Tuesday, December 21, 2010

December 21, 2010: Kaua'i - Waimea Canyon, Brief Sunshine, Luau

The rain persists, although we hear that Kaua'i will be free of this weather system sooner than the other islands - hopefully by tomorrow.

In the meantime, I suggested a drive out to Waimea Canyon - it seemed like the best way of getting to do some sightseeing while staying relatively dry. There's really only one small highway around the perimeter of Kaua'i - and it doesn't even form a complete circuit - the Na Pali cliffs on the north side make a road impossible. If you picture an inverse letter "C" our resort is at about the midway point, on the east side. Waimea Canyon is at the end of the road, on the opposite side of the road.

We passed in and out of non-rainy patches while circuiting the island - the weather was quite changeable, although largely wet. Our first view of the canyon, from a scenic pull-over, was pretty fantastic - it's called the Grand Canyon of Hawaii. Because Kaua'i is the oldest Hawai'ian island, there's been more erosion here than elsewhere. Kaua'i is also the wettest of the islands - the lush green vegetation in contrast to the vivid red earth is really dramatic.

Our next stop was in a little village, before beginning the ascent into the canyon. Because Anthony and Heather have a GPS system, we followed them (we've rented 2 cars for the 7 of us) - I'm not quite sure where it was that we stopped, but there were some tourist shops, a shave ice stand, and a path to the nearby beach. And there was also sunshine! It would turn out that this was really our only good dose of sunshine all day. We also saw some of the ubiquitous wild chickens, strutting about happy and free.

The drive up into the canyon was long and steep, with lots of hairpin curves. We passed through foggy and rainy patches, eventually reaching the first look-out. There wasn't much to see - the canyon was filled with fog, like a big bowl - you could practically see it lapping up at the edges. An interesting, eerie scene, but we couldn't get much sense of the canyon itself.

We had better luck at our next lookout - this one looks down to where the Kalalau trail (a famously challenging hike) runs - it's the only real connection from one end of the highway to the other. There was sunshine on the trees around us, and the clouds below parted to reveal misty clues about the shoreline - very green, beautiful blue water, and a rainbow.

As we retraced our route back down to the exit from the canyon, we stopped at a puzzling sight that we'd noticed on our way in - a pig on top of a car! And yes, it was a pig on top of a car - a small, dead pig (roadkill?) on top of an abandoned, beat up vehicle. Very odd - someone must have put the dead pig up there.

We circled back around the island to our resort, then hopped back in the cars again to drive to the other end of the island. We were going to a luau on the north shore, at the Mediterranean Gourmet. I had picked it because it's one of the smaller luaus on the island (only about 80 people, as compared to several hundred), and was said to have a more authentic family-style entertainment component. It also seemed appropriate to go out for a special event the night before our wedding - a rehearsal dinner of sorts (with no need to rehearse anything!).

We barely made it to dinner in time - although Google Maps thought it would be a 38 minute drive, they clearly hadn't accounted for the narrow winding roads and multiple one-lane bridges - in many ways a more challenging drive than Waimea Canyon. The mountains on the north shore come down very close to the water's edge in many places, so the road is as narrow as possible to skirt the edge.

Dinner was our first experience of traditionally prepared Hawaiian foods like taro - both in rolls and pounded into the paste poi - the purple colour of this sweet potato-like root turned both a blue-ish colour (not an entirely appetizing look, nor taste). There was also tender, smoky Kalua pork, and haupia (coconut) cake. The best item in the buffet was a delicious whitefish.

The entertainment was great - it really was a family affair - the father was the MC and main musician, and his three daughters earnestly performed traditional hula dances. At one point the band took a request for "Puff the Magic Dragon" - turns out that we were having dinner in the "land of Hanalei". The evening ended with the father's fire breathing routine - it might sound cheesy but it was pretty amazing to watch him in action.

Waimea Canyon

Welcome to Kaua'i

My family, through the fog 

Kalalau lookout

Mark on the jetty during a brief sunny interlude

 The luau (note the leis - shell necklaces - given to all of us)

Traditional Hawai'ian hula dance

Traditional Polynesian dance

Fire breathing

No comments:

Post a Comment