Saturday, March 7, 2009

Stateside



We are back on the mainland, visiting daughter Rebecca in Menlo Park, CA, regrouping, shopping for an RV for our Eurasia trip, and contemplating our brief return to Missoula. Our blog will be in suspension for awhile, until there is news.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Aloha, Hawaii

Arizona Memorial

Diamond Head






























Monday we packed and turned in the Subaru, flew from Kaua'i to Honolulu, retrieved our bags from Bob Buss & Co. (thanks, again, wonderful Humanite people), and then repacked for the trip Tuesday to San Francisco. FWIW, our last night in Hawai'i was in a motel near the airport; not in a car or in the county park.

One might think of this as the end of our trip. Well, it is the end of the Asia/Pacific leg. For now. We have seen so much to which we want to return. For the next several weeks we will reorganize, refit, and re-provision, with our daughter Rebecca in Menlo Park, back “home” in Missoula mooching off friends there, and then in Orlando with Vicki's sister, Marie. There will be a reunion with Rebecca and Rachel in Orlando and a visit to my sister Carole and her family in Weston. And then we will be off again in early May—this time to Eurasia in an RV.

End of Kaua'i


Waimea Canyon, "the Grand Canyon of the Pacific"

Not too many chefs...

Surfing at Anaholi

More surfing at Anaholi

Forester Encampment

Sunday we drove back to Waimea, viewing the Waimea canyon again, and through Lihue, and then up the east coast to Anaholi, where we camped for the night at the county park. We're experienced at this now. Anaholi is an entirely different kind of place from Salt Pond, a very small camping area, all locals but for one other apparent tourist couple. The cove, as it were, is perhaps a mile wide, but the waves were gigantic—beyond the shoals, they looked far higher than the shore—and then they crashed on the shoals and dissipated. The final 100 yards to the beach was entirely calm, a surf of a foot or two. Farther out, half a dozen people were surfing in the watery tumult. See illustration.

We had a great lunch earlier in the day at Bennicke's at Poipu, so dinner was the final left-overs from our travels. I attempted to add roast chicken bits to chicken rice soup with chicken boullion, over coals left by pick-nickers (our propane had run out). The chickens watched with interest. I was tempted to see whether they would eat roast chicken breast, but then I was hungry myself.

Vicki insists I divulge that we slept in the rental car that last night on Kaua'i. It was a Subaru Forester, just like the one we used to own in Missoula, and the rear seat folds down to make a sleeping area just about the size of a 2 person tent. We had already packed for the plane, it was blustery, blowing salt spray everywhere, so, yes, our last night on Kaua'i was in the car, at the county park. At least the crashing surf and the windows rolled up muted the roosters a bit.

Koke'e, Kalalau, and Pihea


The Ohe Ohe cabin at Koke'e State Park

Kalalau Valley from Kalalau Lookout; I think Pihea Peak is the highest point on the ridge

So there we were, at 4,000 feet, 20 degrees latitude north (about like Cuba), end of February, wearing our down jackets from the Himalayas. Cold and very wet outside. In order for us (me) to do some hiking in this area, Vicki booked us for two nights in the Koke'e State Park cabins. “Cabin” apparently is an Hawai'ian euphemism for shack or shanty. It was not as cheap as the county park ($3 per person); actually, at $75 a night we thought it was overpriced. There is a wood-burning stove in the “cabin,” and we are feeding it everything that will burn, especially considering the concessionaire charges $7.95 a 5-gallon bundle for firewood. I figure, at this price, a typical Hawaiian tree must be worth about $795 trillion. Ever collected fire wood in a rain forest? In the rain?

Saturday I did my hike. It was raining, of course, when I left the cabin. We are only a few miles from Kaua'i's big old volcano, which, at about 5,000 feet, is officially the wettest place on earth. 450 inches a year wet.

My hike was the Pihea trail, which takes you out via a long sort-of knife-edge ridge over the Kalalau canyon to Pihea Peak, and then down into the Swamp. I arrived at the Kalalau Lookout trail-head in the rain, sat in the car for half an hour while it rained, optimistically, and then, sure enough, some blue appeared, and then some more, and then it stopped raining, and then you could actually see some of the canyon below. I knew, in my non-Islands wisdom, it would clear up, the clouds and moisture would soon burn off.

So I donned my rain suit—just a precaution—and set forth over the red lava slabs that cover, or underlie, the ridge. After a few hundred feet, it became apparent this was the same volcanic mush that constitutes the Kalalau trail. The “rock” degenerates into mud of the slipperiest kind. At the half-mile mark, my clouds-burning-off delusion ended, the canyon disappeared, and it rained, and rained, and rained.

Mercifully, the trail was short. I can best describe it as a mixture of rock-climbing and solo mud wrestling. I am sure there was as much exposure as on the Kalalau trail itself, but the vegetation on Pihea entirely covered it. The wind was terrific, rain blowing side-ways. I reached the summit, photographed the marker--in the white-out there was nothing else to photograph—rested and reflected briefly on how much a person can accomplish through delusional determination and persistence, and headed down toward the Swamp. Here, the State of Hawaii has installed wooden staircases, the only concession to trail “improvement” I have seen on Kaua'i. But, after awhile, it occurred to me that a swamp was even less interesting in a white-out than a “mountain” “peak.” So I headed back, ascending, then descending, step by deliberate step. I slipped half a dozen times, but never actually fell. My ribs still ached enough from Kalalau.

We spent the rest of the day feeding the stove and going over the 38,000 photos we have taken on our trip. I think this is what you have with nearly 40G of pix. A few people have asked for slide-shows, and, of course, we will oblige, cutting it down to mere scores, or hundreds. Eventually, I swear, I will do the Picasa albums I have promised.

Feral Fowl; or, Avian Flu, Anyone?


Feral fowl

Up close and personal

Feral cats

Feral seal

Among its many other attractions, Kaua'i has a very large feral chicken population. Wherever people are, there are scores, hundreds, thousands of them, roosters, and hens, and chicks, but most conspicuously, roosters. See illustration. I am sure we have seen and heard 10,000 roosters in the past week. This is no exaggeration. They are clearly the island's largest biomass. Tyson's should buy this island.

The guidebooks gloss over the chicken thing as one of the local curiosities. Most tourists stay in isolated, air-conditioned resorts, and do not have to endure the incessant cockle-doodle-doo-ing. They see them at the “sights” and oogle and even feed them. How cute. Look, Danny, it's a rooster, just like on a farm. What's a farm, Dad?

I have asked a number of locals about the roosters and have gotten a variety of interesting stories. All begin with the hurricanes that devastated the island in the early 90s. Lots of fowl flew their coops. According to the more colorful stories, among those fleeing the coop were the King's Roosters. (Elvis? He had roosters on Kaua'i?). They mated with the hens that also flew the coop, and thus, their numberless progeny, as royal Polynesian descendants, are “protected.” According to other stories, people like them because they are “natural.” Personally, I think they are repulsive and possibly unhealthy, but that's just culturally-insensitive old me.

Kaua'i also has a significant feral cat population. They are apparently tame, even friendly, most just looking for a hand-out or a good home. Cats are so sly. But they also are everywhere, even the Kalalau trail. Kaua'i benefits from them, however. Unlike the Big Island, we have seen no mice on Kaua'i. And the cats don't start screeching at 3AM.

I think the cats should be encouraged to take on the roosters. No one else will. Clawageddon.

Kaua'i South and West


Our site at Salt Pond

Yes! We have no papayas! at the National Center for Tropical Botanical...

The Na Pali afternoon cruise

Returning; the "Forbidden Island," Ni'ihau, in the background
Longer-term campers at Salt Pond

After resting, relaxing, and washing, at the Kaua'i Inn in Lihue (expensive, to us, but free internet, breakfast, and very nice and helpful staff people), and re-provisioning, we drove generally west on the island's one coastal road, from Lihue to Hanipepe, stopping at Poipu to gawk at the resorts, and dozens of vacation homes and condos for sale, then an the National Center for Tropical Botanical something-or-other (vastly over-rated by the National Geographic, IMHO; and expensive, at least for a publicly-supported entity), and then finally camping on the beach at Salt Pond.

In our previous visits to Hawaii, we always wondered about camping on the beach, in a state or county park. Salt Pond is such a place, a favorite among locals. The old guys hang out there all day and well into the night, drinking and smoking in the covered pavilions, and doubtlessly scaring the teenies away. This is good. Salt Pond is a beautiful beach, small, but scenic, on the dry side of the island. There were about a dozen tents, the usual international mix. The one we set up next to the first night, unfortunately, turned out to be a case of local domestic dis-tranquility. We learned lots of new and interesting expressions (“get out of my #$%@-ing life!”; the tent is his; the pick-up hers; the stereo is his; the kids?; etc.). The beach and environs were nonetheless wonderful, if breezy. Hey, if we can hitch-hike on Monday, we can camp in the county park on Wednesday. We spent most of the 60s trying to claw our way into the middle class, rather than dropping out of it, so we have a lot of hippie-time to make up for.

We were awakened quite early the next morning by the island-wide feral rooster population (see next post), about 3AM, to be exact. Earplugs are no protection against these monsters. And, pursuing male competitiveness, they continue all day and into the night, trying to out-cockle-doodle-do each other. At 6:30AM, the park ranger showed up, asking for our permit. Civil servants are so conscientious. We had no permit, but knew we could buy one on the spot when so greeted. We were thinking perhaps the evening before, just after cocktails, not an hour before dawn's rosy fingers. But it's always good to get an early start on the day.

After buying a permit for the next night, moving our site much closer to the beach and away from the love-birds, we drove on to the end of the road, Waimea, Polihale, and the missile range. Even in paradise we have missile ranges. Thank you, DOD, Homeland Security, and USN. All this is a different part of the island, the south-west, dry, flat, 360 clear days per year, right up to where the Na Pali cliffs end on the west side. Another road that does not go ever on, but I'll spare readers the photograph.

We spent Thursday afternoon on the beach, Vicki reading her latest Sara Douglass novel (4th in a series of 6), me fighting off Beach Boredom. We were both born in Miami, had ample beach experience as teens, but have never returned to nor enjoyed the beach MO. The surf and waves are endlessly interesting...for about fifteen minutes. And I do not go in water that does not have significant chlorine content. The major entertainment of the afternoon was a Hawaiian monk seal sleeping on the sand next to us, just a few feet away. The tide was coming in, and every time it reached him he squiggled up a bit further on the beach, then collapsed again into deepest slumber. I wonder what he was thinking, or dreaming...the beach full of people, himself alone, cordoned-off by the life-guards, with signs about threatened species, do not disturb, no flash photography, etc. Was he bored?