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crystalline mao with butterflies - robert sommers 2007

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Kauai no ka oi


We arrived in Los Angeles at 4:45 this morning, pretty dead after a red eye flight from Kauai. The Sommers family likes to take one nice vacation a year and this was the trip, in celebration of Leslie's recent birthday.


Being a relatively poor and debatably humble person who normally tries to avoid ostentation and largesse, we tend to always avoid expensive hotels. Bed and a biffy, you know? We buck the rule in Kauai, our preferred pied a terre being the regal Grand Hyatt in Poipu. Once you have sampled its sumptuous treats, everything else sort of dims in the background. A true guilty pleasure. There are times when one must throw caution to the wind.

black tailed tropicbird
I assume that everybody has a special place that makes them feel magic and alive, mine are Kauai and the Hopi and Navajo reservations. I have been going to Hawaii for over 40 years and love all the other islands that I have visited, but always find myself really wishing I was on the garden isle. Think I must have connected with a jungle deity on some youthful shroom trip up to Hanakapia or something. I am truly at home there. Especially the south and the west parts of the island.

I took the week off from writing, even dialed back my photography a notch, well I did shoot about 2000 pictures. Left the big lens at home and just went off to play and enjoy life and each other. As my wife pointed out, your best pictures are the ones you keep in your head and close to your heart. If you are constantly recording you just might be missing the moment. I decided not to do that.

We squeezed every gram of life out of this mini vacation, left nothing on the table. Nary an experience left untapped. Had a ball. Great weather. Great fun. Got back and found out that the 51 year old lady at the yarn store across the street upped and died from a heart attack suddenly this week. Nice lady. You never know about this life business, you wake up one day and discover that you are now in the past tense. Go for it. Put it on my grave stone.


I won't belabor this, but want to give you a little trip journal from memory, which by its thrift and tired state will necessarily be abbreviate. Pardon the mistakes.


The first day we woke up and had a swim. The Grand Hyatt has an amazing labyrinth of pools, canals, hot tubs, waterfalls, even a water slide which we had a ball sliding down. Never too old. Towards the ocean there is a large salt water pool network as well.


Afterwards we decided to tour the island and get our bearings again. One of my excesses when I am Hawaii is that I always try to spend the considerably extra money and rent the four by four jeep. It fits our style of fun, always pays off in spades and it sure did this time. We actually had a compact reserved but it was red. Leslie has a thing about red rent a cars being bad juju so I got my way this time.

We popped over to Spouting Horn and then drove to Lihue and saw that our favorite barbecue joint, Scotty's was now closed and turning into something else. We drove up to the gorgeous Wailua and Opaekaa Falls and watched the phoenix like tropicbirds cavort on the jetstreams. We found a back road that led nowhere and got on a dirt 4 x 4 mountain up the mountain past the Powerline trail. Really freeing to have the jeep, we were seeing things that most muggles would never see. When you get into Hawaii's untouched parts is where much of the magic resides.

We stopped at Bubba's Burger, a mistake, in Hanalei and had a greasy and forgettable lunch before driving up to Ke'e beach at the point near Haena and having our first dip in the warm hawaiian ocean. Scoped out Anini Beach on the way back. Timed the return poorly, got caught in Lihue traffic. When we finally got back we had a sunset walk.

For dinner we went to the local supermarket Big Save and got snacks. We live at Big Save and the Koloa Fish Market when we are on Kauai. We feast on all styles of ahi poke, shoyu, avocado, spicy, king crab and langoustine salad. We try to never eat expensive meals in Hawaii. Way more fun to go cheap for us, especially if you know where to get the native fare.

The next day we had a sunrise walk to the phenomenally beautiful lithified cliffs and then a small breakfast, we met our friend Ted at the Kalaheo Cafe. Ted is an ex Fallbrookian, like most of his siblings, he moved to Kauai many years ago. Ted used to be a tour guide, loves to take photographs, sold me my first phone or last pager, I forget. Great guy, he now works at a store in Hanapepe selling old polynesian maps and prints. Ted took us for a ride, up a dead end road to see these goats, and then over to an old japanese cemetery, something the island has many of. We both like walking in old cemeteries.


Ted directed our ride up Waimea Canyon, took us to a few of his secret spots. Really great walks and views. Unfortunately the Kokee, Na Pali lookouts were completely clouded in that day. We drove mauki and dropped Ted off and went to Tomkats in Koloa for fish and chips and a hawaiian kalua pork plate. Living on a round rock necessitates a whole new lexicon, mauku, towards the mountain, and mauki, hawaiian for towards the sea.

The next day we drove to the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Lawai. The McBryde Garden is a research garden as opposed to its more manicured sister garden, the elegant Allerton Gardens. We did the self guided tour and it was wonderful, saw many rare palms from extremely remote atolls and archipelagos, many of which no longer exist in their native space. Orchids, gingers and this quirky monkey pod tree.

It was hot and you had to find shady regions to cool out, my skin as Jimi Hendrix might say, was turning a firey red. But it was a real highlight of the trip for me, the bus ride in being worth the price of admission, like a visit to Swiss Family Robinson. Our driver, Sam's, late father was instrumental in creating the park. The McBryde's were a sugar cane family. Now all the mills are gone.

Allerton and his adopted "son" are an entirely different story altogether, I understand pretty gatsbyish and quite revolutionary for their time. Would like to pony up the considerable entrance fee and see that garden next time.


The vacation honestly blurs but there was just a lot of great times. Swims, dips, walks, drinks, hikes, friends. Met Wicki at Kauai Pasta in Lihue, excellent dinner. Pleasure to talk to her, she filled us in on so much of the local dynamic, having lived in Hanalei for a very long time. We talked about the GMO fight, fiercely debated in Kauai because of the over 40 different genetic seed companies operating on the island and their commensurate power and political pull that employ a lot of people. Their presence and the effects of spraying glyphosates and excessive pesticide bothers many people. Topic to explore.

We learned that a woman growing normal corn was purportedly visited by seed company reps one day and told that she could not grow corn next to them, as their seed experiment was somehow sacrosanct. Very interesting issue, we saw many anti gmo signs outside people's homes in the north.

Matson Lines had a molasses pipeline rupture in hawaii last week, resulting in a horrible and unprecedented fish kill. Fish don't like molasses, it settles on the bottom and robs all the oxygen. The Matson representative said that they had never considered or prepared for such an incident. Sweet death.

I am tired, going to stop this thread until tomorrow, where I will pick things up again. Have things to share.

Aloha and mahalo!

Robert












3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Love the picture of Leslie in the last section awesome.
Glad to have you back.
Deli monster.

Sanoguy said...

Jealous here! Did you consider asking for diplomatic immunity?

Jon Harwood said...

Welcome back to gringoland.