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.

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