|By: Paul S. Cilwa||Viewed: 8/19/2019
|Topics/Keywords: #Kauai #Hawaii||Page Views: 3126|
|How Michael and I spent our first full day on Kauai.|
Morning dawned on our first day in Kauai.
The place had been dark when we drove up last night, which would have been a problem if we hadn't had the GPS (and the address pre-programmed in). In the light of day, it's a perfectly normal, if upscale, Kauai house.
It was not the Hilton, but I didn't want the Hilton. I prefer a nice, homey atmosphere and that's what we got.
The note left for me the night before explained that the front door is always open. It felt very secure to me to know that the owner, who lives there, felt safe enough in his neighborhood to not have to lock the door. (He did recommend we lock our bedroom door.)
Our room was at the end of the main hall. The walls were covered with pictures I found very impressive. They showed the owner in front of the Matterhorn with each of his four kids, and another series of him with a famous mountain climber on the slopes of Mt. Everest. I asked him about these later, and he admitted to having been on Everest—not on top of it, but on it. Still.
The bedroom was dominated by a king-sized bed, outfitted in a very comfortable, homey style—not professionally decorated, but looking like a well-used home. I loved it.
Cam, the owner, admitted that not everyone shares my enthusiasm. He said once, a couple came in, took one look, and left. But the majority of people will have bothered to look at the web site and will rent because this is what they want. (Cam's photos on the web site look almost identical to mine; there aren't many other angles to shoot from.)
Across from the bed is the bathroom; to the right of that is the TV and DVD player; to the right of that, the sliding glass door onto the porch that doubles as a kitchen.
Because the temperature in Hawaii is always perfect (there's no air conditioner), we anticipate spending a lot of time on the porch. We slept last night with the sliding glass door open (albeit the sliding screen door was closed). In addition to providing a full kitchen, the comfortable dining table and chairs will allow eating as well as a place to blog. And just outside is a lanai (enclosed garden) which, though it could stand a bit of landscaping, nevertheless looks to provide a quiet and private place to relax or even sunbathe.
The bathroom is small but adequate. The shower head was awesome; one of those wide-spreading rain-type shower heads. There is another half-kitchen in what would be a linen closet; I'm not sure why but the microwave on the porch was unplugged so we will have to cook in the closet…a bit of an inconvenience that I'm sure Cam would fix if we asked him to.
I can't say we slept well, but it wasn't Cam's fault! The problem is that we woke up at our usual time of 5:30 am in Mesa—but it was 2:30, here. We also awoke at 3:30, 4:30, and 5:30. Shortly after that, the sounds of tropical birds began to fill the air, augmented by the crowing of roosters, which only grew louder and more insistent as the day grew brighter. By 7:30 I gave up and got up. Michael followed shortly after. We showered and dressed and set out to scare up breakfast.
Which wouldn't have been hard to do, if we'd been willing to eat chicken, after shooting one and dressing it and cooking it ourselves. The island is crawling with them. They're like pigeons here. There were chickens in the airport. There are hens alongside the road, on the sidewalks, on the beaches. Cocks are nearly as numerous, and they aren't shy: They call attention to themselves with their crowing, which they do all day long, not just at sunrise. And they give a new meaning to the game of "chicken", when a cock is standing his ground in the middle of the road. You have to be the one to swerve, unless you want to wash dead rooster off the bottom of your car.
This may be why the island's speed limits are so slow—in many places, 25 mph on a road that would be 55 mph back home.
Kauai's cocks and hens have been on the island since ancient times, when the original Polynesian settlers brought them as a food source. There were, therefore, no native predators for them and they quickly filled a niche that had apparently lain vacant (or quickly displaced an unknown native species). Then, in 1992, Hurricane Iniki may have caused some unknown change in the island's ecology, because from that time to this the chicken population has increased for no identified reason. The cocks, and the hens, too, have gone wild.
Since we hadn't had a chance to stock the kitchen yet, we decided to eat out. The nearest McDonalds, according to the GPS, was about 8 miles away. But there was a place called Poi'pu Tropical Burgers only a mile away, and when I called them, they assured me they made breakfast. So that's where we went.
Despite the name, this was not a fast food restaurant and it didn't seem to specialize in burgers, either. They had a huge breakfast menu and served most of the items on it, almost all day. Michael and I both had banana pancakes with crushed, toasted macadamia nuts, plus a scrambled egg on the side for a little protein. In addition to the usual maple syrup, they had coconut syrup which I tried. (A little strong for my taste, but not bad.) We sat on the wide porch, which overlooked a lovely lanai filled with flowering trees, flowering bushes, flowers, and, of course, cocks and hens and baby chickens following their mothers about.
The meal was fantastic if a little carb-heavy…but it was what we had ordered. Our waitress, Janice, was charming. All in all, as $30 breakfasts go, this one was well worth the price.
She even took our photo, in between delivering meals, which I thought was really sweet.
The restaurant was located in what would be a strip mall in Arizona, but here took a different shape, with the shops sharing a roof but arranged around an enclosed garden or lanai.
The chickens had the run of the place, but we did step into a touristy place so Michael could get his refrigerator magnet and I could pick up a Hawaii cap and a couple of T-shirts, as well as water and some sandwiches for lunch.
As we glanced at some of the other stores in the touristy complex, a child's book in a shop window caught my eye. It was entitled A President From Hawai'i and featured a picture of a smiling Barack Obama, complete with lei. The locals I talked with are very proud that an Hawaiian has become President of the United States. (Quite the opposite sentiment I heard from folks from Connecticut a few years ago!)
We stopped by our rental briefly to drop off the purchases we wouldn't be using during the day, and asked our host, Cam, what beach we should go to first. He said the nearest beach was a short walk away, and "belongs" to the Hilton. But his favorite beach "belongs" to the Sheraton, and is a mile or two further.
We attempted to follow his directions, and what we came to wasn't exactly a beach; but rather, an eroded lava flow that extended into the ocean. A couple of guys were sitting in a truck next to where we parked, and they gave additional directions to a "real" beach. They then offered to take our picture. As I handed the camera to the well-muscled, six-packed surfer, the unmistakable odor of marijuana hit me. I had been half-afraid he might have intended to steal my camera; but once I smelled the pot I relaxed. Stoners don't steal, and they don't become Republican Senators. But I repeat myself.
The beach they described turned out to be the public city beach for Po'ipu. The place was positively crawling with cocks. Also, with chickens.
The beach itself was a strand of sand stretching out to another lava bed, with sheltered pools on either side of it that was perfect for kids and families.
As we walked along the strand, we came upon an odd sight. A seal was lying on the beach, as if dead, with yellow rope blocking off the area around it. Had it been murdered? Or washed ashore?
A sign nearby told half the story: This was a sleeping Hawaiian Monk Seal. A woman named Lynn, who was wearing a "Monk Seal Volunteer" T-shirt and had arms so leathery it looked like she was wearing a Naugahyde jacket, told us the rest of the story. Hawaiian Monk Seals are night hunters and sleep during the day…and where they sleep, is the beach…and they don't care whether the beach "belongs" to Hilton, Sheraton, or the city of Po'ipu. Since Hawaiian Monk Seals are critically endangered (there are only about 1100 left in the world), it's essential they be protected from kids who poke at them with sticks to "see if they're still alive." So the Monk Seal volunteers patrol the beaches each morning, and set up the barriers around the seals they find, to remind the humans who are not sleeping to leave them alone.
The water was incredibly clear. That's because Kauai is a volcanic island, without much soil to wash into the sea, and not many rivers to wash it…and none near Po'ipu. So the water looks like liquid glass.
Out at the end of the lava field, waves were crashing with regularity against the black boulders, creating black sand a grain at a time. (Most of the beaches in Kauai are black sand, made by the action of waves pounding against lava rock.) The name "Po'ipu" in Hawaiian literally means "crashing waves."
Michael was kind enough to get a shot of me I can use as a masthead if I ever decide to leave Arizona and move to Kauai.
Michael and I then put our gear in a pile on the sand and went swimming. The water was cool but not cold; the swells were gentle. I tried riding a few of the waves in but they had no power—it was all lost in the lava break at the far side of the shallows.
While a few other people were relaxing and floating in the water as we were, most of the bathers were actually snorkeling. Michael asked a few what they were looking at, and was told there were clownfish and other interesting species to be seen. Even without snorkeling gear, he spotted a three-foot fish swim by him. (Personally, I found the snorkelers to be of more interest.)
Around noon we left the beach, came back to our room and showered and changed and then returned for a drive up Kauai's east coast.
This island is really beautiful and I wish I could share all the pictures I took with you. Space and time limitations force me to restrict myself to a representative sampling, though. Here's a shot, typical of the region, on the highway north heading in the direction of Kapa'a.
When I saw a sign for Opaeka'a Falls, I quickly turned toward it. The road ran along the Wailua River, rising quickly into the hills above the coast. The river, placid and gentle, has been used for thousands of years for irrigation.
We stopped at Poli'ahu Heiau, the remains of an ancient temple made of lava rocks carried by hand to this level from the flatland below. I suspect it was dedicated to Aeio'u, the traditional Polynesian goddess of vowels.
A little ways west of the temple was a scenic lookup for Opaeka'a Falls, the reason we'd come this way. I took a dozen pictures of it, include several that show the falls more clearly; but this one includes the wild bougainvillea that festooned the area.
After that stop, I continued up the road. Michael asked where we were going. "I have no idea!" I assured him. Presently we came upon an area I later learned was Keahua Forestry Arboretum. It was a lovely area where a stream, probably a source of the Wailua River, poured over the roadway and into a stream bed that stretched beneath tall eucalyptus trees.
Families were planted here and there, playing in the water. It was just the most peaceful, pleasant place I've ever seen.
I announced to Michael that, if we had time on this trip, I wanted to come back to this spot to picnic or swim or both. But we retraced our path back to the main road, reached Kapa'a, and then continued past it to a huge and intricately-shaped mountain that is visible from almost the whole island.
The peak is part of the Anahola Mountains, and the distinctive split peak is called Kong, because from some angles it resembles the mythical giant ape.
By now, we had reached the end of our site-seeing stamina. Michael mentioned something about buying T-shirts this morning and I had to think—wasn't that a week ago? The banana and crushed macadamia pancakes seemed like a distant memory.
In Kapa'a we spotted what I assumed was a Gay Pride flag—the six rainbow colors, though there was a big happy face in the middle of it. It turned out to be a "local products" fair. One of the craftsmen explained that, in Hawaii, the rainbow has nothing to do with Gay Pride; it's a symbol of Hawaii. He added, "No one here really cares about gender issues. We don't really have them. Gay, straight, male, female, whatever. People are just people." I didn't ask him why, then, Hawaii managed to vote down the Marriage Equality bill when it was presented last year.
While there, Michael and I bought magnetite jewelry. Michael got a bracelet and I got a necklace. They supposedly have healing properties, but I bought mine because it looks nice.
We made one, final, site-seeing stop at Kapa'a beach, simply because it was so pretty and had such nice sand. Michael had promised someone from his school that he would try to find a shell on the beach for her. So far, our beach visits had brought no luck; the beaches are pretty thoroughly washed clean. Having been to Maui the year before, I knew there aren't many shells to be found. But here Michael hit the jackpot.
And so did I, in terms of photography, inasmuch as this was certainly the prettiest beach we'd seen so far.
We stopped by a Safeway on the way home and got a couple of TV dinners and breakfasts so we won't have to spend so much money or time on our next few meals. Watched another of our NetFlix DVDs (this was Gay Deceivers, a movie I wanted to see when it came out in 1969—and thank the gods I didn't, since it has pretty much no redeeming value whatsoever), and as I type this, Michael is snoring softly in bed where I intend to join him as soon as possible.
Tomorrow will be another big day!
I should mention, in closing, that we did enjoy a major victory over the cocks and hens that had gotten in our way today.
Our TV dinners? Michael's was fried chicken, and mine was sweet-and-sour chicken.
We are not about to lose to a chicken in a cock fight.