Friday, December 24, 2010

December 24, 2010: Kaua'i - More Ocean, Sightseeing Flight, Whales, Kapa'a, Roasted Vegetables

First thing Mark and I walked up the shoreline to nearby Lydgate Park, where there was a snorkeling area. This was where Mark and Sara had gone to play in the waves the morning before our wedding. I was relieved to find that the waves were not as big as they'd been at Tunnels Beach, and I started to get the hang of just floating on the top of the waves rather than standing firm trying to resist them - going with the flow and enjoying their motion was much more pleasant. The snorkeling wasn't great - a lot of sand diminishing the visibility and not too many fish, but it was still good practice for getting used to using a snorkel - we hoped to do more snorkeling while in Maui.

One of the top tourist activities in Kaua'i is a helicopter flight over the island to see the mountainous interior and north shore, which are otherwise not accessible. We had debated whether to take one - some of the seats don't have a window view, and we weren't keen on guzzling gas and creating noise pollution for hikers below. But after reading a review for Air Ventures I booked myself, Mark and our parents on a tour: their small fixed wing planes are far more fuel efficient, quieter, and every passenger gets a window seat. The plane can't fly as low and close to the landscape as a helicopter, but we would still have an amazing perspective on the island. And it was much less expensive!

We had a perfect day for flying - sunny with not a cloud in the sky. Our pilot also told us that the air was very calm so we would have a smooth flight. The tour was over an hour long, and we flew over the entire island. At the outset we saw a humpback whale breaking the surface of the water - the whales migrate between Alaska in the summer and Hawai'i in the winter. Mark and his father, being west coast residents, were particularly excited by this sight - they knew how rare it was.

Virtually every view was cloud free except for the highest peak, Mount Wai'ale'ale. This was not surprising - it is said to be the wettest spot in the world, with almost perpetual clouds raining down an average of 450 inches of rain per year. If we return to Kaua'i in the future I'd love to go on the hike through the Alaka'i swamp which forms from its run-off - it's the highest elevation swamp in the world, and has many rare plants and animals.

We finally saw clearly what had been obscured by clouds on our trip two days earlier to the Waimea Canyon and the Kalalau look-out to the Na Pali coast. We also saw amazing waterfalls - our pilot told us that the Wailua waterfall, close to our resort, was one of the best and most accessible.

After returning to the resort, we (my mother, John and Sara) headed in to the nearby village of Kapa'a for a bit of sightseeing in the shops. I bought some coasters in the shape of sea turtles, in honour of Mark and Sara's sighting the day before. We toured an amazing gallery of glass art, which had incredible sea creatures and shells recreated in glass. We also visited an orchid shop, housed in a long alleyway between buildings. Then it was time for us to take Sara to the airport, so that she could continue on to her trip to New Zealand.

For dinner we attempted to use up all the food in the kitchen - my solution was a batch of roasted vegetables (taro root, carrots, onions, possibly others that I've forgotten) with several lemons (which I've never thrown in with roasted vegetables before) and the spice packet from the tabouleh mix - for a dinner of mismatched items it worked out quite well.

Before take-off

Inside the plane

The whale's tail!

One of many waterfalls

Waimea Canyon ridge

Waimea Canyon valley

Na Pali coast from directly overhead

Clouds descend over the Na Pali coast

Even more clouds as we round the coast of the north shore

Wailua Falls

Mark - wishing he had a good quote from Top Gun

Fields of crops

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