Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Garden Isle

It's a swampy day on Oahu. I raised the shades on our living room windows around 7:30 this morning and found water (or extreme condensation) on the inside of our window sills. Eighty-four percent humidity creates water puddles on the INSIDE of our apartment.

After turning on the air-conditioning, I sat down to a smooth, rich cup of Kauai coffee, purchased at the Kauai Coffee Company last weekend. Mark and I journeyed to the Garden Isle, where one of his friends, born and raised on Kauai, gave us a "local boy" tour.

Kauai lives up to its name. It's green, lush, open and relaxed. I'm not one to sleep easily unless I'm in a dark, quiet room with a comfortable bed. I fell asleep on a lounge chair at the Marriott pool late Saturday afternoon. But let me back up to the beginning.

Mark and I flew from HNL to Lihue on Friday, a 20 minute flight. We stayed at the Marriott. I highly recommend it. It's an easy shuttle ride down a back road through the Marriott golf course to the hotel.

Twenty minutes later we were having drinks and appetizers at Duke's, watching the NCL cruise ship leave the harbor, bound for Honolulu. We waved goodbye and made dinner reservations for the following night.

Saturday morning, Mark's friend picked us up and took us to breakfast at Kalaheo Cafe & Coffee Company in Kalaheo, his hometown. The Paniolo (cowboy) breakfast of eggs and bacon and hash browns filled me up for our sightseeing.

We drove to Poipu to see the Spouting Horn. Most tourists know the Spouting Horn is a blowhole where waves come through an opening in the lava and "spout" water high into the sky. But they don't know that the blowhole used to be much larger. Back in the days of sugar cane fields that reached from mountain to sea, the owner of the Poipu sugar plantation was upset that the blowhole spouted sea water 1/2 mile inland and covered his sugar crops. "So my uncle and the plantation foreman came here and cut the blowhole in half," said our "local boy".

Hanapepe is a small town where Lappert's ice cream started. No ice cream for us, we went straight to the swinging bridge over the Hanapepe River. Yes, river. Kauai is the only island in the state to have rivers.

The swinging bridge was used by sugar plantation children to cross the river and climb a trail up the adjacent hill to reach the schoolhouse. The bridge is still used although I'm sure there's another school somewhere. Near the bridge we saw two gravestones, one etched in Hawaiian from the year 1910.

Others might recognize Hanapepe as the setting for the mini-series, The Thorn Birds, although we didn't.

Much of Kauai is homesteaded; lands were passed down through families over generations. We saw areas which I won't write about because I want to preserve the old way of almost communal-style living. Families have goods from their lands that they won't sell, they will only give away to friends or trade for other goods.

I came away with a new appreciation of giving to the land and each other, in order for the land to give to us and as a way of helping our own communities. I wish we had more of that kind of living all over.

The weather was spectacular both Friday and Saturday, with noticeably less humidity than here on Oahu. We took advantage of the weather to attend the Kauai County Fair. We sat under the tent to watch the keiki talent show and eat a plate lunch. The garden section was my favorite. Tropical flowers filled the area with bright colors and fragrant air. It's a small fair, compared to most others I've been to, but with the standard exhibits; two or three rides, high school booster booths, and community and state organizations. We didn't make it to the livestock area.

I don't know if I could live on Kauai, it's a little too small for me, but it sure is a place to visit and relax. Every single person we met was friendly, nice, helpful and easy-going. I can't wait to nap on the pool lounge chair again.

Photos are of: Hanapepe bridge, Menehune Pond, Kauai Marriott, Lihue Sugar factory where sugar cane was loaded onto boats in Lihue harbor, view of valley on the way to Kalaheo.