Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hawaii - 2009

ICan'tBelieveILiveHere.com
That's the name of Rita and George's imaginary website. They may actually register it yet, and I hope they do. We had the honor to stay with Rita, George and Chessie (aka Kitty in Paradise) for the first couple nights of our 2009 trip. We didn't plan anything big - just a visit.

Unfortunately, Rita had experienced a death and an illness in her family. It was a tough time to be visiting. She was in the midst of planning to go back to Ohio the same evening that we'd be leaving for Kauai. George was recovering (well) from his knee surgery. In spite of this, we had a nice visit. Rita prepared some nice meals, and we took a grand walk along all of the Kameole beaches in Kihei. A highlight was seeing a whale breach just as we took a rest at the farthest point. George said he could hear the thing flop back into the water. Dinner that night was at Cafe Ole - a wonderful place that we'd been to before.

Rita and I had a very nice run before we had to go on Sunday morning. Sad to go, but it was on to Kauai, and Rita had things to do to get ready for her own trip.

Nualolo/Nualolo Cliffs/Awa-awapuhi Trail Hike
This was some hike. We'd been planning it for months, and it was everything we thought and hoped it would be, and more.

The early part was extremely muddy, and extremely downhill. It was more of a climb than a hike. A climb through mud. After 3.8 miles of thick, slippery muck, and nearly four hours of hiking, we reached the Lolo Vista viewpoint. It was indescribable. Such grandeur to look out upon the Na Pali coastline from the top of the cliffs. It might as well have been top of the world.

After backtracking a bit, the 2.1 mile Cliffs trail was fine, except for one eroded section where we had to literally hug the side of the cliff to get by. Treacherous doesn't begin to descibe the feeling of being inches away from a 2,000 foot drop.

The lookout from the end of the Awa-awapuhi Trail was the most spectacular yet. Simply fantastic. Then it was time to go back up for 3+ final miles of the 9.8. It was a steady uphill hike, not as steep as the climb down. But we were extremely tired and had to stop often.

We made it out alive. It took us over 9 hours - that's about 1 mile per hour - and we were exhausted as I ran down to get the car. What a day.

The Lady Adventurer and I were pretty durn sore for the next day or three.

Island Cars
This was our car rental company. Hertz, Avis, National, etc. are all available, but I decide to save some money with this outfit. I did probably save about $150, but what an experience. We wound up driving a complete wreck. It was so bad it was funny. The guy did tell us that we could swap it for a better one in a couple days, and that we did. Even then we had a problem with the newer car over-heating. I found the loose coolant cap and replaced it after filling it up, and then it was fine. So I guess it all worked out, and we still saved the money.

General Sightseeing
We've been checking out some of the same stuff we've seen on other trips, and also some new stuff, like a waterfall we'd never seen before. The same stuff included home-of-the-magic-dragon Hanalei area (although we'd never before walked that particular beach), Kilauea Lighthouse and Haena/Ke'e Beach. Ke'e beach gets my vote as the world's most beautiful. (Trunk Bay on St. John is second.) We walked it and gawked at the nearby Na Pali cliffs all along. We couldn't believe that we'd actually been on top of them a few days prior. Whenever I see those cliffs I'm always amazed that such an other-worldly place exists. We also saw a couple endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals sunning themselves on the beach there.

Timeshare Presentation
Yes, we'll listen for money. $100 in this case. It was at the Marriott's Waiohai in Poipu. We'd stayed there 24 years back, before it was leveled by a hurricane. Interesting to see, but timeshares don't make no sense at all to me, no matter how nice they are.

Our Marriott
Speaking of Marriotts, ours in Lihue is as nice as ever. We've got a fantastic view of the ocean from our 11th floor room. As nice a home away from home as you can get. Great gardens too. You should see them feed the koi.

Other Hikes
Nothing as big-time as that first big time hike described above, but we're doing other stuff as well. Lots of walking around the resort area, and then some other dirt trail hikes as well. One was the Kuilau Ridge Trail, which was near the middle of the island. The very middle is Mt. Waialeale, the wettest spot on the planet. We weren't far - the mountain was, as always, shrouded in clouds only a few miles to the west of our trail. But we stayed dry for this very scenic and relatively gentle hike. I think I speak for both myself and the Lady Adventurer in saying that we'd happily do this one again.

The Pihea Trail to Alakai Swamp sounded like it would be great hike. Unfortunately, it was raining and very cold (54F) as we started out. And then there was the muddy downhill slope. Not this again. The mud, combined with the cold rain forced us to turn back. The view of the Kalalau valley along the way was awesome as ever, even in the rain.

Just a couple miles back down the road, it was sunny again. We started on a Waimea Canyon hike. The trail descended deep into the canyon, and we turned back after a half hour or so. The best views were from the top, but at least we got a workout coming back up.

The Weather
In general, it never got hotter than about 76 or so. Never colder than about 68 (except at the start of the Pihea Trail in the rain at 4,000 feet. I think that Kauai is best in the summer - for a tropical island, it feels pretty cool in the winter and early spring. And we've had some on and off rain. One day Debbie and I started off on a walk from the resort amongst very bright sunshine and perfect blue skies. Wouldn't you know it? By the time we were about a mile away, a sudden rain storm drenched us. A Marriott coutesy shuttle came by and courteously picked our drowned-rat selves up.

Another experience was sitting down to watch the movie, "South Pacific" on the beach at our resort - they had set up a screen, loudspeakers, chairs, etc. The movie was filmed here 50 years ago, so it was appropriate. After some earlier rain, the skies were clear and there was a pretty sunset. Just after the credits came an airplane scene followed by the song, "Bloody Mary", and with that, the rain. In we went, saying we'll rent it and watch it in our dry basement.

Debbie was really pissed. "Where are all the %#$^* rainbows?" We'd been here a week and hadn't seen a single one. And we'd had plenty of rain AND sunshine, often both at the same time. Last I checked, those ARE the main ingredients. Finally we did see a nice bright one from our lanai. Then another the very next day in the Kalalau valley. Maybe they've been around all along and we just hadn't seen them.

Sunsets have not been overwhelmingly beautiful; it's often cloudy in the afternoons and evenings. The sunrises, however, have been sublime. The whole sky has been taking on watercolor/pastel hues, much to my enjoyment during my daily morning runs.

Allerton Garden
$45 each for a garden tour? And it was worth it? Yes, and yes. The Allerton Garden was truly beautiful, and Wendy the guide made it an experience to remember. It shows what an extremely rich guy who likes plants can do. Also included were some of the areas filmed in Jurassic Park - watch out for those raptors!

The Ends of the Earth
We all know it's Polihale, the wind-swept, sun-baked 17-mile beach on Kauai's western shore. Looking west from here, there's absolutely nothing but blue Pacific Ocean for thousands of miles. That wasn't totally true for us this time, since we weren't able to drive to where the road goes through the park - it was closed. So we were actually facing southwest, and could see Ni'ihou from here. But this stretch of sand feels like the end of the planet no matter what. You can walk for miles and hardly see a soul.

We pulled into a parking area and began putting lotion and otherwise getting ready for our beach walk. No other cars around. After I closed the trunk I asked Debbie if she had the keys. You can guess where this is going: car open, keys locked in the trunk. After much consternation, Debbie was able, with me prying the seat away, to reach behind the back seat and use a hiking pole to snare her key-containing purse.

After our beach walk and picnic, we had shave ice for the first time. Not bad stuff.

Restaurants
Duke's is great. Portofino is ok. Roy's, which we remember as the best Hawaii restaurant chain, was good but not as great as we remembered. Buffets at our Kukui's were very good, but too much. Gaylords in Kilohana was the best all-around. Our last day we went to the hole-in-the-wall Lihue BBQ, and it was really great. And it was also a fraction of the cost of the other joints.

All in all, we had a great time. As always. Time to start planning our next trip back!

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