Monday, April 19, 2010

Na'Pali and Puff the magic dragon


Today we took a helicopter tour over Kauai and the Na'Pali coastline. Na'Pali is the northwest side of Kauai that's inaccessible by car. You either have to fly over it, take a boat, or hike about 8-10 miles through a very rough trail that is considered a 9.5 out of 10 in terms of difficulty. Now that I look back, that might have been easier on me than the helicopter tour. I already have a great deal of difficulty with boats, and I forgot to take my Dramamine before the flight, so I guess you can imagine. (No, I didn't have to use the "comfort bag" but I was pretty worn out for about an hour after we landed.)

Despite the fact that I'm a landlubber, the helicopter trip was worth it in terms of scenery. We flew from a heliport near the Lihue airport, first over Poipu and the southern "sunny" beaches, then past the gigantic coffee plantation that we visited yesterday (Kauai Coffee Company), which by the way, is the largest coffee plantation in the USA. From there we turned inland, and I must say that this is where the real fun began, as our pilot began dashing us in and out of valleys in search of the perfect camera shots of waterfalls. I learned the Kauai has the second tallest waterfall in the world (after Angel Falls in Venezuela) and Man, is it tall. Yeah, believe me, because this is where my motion sickness started to kick in. It's also where part of the movie "Jurassic Park" was filmed.

From here we flew over the Waimea Canyon, where Sandy and I drove yesterday. Mark Twain apparently dubbed this "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific" and it's easy to see why. Again, we got (in my humble opinion) a little too up close and personal with a few valleys, but hey, who am I to judge? The fun was still in the beginning stages at this point.

Ahhhh, Na'Pali . . . arguably one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. The jagged green peaks, the fjordlike fingers, the deep and scary valleys. It was here, supposedly, that members of the old Hawaiian royal family were interred, and lots of human sacrifices took place around here during the olden days. Now, one of the valleys is apparently home to a band of hippies. According to the pilot.

When we flew back towards "civilization", our first point of note was Ke'e Beach, a beach that is famous for surfing and I believe the pilot said this is the place where young surfer Bethany Hamilton had the incident with the shark. This is an area where there are lots of expensive, secluded homes and supposedly actor Pierce Brosnan is one of the residents.

Remember the Peter, Paul & Mary song "Puff the Magic Dragon"? Of course you do, if you're 40 or older. Well, if you remember the song, you probably recall that Puff lived by the sea and frolicked in the autumn mist in the land of Hanalei. Unfortunately, Peter, Paul & Mary mispronounce Hanalei in the song . . . it's more like "Hon-a-lay." This famous bay is not only huge and a mecca for surfers, it's downright beautiful.

After passing Hanalei and its neighboring town Princeville, we headed back inland again, flying over a the wettest spot on Earth. Mount Waialeale gets an average of 460 inches of rain a year. Our pilot said that it usually rains 360 days a year here. However, it's been a little on the dry side lately, and there were only about 5 or 6 waterfalls flowing from it instead of about a hundred. (I'm making that last number up, but it's significantly drier for some reason. Global warming, anyone?)

Actually, by this time I was at the height of "I don't care anymore" because of motion sickness, so it's pretty amazing I remember anything. Fortunately, the tour was almost over, and thankfully I felt much better within the hour after we landed. So much that Sandy and I drove up to the north side of the island to see some of the places we'd just seen from the air. We stopped at the Kilauea Lighthouse, where the lighthouse was disappointing but the National Wildlife Refuge was da bomb and we got to see some really cool birds like Albatrosses (which have seven-foot wingspans and are AMAZING to watch) and Red-Footed Boobies (which appear as white dots in my photos because they're so far away).

We drove up to Ke'e Beach, got out and walked around a bit, found some really cool shells (unidentified at this point) and then drove back to Hanalei, where we had dinner at a very nice restaurant called Postcards Cafe. Postcards serves mostly local organic stuff, so you know that made me happy. But it was quite delicious.

Anyway, that was today. Tomorrow is an R&R day and we will also be traveling to Honolulu, so I may not have another entry until Tuesday. In the meantime, if you'd like to see the Best of Kauai photos, check out My Gallery (I will post them on Facebook as soon as I can get a decent Internet connection - this one is NOT, I'm sorry to say). You'll see lots of flora and fauna, including a very nice photo of a handsome Red-Crested Cardinal who tried every trick in the book (including posing for a photo) to coerce me into giving him a handout at breakfast this morning. I didn't go for it.

Goodnight, Mainlanders!