Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Garden Island of Death in Space of Doom!

Or, my family vacation in Kauai (the oldest and northernmost of the Hawaiian islands).

Seriously, google "kauai drownings". Yeah. Maybe I should have done that before booking the trip, but then again, it was more amusing to read about it while resting in the condo recovering from the sunburn. Not only that, the most famous hiking trail on the island is also apparently often listed as one of the world's most dangerous. That may be overstating things, as I only found two cases of people who fell off the cliffs and actually died. On the other hand, it seems like every other year they're rescuing dozens of stranded hikers from the far side of flooded rivers (with a few getting swept away and drowning), and the beach along this trail is one of the most deadly (there's a sign with a tally of all the people who died there).

At any rate, we did not go on that trail, nor to that beach nor to the "swimming hole" which really just looks like a big tidepool in the middle of slippery, sharp volcanic rocks with waves crashing on them. Even in summer you get a big swell every once in awhile that's way bigger than normal. I could see that much just while chilling out on the lanai of the condo and enjoying the view. Whoosh whoosh whoosh whoosh whoosh whoosh whoosh whoosh whoosh whoosh HUGE CRASH! as the water comes up over the top of the cliff, then back to gentle whooshing... A great view, especially at sunset. But I don't want to stand any closer.

Spectacular views when we drove up Waimea Canyon Road. Up from Waimea, the red dirt desert really did feel like an alien planet (at least to someone used to the east coast of North America). By the end of the road, we were about 4200 feet above sea level. Best views ever from the Pihea Trail. The weather was clear that day. We were ABOVE the helicopters, which shows the scale of these cliffs. As some of us were scared of heights and slipped a few times (no one wearing hiking shoes) even on this trail (extra-wide as it was originally meant to be a road), I'm glad we didn't try the Kalalau trail. Also very glad of the dry weather. The trail must be a mud pit when it rains. One can see from the dried footprints how deep the mud must go. A pity everyone got tired after the first two miles and insisted on turning back, so we never did get to see the Alakai Swamp. Ah well. Anyway, no one else in the family besides me was keen on the idea (me: "An alpine bog! Up on top of a mountain!" Everyone else: "A swamp? Sounds boring." "Let's go back.")

Fish! The fish of my dreams! Well, not really (I think I dream of giant river fish. I blame my many trips to the Amazonia exhibit at the zoo.) But lots and lots of colorful fish. The snorkeling was excellent at Po'ipu Beach. Went a bunch of times, since we were staying at Po'ipu. Also saw sea turtles and seals. Not so much of the classic sandy beach experience (mainland beaches like the ones in southern California or the Atlantic beaches near where we live are better for frolicking in sand and surf without being sliced up by reefs or sharp rocks). It makes sense when you think about how young the islands are, geologically speaking, so of course you only get (relatively) tiny slivers of sandy beaches. Ha'ena beach was nice, though. (And lifeguarded, which a lot of the beaches weren't.) Gentle waves, sandy, with reefs and snorkeling a short walk away. There's even a cave across the road. (Ok, my family thinks I'm obsessed with caves. Did I spend too much time playing ADVENT/Colossal Cave as a kid?)

Catamarans! We went on a catamaran tour up the Na Pali coast (western, cliff side of the island). I liked the catamaran: small enough to feel cosy, big enough to have shade, food, toilets, and space to walk around. Even on a calm day, there was a surprising amount of splashing! Saw hundreds of dolphins (tiny spinner dolphins which go around in large schools). Also some flying fish. They reminded me a bit of paper airplanes, the way they skimmed over the water. There was one stop for snorkeling. Apparently the fish were used to this, as they all came up to beg for food just like the fish in my aquarium. Ah well. Humans in boats are part of their world now. That was the first time I'd gone snorkeling in deeper water, which was cool. Also the prescription goggles, so yay! I could see!

Tropical fruit! Good mangoes, pineapples, papayas, and guava (yes, I had to visit a farm market or two). And the place was overflowing with liliko'i (passion fruit). I especially liked the liliko'i frozen mousse. And then there's taro, ha. Usually I only eat taro at dim sum places (taro cakes or whatever) but this time I actually tried poi. Hmm. Reminded me of mashed potatoes (if you just mashed the potatoes and didn't add any fats). Went well with the Hawaiian plates we got from the fish market. Very "fusion". You can see the Asian influence on the native Hawaiian cuisine, what with the rice and the noodles and the laulau (chunks of meat wrapped up in taro leaves). And instead of coleslaw (which my kids and I hate anyway) we had raw fish salad (poke). Very intense flavor, but we mostly liked it. Spam musubi (spam, rice, nori wrapping) in the supermarket ready-to-eat section! Wish they sold that where I live.

And shave ices. Lots and lots of shave ices were consumed.

And Japanese snacks. They had Japanese snacks at the Walmart!

As for the restaurants.. expensive. We only went to a restaurant-restaurant once, early on in our stay, and the cost shocked us out of eating out much for the rest of the time. Except for the pho place. We had to go eat pho at least once. Well, that's the nice thing about staying at a condo rather than a hotel room: kitchens! Cookware!

Swimming pool! Did we shell out all that money to fly out to Kauai just to hang out in the condo's swimming pool!? Seems like it, from all the time my younger daughter and her friend spent in there. D'oh! I should go to swimming pools more often. And practice swimming. I suck at swimming. When I'm in the ocean, all it takes is one little current and I feel like I'm gonna get stranded out there, since my "swimming" isn't getting anywhere.

Alien invasion! Mostly plants (e.g. ginger!). Also the chickens... excuse me, the "red junglefowl". So. Many. Chickens. Chickens in the (outside) food court at the shopping center, eating pizza crusts "accidentally" dropped by my son. Like pigeons, except bigger and more colorful. Chickens in the parking lot. Chickens at the beach. Chickens along the roadsides. And then there's the cattle egrets, lurking in the shrubbery. Or on top of the shrubbery. Whatever. And did I see a mongoose? Probably not. Just a suspicious looking small-ish mammal that didn't move like a cat or dog or goat. It did remind me of a ferret (I used to have a pet ferret.) I only caught a glimpse. Maybe it was a mongoose? Naaaah...

People lived there? So while on the boat going along the inaccessible-by-road Na Pali coast, the guide pointed out so-called valleys and terraced fields. I guess if you squint, they are slightly less steep than the rest of the coast (sheer cliffs as far as I can tell). Wow.

ObNaNo/Writing content: I totally have to write something set on an island sometime. One that kills with its Dramatic Scenery! Doom! Mud monsters from the dawn of time! Demon tsunamis! Errr. Something.