A Stop In Kaua'i, On the Way To Tripping Into Australia
Kaua'i had been a bit of unfinished business of mine for some years. It was the lone remaining Hawaiian Island I wanted to check out, having lived in O'ahu as a young child - the source of all my first memories - and having revisited O'ahu and acquainted myself with the Big Island (Hawai'i), Mau'i, and Moloka'i more recently some dozen years ago. Lana'i, Ni'ihau, and Kahoolawe - the other three "biggies" of the Big Eight - THOSE seemed more trouble to check out than they were perhaps worth. They seemed to only contain snippets of culture and terrain found on the Big Four plus Moloka'i. (Don't ask a Hawaiian about Big Four or Big Eight - I just made those terms up.)
So it was off to the Garden Island for me for ten days, a hangover of a stopover on my way to Australia for my extended stay of a year or so. I'd arrive in Kaua'i loaded for bear by my way of reckoning, bringing along an extra heavy knapsack and a box of cycling gear for what lay ahead in Oz. This supplementary gear would be something to become paranoid over at times, but at least I'd be able to tuck it out of sight in my rental car's trunk. There it would be stay generally out of sight and hopefully that would ensure the other part of the adage (that'd be "out of mind"), too. My trumpet was not included in this thinking, being always my foremost worry. It wouldn't leave my sight, like ever.
Indeed the trumpet sometimes even served as my calling card. Practicing muted scales in Seattle's SeaTac Airport was a perfect example. Almost immediately that put me in conversation with a Salvation Army Brass Band director who had sat down next to me. He promptly called his wife: "You'll never believe what this guy next to me is doing... practicing his horn!" A father of three brass players - all adult professionals - I imagined that this scene reinstilled a hope in the musician race for him. As for me, I was just happy that he kept his offers to me concerning playing with a local Salvation band as the furthest extent of his offerings. I was wary of nefarious ends related to his "ministry" that I might have to listen to. Thankfully that never transpired.
With that distraction, and trying to catch the latest election news on Obama vs. McCain, I almost missed my flight. But I didn't, thankfully, and the 5-1/2 airborne hours to Kaua'i were otherwise only notable in being non-stop. This was only a recent Honolulu-avoiding method of Alaska Airlines that lowered the hassle coefficient of going to Hawai'i significantly - well done, Alaska Air! For that I'd only have to survive some conversation onboard with a friendly Vancouver couple regarding their timeshare holiday.
I arrived in the dark of early evening to the floral, humid Hawai'i air that the state basks in. Immediately I'd trade in some street cred and feel rather bourgeois in getting a car rental, not my typical backpacking/cycletourist mode of travel. Still, at $230 for ten days - and a surprise upgrade to a midsize car - it seemed a pretty good way to explore the almost-loop of a road that practically encircled the island. It was only about four hours from end to end by car. As a bonus, the car could serve as a convenient backup hotel should things come to that - they might. I can roll like that.
But at first blush it shouldn't come to that: I had reserved a hostel for ten days in Kapa'a, only seven miles north of Lihu'e and the airport. After a couple of lost headings along deserted and poorly-marked (i.e. not)coastal roads, I finally made out a sign to Kapa'a that had me quickly on my way to the hostel. Causing no small amount of trepidation, this was a place I had become only recently (i.e. the night before) leery of.
This uncomfortable feeling had been unbeknownst to me when I initially had the pleasant surprise of actually finding that there WAS a hostel on Kaua'i on the internet. THAT had caused me to book it right away, even if it's reputation was exceedingly poor. I would find THAT out only days later, perusing a litany of awful reviews I thumbed through by chance the day before my flight. That had given me cause to pause - but I'd already plugged in my credit card number. Crap.
The word was that Maikiki - the self-named caucasian-gone-Hawaiian manager of the establishment - was a complete nutjob, likely bipolar from the look of it. Plenty of Jekylls and Hydes were attested to in the scathing reviews I had read. Double crap! Forewarned and forearmed, however, I hoped to at least make it through the opening night before making further plans. I didn't want to hunt for lodgings in the dark.
That was my game plan, in any event, but it remained to be seen if I could stay off the credit card hook that I had hung myself on for all ten or even seven days. [A policy of theirs I would later find out about was that I had indeed incurred a seven day responsibility; it had been conspicuously, suspiciously, and dimly lit on their webpage.] In any event I had determined by the time of my island arrival that I wanted to start from one end of the island and end at the other, camping where possible. That would keeping the back-tracking minimal, proving this reservation of ten days in centrally-located Kapa'a premature.
At least Maikiki was very friendly upon our meeting at the damp reception desk. That was expected, however: I had read that his flipping switch to the dark side was something triggered. THAT supposedly came about by not playing the rules of his game, something not expressly made known, or catching him in a cantankerous mood. Fun.
I approached him warily, soon posing to him my gambit that I'd made a mistake in reserving for ten nights when I would actually prefer a first, middle, and last night kind of thing. Or more flexibility, anyway. I asked in the most ridiculously humble of fashions, posing it as a logical and forgiveable oversight cloaked in eco-friendly gas-saving terms (one of his pet issues, however much he might distort the means). Unfortunately I played it wrong, however: his demeanor darkened immediately at this change in plans. I had hit the trigger in no time, even if in as gentle a manner as possible. Uh oh.
The gambit not yet played out, I stayed exceptionally calm and friendly as Maikiki moved into a rambling and condescending lecture. Sigh. Still, I was aware that the one thing I couldn't do was afford him energy to play off of and explode from. Such was his mien as I had gathered from the postings. As he repeatedly highlighted his right to stick me for seven nights worth of charges, things certainly didn't look good.
Next I decided to try and hold my ground in a low voice of reason, appealing to his sense of a simple mistake. To this he next tried to get me to pay double for the first night as an acceptable compromise. Once again I hemmed with a mightily dejected look. Eventually, after some more haranguing solely on his part (I was mute, letting him hang himself - always a good strategy with a talker), he let me stay the one night for cash. Dramatically he then pronounced that I must then never set foot in the place again, however. (This was actually in keeping with how all of his pronouncements had been made in tones simultaneously magnanimous and profound.) "Success!" was the only thought that rumbled though my focussed mind, though. The humble gig had unquestionably been the right tone with this babbling pontificator.
Now in for just the one night, my only intent was to lay low and steer clear of Maikiki. Could I head off any explosion that wouldn't see me through until morning? He seemed that volatile. I quickly dumped my things in my room to return to the lounge and speak with a mother-daughter pair from Santa Fe, Argentina. This was more like it, and I'd never be one to miss an opportunity to relive old times like my three passes through Argentina around the Millenium.
In my dorm, too, a couple from Portland (OR) provided some nice gab. They were soon relating their seafaring life on the edge of conventional society, even having arrived in Kaua'i that way. I chatted with them for a good while before managing to hit my bunk just before the calendar's date had changed. I was finally content to just listen to the lapping of waves at Kapa'a Beach across the road for my first night. A strong breeze and a wispy sea mist blew over me though the louvered, screened window. Hawai'i, I thought, not Maikiki.
In the morning I quickly packed out, yet reasoning that I had nothing to lose in asking Maikiki for possible future nights should it work out. It's nice to keep your options open. "A deal is a deal." he muttered back at me in a growl, this only after I deliberately stood in his walking path to force a response (he had been trying to walk around me as if I didn't exist). Uttering these words without breaking his stride, he finally dismissed me in this way by never even raising his eyes to meet mine. Oh well, nothing ventured...
At least I could laugh off his imperiousness as I made my way for the door - but I'd still double check my credit card later to make sure he hadn't charged it extra. He had said he wouldn't, but trustworthy didn't seem a catchword with this one. In the meantime I had decided on a new game plan, obviating my need for a hostel: I'd get as many camping permits as possible. Why not? I already had all of my touring (camping) gear with me!
First things first, though, with morning only shortly having broken: I drove a a mere hair's distance toward Lihu'e (in the pyloned "counterflow," where the middle of three lanes between Lihu'e and Kapa'a gets a sex change (flips around) for rush hour). There I found a nearby beach, a required ingredient since Hawai'i meant beach almost as much as it meant warm in my book.
The car was soon parked on sand as the gods intended. Only an isolated and seemingly abandoned surfer vehicle stood sentinel as I walked to the lip of dry sand's end. From there I proceeded to play music to the sea, a warm sun beating my skin into pleased submission. Yes! I reflected happily in this satisfying glow... unwittingly knocked my full water bottle into the sea. Oops. This would instantly become such a mystery to puzzle over that it wasn't until I made out the whisper of its tracks etched into the sand toward its watery grave that I knew its presence would never be revealed again. Oh well - it was time to move on and check out the camping situation in the "big city", Lihu'e.
Not without delays and meanderings, of course. The Waimea River turnoff for Oke'eapa Falls quickly caught my eye minutes later, and thus the steering wheel jerked in response. I rumbled the few miles along the river up to the sign-posted lookout, soon joining a lone tourist bus disgorging its hunched and elderly masses armed with video cameras and floral shirts. I peeked briefly at the falls, then over the nearby valley as well with the river running through it (from the other vantage point across the road.) Nice stuff, but the masses (of which I was now part) left no ambiance for awed reflection. Onward.
I next continued up the road toward a type of arboretum indicated on my freebie map, but this foray became dubious when the road began to run out. It quickly turned into red dirt ruts heading sharply uphill, deep muck through which I only briefly could follow. I debated the idea of an arboreal walkabout, hoping for a trailhead sign. "But where is it?" I asked myself among all of the greenery. Then I realized that I really didn't even care. The road with the stream running across it, witnessed only by several soon-to-know-ubiquitous chickens, would prove enough caution to me to give up on this fancy completely.
Next I drove back through the stream and back down toward the highway. At one point the wheels on one side of the car left the pavement in sudden argument with the narrow and crumbling-shouldered road. That caused a fright when it dropped that side about eight inches in an instant. Youch! This proved a necessary first reminder about not treating the rental car with abject disrespect, certainly not as I clunked down and swerved to regain the road. I'd often debate attributing the few suspect braking problems I would incur over the next ten days to this moment.
Undeterred, I resumed my mission through floral air to Lihu'e, making a final pitstop at a local diner for a Hawaiian-styled American breakfast of eggs, coffee, toast and hashbrowns. This time, however, it also came with fried rice and Portuguese sausage. Burp, my vegetarian vow took a slight detour. Gotta go native sometimes.
Finally I dutifully entered the state and county (island) buildings across the street to obtain as many camping passes possible for the rest of my Kaua'i visit. A centralized - instead of drop-in - system prevailed in Kaua'i, something I quickly accepted as fact (instead of arguing the logic as others apparently had many a time). I made reservations with what was available sitewise from the state, then form-fit the easier country park reservations around them.
This strategy worked well, as did name-dropping my early years in Hawai'i Kai on Oah'u. I felt (perhaps overconfidently) that mentioning my elementary school Haihaione might vastly improve my prospects for camping suggestions with the staff. By coincidence the desk lady's sister taught there - score! I already knew that "local" was everything in Hawai'i, a concept that I would find readily and repeatedly reenforced throughout my stay. Permits in hand, I was quite content: $38 would be my total cost for nine nights of accomodations on Kaua'i. THIS after a contested $25 and the Maikiki nightmare for only the first night. Not shabby.
I decided to give Lihu'e a roll-through in the car before I left. This would be a type of reconnaissance for future orientation should I need it, I thought. Instead I managed to get slightly lost among its few streets, rendering that a moot pursuit in the end. Fortunately, dead reckoning found me soon back on the highway out of town, so I made my way toward Hanapepe.
Kaua'i Estate Coffee next proved a worthy detour on the way, as my neck jerked in the whiplash of obeying their roadside advertisement. Caw-feeeee! I heard the siren song. Free "cupping" of a dozen plus coffees - I'd hardly swallow and spit them out - surely! At the cute and tidy visitor's center, with plumeria trees in full bloom to lend an aroma to equal anything coffee could emote, I soon set up shop.
Plopping down at the cafe I dug into my next book in my small travel stack, Theroux's The Happy Isles of Oceania. I fast-forwarded immediately to the end to thus begin with his Hawaii section. What did the travel master find here? Could I ever turn a phrase as finely? Boy, this coffee sure is good!
Book reading could only go on so long, though. So I checked out an adjacent maze with educational side comments to nearly complete a happy stop. The end would come in their plantation store. There I'd find rock salt plum seeds to harken my youth. Back outside finally, I noticed that everywhere, I mean EVERYWHERE, was the red dirt for which Kaua'i was particularly famous. This all felt right.
Before leaving the plantation I threw a pile of plumeria blooms onto the passenger seat of my trusty rental car. I'd roll out of the estate with a goodly amount of coffee bean in me belly and something nice to smell other than coffee breath. Now that's the way to roll!
Hanapepe, next up, would only make for a curious and slightly derelict pause to have a look-see. Soon I made on to Waimea town, vowing to checking Hanapepe out again later. In Waimea I held a future reservation at Lucy Wright Park for camping, for some days hence. Stopping at the park, however, I realized that this beachfront park sounded SO much better at the county parks office.
I found that the reality was a small field for tents alongside some houses. This was less than inspiring, to understate. A group of locals seemed to be rooted there, too, although a woman picking shells and fish out of a pickup truck at the beach conversed with me in a friendily enough manner. Hmmm...I'd debate staying there - surely there must be other sites more welcoming in communing with nature.
In any case my first two camping nights were reserved further down at the end of road, at Polihale State Park. Conveniently, I could take a detour up Waimea Canyon Drive and come back down to the main highway somewhat further on. That would put me toward Polihale none the worse for the wear while better for the views incurred.
As one would expect, one view after another of "Hawai'i's Grand Canyon" soon popped into sight, each a bit more stark and grandiose than the last. The canyon walls became steeper, and the shades of pink and red deepened. I stopped numerous times to take in vistas, then took a small hike when I saw a stream needling its way through red dirt on the non-canyon side of the road. That seemed curious, so I followed it on foot without obvious resolution. I ultimately gathered that it must have been rainwater runoff from somewhere. It didn't look like it typically flowed year-round, and as it was quite pretty I was happy it chose this time to do so.
My survey of the first part of Waimea Canyon complete, I subsequently came down the other canyon access road to reattain the coastal drag. Then I turned back to still-nearby Waimea town anyway, wasting the forward gain made in the detour. Oh well - food! Must eat, must get provisions! The options seemed limited - deep-fried or pricey, fast food or phony shi shi grub... or the Ishihiro Supermarket. Ah! So it was that barbeque calamari and a few other Asian treats took care of my gullet more than satisfactorily, and I loaded up for the beach, too.
Now I was finally off directly to Polihale - a HUGE and ISOLATED beach. Next to absolutely nothing. It was also at the end of the paved coastal road. That terminus was followed by five more miles of washboard dirt road, enough to rattle the car and my brains completely mad whenever I went faster than 15-20mph. I plowed through the bone dry rumbler of a track more slowly as my sanity waned.
Approaching the end of the track, and of the campground area as well, my Saturn got slightly sticky with the loose sand in a washed out section. Finally I managed to pull to the end of the road at dusk. Almost no one was there, just the random surfer with his/her 4x4. Hmmm, was this a good or a bad thing? I walked about a bit to survey the camping, then decided on a campspot back a little ways. Returning via the car, this time I truly got stuck in the dry, plishy sand. Only some fishtailing and a rocking action set me free. I set up camp near a group of a dozen or so Germans from Dusseldorf for company, not wanting to test the waters of isolated camping just yet.
In conversation I learned that this group had been avoiding the water - the locals had warned them of sharks. I hadn't seen any mention of such on the numerous signs; there were plenty of warnings regarding undertow instead. Hmmm...I'd be going in.
In camp made, I took in my surroundings as light finally vacated the beach. I was pleased, soon perching myself on a dune overlooking ceaseless surf with a large wall of lava standing guard behind me. Perhaps not the best place to be in a tsunami, but spectacular. I giddily serenaded my tent walls with my horn before passing out.
At the crack of dawn - no, before - the roosters started up. I had been seeing these birds everywhere as I made my way around the island, strutting about in gleaming feathers, so even here I shouldn't have been surprised. Soon some other species of bird kicked in song as well: the day had officially begun. I could see even more of them in the dawn's early light, flying out of aeries along the lava cliff behind my site. Here was one nice thing about that tall wall of volcanic plop, I quickly realized: the direct sun would stay off of my tent until past 9a.m. I love the sun, I hate the sun, I told myself: I had my mantra to come for Australia.
This warmth without scorch allowed me to walk to the near end of the beach, where the lava wall from behind my tent angled until it met the sea and abruptly terminated the beach. This was also near the most isolated camping sites, a few of which were filled with Hawaiians who looked like they had settled in permanently. I waved, they scowled.
Ah, what a friendly welcome to "brah" culture, where everyone is theoretically a brother! Apparently, though, you only were if you belonged already to the small culture closed to the outside. They might call you brah in passing, perhaps, but what good was that? A pervasive fact of Hawaiian culture I'd noticed was this us (local) vs them (white or tourist) aura of being. Reverse racism is still racism, but this was not my fight as a tourist. Nevertheless, it gave off a lot of negative energy in the process.
Opting for something more positive instead, I walked the beach trash-picking the random piece of plastic. Why not? I had this habit of cleaning up nature when the task wasn't overwhelming, and here it certainly wasn't. Often I'd not be in an area long to truly appreciate the fact that I'd cleaned up an area completely in my meanderings. I always derived satisfaction in knowing that the next people in the area would have a better place to come to. Ideally they'd be less likely to trash a pristine-looking spot, I figured.
Soon I found the random flipflop, wrapper, etc., and my fingers soon each had occupations of grasping multiple items marginally. Some tangible results were eventually accomplished, however: over the two days I was at Polihale I actually found both halves of a pair of nice-looking hiking sandals (which I hung on a tree). A sand shovel proved handy in burying some temperature-affected medicine I had into cooler and deeper sand, too. The well-used mattress and the condom wrapper stayed right where they were, however.
A few surfers soon started to come out in their 4x4s to do their thing in the surf. With a changing cloud cover, the nearby islands of Ni'ihau and tiny Lehau showed up soon, too. So... why not a jog down the beach? There was something elemental and zenlike about a barefoot run down a strand, I always found. Thus over (perhaps) six miles I first ran in one direction, then the other to return.
It seemed a perfect OCD exercise, I thought, as I switched my keys from one hand to the other at the midpoint. I noted in turn that I had allowed each side of my body to get equal wind and sun this way. Even the amount of surf splash on a leg (and passport, too, since paranoia made me take it with me in my pocket and not leave it in the car or tent just yet) "evened" out. Madness follows us everywhere.
Continuing in this vein of equality, I mentally yin-yanged the fact that my legs would each have their chance to compensate for the angle of the slope and the firmness of the sand by going in both directions. I was sure this stood me in good stead for all terrain-hike-sourced muscle development to come, or some such nonsense anyway. Sometimes it's nice to have terms like OCD to use instead of just calling myself plain nuts. Lucky me!
In one place a tank tread (or something of that ilk) was getting lashed by the surf just inside the water's edge - where on earth it came from was a good mystery I mused on. In the meantime it seemed like as good a turnaround point to shoot for as any. On the way back, this allowed for a second passing of the lone other runner that morning, a cute surfer girl in fine shape. That ensured a respectable spring to my step for at least one small section of the run, anyway. My restant cycler's tan from my recent Québéc ride was probably a none-too-charming advertisement of my perhaps not-quite Charles Atlas-like physique. I was sure she was impressed.
Over a couple of days Polihale charmed me in its remote and timeless way, and I in turn tried my best to charm the surf with my horn. I watched the constant flitting of brilliantly red-crested cardinals that moved among the bushes near my tent. I swam, walked the shore, then watched the German group leave and a young family from Kapa'a take their place. Yoga in the seabreeze worked well in the morning, and at random times over the daylight hours a boat, helicopter, or powered glider would make its way to or from Na Pali coast around the bend. Soon enough I would be there, too. Time to get a move-on though, per the permits.
After two nights of Polihale magic, I took a final hike to unsatisfactorily determine the waterfall sound at the base of the lava cliff wall. Nothing concretely determined, I packed up the car and made the bumpy return to the paved road. Slowly the stations returned to the radio, and I quickly settled on an NPR-like community radio station that gave local issues a good grilling, interspersed with Hawaiian and Pacific Islander music. Take steel guitar strumming, some mild rap, and the occasional electronica with smooth voices and there you had it. Worked well enough for me.
I was leaving Polihale with a thorn in my foot to counter such melodies, however. I had repeatedly stepped on the sharp brush near my tent and eventually one had left its offal in my toe. Youch! In any case, the time had come to start driving around the island counterclockwise.
I stopped a couple of times to trumpet the sky away on the way, while otherwise wending about the coast again toward Waimea and beyond. It soon proved difficult, however, to find that perfect mixture of isolation, shade, and a refuge from tiny biting flies. Accoustics? Hah! Rain even started to trickle on and off as I came through Lihu'e and then Kapa'a again. From there it was only on to the wetter (north) side of the island, where mountain formations to the center of the island became greener - and more statuesquely pretty, perhaps to compensate.
At Kilauea I stopped to visit a nearby lighthouse bird sanctuary, but this was not before checking on my credit card situation from the hostel. Sure enough, on the night of my "dealings" with Maikiki, $200 in charges to ESPN (?!?) were made, thus ensuing the process of clearing that up and getting another credit card sent to me. This would be problematic since I would be in Australia, but fortunately my sister would be able to pass it on to me. In addition I'd get some magazines she said she might include in the package, so all wasn't completely a loss in the fraudulent mayhem. Fun, fun. What next? The IRS? [Yes. In Australia.]
Kilauea Lighthouse sits on a promontory into the sea, a cliffside haven for birds like the nene goose, frigate birds, and red-footed boobies. Having already seen their blue-footed booby counterparts in the Galapagos Islands, I figured to next await the purple-footeds as the logical next step. Also in the sanctuary were various chicks dug into nest holes - this was a nesting ground, after all - although they had the poor habit of locating said holes as near to the sidewalk as possible.
Meanwhile, as one would expect, the place reeked of guano. That's the nice way of saying the place stunk like SHIT! Still, overlooking that odorific detail, it was a pretty spot overlooking an impressive array of flying life, plant restoration, and crashing waves. I also saw some beaches to the west I'd soon explore.
Next I did just that, coming down off of the main road toward Anini Beach (formerly Wanani, until someone removed the "w' from the road side some 20 years ago and the change stuck) via Kalihali. The tidepools in the low surf were numerous and mesmerizing to behold. I stood among their number, mesmerized. Mesmerized I was. MESmerizin'! ANYWAY! One thing after another flitted into view underwater. I would have to come back with snorkeling gear, that was certain.
First, however, I would tuck into a nearby shady beach to work on some horn improvisation thanks to my handy iPod. The Sidewinder's head notes seemed to escape me though, unfortunately, and such was how it went on this day. All I could do was muck with the chords as they came. St. Louis Blues in A minor (Gm concert) was a nice challenge out of my normal key, too. But ultimately I felt compelled to move on from this spot as one car after another stopped by. I had thought incorrectly that it was an innocuous spot with so many other beach offerings available just down the road. Not so. Entertaining (for which I assumed I had so much company) could be fine, but I wanted to muddle through my musical muck-mess alone at this time.
Returning to the highway, I passed by the unappealing condo world of Princeville, the only town I would completely skip on the island. I DID take in the ferociously green overlook of mountain and taro fields down below, though, facing inland across the road from it. Following that, I zigzagged my way down to them through the floodgate to Hanalei (usually open, as was the case thankfully this time). From high to low, I beheld stunning views. Soon I hit bottom, where a one-vehicle bridge introduced my car to the taro fields. From there it was only a few more miles into town.
Hanalei was a rather laid back tourist town, a reasonable mix of cafes, souvenir stores, soccer fields, and houses. Real life obviously still managed to occur here in addition to the mucks like me passing through. Indeed, at Black Pot Beach (my camping destination for the night), it looked like most of the town was settling in for a last light's surfing and a kicking-in of barbeques.
Curiously, I saw some few surfers standing on their boards like Venetian boatsmen paddling their way out to sea. Was this an activity unto itself, I wondered? Board balance practice? The surf break was a little way out, so I was left to ponder this new ripple in the sports-time continuum. Hmmm. [It was paddle-surfing, a new sport.]
Whatever - I had a tent to set up. I was the sole tenter at dusk doing so in the indicated field, but I was assured (by the almost entirely haole-white crowd) that I was okay. In no time, a woman from the nearest shelter to my tent invited me to barbeque with her nearby group later - quite friendly, I thought. I was happy to have that possibility to look forward to as I first staked the tent and then made my way to shore as darkness fell.
At shore's edge I met a couple of ex-Floridians. They soon offered me a beer as they laughingly watched a pontoon boat come in that one of them, Clyde, had made. It was slowly struggling in one of the flats toward the exit of the Hanalei River, but an inexperienced crew and booze had a way of making the simple complex.
All the while we simultaneously watched to the west, as a diver intermittently revealed his location to us from underwater via a light he was using to illuminate reef life. Clyde and Charlie wondered aloud about tiger sharks getting him, baiting me (I hazarded to guess) in the process, but I wasn't convinced so easily. Shark talk always made for preferred fare in tourist conversation, I well knew.
I soon went back for the freebie BBQ - why not? - where any suspicions I had about a free lunch (dinner) were soon confirmed. Talk among my handful of new companions at the table rather conspicuously soon had droppings of missionary work. Here it comes, I thought. Indeed, it was only almost about half an hour into idle tourist talk that I was offered their services for some hard prayer about anything I desired. Lucky me, how charitable! Al-righty... uh, no thanks. I'm good. Prayer - or earnest and focussed wishing, whatever - was another can of worms altogether in my take of things. Not that I thought it couldn't provide solace to people, but to each their own.
A middle-aged brother and sister across the table from me, who had up until until been easy-going wide-eyed twins of joy, now turned puzzled in demeanor. The daughter of the sis, who just moments before had been staring at me enraptured in glow (such that I thought she was going to jump over the table, pin me down, and straddle at me any moment), now looked saddened, then sour.
All of the faces registered SUCH disappointment - another soul NOT for the taking, apparently, and this after a hard night's work. Or half an hour, anyway. These three soon ambled off a short distance in pitying resignation. They'd now leave me thus alone with their elder heavy-hitter, a Scotsman named Ian. Hoo boy.
What followed was a conversion attempt that lasted for a good 45 minutes. Hey, I needed time to eat... I mean listen! Ian went on and on with revelations and miracles interspersed with scientific jargon, until finally I countered with a mere "Now...would you be among those who think, such as Sarah Palin, that..." I had a nail on the head.
"God love her!" he joyously quipped immediately. I continued: "... the Earth is only 6000 years old?" Off we now went to the friendly races of Darwin and creationism. Ian was a sharp guy in his way, to be fair, but ultimately his sources were one ancient book written by many hands combined with a leap of faith. I came from a land of science, reason, and demonstrable proof. Here was no new news all around. I left with a full tummy, anyway. Praise be.
Overnight fell some light drizzle, plus the random pickup truck that grumbled its way through the parking lot by my tent to pace the beach. I didn't care for that, but felt better when I noticed that several other tents had appeared on the green with mine overnight. In the morning I'd again opt for a springy jog the entire length of the beach and back. This time I had to dodge a gauntlet consisting of the random surfer, jogger, and walker... or the friggin' kiddie surf competition/class being held midway down the beach. Here was a drastic contrast to Polihale.
Once again I spotted surfers stand-paddling their boards to sea, plus a lot of hubbub in general. This wasn't exactly Waikiki either, though: it just wasn't what I'd call bucolic. Soon I rinsed off my jog's work before packing up and moving myself into town. There I was up for a caffeinated breakfast and a stroll around. I next would return to Anini for more horn-playing along to the iPod, more Sidewinder meanderings, some Cuban tunes, and once again I'd entertain a trickling audience that arrived. Ev'r'body wants the show!
It was eventually time to get to the other end of the highway (from Polihale's distant end). From there I'd next scope out the entry to the Na Pali (Kalalau) trail hike, my next destination. Indeed there it was, with a zillion parked cars and bronzed bodies idling around at the adjacent beach. I resolved to take the hint offered from the lady at the county office: leave belongings at the nearby campground (Ha'ena), overnight there beforehand, then hike in to (and out from) the trailhead.
For the time being I would check out the massive caves fronting the road slightly inland. One, with fetid water in it, had fantastic accoustics, I soon found. I quickly made myself comfortable sitting in the dirt and played a symphonic Cumbanchero (which a couple entering recognized by name), Siboney, and finally Quizas (,Quizas, Quizas). A lady, whose son played trumpet in a city symphony, asked me if I played in one, too. I took this as a nice compliment. Then again, accoustics like that could render anyone grandiose. Meanwhile, we all chose to ignore the lady singing off in the corner - that was just plain daft! Couldn't she be normal and play a trumpet?
Eventually I took to tapping my wrist for my missing IV feed. I was missing something... and soon found myself returning to another cafe in Hanalei (danger! danger! two coffees in a day!). That was followed by a smoothie: I needed to contemplate just how I'd nonchalantly leave the Ha'ena camp in the morning.
I knew that I wanted to be already packed from my tent for the evening. That would avoid needing to go near the car in the morning (and thus being identified with it by opening the door, in turn opening myself to the prevalent car-robbing I knew well of). It was only a mile to the trailhead from Ha'ena, so that wasn't a real concern. Hmmm.
I finally decided to prepare the situation properly, so over the next several miles in returning to Ha'ena from Hanalei (littered with teeny bridges only admitting one car at a time) I stopped at a few coastal and cliff lookouts. At each I continued to sort a little through my stuff, reading my backpack for the next day. Finally I had all separated properly, leaving only the night's tenting gear which I'd be using.
I returned to Ha'ena and set up camp. I soon realized one nice thing: these county parks consistently had electrical outlets in a couple of spots like the main shelter and bathroom. I'd actually have my iPod charged for the hike if I wanted to (and I did). Cool.
I spent the rest of the afternoon trundling around Ha'ena Beach. With the perfect blend of sun and surf I strolled with Calexico blaring the same three tunes I always liked to listen to ensemble, followed by the Cuban Heroes/Sandoval version of Guantanamera that never failed to make my hair rise on end. Finally, as icing, there were repeated runs of Linus and Lucy. I would thus visit some of my happiest places musicwise in Mexican, Cuban, and Jazz music... on a beach on Kaua'i, no less.
Off in my musical daze, only one other couple wandered out as far in the direction down the beach I had headed, a seeming combination of perhaps Filipino and Samoan. The woman was quite large, wrapped in a sarong for a skirt, and her tiny new husband (it seemed an obvious honeymoon) videotaped her walking the surf's edge from behind. I could only benignly smile.
However, when returning toward camp, I caught up to them for a second time. Just about ready to resume my blissful blessings, it was precisely at that moment (all of two meters away) when a gust of wind took the sarong off this supposed bride. In a flash it blew out to sea. Nekkid! The woman continued walking bottomless, proudly with both cheeks exposed to the wind; the husband dutifully kept on filming. I, meanwhile, quickly found myself scrutinized freshly anew the cloudless sky with intense wonderment. I instantly learned to earnestly whistle with gusto, yet rapidly increased my pace to leave them behind quickly.
At Ha'ena another cave lay across the road inland, just as one had at the the trailhead. This one was deeper and drier, but less high too. As a result its accoustics proved as poor dramatically as the other's had proven superb. Disappointed, I left after only a couple of tunes. This was just as well: outside, darkness had fallen. I returned to my tent to sleep as best I could.
For hours, however, I'd next be treated to all the cacophony of an ancient blacksmith's forge: clank. Clank! CLANK!!! The Hawaiian group which lived in the central pavilion (a consisent thing at all Kaua'i camps, I divined, it being the largest shelter and the one with lights and electricity) was making a racket. They had decided to play moonlight horseshoes! Thanks, brah!
Come morning, conversely, all was quiet and a light drizzle awoke the dawn. I did some yoga outside my tent to prep the hike - everyone was thankfully still asleep. Okay, enough waiting around I thought: I pulled down camp, put everything on my back, and made my way from Ha'ena distinctly avoiding my car. Kalalau!
Hitting the road, the trickle of cars passing me by ignored my popped-out thumb. So much for the hitching, I thought, but then with 1/3-1/2 mile to go a ranger slowed down. Quickly I hopped into the bed of his truck, nicely banging my shin in the bargain. At least I was now at the trailhead with only a remaining question of a "pregame" nature to deal with - hey, such are the important things heading into the bush! In I went.
The first two miles of the trail - where a permit wasn't needed - were generally steep and slick, glistening with the wet, red mud of Kaua'i Red Dirt fame. Outside of wearing spikes, there would assuredly be some amount of slippage here and there. Here at the trail's beginning I hiked mostly with a bro and his (sprightly, teasing) sis from California's San Diego and Ventura. With talkative company, and only random stops to catch a treasured breeze or lush cliff view from a jutted point, we reached the Hanakalei River in no great time.
There the bro-sis team headed down to the beach at river's end for a short while. I was off to continue the trail, next accompanied by a college couple originating from Pittsburgh. There had only been a sparse number of hikers up until this point, a surprise from my briefings back in Seattle from experienced Kalalau hikers - now there would be even fewer. Additionally, the next four miles to Hanakoa valley would be a little slower going and drier.
The brush now changed here and there, ranging between fruity trees of guava and a purplish berry to high grass and floral trees. Some plants were growing mangrove-like oddly on the high cliffs. Whatever - we were soon sweated like pigs and, sure enough, I twisted my ankle. The red mud had finally claimed me, but I decided that I was okay enough to continue. Whew. Next, at the one and only fetid pool of water along the hike, we shortly thereafter passed a large, black, and quite dead pig to one side of the trail. Yuck.
That created quite the stink, it did, but dunno how it died. Hmmm... perhaps the guy with bow and arrow soon ahead had something to do with it? Well, it was better dead than charging us, anyways. Actually, pigs were a hot topic on the islands. They weren't native, having been brought by the Polynesians eons ago, but they wreaked ecological havoc when they denuded areas. From there the soil washed to sea and killed coral, which WAS native. For all of the Hawaiian native talk about "keeping it real and local," neither were such locals typically keen on seeing the pigs wiped out and some natural state restored. Here was a brilliant example of how hypocrisy worked, with in this case luaus trumping nature.
Much more flora would soon be on the way, too: the guavas were for the picking, often seen rotting in great number right on the trail amidst hordes of fruit flies. The purple berrylike fruit likewise littered abundantly, staining all within touch. My shirt had its marks as witness.
A yellow-orange bloomfall suggested yet another fruit type was on the way, too, while I would never determine from whence the congested areas of split, empty, and nutlike shells came. Perhaps some birds had held a feast? These were all mysteries to solve later, or they'd stay riddles like the UFO aliens who built the pyramids. (Actually I knew with surety that THOSE came through the time portal. Just like disco.)
Meanwhile, the fauna had its mystery, too: goats emerged on and off from their redoubts; various birds cackled unseen. A type of rat nervously skittered once on the trail, either with the hugest balls possible (which I would later learn to be the case after all, from swelling), or it was pregnant. Maybe it was in the process of shitting half its body weight? I had no idea at the time. It didn't look comfortable in any case with its panting and pleading look of helplessness, that I could readily tell. And, with hantavirus and rabies not being great prospects for me to endure, I gave him/her wide room to roam.
By the time I had reached the Hanakoa valley, I noticed that the oddest inhabitants of all were a few of the folks I saw on the trail. A number of hippies had scampered by barefoot and seemingly lived on the land. No huge surprise there. Apparently such was the case to an extent at the fabled end of the trail - I had heard enough beforehand.
However, I specifically gave stern wonderment about one spacy mother and her 4-year-old making their way in the muck. Did that kid live out here, too? What about all of the cliffs with certain death just a step or two away? Well, I thought, here would be a child with plenty of good coming-of-age stories, always a rich vein for future writing endeavors. If she lived that long.
More curious were the rough-looking men missing a front tooth or two, those whom I quickly monikered the One-Tooth Brigade. They looked a bit young to be Viet Nam war vets, but they had definitely checked out a bit from society. Stories to be told, no doubt. When one in particular asked me if I "burned" (cigarettes, weed, forest, myself?) I decided to give him his space. This was at the Hanakoa campground, and I was fortunately ready to move on.
At Hanakoa's stream I found that my water filter had gone good-for-nuthin' (clogged and probably needing a filter insert replacement): I'd have to load up on water again when my two hiking buddies caught up. We had stopped separately in the wooded reprieve of Hanakoa, each in turn chatting with the odd "burn" man. With the valley's water tumbling in a central stream, however, this also meant more mosquitoes were in the area where the liquid collected to fester. We didn't linger too long in Hanakoa, moving on toward the troubling section ahead.
I had been warned about the sketchiness of Mile Seven's cliffs beforehand, and indeed sketchy they were. Not higher than other cliff sections, their 100-200 feet was nevertheless heighty enough. Moreover, this spot stuck out in its trail degradation and the sheer impossibility of being stopped by anything should one fall. There WASN'T anything - just unbroken rock to bounce off of into the sea.
Up until this point I had been in the lead, but with a few slips in my sandals on the steep descent to the cliff through the screelike trail I let my companions regain the front. With their boots they could toe-in a bit, yet I hesitated to boot up myself for some inexplicable reason. When finally we came to the actual cliff wall we had been eying and I slipped again, I became hopelessly unnerved. With the recent rain, some of the hippies I had met had told me that they actually considered themselves trapped previously in the valley beyond. They had not been leaving it because of this very section. Thinking cap... ON! Hmmm.
Well, I reckoned to myself, perhaps one doesn't have the balls at 42 one had at 22. Or you're not as stupid, or look at life differently. I dunno. I sat on a rock, watching my friends gingerly make their way along the inches-wide dusty path. At times they hugged the cliff to advance. "It's not as bad as it looks!" they'd yell back, but really - by then it was too late.
I was already looking back toward Hanakoa Valley. I knew that I'd see the valley ahead (Kalalau itself) from Waimea Canyon above in a few days anyway, plus I'd had some slips and a twisted ankle. Frankly, with a margin or error (zero) in a fall resulting in death, it all made for a compelling case to me. Nope. I cockle-doo-ed and clucked back to Hanakoa. Bawk!
Back in the valley I camped in a discreet area away from the auspices of Burn Man. He meanwhile had built a banana leaf pit to ostensibly roast a goat - or a person. Who knew? With the extra time saved of not continuing to Kalalau Valley, I'd now at least be able to check out nearby Hanakoa Falls: my decision had some compensation. I soon pitched my tent, immediately finding it tinted in purpleberry goo. Then I set off for the falls without bothering to clean it up - more would undoubtedly be on the way.
The Falls trail was meagerly marked, sometimes reduced to a guess, and quite slippery. Nevertheless, it was cool to make my way alone in the dusky quiet forest. All I could hear was the random river trickle or a waterdrop from a leaf to intersperse with bird calls. It was only half a mile, but I got all of my money's worth in rewards: the terrain went from leaf path, to stream, to log crossings, to outright bouldering.
And then, there it was: the pool, and not a soul around. A light stream came down hundreds of feet threading down the rock of a lava cliff, sliding into the pool noiselessly. The pool itself was perhaps 80 feet in diameter, a tub of fallen boulders. Indeed, the footing to get into the cool waters would prove challenging, but the idea of rinsing salt and dirt from my skin would be too enticing. A random hollow "kerPLUNK" would result from a stone or boulder of any size into the pool, often with a nice echo, to hint to stay well clear of the cliff wall. Needless to say I gave wide berth to that area.
After half an hour or so in the water, washing up a bit and relaxing, a helicopter buzzed in - probably a detour from a Na Pali tour. I waved them away, fingering the delicacy of a middle finger to be subtle. Off they went after obliterating any sense of tranquility, surely only on my finger's lone account, but with dusk and an oncoming rain I needed to get going as well.
I gathered my stuff and made through the boulders back to the trail, only to harshly slip. Ouch! A rib and a hip took the blow, even with my hands catching to brace the fall somewhat. I'd remember those coming bruises for a good while, certainly [a month, it would turn out]. The rest of the hike back was uneventful, fortunately, and when I reached camp I was ready to sleep the sleep of the dead. Overnight, even with a pounding rain, I did just that. Sweet dreams came quickly... with bruises on the rise.
The morning would prove unique in a Hawaii-a Hawaii-a way: no cockadoodle-chicky-doo! What, no chickens on the trail? Impossible! Meanwhile things were dry enough, so I packed up and set back earlier than I would have guessed on this drier day.
In the folds of the cliffs, I found each of the inner creases quite lush and often humid. In contrast, all of the trail elbows to the sea were drier, breezy at times in their exposure to sun and wind. Yins and yangs shook hands interchangeably in this way.
I had only six miles to return on, so I took my time and enjoyed plenty of rests in the scenic overlooks with the breezes. A guy advancing down the trail with a machete was contrastingly spooky on one occasion during my return, but I quickly rationalized that people can feel the need to commune with their inner bush man sometimes. Still... I watched the machete hand carefully as he passed by nonchalantly.
Back at Hanakalei stream and the 2-mile mark, this second day indeed saw me facing the fabled hordes of people. It still was not Waikiki, though. I relaxed at the stream, then at the nearby beach, then blew some tunes inside a small beach cave of no notable accoustics. I must've proved a picturesque sight, however, as I shortly found myself repeatedly photographed and video-ed - but never approached.
In a nice turn of luck, a large seal lay prone on one end of the beach, allowing us gawky tourists to approach him in sporatic intervals. Meanwhile, taking my fill of this long stop, I finally switched from sandals to boots for the last bit (inexplicably late, certainly). Now I would be able to rapidly traverse the mud to return to the trailhead. Skipping a chance to hitchhike back after regaining the road, I quickly marched back to camp and my car. I'd once again be able base myself out of the vehicle - quite cushy!
Hanalei was on the way back in my new clockwise route, so of course I slowed down as I went by with coffee on my brain. I saw the mother and daughter evangelists again, the mother again with her glazed smile and the daughter giving me yet another dour look approved for the unconverted's contempt. Re-caffeinated in any event, on I next went to Anahola Beach Campground.
Anahola was a particularly locals-only seeming spot, suspiciously lacking a highway road sign to aid in finding it. Once again (as per always) the main shelter was a permanent locals' base, but no one gave me any worries. All returned my hellos. Already dark when I arrived, down I soon went on my sleeping mattress - one sleeps nicely after hiking!
Perhaps I didn't really need so much zzz time, though. I was up with the dawn - and the return to roosterville - now what? Juggle? Why not? I had brought a few juggling balls I'd had for some years - only ever used by the children of friends or family to date. They were ever something to lose within the corners of my house, a sideshow game of find-the-damned-thing.
With a little practice, however, I realized that I could actually do it on one side of the tent. How productive I was! In theory, I told myself this tent juggling would make for learning controlled tosses, too. Sure - whatever that was good for! I certainly wouldn't need to be run-hunting them down after the guaranteed number of misses, anyway. Still, when the first dots of sun made the tent AWfully hot in short matter, juggling lost its appeal. Sweating rather quickly, I realized that it was no wonder that I was the only tent to the east of the trees...
I packed up my house carward, then made to the west end of the beach to nibble a bit, read a bit, and sunrise salute by playing the horn muted. Some older, local surfers next put on quite a display of skill in front of me on the surf, carving between rocky heads that would've made for an ugly encounter in a mishap. No problem. They tossed stern glares my way at times, then eventually seemed to shrug me off and laugh among themselves.
Soon a pickup truck pulled up, loaded with tattoed youths about 17 years old (I hazarded a guess), immediately hopping out with empty buckets and shovels. They quickly set to work filling them with sand from the beach. With park service people coming by shortly later, I was surprised that no one batted an eye as the digging and sand-taking continued uninterrupted. I contrasted with what I could only imagine as the shitstream of abuse I would receive if I had walked away with a teacup of that sand in their stead. Locals only, indeed.
I finished up my morning's tunes, ending with a favorite, Tincuntan, then decided that that was enough observance of brah culture for a day. I mosied by car back into Kapa'a, briefly cruising the hostel area with bad intent owing to my memories of credit card fraud and that jackass Maikiki. Then I decided to just let it rest. Hopefully the horrible internet commentary about him would eventually pull "Maikiki" down.
Instead I would stop for a local kim chi omelet (only in Hawai'i!), pick up a pile of fruit, rent some snorkel gear, and briefly play more tunes to the surf at the big surfer's beach of Kealia. That seemed a much healthier plan than revenge. Soon some sun shelters provided reasonable accoustics somehow. Lagrimas Negras, El Carretero, and other Cuban tunes soon had their say from my horn... and the brahs and Maikiki were far behind me.
The time had come to snorkel, finally. Back to Ha'ena for the night I decided to go - I felt no need for a lonely Anahola repeat even with my reservation there. Most importantly, I'd be able to check out Ha'ena's Tunnels Beach. It didn't take long to find myself on that beach again from only a few nights prior.
Before getting wet, I met a Seattle couple while putting up my tent. Enough coincidence for me, I spoke with them while I slowly leaned toward the water. They had sold their house in favor of a retirement on the road, not a bad idea in my book. Yep, yep - hear, hear! That they also had good coffee - of course, being from Seattle - helped grease the conversation, too.
Yapping done, it was time to stick my nose into the water. Snorkels and flippers found their place and I plopped into the water to make my way through the channels of reef which gave the beach its name, Tunnels. The reef looked like it had been beaten up a bit, to be frank, but there was no shortage of sealife to gape at: sea wrasses, parrotfish, angelfish, butterfly fish, green sea turtles, and a buncha small stuff most of us generally ignore because the cooler stuff is about. Not bad 'tat all.
Since it wasn't quite high season on Kaua'i, I took advantage of "flexibile reservation camping," which meant that I decided to stay the night at Ha'ena for convenience sake. Overnight occurred a lively "locals" scene that wasn't present the first time around, though, with many more people showing up after dark. Soon there was some digeradoo being played by the camp lifers, a raggeddy bunch to be fair, but still there were no issues now camping on a weekend. Ah... Friday!
Later, however, more locals showed up of the haole variety, best described as white trash. They tripped over my tent lines - startling the hell out of me - then probably did it a couple more times to be annoying. Meanwhile, they planted their large tents in between mine, the sea, and the other inconspicuous tent a reasonable distance away. Now we were all jammed together, even though the field had plenty of room otherwise.
Here was an obvious case of locals asserting their dominance - I'm surprised they didn't piss on the trees or something. It got worse later on when arguing ensued among them, with pushing and shoving going on and such. Gr-eat. Lotsa insults, followed by "but I love ya man" each time, then more insults. A girlfriend and some kids began crying (talk about people who shouldn't spawn), and so on. Waiting out the night, I just stayed in my tent hoping on an earlier dawn and hoping I wasn't going to get involved in the stupidity.
Thus it was that I was wide awake at dawn when I stirred to get packing... and saw two feet in the vestibule of my tent. A park ranger, as it turned out, was checking tags before anyone could possibly (in theory) have been up. He had no issue with my being at the wrong campground since there was space - all was good.
Regardless, I packed up to get a coffee in town (Hanalei) and head over for an early snorkel at (W)anini. Once again there was an array of sea turtles, butterflyfish, spotted blowfish, and more found on the dusty beaten reef. Leaving the car on the beach made for a bit of key-hiding paranoia - my trumpet and passport were in the car among other things - but it was the tingling toe that I was getting from the fins that finally gave me my fill of snorkeling. All good, but... next!
I soon returned the snorkeling gear in Kapa'a before resuming my way about the isle. Soon I was dodging trucks, then motoring over more one-way bridges and cut outs to various parks on thin roads. All the while I was steadily making my way toward the the south side and beyond Lihu'e again.
This time I would check out touristy Koala Town, Po'ipu, the wave spewing Spouting Horn, and more. At the National Botanical Tropical Garden I walked about a bit in the generous portion freely available near the carpark. All I wanted to do by then was escape the sun and play my trumpet, and I was soon quite happy when I spotted some massive monkey pod trees. Someone had left some plastic chairs beneath, so I enjoyed the luxurious shade and view of the distant sea while making a little music. Heaven regained.
Shade was a must by this point on the hot and sunny south side of the island. In the greater Koala area there seemed to be a building craze of sorts, a salivating of developers that meant a hunk more of suburbia was on the way. Having toured about the area and finding it most lacking in appeal from its generic offerings, I decided to get back on the road and head further west for more "cupping" at the Estate. I had started a new book, Raban's Passage To Juneau (ironically starting in Seattle and heading toward Alaska, exactly what I was escaping) - coffee and a read sounded perfect. Then it was back to old (and derelict) Hanapepe town.
I had eyed a restaurant the previous time in Hanapepe, for Filipino food. This time I decided to give it a go. It was buffet style, as Filipino restaurants seemed to go, so I ordered god-knows-what from the entrees steaming away whilst asking the owner if any were vegetarian entrées. What they were, in any case, was good, and I enjoyed speaking with the owner and his wife. I got the impression that haoles didn't often stop their way. This seemed confirmed by the few Filipinos who came by seemingly after some hot work in the sun. Here I saw the bucolic rhythm of the business in action.
From Hanapepe I made my way to nearby Salt Pond camp, where I immediately met Steve and Tiffany from Steamboat, Colorado. We had some friendly conversation about Hawai'i followed by more regarding the Rocky Mountains and Cascades skiing. Then it was a night of listening to the greatest hits of Journey. Huh?
The friendlier locals at this camp's main shelter seemed to have a predilection for that music for some reason. Here, too, was a larger gathering of campground full-timers. In fact, the school bus even stopped by in the morning. Couldn't be more full-time living than that, it seemed. Meanwhile at night, with Journey blasting away, it was just us quiet campers among the croaking frogs (loads of them), the mongo cockroaches, and whatever else made for the rest of the scurrying motions on the lawn.
In the morning I drove over to adjacent Port Allen - mostly a small airport and a small tract of houses - to trumpet the shore and the random walkers going by. Other people pulled over in pickup trucks to see the sea in the dawn's quiet, too. That interlude of bliss accomplished successfully, I decided to make my way out to Waimea Canyon again.
This time I'd be going on further to all of the famous lookouts, including the two over Kalalau Valley. Both gave sweeping views of the valley I had (logically, bravely!) chickened out of from the trail so recently. With great fortune the sun illuminated it all, shining brilliantly on the undulating rolls of verdant cliff dropping to the sea. Coolness.
At the second of the Kalalau lookouts I decided to go for a hike on its ridge trail. That promised still more lookouts, plus a boardwalk below through swamp. It was a red dirt slipslide of a walk, as usual, but I quickly met a Finnish/Croatian/Swiss/Irish scientist to plod along with. We chatted about the Finnish and Croatian movies I was familiar with (about one main director for each country that was well known and of whom each I had seen a few films) as we made our way to Alakai Swamp. How'd that make for different, I thought?
Six miles (roundtrip) later we didn't find any more great purpose for the existence of the trail, but a nice chat was had nonetheless. My new friend next made her way back on the ridge as I detoured slightly through the red muck to the nearby Pihea lookout to lunch. There I caught some nice breezes on high while managing a little shade. There were plenty of views of Kalalau with sun to help in picking out details. Lunch with a view, indeed.
Returning to the main visitor's center over the atrociously pitted road, I once again found a place to play some tunes. That the place was effectively a grand toilet shelter (nowhere near what it sounds like) made for an interesting in concept, one where some folks received a serenade for the troubles of doing their business. Sometimes I'm merely trying to keep my lips in shape and am not overly inspired - it doesn't matter where you play in such instances. Such was the case.
The museum proved both quite good and interesting, however small. From the docent I received a lowdown on hunting, something I was quite curious about regarding non-native species. THERE was a nice mess of politics, tradition, and ecology - to sum it up. Meanwhile, outside were loads of the very thing of which we spoke - chickens, in this case - clucking about.
Returning from the Canyon I took in many more views, then it was back through Waimea town to Salt Pond again. A new couple, this time from Steamboat's "neighbor" of Denver, had set up in the interim. We all soon engaged in a nice chat at the barbeque pit about travellers, NZ recommendations, and my upcoming trip to Australia.
With conversation eventually waning some rain tried to form for a bit, making for a misted sun, but soon enough we had a beautiful sunset. No Journey would be treated us this evening. Instead, a random battle on two ends of the campground between ukeleles and rap music ensued. Sigh.
Come morning I went for a nice final swim to greet the sunrise, then I was off for coffee and final pre-Australia errands on the island. I enjoyed some last listens to Radio Hawai'i (as I mentally termed it), that nice blend of Polynesian, NPR, and Hawaiian music I had gotten so quickly used to.
Still, I wouldn't exactly miss my rental car with its random housing of roaches & ants, nor its A/C that was constantly challenged on the undulating road. Nor would I exactly have wanted to cycle the isle, I decided (I would be cycling to start my Australia trip). Sure, there was a bike route established on this part of the island, but no way would I try negotiating it with the way people drove in their big trucks. Plus there were all of the gawking tourists not paying attention to the road (me excluded, OF COURSE). All the while, I still had my aching rib to deal with. It still bothered me back from my slip on the Na Pali trail, my Hawai'i souvenir if I was to have one.
No, the last day would be more about looking for shade and a breezy perfection on the sides of the road. I checked out a remaining spot on the map that I had missed, Kipu corner, then paused at one last beach I had considered camping at but was warned against, Nawawili in Lihu'e. A monstrous cruise ship was in port, dominating the entire horizon. At least at Nawawili I could repack my gear into Australia-mode, which I soon did while receiving long eyefulls from the brahs slowly moving through the parking lot in their pickups. Glad I didn't stay here!, I thought as each one went by.
In my remaining handful of hours I'd next only make a short final run over to Kapa'a, taking in a last Hawaiian sun's dropping. I finally returned to Opeaka'a to see its falls again in the moonlight, then made a final dash into town to dump my car and catch my plane. On to Oz!
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