Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Na Pali Coast

Veteran visitors to Kauai will recall that the highway does not quite circumnavigate the island. There is a 17-mile gap in the road at the northwest corner, between Ke'e Beach and Polihale Beach, otherwise known as the über-scenic Na Pali Coast.

Having read that National Geographic magazine rated a one-way open-water kayak tour down the coast as the second-best outdoor adventure in the United States (after rafting the Grand Canyon), Daddy felt obliged to check it out on behalf of the rest of the family.

Despite suffering a broken toe two days before departure, in an unsuccessful attempt to walk through a stool, Daddy was undeterred, setting out for the North Shore at 6 a.m. All trips had been canceled for the past five days due to rough seas. This was likely to be the last one of the season. He took the guides' advice and gulped down some Dramamine. This turned out to be a wise choice.

The initial 11-mile stretch before lunch was more than a few of the paddlers bargained for. The swells were formidable and there was enough wind and rain to keep things very interesting. One couple turned back just before the point of no return, and several more probably wished they had. They gave up their breakfasts until there was nothing left to give... and then they gave some more. You get the picture.

But the scenery was spectacular, beyond my humble abilities to describe, so I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. When we reached the beach designated for our lunch, we all collapsed in the sand and rested for a couple of hours.

The final stretch to Polihale was gentler and sunnier... until the landing. Bringing kayaks in to the beach between sets of six-foot waves added a bit of drama to the finish. Most of the boats were swamped in the surf, but everyone survived to tell the tale, though not, perhaps, with all of their possessions.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Kauai Roundup (Part 2)

Not content to enjoy the view by helicopter alone, we set out to make the land journey up the edge of Waimea Canyon.
The landscape is so vast and imposing that it's hard to believe it represents only a slice of an island that is barely 40 miles across at its widest point.

It looked even bigger with Miles and Leo adding perspective.

Miles felt it was a good spot for acrobatics.

Fortunately, no one went over the edge.

At the end of the road we took in the Kalalau Valley from a dizzying height.

By the time we got back to Waimea, we were good and hungry. Somehow, we managed to stumble upon the best shrimp tacos north of the Rio Grande. (Though there was some uncertainty about whether we were north of the Rio Grande.)

After that, there was no delaying the nap.

We watched the horn spout at Spouting Horn.

Then checked out the scene at Poipu Beach.

Leo was becoming quite accustomed to the beach.

While Miles looked ready to join the surfer crowd.

Or perhaps start his own band.

Grandma Margee continued to provide invaluable support....

... for which we could only compensate her with coconuts.

Snorkeling was as simple as rolling out of the minivan and tumbling onto the beach.

Fish weren't the only creatures lurking in the water.

Leo showed plenty of aquatic aptitude.

Somehow we all managed to stay afloat.

On rare occasions, Miles would consent to wear his water wings in the pool...

... a fashion statement that made quite a splash.

... and made the job of monitoring him in the pool slightly less stressful.

In fact, it was downright fun.

Lisa found an extraordinary roadside BBQ on the road to Kilauea, where we procured the tastiest wild boar of all time. Apparently the island is overrun with tens of thousands of wild boar and very free-ranging chickens (pictured here meeting their fate on the grill.)

The Kilauea Lighthouse marked the northernmost point on Kauai.

And it put an exclamation point on our day!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Workin' On a Railroad

One concern about taking Miles to Hawaii for two weeks was whether he would suffer from train deprivation. After all, he had to leave all his Thomas trains behind.

We needn't have worried.

The Kauai Plantation Railway provided a much-needed dose of the young man's favorite transportation mode.

Just in case that wasn't interesting enough, there was wildlife to feed along the way.

But Miles was clear on his agenda: "I want to drive it!"

He was careful to keep his engine clean.

Our journey next took us up the Wailua River. (Did we mention that Kauai is rather lush?)

Near the source, we paid a visit to the Iraivan Temple, an outpost of Hinduism in the mid-Pacific.

Despite his promises to behave, we fear that Miles may have disturbed the monks in their meditations.

He was a bit more in his element at Bubba's Burgers.

Speaking of Bubbas....

Thursday, September 24, 2009

See Monk Seal, See Sea Turtle

As dawn spread her rosy-red fingertips across the Pacific, a tired mariner was making his way home at last.
It was our very own neighborhood Hawaiian monk seal.

Hawaiian monk seals have a somewhat inconvenient need to lie motionless on the beach for hours to digest their bellies full of fish. This was a workable arrangement when they had no real predators on the islands, but now that the beaches are lined with resorts and sunbathing bipeds, it's not surprising that the seals find themselves on the Endangered Species List. So when our local monk seals paid a visit, the staff dutifully blocked off the beach with yellow tape and we all kept a respectful, Marine Mammal Protection Act-compliant distance.

So it was off to the North Shore again, this time to scenic Anini Beach.

Miles set out to do some landscaping....

... while Leo contented himself with rolling in the sand.

Mommy and Grandma went snorkling in the lagoon and returned with wonderous tales of turtles cavorting out by the reef.

Daddy set off with the waterproof camera and managed to locate the same creatures.

This very large turtle was content to let us watch him for quite a long time.

He placidly went about munching green stuff off the rocks, quite undisturbed by the amazed snorkeler in his presence.

It's hard to describe the awe these animals inspire up close.

They are, after all, nature's own submarines.

And we're really glad they let us join them for lunch!

Back on shore, a certain little turtle was eager to get behind the wheel.

C'mon dad, gimme the car!