west side of Na Pali coast can only be accessed by hiking, boats or helicopters. There is a famous canyon on the west side called the Waimea Canyon which has earned the nickname "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific." It is 14 miles long and over 2500 feet deep. Micro-climates is a word that is commonly used here. We've all heard the phrase "If you don't like the weather in New England, wait a minute." Well, it really applies better to Kauai where there can be a rain shower and the sun shining within 1 minute.

Because of its unique geography, the high mountainous interior is the wettest place on earth. Mt Wai'ale'ale averages 450 inches of rain a year. About 10 miles south as the crow flies from this mountain you will find the town of Waimea that averages only 19 inches of rain a year. The north shore is beautifully green with lush hillsides and beautiful waterfalls. When the rain is very heavy on the north side of the mountain you can literally not be able to count the number of waterfalls on the mountainside.

Friday, October 26. The undulating mountains of Hawaii are amazing. They were formed by millions of years of rain wearing down the volcanic rock, looking unlike any mountains anywhere else.

We spent the night in Honolulu after getting up at 3:15 AM, and taking a 3 hour flight from Hartford and an 8 hour flight from Dallas. Warm air, sunshine, clouds and a little rain over the mountains, and flowering trees greeted us. That helped a little with our fatigue but by 8 PM we turned out the lights.

Sunrise and sunset are about 6 AM and 6 PM!

Saturday, October 27. Kauai: verdant north and dry south. The next day we had a 40 minute flight to Kauai. The first stop was the Kauai History Museum which was really excellent. There was info on the peoples (Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, and others) and the birds, animals, trees, and plants. There was also a display about the Japanese who lived in Hawaii but were interred after Pearl Harbor was bombed. We also found out that the mother of a former Fort River School teacher, Bruce Wichman, started the Kauai Museum. He went from teaching 6th grade to writing children's books. We're going to try and get in touch with him.

Stone walls and walls of buildings are made of volcanic rock. Here's a picture of the outside of the museum. We found this red-crested cardinal on the lanai of our condo.
The gift store worker recommended a great noodles restaurant in Lihue called Hamura Saimin on Kress Street. She recommended the noodles (with matchstick slices of Spam!), chicken barbequed on a skewer, and Lilikoi (Passion Fruit) Chiffon Pie. Yum!

Sunday, October 28. Driving is challenging on the North Shore of Kauai with its many narrow bridges.

We hiked 2 miles that took almost 2 hours to a beach where we couldn't go in the water. George and Carol McGeehan recommended the Kalalau Trail hike along the Na Pali coast on the . The scenery was great but as you can see from these pictures it was a challenging trail with mud, rocks, and roots.

The Hanakapia Beach sign is not your typical beach sign! Here's a picture of some of the waves, filled with sand.

Kauai Road Kill: One peculiar thing about Kauai is that there are roosters and chickens wandering around everywhere, so many that they're what is usually seen as road kill!

We stopped at the Wishing Well Shave Ice in Hanalei (written up in the New York Times as being one of the best and most authentic in Hawaii) and met a retired couple from Pittsburgh who were visiting 3 of the islands. Hawaiian shave ice with ice cream starts with a scoop of ice cream topped with a huge amount of crushed ice with a flavored syrup. There were about 20 different flavors. It was really good but would've tasted better if we had been really hot.

Have you seen this picture before? It's a view of the fields of taro (a starchy staple crop in Hawaii) in Hanalei, where Puff, the Magic Dragon lived.

We know someone who vacations in Princeville so drove into that community. It was very nice! Lush and beautiful landscaping. We stopped at an Open House and talked with the realtor. It was quite interesting. The condo was gorgeous but really expensive. We learned that electricity is expensive as well as the maintenance fees but the taxes are very inexpensive. We're certainly not interested in buying a house in Kauai but they also rent. So maybe when we return . . .

Sandy had to know how the Red Sox were doing so he called the Mullins. (Remember, we're 6 hours behind here.) They were ahead so he could relax a bit, but asked them to call again at the end of the game. Yeah!! Another World Series championship.

Monday, October 29. We drove part way up the Waimea Canyon (the Grand Canyon of the Pacific) on the west side of the island. The road is on the ridge and has amazing views of the canyon and the ocean. We only drove 1/3 of the way and hiked the Kukui Trail down a little over a mile. The first thing we noticed was lots of birds singing. This canyon's river is the Waimea, not nearly as big as the Colorado and there is much more rain than in Grand Canyon! We'll get more great pictures when we go again on Thursday.
This afternoon we drove east to Poi'pu Beach Park, a beautiful park with grass, picnic tables, and a shallow protected swimming area for kids. We went snorkeling and saw moorish idol, parrotfish, unicorn fish, and many others. We didn't see as many as we have at other places in Hawaii but the area was shallow so what we did see was very close. We spent the next hour reading and just enjoying the scenery. The water temperature was about 80 so it was lovely.

About a mile west of our condo is the "spouting horn," a geyser of water shooting through the rock.

Temperatures here are about 81 daytime and 67-70 at night. There is always a breeze, sometimes very strong near the shore. It's delightful, especially when Amherst is having temps below freezing!

Tuesday, October 30. Golf is really expensive in Hawaii but George McGeehan told us about an inexpensive course near Poi'pu. So, Becky being a good sport, went with Sandy to play golf this morning. The Kukuiolono Golf Course is up on a hill so the views were great! And we heard lots of birds. The golf, however, was not memorable. Sandy had a good time but deemed it not that challenging with very wide fairways. I had a hard time first hitting the ball and then hitting the ball in the right direction. Then my shoulder started to hurt. So, I got through 6 holes and then just putted.

You've heard of courses in Florida who have resident alligators. Well, here in Kauai, they have resident chickens and roosters!

Here's some interesting sand at Glass Beach. Look closely at the colors. (They're broken bottles and auto glass, not sure why but that's what the tour book said.)

Here's a picture of a cleared sugarcane field that's being planted with coffee. Sugarcane is no longer the cash crop here. Yes, the dirt is really that red. And it's hard to get out. There's even a T-shirt company called the The Red Dirt Shirt Company made with "authentic" red Kauai dirt!

We took a Sunset Cruise to the Na Pali coast with HoloHolo Charters. The coastline is best seen from a boat. It was a great tour with an informative captain and friendly and informative helpers, one from Duxbury, MA and one from Kauai. We were lucky to have only 16 people on
board instead of 30-40. We drove out pretty fast on a catamaran and then came back slowly near the shore so we could really see it up close. We passed one large beach called the Pacific Missile Range Facility which is owned by the military and is where they test the anti-missile missiles. The scenery was surreal. Here are some pictures of the Na Pali coast. One picture has brown footed boobies nesting on rock that's fallen down.

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