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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Last Batch, I Promise

I'm trying to pretend that I'm still in Kauai. Can you tell? I don't know who these folks are. Steve just thought they looked pretty funny.

This is the beautiful Hanalei Valley, from an overlook. It's farmed, mostly with taro plants, which they use the roots of to make poi. This land is also a nature preserve for native ducks and geese and Hawaiian stilts.

This is a field of taro plants.

My favorite place in Hanalei is Banana Joe's, which is a fruit stand where they make smoothies and frosties. They take fruit that has been frozen and put it through a food mill to make a sort of sorbet, only there is no sugar added. It's just fruit. Yum!

Speaking of fruit, it really does just grow on trees there. Here's a papaya tree and a coconut palm.

We went to a luau at Smith Family Tropical Paradise. It was sorta what we thought it was going to be. The food was pretty good. You have to try the poi, but it's definitely an acquired taste. The luau reminded me of Thanksgiving dinner, only tropical. There were about 500 people at this one. We got seated at a long table across from 2 obvious newlyweds. They were cute. Turns out the guy was from Amherst, NY (Steve's hometown) and the girl from Tonawanda...Buffalo. That was pretty funny. The grounds have all sorts of beautiful plants and peacocks.

The show after the dinner was sort of pseudo-Polynesian and a bit hokey. It kind of reminded me of those shows at places like Marineworld Africa USA. We left early. But we did enjoy the happy hour with Hawaiian music at Joe's on the Green at Kiahuna Plantation Golf Resort. I loved the Hukilau Song. The woman who sang on Thursday and Sunday nights brought up some relatives from the audience who performed traditional hula, which was really serious and beautiful...not at all like the coconut bra/hootchie-cootchie girl version one sometimes associates with Hawaii. Click on the Hukilau link to see the Hukilau hula.

Our favorite meal stop (which Chris told us about)was about a block from where we stayed, Susan Allyn's shrimp truck on Lawaii Rd. Food off a truck is sort of the last thing I'd think of when looking for a good meal, but the garlic shrimp and the coconut shrimp were fresh and delicious.

Steve took this photo of Ironwood roots at Ke'e Beach on the far north side of the island. Our guide told us that the sand got washed away by a 40 ft. wave that hit the island a couple of years ago. The trees are still alive.

Here are two more images from the cactus gardens at Moir Gardens in Poipu.

There was an amazing full moon while we were there. Steve took a bunch of photos of it from Baby Beach.

We got to watch the sun rise the last two days we were there. Once when we were headed out for birding and then on our way to the airport. When we took off from Lihue, I looked out the window of the plane and saw a rainbow. Aloha, Kauai.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

One fish, two fish...

We had a bit of a tough time with snorkeling this time around. After 17 years of not doing it, we and our equipment were a bit rusty. My snorkel actually crumbled when I took it out of the storage box. We visited Snorkel Bob's to fill in our equipment gaps. (You can see videos of reef fish at the SB site.) It took us a few tries to work out the bugs and find a place where we could get in without being dashed on the rocks by rough waves, and there were good fish to see. The fish above are raccoon butterfly fish. They didn't mind posing to have their photos taken. Below is a school of convict tang.

We took these photos with a little disposable underwater camera, thus the lack of focus. (I'm fresh out of focusing solution too, dang!) These raccoon butterfly fish are with one of their cousins, a threadfin butterfly fish. They were more elusive.

Above we have an orangeband surgeonfish with a bluespine unicornfish. You can sorta see the unicornfish's little horn on his head. Here's another one.

You can see the blue spines on this guy. They are bright and stick out from the body.

This was my favorite fish. It's a bad view of it, but it's a yellowtail coris or clown wrasse and a saddle wrasse at the bottom. Click on the link to see what the face looks like. It has green stripes radiating out from it's eye. Wicked cool. This photo shows how bright the colors are on these fish, almost like neon. You can also see some colored coral and some sea urchins. Some of the fish shapes were very strange, reminding me of some of the creatures from the Beatles' Yellow Submarine movie.

This fish is called a Christmas wrasse, I guess since it's red and green. Pretty huh?

I think this one is a ringtail surgeonfish. I love the shape of its tail.

This surgeonfish was gorgeous. Click on the link for a better photo of the face.

There were a lot of these big fish swimming around. Not sure what they are. Gray chub?

A lot of these big fish too. (That's me flashing the shaka.) All these photos were taken on our last day at Beach House Beach. Wish we had known how nice the snorkeling was there from day one. Or that we had stayed another week. Once you get your mask to stop fogging up and/or letting in water, and you start going with the flow, snorkeling is really relaxing. Pretty much all you can hear is your breathing through the snorkel tube. It's just you and the fish. Steve said it was almost like meditation.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Western Kauai

Steve & I like the western side of the island. It's drier and less populated. The towns are small and dusty and remind me of the western mainland U.S. The photo above is Waimea Plantation Cottages. I would love to stay at this place. We had lunch at the Waimea Brewing Company (nothing to write home about, except for the nicely designed retro posters for beers like "Luau Lager.") Then we walked around the grounds.

I wasn't even going to get into this hammock, but once Steve convinced me to try it, I was loathe to leave. It was so relaxing listening to the waves lapping the shore and feeling the trade winds gently blowing in the shade of the ironwood trees. The plantation grounds contain some gorgeous specimens of trees and plants. I was amazed at this one.

Hanapepe is one of the little towns on the western side. There are many feline residents. This guy posed prettily next to this pot of white flowers on the porch of Banana Patch Studios. This is a nice shop to pick up a souvenir or two of your visit to Kauai. There are a handful of galleries in Hanapepe. Friday night is the big night there, where the galleries remain open at night, and the Hanapepe Cafe and Bakery is only open during the week. We were there on a Saturday, and many places were closed. This grey kitty was guarding the closed bookstore.

We walked across the swinging bridge to the other side of the Hanapepe River. It really does sway a lot when someone else is walking on it with you.

The road up to Waimea Canyon begins in the town of Waimea. It's an incredibly scenic drive up Waimea Canyon Road. Like the Grand Canyon, photos fail to capture the breathtaking depth of the views.

At the top of this road is Kokee State Park, with many hiking trails. Steve took some nice photos of the view from the Pihea Trail, down to the Kalalau Valley. This area is inaccessible by road, you must hike in or take a boat or helicopter tour.

This trail runs along the top edge of the Kalalau Valley and on the other side of the trail is the Alakai Swamp. Along the trail, you are standing at the edge of an incredible drop. This is not a place to lose your footing. The Alakai contains most of the native forest birds on Kauai. They have retreated to this 4,500 foot elevation where they are not preyed upon by disease-bearing mosquitoes.

Back in Waimea, you want to head over to Jo Jo's Shave Ice for a cooling treat. Then you can buy a souvenir Red Dirt Shirt. Click on the link to read the story of the shirts, as it is kind of cool. We talked with the woman working in the store, who showed us her tattoos.

This one is of her daughter, who died of leukemia at age 12.

On the way back to our cottage we stopped at Spouting Horn.

There were lots of humpback whales just offshore here, as well as many other locations around Poipu.

You'd be looking at a sunset, and suddenly see lots of spouting. You don't even need binoculars to see them. We also saw whales breaching, diving and sticking their long flippers up in the air. Amazing.

Kauai Flowers

It's called "The Garden Island" for a reason. The tropical flowers in Kauai are varied and colorful. This one is plumeria, which is fragrant and grows at the tips of a fleshy tree. We stayed at the Plumeria Cottage in Kauai Cove Cottages, which was a lovely rental on a quiet residential street. Turns out our friends Chris & Jane stayed in that exact same cottage a year and a half ago. Small world.

Here are some yellow flowers that I liked.

I don't know what this white flower is. I took this photo in the Moir Gardens at the Kiahuna Plantation resort. Sandie Moir was the wife of the Kohloa Sugar Plantation's estate manager. She liked to collect plants, especially cactus, and started this garden in 1938. Her plants are really thriving. This garden was one of the few places not destroyed by Hurricaine Iniki. Here's the inside of the flower.

The garden is open to the public for free during daylight hours. They have many orchids, which seemed to all be in bloom when I was there. It was windy that afternoon and the orchids were waving around, so a bunch of the pictures came out blurry, and I could not remember how to use the macro feature on Steve's camera, but I still came out with some good photos. The orchids look really pretty against the black lava rocks.

There are also a number of ponds within the gardens. One of them had koi, which were sleeping.

Here's another plant that I haven't identified, but looks cool.

This plant was very pretty too. Looks like a houseplant, only really healthy.

These gardens surround a restaurant called Plantation Gardens Restaurant, which I wish we'd had time to try out. It was an elegant setting, and the menu looked really good. More tropical pictures coming, I promise.