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Kauai, Hawaii


May we toast to here, the inbetweens, where in the crevices and the nooks and the crannies with the tumbles and some times the fumbles, goes the things we hold locked in our heads and in our hearts. It is where we hide and then later, sometimes much later, discover and discover once again the things we want most. It is where life is found. Kauai might not come to mind as such a place nor such a crevice, as it were, but here I have tumbled down inbetween the folds of volcanic rock and six millions of years of sandy erosion to find reminder of life and Life.

I arrived without much fanfare after a 5-hour flight from Seattle into the hub at Lihue. And quickly, as quickly as island-time may permit in the absence of any tick and tock way, threw my gear into my rented jeep and drove up to Kalalua in hopes of trekking it into the Napali coast. But alas, as late in the day as it was, I underestimated the 18km trek-time (which is 10 hours, half as slow as when I am hiking mountains in the Pacific Northwest) and opted to instead watch the sunset off a point a few clicks in. Once back, I watched from the northern beach with some consternation a thunderstorm set in over the western part of the island, but for a few hours I had reasonably clear skies observing the stars. I ended up parking at a beach facing due East where I sat and watched the night sky for hours, and where I eventually fell asleep. I would awake from time to time, especially when the Moon was directly overhead, startled to see Orion blazing in vivid glory unmatched in my many decades of star-gazing.

Kauai is an island of small extremes: lush and wetn to the north and east; sunny and humid to the south and west. On my first full day on the island I drove all over the island stopping in at both ‘Opaeka’a and Wailua falls before grabbing highway 50 to Waimea canyon and state park. The falls are spectacular from a distances but made inaccessible by the State due to concerns with safety. With the sun finally making its way out, I headed to Waimea canyon, an amazing sight of eroded rock that in some ways rivals the Grand Canyon for beauty. What is hard to grasp is that the island is only 6 million years old and only has another 1 million years before erosion drives it back into the sea. The drive itself offers numerous stop-offs that make it a leisurely drive up winding roads which crawl alongside the canyon’s rim. Toward the northern end you arrive at Kalalau and Pu’u o Kila lookouts that provide unmatched views of the Kalalau valley. This is where, as I am told, a Kauai tour-guide quipped in tongue tied fashion, “here is where <insert famous actress’s name here> received a big banana-scented blow-dry from King Kong”, but they did not say “blow-dry.” Tongue twister, indeed.

On my way back out of the canyon I decided to take a less-traveled road where a bit of late-afternoon sleep overtook me in a sudden rush. I parked the jeep under a tree and promptly fell alseep. A bit later I heard a car pull over near me and a few folks get out. It took a few more tens of minutes from under the dazed of late-afternoon nap for me to realize that they had car trouble. I should note that while I may know a bit about airplanes and software, I know near to nothing about the inner workings of cars. However, when did that stop an engineer from believing they can fix anything? Which is another way of saying I sauntered over to see if I could help them repair it. I knew enough to recognize that with the coolant was leaking out that either air or water had most likely contaminated the system and minus possibly driving the engine to ruin they were going nowhere. I offered to stay around till a tow-truck could be called; it seemed the most neighborly thing to do, as it were. In the intervening time we sat around and chatted, discovering that we are from the East coast and even one from Cortland, New York which is just down the road from Fairport and Skaneateles where I grew up. We eventually piled into the jeep and I drove them back to their home on the otherside of the island, chatting much of the way under the appropo and oddly juxtaposition of Miles Davis and James Taylor. It is that human connective tissue that tripped me up and had fall blissfully down into one of those greatest nook of life, found along a wayward roadside in a chance meeting with four strangers. I am reminded of the saying “strangers are just friends you have not yet met.” I do not pretend that I can be friends to everyone, we are all in our own natures different and thus by extension not always mutually compatible; and thus when I do find travelers of a kindred spirit along my path I am deeply appreciative of the chanced fate. I think it is this aspect of life I hold most precious: the best things are those things that come unforeseen and unplanned. Thank you to my Kauai friends.

On Friday my two friends, Victor and Mike, from my days at SUNY Buffalo along with their partners climbed aboard a Sunshine helicopter with Captain Steve who took us over and around the island of Kauai. After driving the length of the island it is surprising to discover that it can traversed in this time from one to the other and back. Along the way we saw numerous waterfalls, many of which can only be seen after a few days of heavy rain. While many think of the Hawaiian islands as a place of sun Kauai boasts itself as “the wettest place on Earth” with some areas of the island feeling some five-hundred inches of rain annually. This explains the extreme erosion of this the oldest island in the chain and also provides it some spectucular waterfalls many of which have made their way into Hollywood movies.

Tuesday after returning from my sojourn on Hawaii I drove up to Polihale State Park separated from Highway 50 by its some five miles of unpaved road. It is here where you can see the start of the Nepali coastline which is now only accessible by water or over the eleven-mile Kalalau trail. The beach is on the north side of the island where the higher swells can be found and therefore is a favorite haunt of surfers. It is general inaccessibility makes it equally enjoyed by folks looking to get away from the more tourist-centric south centered around Lihue and Popui. As fate or karma would have it, I heard back from one of the people I had helped out a few days prior when their car broke down. She works for Captain Andy and offered to get me on a catamaran headed for a five-hour trip up to the Nepali coast and back. Now that I had seen a bit of the island from the foot, jeep and helicopter it was now time for me to see it from the ocean. I headed back down to Port Allen where I and some two dozen other folks jumped onboard with Captain Kurt, Captain Jon and Katy for one hell of a spectuclar jaunt aginst head winds. For some two hours we beat against the waves and as our captain quipped, “once upon the Pacific Ocean it reminds no one of its namesake: peaceful.” Once at our destination we hoisted sail and headed downwind in a wing-to-wing configuration for a few hours while we enjoyed dinner and drinks and the setting sun.

Here are links to sets of pictures:

Aside: The island is overrun with wild chickens along with feral cats. And obviously the cats are not doing a great job as upper managemnet as there are a lot of chickens to be had. In particular the roosters are horrible at telling time; they start making noise, a lot of noise, some three hours before sunrise. Three hours. I thought people woke to roosters at or right before sunrise, but apparantly roosters in Kauai did not get this union memo and instead begin work very early. Most importantly, they like to do their job with gusto for long stretches of time. Needless to say I was well awake by the time I set up my camera for sunrise. Roosters suck.

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