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Barker’s Book Blather, 2016.08.01 – Afghanistan Edition

The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan – Jenny Nordberg. I decided to read this book in one of those “I’m just a head in a jar in some scientist’s lab” kind of moments. The same day that an interesting looking historical fiction came to my attention through an eBook daily deal email, I got an email from my alma mater about this book being selected for the Summer Reading Program as part of the University’s 2016-2017 intellectual theme: Women’s Power, Women’s Justice. This one is a non-fiction book about the same cultural phenomenon at the center of the fiction book. So I decided to start with the non-fiction, then move on to the fiction.

In essence, there is a long-time, perhaps ancient, tradition in Afghanistan in which young girls become honorary boys, assigned so by their parents – sometimes at birth, sometimes a little older – taking on the role, privileges, and gender identity of a male in Afghanistan. They are called bacha posh (from bacha, the word for child, to bacha posh – dressed up as a boy). In some ways, there are lots of different reasons why a family would choose to do this – after a long string of girls, a family desperately needs a boy for status and honor; a family simply needs a boy to be able to work and to chaperone the other daughters; as a kind of magical totem to bring the good luck needed to finally give birth to a real son through the power of positive thinking; and, sometimes, as a slightly subversive move by the girl’s mother and/or father to give their daughter a sense of power and freedom that she otherwise would never have.

But on another level, all of these myriad reasons are really just circumstantial details that can be reduced to one true reason. Generally speaking, women in Afghanistan are not valued for anything other than their ability to give birth to sons. They are not equal human beings to men, and having a son is important above all else. As Nordberg was describing her initial conversations with people in Afghanistan, as she was trying to come to an understanding of the role of women in Afghan society, it became clear to me well before she stopped describing this line of her questioning: she never makes this analogy, but women are basically livestock.

They are there to produce children, the goal being as many sons as possible. They are mares or cows. The only upside to having a daughter is that they are money in the bank. As soon as they are of marrying age – you know, 12-13 years old – they can be traded for a literal bride price that brings income into the family. Marrying them off has the added benefit of attaching the family to another male, which brings honor and security to the family. And that’s it. Women have no intrinsic value; the only worth they have is their ability to bear sons. A daughter, whose birth is usually seen as a disappointment, only has worth for the money and connections she can bring to the family when ownership of her is transferred to a husband.

Nordberg does a very convincing job of detailing why so much of the conflict in Afghanistan over the last decades has been centered on the role of women, in spite of the Russian/American/Allied Forces view of women’s rights as a peripheral issue. Again – women are money in the bank. Any effort to liberate them directly is an attack on the ruling position of men and their system of honor and economics.

Reading through the book, it also seems pathetically obvious that the well-intentioned efforts of foreign aid organizations to teach women to be proud and assertive and confident are missing a fairly vital component when they don’t involve men in their programming at all. It’s not that the women don’t need to encouraged and built up, but if you are only working with women to get them to recognize their rights and value, without also working with men to change their perception that women have neither, you are basically just setting those women up for epic beatings in the society of unenlightened men.

Most bacha posh are converted back to a female identity by their parents before they hit puberty, but some remain living as men for many more years. It seems that the girls who go back to being female before puberty have a relatively easier time of it, while the girls who wait longer are often much more resistant to changing back, and are more likely to have fully identified with the male gender. This is not an identification with male sexuality; it is male freedom that is internalized. In this, the book presents an interesting view of the nature of gender as a social construct.

In spite of the Afghan devaluation of females and the need to have sons, it seems like they don’t really worry about a child’s gender identification until s/he gets close to puberty. Because women’s sexuality is the real danger, the society seems much less focused on male-female differences before that sexuality can be an issue. So, when Nordberg was trying to understand how parents could simply swap their daughters’ gender back and forth without any concern about the effect on the child, the common response was basically “she’s a child, why are you so hung up on her gender anyway?” Yes, the boys have more privileges, rights, and freedoms than any female of any age, but there’s nothing sexual at that point, so a girl can be randomly assigned a male life as well, at least for a time. In some ways, this could almost be seen as a more progressive outlook than we tend to have in America where baby girls and boys are assigned pink or blue blankies as soon as they are wiped down.

But, of course, any sense of progression is so totally annihilated by the rest of the reality that it just causes a minor bout of cognitive dissonance before it’s swept away.

Nordberg interviews several different women and girls who are living or have lived as bacha posh. Some are children, some are teenagers, and a rare few are in their thirties, hoping desperately that they’ve officially made it to old age and their brothers won’t be able to marry them off. The stories are all moving and heart-breaking. There are brief flashes of hope for these women, and at one moment about halfway through, Nordberg has a moment of optimism. After all, as one well-adjusted former bacha posh says about the value she found in the experience, “It’s only important to be a bacha posh in the head, to know you can do anything.” But the women’s balancing acts are so tenuous that, all too often, they experience a fall that brings them quickly back to “their place”. Because, no matter what, the final decision about how they continue to live belongs to their fathers, or other male relatives in the absence of a father, and they could find themselves converted back to a female and engaged to a man they don’t know at any moment.

Lest we get to feeling too superior, Nordberg has a very insightful moment after a day spent at an Afghan wedding, the first time the bride and groom have ever met. After describing all the traditions at the wedding and the ritual of the older women using the opportunity to spot potential brides for their sons, Nordberg goes back to her hotel to find people watching with rapt attention the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton. In the matter of a paragraph describing the rituals and expectations at play in that wedding and marriage, it becomes clear that our histories are not so different from each other’s. The roots of patriarchy run deep. While we have made a lot of progress, our own traditions and values may not be so far removed as we’d like to think they are.

One weakness I found in the book was with Nordberg’s attempts to tie the bacha posh to efforts of other women and girls posing as men and boys in other places throughout history. While it is true that the lesser status of women has forced many individual women to pose as men in order to go to school, fight in war, get a job, or simply to survive, the bacha posh system seems inherently different in its broad acceptance in Afghan society. It’s not openly discussed, but it lies just beneath the surface. Once Nordberg scratched that surface, she found many people knew someone who had lived as, or had a child currently living as, a bacha posh. It’s not spoken of because it’s seen as a private family matter, only of concern to the broader community if a girl is allowed to continue in a male role into puberty. Parents are sometimes even advised by their mullahs to pass their newborn daughters off as sons from birth.

Plus, many of the girls Nordberg interviewed really take on a male identity. They are not simply posing as a boy; some of them come to really think of themselves as male.

Nordberg’s efforts to link this to a broader phenomenon is further undermined when all of her examples of other places in the current world where girls are passing as boys include descriptions of fierce religious and government crackdowns on these efforts. In other places, it seems more like the desperate act of individual families and women, and less like the shared deceit of a society pulling a veil across their eyes. That this practice is so commonplace is perhaps a tacit acknowledgment that the lives of women in Afghanistan are particularly horrendous.

Nordberg ends the book with a beautiful moment when, alone in their room at the end of the day, her female guide and translator asks her to teach her how to “couple dance” like men and women she’s seen in pictures. Nordberg leads her around the room in a waltz, thinking about all the women she’s met and their fate should Afghanistan again fall into civil war and take another turn back to fundamentalism. Finally, she writes, “I think about how I should dance more when I return to my world.”

If you are lucky enough to live in a place where you have the right to live your own life, then go to college, live alone, drive a car, have a career, choose who you want to marry, decide whether or not you even want to marry, plan the number of children you’ll have, speak your mind, and dance. Never let anyone take those rights away from you. And never forget about or stop trying to help the women for whom none of these things are possible.

The Pearl that Broke Its Shell – Nadia Hashimi. This is the fictionalized story of a bacha posh and seemed a fitting follow-up to The Underground Girls of Kabul; Hashimi was inspired to write this book after reading Nordberg’s original story in the New York Times. Pearl follows the story of Rahima who, for a short time, lived as Rahim in her pre-teen years before she and two of her sisters were married off to local warlords. Rahima’s story is told in parallel with that of her great grandmother, Bibi Shekiba, who also spent time as a bacha posh, although in much different circumstances. Bibi Shekiba’s story is told to Rahima by her aunt, Khala Shaima, in what becomes a clearly subversive move to expand Rahima’s notions of what is possible for her life.

Rahima’s story is told in the first person, while Shekiba’s is a third-person narrative. Once I got used to this, it wasn’t a problem to switch back and forth, and it makes sense once you accept the fable-like role of her story underlying Rahima’s.

Although the book spends relatively little time on Rahima’s days as Rahim, with the vast majority of it taking place during her married life, it is clear that even the short time she spent living as a boy, combined with the stories of Bibi Shekiba, eventually give Rahima the confidence and ability to free herself. I was reminded in this of the line I called out in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn last month when Francie is able to go to a better school:

It was a good thing that she got herself into this other school. It showed her that there were other worlds beside the world she had been born into and that these other worlds were not unattainable.

Shekiba’s story was different than Rahima’s. She had been badly disfigured in a kitchen accident as a small girl and this had made her unmarriable. When her whole immediate family died, she was passed around, property-wise, by her extended family as a way to pay a debt. Eventually she wound up living as a man for a time, as one of the guards of King Habibullah’s harem. The king had determined that no man could be trusted to guard his women, so he dressed women as male guards. Shekiba’s life would eventually take another turn, but her story ends with a bit of hope for the future as the new King Amunallah and his wife Soraya attempt to modernize Afghanistan and advance women’s rights.

That these efforts would be so completely obliterated after the reactionary uprising that removed him from power, and the decades of war at the end of the 20th century, and that the lives of women in Afghanistan a hundred years later could be just as bad, if not worse, is depressing indeed. Although Rahima’s story ends with possibility and optimism, it is clearly still a life of danger and uncertainty, and it is not without cost.

A solid story, and one that expanded my knowledge of the history of Afghanistan and the role of women in the region, but I honestly felt more attached to the women in The Underground Girls of Kabul. I felt that Nordberg did a better job of really drawing me in and communicating the realities of women’s lives in Afghanistan. I have a feeling that the characters and stories in Pearl were a bit too broad in their detail, and the characters a bit too one-dimensional. My reading of it was clearly influenced by my reading of The Underground Girls of Kabul, and I could see more in it based on that experience than I think I would have otherwise.

If you are only going to read one of these books, read The Underground Girls of Kabul. If you read them both, which I don’t discourage, I think it’s best to read this one second.

When the Moon is Low – Nadia Hashimi. Hashimi’s second book is almost like reading three books in one. When the Moon is Low starts with a lengthy description of Fareiba’s life as a young girl in 1970s Afghanistan. The first third of the book details her life growing up in Kabul. Her mother died in childbirth and her father quickly remarries, needing a new wife to care for his daughter and, of course, hopefully to have sons. Fareiba’s young life isn’t nearly as perilous as that of Rahima’s, but she is persistently treated as a second-class family member by a father who can’t look at her without seeing his beloved first wife and a step-mother who clearly puts her own children before Fareiba.

In spite of the clear inequalities, Hashimi is able to portray a life and culture that is almost charming. Although Fareiba is held back from school to help her stepmother, her sisters go and, eventually, she does, too. She goes to college and becomes a teacher. Her marriage is arranged, but it turns out to be quite happy. Certainly, not all arranged marriages turn out so well, but then, neither do all marriages directly chosen by both participants. This is a different story than the one we’ve heard before and it’s lovely. Unfortunately, the Taliban rises to power and the novel takes a turn as Fareiba and her children flee and become refugees trying to get to London.

At this point, the book splits into two new stories. Fareiba’s tale is still told by her in the first person, but it feels like she is a brand new person. Gone is the confident, happy, fashionable, educated woman. While still having a core of strength, we now see a Fareiba who has to stay behind with her younger children, who doesn’t know the language of the countries she is in, and who is reliant on her oldest son Saleem to provide for her and her other children. As a refugee, she has become a different person. So much has been taken from her.

At the same time, as he matures, Fareiba says it is time for her son to start telling his own story and the narrative splits between them. But, Saleem’s story is strangely told in the third person, rather than the first. This made sense in Pearl since Shekiba’s story was being told to Rahima, but Saleem is supposed to be telling his own story here, so I don’t understand this choice.

At any rate, Saleem changes, too, at this point, having to grow up very fast, finding food and shelter for his family and work, when possible. His path becomes more perilous when he gets separated from his mother, who still has the forged documents that would have eased his passage across Europe.

When the Moon is Low does a very good job of bringing the reader into this world of a refugee and connecting us to the different phases of the journey. I was very caught off guard by the abrupt ending, though, and wish Hashimi had taken Saleem one step further on his path. I understand the choice to end before a happy family reunion took place, emphasizing the uncertainty of the refugee experience. But the chosen spot of the ending was just a smidge too early in my view to be satisfying. The book ends with Saleem in the very middle of a particularly dangerous part of the journey. He has just survived a specific danger and feels like he’ll surely be able to make it through this part of the trip, and maybe he will. But I would’ve much rather seen him make it safely to the other side of this obstacle, even if his journey was still uncertain and unfinished, and the book didn’t end with him falling into his mother’s loving embrace.

Another good but not perfect book, well-worth the read, especially in this time when the status of refugees is so prominently being debated by our “leaders”.

Oh Lord, Won’t You Adopt a Mercedes Hound?

Here’s a taste of the spectacular sunrise photos from this morning; more are at the end of this post.

sunrise from the lanai

We spent another day today with a pooch from the Kaua’i Humane Society. We were running a bit behind getting there and, having seen how things worked a few days ago, I knew we couldn’t be too late or we’d risk not having a dog to take out. So Steve stayed behind to get the sandwiches we planned for lunch while I went on to the shelter to pick out a dog. Although there were several still to choose from when I got there at 11:15 (they opened at 11:00), there were also a few other couples behind me and more coming in, so I was glad to get there when I did.

Although I absolutely got the dog I wanted to take out for the day, I also made my selection with Steve perhaps bit more in mind than when we got Dallas. While I am drawn to the brindle pups, Steve has a certain fondness for hound dogs. And thus it came to pass that Mercedes came out with us for the day.

Mercedes

Mercedes in Jeep

Mercedes was a much different dog than Dallas, much more in need of a reassuring pat on the head and frequently making quick check-ins with us to be sure what she was doing was okay. But she was an incredibly sweet dog who warmed up throughout the day, her tail lifting and wagging happily.

We made use of the Jeep for the second day of our rental by driving out to the Maha’ulepu Beaches. The road to the beach area is pretty dicey in a regular car, so this was a good chance to get out there. Actually, we didn’t know just how bad the road was and we had tried to take Dallas out there at the end of our day with him. It was on the humane society’s list of dog friendly beaches, so we didn’t question the directions as much as we should have. It had taken so long for Steve to navigate the rental car around the ruts, potholes, and undercarriages of cars past, that we pretty much had to turn right around and head back when we got to the end of the road. Traveling over it today in the Jeep, looking down at the size of the potholes from above, Steve and I both wondered aloud how in the world we’d managed not to destroy the car the other day. As I told him, lots of adjectives were appropriate, but carefully, skillfully, and luckily were some that spring to mind.

Steve in Jeep

We started the afternoon by eating our sandwiches on Gillin’s Beach. Mercedes is not a treat-motivated dog and paid no interest in our sandwiches, instead spending the time sniffing around the area. After lunch, we walked down the beach, keeping doggy foot pads in the cool waves as much as possible.

Anne walking on beach with Mercedes

We followed the beach to a stream and crossed a bridge built when Pirates 4 was filming in the area, where we were able to visit Makauwahi Cave. This is Hawaii`s largest limestone cave, the richest known fossil site in the islands, and an active archaeological site. So, it check three big boxes on Steve’s list of interests.

Anne & Mercedes at Makauwahi Cave Reserve

Makauwahi Cave Reserve

Makauwahi Cave Reserve

There was a sign indicating dogs were not allowed in the cave, but this actually worked out fine, with Steve and I taking turns heading in while the other walked with Mercedes around and up onto the overlook.

Anne & Mercedes overlooking Makauwahi Cave Reserve

Makauwahi Cave Reserve

Makauwahi Cave Reserve

Afterwards, we walked back to the Jeep and drove further along the road to Kawailoa Bay where we walked along the coastline on the sandstone cliffs above the ocean. While similar to the sandstone cliffs just next to Shipwrecks Beach that we’ve walked on before, including the other day with Dallas, these are much less trafficked by tourists and have some killer features where the waves have worn away the sandstone in interesting patterns.

Mahaulepu coast

Mahaulepu coast

Mahaulepu coast

Mahaulepu coast

Mahaulepu coast

Mahaulepu coast

We also came across a small blowhole, and, on the other side of the trail, a gasping, wheezing future blowhole.

blowhole on Mahaulepu coast

The dragon breath noises emanating from the baby blowhole were a cause of some curiosity to Mercedes.

Mercedes and the Dragon's Breath

There were (unfortunately) no waves to walk in on the cliffs, and eventually Mercedes needed a rest. She laid down under a tree to cool down and doze.

tired Mercedes

tired Mercedes

I sent Steve off to explore a bit further down the coastline while I sat with her, then we traded places when he returned. I hurried along the coast until I came to the very end of the sandstone cliffs, just before Ha’ula Beach. There’s a beautiful little cove there with a lava shelf that would make for excellent tide pooling or lounging when the conditions are right.

Mahaulepu coast

But the real prize was just beyond that, where I found a gaping maw in the sandstone, filling up and emptying with the ocean waves.

gaping maw on Mahaulepu coast

Mahaulepu coast

Trying to gauge the nature and length of this hike, Steve had asked me earlier if there was a pot of gold at the end or if we were walking just to walk. I had told him it was the latter and we could turn around any time we wanted. With black clouds starting to threaten, I made my way quickly back to where he was waiting and told him that there was a pot of gold after all that he couldn’t miss. I gave him instructions on how to get there, made him promise me he wouldn’t fall in, then took may place under the tree with Mercedes.

10-15 minutes later, Mercedes had long-stopped panting and had woken from her snooze feeling refreshed and lively. I gathered up our bags and walked with her to the end to the cliffs to find Steve, who was just finishing taking his pictures.

The clouds had passed uneventfully, so I gave Mercedes’ leash to Steve and he walked her along a bit while I snapped a few more less-rushed photos.

Steve with Mercedes

The passing storm had cooled the air significantly, so we had a nice walk back to the beach where I let Mercedes cool down in the waves for a bit before we packed back into the Jeep for the ride back to the humane society.

Steve in Jeep with Mercedes

Once again, the return to the shelter was not fraught with angst or stress, but a happy tail wag and butt sniffing when Mercedes met a puppy in the waiting area. After a quick kiss on the head good-bye, Mercedes went happily back with the caretaker who obviously knew her well, and Steve and I filled in the fieldtrip diary.

I told the woman at the front desk what a great day we’d had, which relieved her because she said the last person who took her out said Mercedes was tense the whole time. I told her Mercedes was just fine and that she just needed a bit more reassurance before she could settle in. I also told her their next challenge was to figure out a way to do something similar with the cats. She agreed in that way that conveys accurately what a challenge that is. She mentioned that they had rented out a room at a neighboring facility a few weeks ago and held of one-day Cat Café. It sounds like *maybe* they’re investigating a way to do something like that on a more permanent basis. I was very encouraging of the idea.

We returned the Jeep to the rental agency with absolutely no problem, no questions about the mud on the outside or the sand on the inside, no proclamations of new scratches or dents. I’ll grant you, we were very careful to keep the Jeep in good condition, but we had clearly driven it. This was nothing but a positive experience renting through Kaua’i Jeep Rental. I told Steve we should probably treat ourselves to one Jeep rental day on any future trip we take to Hawai’i. We’ll spend some time going back through The Book, make a list of the places that require a 4WD to get to, and start ticking them off our list!

Steve with Mercedes

It was a phenomenal sunrise this morning, definitely worth getting my butt down to the beach.

sunrise from the lanai

sunrise

sunrise

The sunrise was so awesome that a line of dinosaurs were being led right into it, like moths to a flame!

dinosaurs marching into the sun

This morning, I also noticed several crabs digging holes in the sand.

crab coming out of sand

Finally Giving Steve a Death March to Complain About

Sunrise!

sunrise

Today was a BIG DAY! You may recall me waxing poetic about the Alaka’i Swamp Trail back in my 2014 post and how I was so excited that day to have actually made it past the Pihea Trail and a ways onto the Alaka’i Swamp Trail. That was a good day, but I knew we hadn’t actually made it as far as the swamp on that trail before turning back and, as she has since 2004, the swamp was continuing to call to me.

There was only one thing for it. We had to rent a 4WD to drive to the actual swamp trailhead rather than hike the Pihea Trail to get to the junction. It would still require a 1.2 mile hike in order to get to the junction with the Pihea Trail, but it was a much easier hike than taking the Pihea Trail, which wears us out before we even get to the swamp trail.

So, after perusing options for short-term Jeep rentals on Kaua’i, I decided to make a 2-day reservation through Kaua’i Jeep Rental. Booking a Jeep for 2 days directly with the company from which we had our regular rental car would have cost at least twice as much. The reviews were good, there was an “any time” cancellation policy, and I didn’t need to provide a credit card number until we picked up the car, so I decided to take the plunge.

The woman at the name brand rental counter was reassuringly enthusiastic as she took us to “our” Jeep, and, although we still had no intention to beat it like a rented mule, we were also pretty sure we could return it with a couple extra short scratches and some mud on the sides with no trouble.

And so we were off to the hike! After my months of planning, Steve had considerately waited until the night before the hike to start expressing some concerns about the condition of Mohihi Road, which would take us to the Alaka’i Swamp trailhead. I searched quickly and found a video on YouTube of some women taking a Jeep down the road. Although their commentary, complete with bad jokes and giggling screams, was a bit annoying, it was actually very helpful to get a general sense of how steep the road was and get some of the guide markers along the way.

Even so, I decided to call ahead to the Koke’e Museum, where you are supposed to be able to get trail and road conditions. What I got was a crotchety grandmother who clearly didn’t think anyone should do anything but drive along the main road and get out at the appropriately designated overlooks. I’ll come back to justify this impression much later in this tale. When I politely asked if I could get the condition of Mohihi Road and the Alaka’i Swamp Trail, I was instead told unequivocally that we should not take it, that our rental Jeep didn’t have the tires for it, and we would get stuck down at the bottom.

After a fair amount of this, I again politely, but a bit more firmly, asked her if I could get the condition of the road itself – was it a normal state of bad or much worse. “Oh it’s horrible, much worse,” she told me. But the whole of the conversation, the tone of her voice, her absolute unwillingness to provide the information, and her overall dismissiveness made me deeply suspicious that she would never tell anyone to take the road. We decided that, having already paid for the Jeep, we had nothing to lose but our time and the gas of the drive, so we continued on our way to the park.

We stopped briefly at the museum to use the facilities and get a trail map, and my impression of the woman was immediately confirmed by the sour-looking old woman at the desk who had to take her yippy little ankle-biter of a floor mop out for walkies while we were there. I knew her on sight, but it was her voice that drove in the nail and I was sure it was her. Notably, Steve made the map purchase rather than me, just to be on the safe side.

[rant] Now, I’m sure it is true that in the past tourists have gone down the road in inappropriate vehicles and conditions and have had some trouble. But isn’t it just possible that people who actually call ahead to get the condition of the road are mildly more responsible than the average Joe? Wouldn’t it be better to just honestly give us the condition of the road, or a caution about being sure our tires were up to it since rental Jeeps often didn’t have the right kind of tire? Just say, “Oh we had a horrible storm a couple of weeks ago and it’s a muddy mess down there right now. You might want to wait until next time if you have a rental Jeep.” Something of that sort would actually be helpful information. I say to the Hawai’i Division of State Parks, if you are going to advise travelers to call the museum to get accurate and current hike and road conditions, you’d best be sure that role is staffed by someone who is willing to provide the information rather than just sell bookmarks and instruct people to head on up to the lookout. [/rant]

And so we were off for the unpaved road, responsibly ready to turn back at any point that Steve, who was driving and has significantly more experience with this kind of driving than I do, decided it was best to do so.

The road was fine. It wasn’t great, it was bumpy, there were large pot holes you had to be careful about, and it took about 20 minutes to make the 3-mile drive because we were super careful. But it wasn’t muddy except in a couple minor spots at lower road sections, and the Jeep and Steve were able to handle the road with no problems. Go slow, don’t go if it’s been raining or looks like it might rain, don’t go if it’s muddy from the start, and keep a careful eye on the large potholes (and know how to drive around them), and you should be fine.

We arrived at the Alaka’i picnic area around 11:45, took some pictures of the canyon overlook, ate our sandwiches, and used the remarkably clean and unsmelly facilities.

Alakai Picnic Area

Then we were off to the trailhead around 12:15. Remember the energy and enthusiasm evident in this picture when you come to another photo from the same location near the end of this post.

Anne at Alakai Swamp Trailhead

The first portion of the trail was a bit harder than anticipated, with a mildly steep down, then up section, but we were past that within the first 10 minutes. From there to the intersection with the Pihea Trail, it was level, although the lack of tree cover in this area made it a bit warm. The first big milestone was getting back to the junction point. Steve and I agreed that it was a much easier way to get there than taking the Pihea Trail from the Kalalau Lookout.

Anne at junction of Alakai Swamp Trail and Pihea Trail

Steve at junction of Alakai Swamp Trail and Pihea Trail

We began our descent on the wooden stairs, stopping a few times to take in the fabulous scent and site of the fields of Kahili ginger, which I know is extremely invasive, but it’s also quite beautiful.

Kahili ginger

We barely even paused at the stream where we had turned back last time, instead forging ahead triumphantly to the point where every step was new ground for us! This is the point where I should mention what the trail descriptions I read in advance omitted – there is a very difficult, steep, and muddy section climbing up from the stream bed that is very much like the last section of the Pihea Trail before turning off of the ridge.

The trail guides I had read talked about the easy boardwalk section through the swamp, and this was certainly yet to come, but the emphasis on the ease of getting through the swamp neglected the reality of getting to the swamp. Because, you see, we hadn’t actually made it to the swamp on our last attempt and we were still about an hour of hard scrabble climbing away from it when we reached the stream.

As usual, my hike map reading also focused too much on the distance and not at all on the elevation change, so I missed that we would go from 3,688 feet at the stream up to 4,041 feet rather quickly. In other words, this:
elevation chart of trail

The other part of this elevation question has to do with how long is the hike, really? In a pure, start-to-finish, point A to point B equation, on flat terrain the trail is 3.6 miles one-way. But is that really accurate on a trail with elevation changes? If you take X number of steps in a mile of flat terrain and the same number of steps only covers 0.8 miles of pure GPS distance on a hill, have you really somehow walked less? Geometry was my weakest subject in high school, but I’m pretty sure the hypotenuse of that incline triangle is longer than its horizontal leg. According to Steve’s Band fitness device, the trail was more like 4.6 miles one way, which makes sense if you measure the inclines and declines geometrically, rather than concentrating on a flat line, point-to-point calculation. We may have only traveled 3.6 miles, but we walked 4.6 each way. So, yah, it was harder than anticipated.

We made it to the top of this worst section and found a rock to sit on for a much-needed rest. After our pulses slowed down to an easy gallop, I told Steve that the section ahead looked okay, but we could turn back if we encountered another section like the one we had just gotten through. I didn’t really want to kill him, after all.

Pulses throttling down and sweat finally evaporating, we pushed ahead. There was one more uneven muddy section and we kept wondering where the boardwalk was, but it wasn’t enough to make us turn back and we finally made it to where the boardwalk starts up again.

The park service really takes the word “boardwalk” literally, it being just a series of 2×10 planks, laid end to end, coursing through the swamp. Although it was fairly easy walking from that point, we had to be careful of our step, not just to keep our balance on stable planks, but also because some of the boards were broken, or would shift as we stepped on them, slapping into the water beneath.

Alakai Swamp

Alakai Swamp

Steve in Alakai Swamp

Anne in Alakai Swamp

As we were walking through the swamp, we came upon a very pretty Pacific Golden Plover.

Pacific Golden Plover in Alakai Swamp

In a running theme for this hike, making our way through the swamp was also a much longer walk than expected, taking at least another 30 minutes. It was beautiful, but we didn’t really know how much further it would be, and every time we thought we were coming to a potential overlook point, the trail would veer off in another direction.

Alakai Swamp

Alakai Swamp

Alakai Swamp

But suddenly we were there. Coming around one last turn, through one last cluster of trees, and we were abruptly at the Kilohana Lookout.

When we got there, the view was covered by a fairly dense fog layer, so we sat down to take out our snacks of almonds, raisins, and beef jerky. On the final stretch to the lookout, we had encountered another couple coming back who said they had sat out there for 20 minutes, but the fog never cleared. We were hopeful, but realistic. We certainly both really wanted the fog to clear so we could call this hike accomplished and I wouldn’t feel the need to do it again!

foggy Kilohana Lookout

We had barely dug into our provisions when Steve glanced up and saw the view opening before us. As the fog shifted, he quickly grabbed his camera and got several shots before the fog came in again. The fog kept weaving in and out, but we had several minutes of clear views during the 20 minutes we were on the platform resting and eating.

The view is of the North Shore, looking over part of the unpassable stretch of land that, along with the Na Pali Coast and the Alaka’i Swamp itself, makes a road fully encircling the island impossible. Hanalei Bay, where we had napped just a couple of days ago, is over on the right.

North Shore from Kilohana Lookout

North Shore from Kilohana Lookout

Steve at Kilohana Lookout

Anne and Steve at Kilohana Lookout

Just as we were finishing up our snacks and contemplating the return hike, another couple emerged onto the platform to find the fog-covered overlook. We chatted with them a minute, telling them that the fog was moving in and out and they probably just needed to wait a few minutes to get a view. This is where the cranky old lady at the museum comes back into the story, and my impression of her was fully confirmed.

As we were chatting with this couple, we were asking about the route they had taken. They actually had managed the hike via the Pihea Trail from the Kalalau Lookout. Mad respect. Steve was telling them about our previous attempts at the hike and how we had decided to rent a Jeep this time and take the unpaved road down to the swamp trailhead. He mentioned that the woman at the museum was thoroughly discouraging of us taking the road, but that it was fine. At this point, the man said, “She was really grouchy, wasn’t she!”

Apparently when they had attempted to get information about the condition of the Pihea Trail to the Alaka’i Swamp Trail, she was equally discouraging, emphasizing that it was muddy and rough, and it would take hours, if they made it at all.

Now, all of that was true, but they, like us, wanted to make the attempt. We wanted to get out of our cars and see the beauty of Kaua’i – the Kaua’i that not everyone sees, the one where the journey is part of the experience and a bit of an achievement all on its own. It becomes a quest, something to strive for and that calls you back even if you don’t make it the first time.

The woman at the museum just doesn’t get this. She should focus on providing information to the tour buses that come through the area. I’m sure she’d be great at that. But hikers should be directed to a ranger, or at least to a person with more adventure in their heart.

Steve and I finished packing in our gear and wished the other couple good luck on the hike back, just as the fog rolled out again and they were treated to their first view of the valley below them.

North Shore from Kilohana Lookout

North Shore from Kilohana Lookout

We made our way back along the swamp boardwalk and the minor muddy section, taking a short break at the same rock where we’d wondered about our survival an hour earlier to rest before tackling the horrible section again. It was much easier on the way down, but still very slippery and our legs were already quite tired.

This time we did stop at the stream for a few minutes, once again gearing ourselves up for the steep climb up the stairs and back onto the boardwalk that would take us on the last leg of our journey.

Steve at stream on Alakai Swamp Trail

Anne at stream on Alakai Swamp Trail

stream on Alakai Swamp Trail

Steve has for years “jokingly” complained about the Death March vacations I plan for us, full of hikes and early morning activities, with little time for napping or resting. I don’t see any purpose in flying someplace new if you’re just going to sleep the whole time. Plan a staycation if you want to do that; I want to see things and do things in my vacation locales.

Perhaps it’s ironic that on this vacation, the one that actually had a fair amount of resting built in, at least for my vacations, we finally achieved a Death March. We were thoroughly spent by the time we reached the junction with the Pihea Trail. Even though the trail was flat from here until almost the end, there was still another mile to go.

This was the silent time of our hike, neither of us having the energy to talk, just focusing on putting one foot in front of the other over and over and over again.

Anne at trailhead at end

We made it to the end, getting back to the car just after 5:00. Round trip, the hike took about 4.5 hours, plus the time spent enjoying the overlook. Or perhaps I should say it took us 12 years, start to finish.

Either way, we have now officially done the Alaka’i Swamp Trail to the Kilohana Lookout. As Steve says, “Anne ‘Ahab’ Barker is looking for a new white whale to pursue.”

Anne at Kilohana Lookout

Boogie Down, Baby!

Made it up for sunrise again today. Although it wasn’t raining at that point, the clouds in the sky were a sign of things yet to come.

sunrise

trees at dawn

Today was supposed to be the day we were going to ride mopeds around the back roads of the Kapa’a area. I have spent several hours poring over maps, selecting possible routes, and generally getting more and more excited about exploring parts of the island that we have never been to before and that the vast majority of tourists never see.

Unfortunately, shortly after sunrise, it started to rain. Not just a common shower, this was pretty heavy rain that just didn’t seem to want to let up. Rain is common here and a morning storm is not typically something to worry about. It will usually blow past within 15 minutes. But this rain just kept coming, raining as Steve was rousing himself, through breakfast, through showers, and right through me saying “Come on! It’s time to go pickup up our scooters!”

I knew the rain would eventually clear, it was just a matter of when and how much of our scooter day would be lost. Steve was much more skeptical.

My cause was not helped along when the guy from the scooter rental place called to ask if we were still interested in going out. I tried to get a sense from him, based on his experience, how long he thought the rain might last. He basically confirmed my view, saying “It’s Kaua’i. It could stop in 5 minutes and be blue skies in 15. But I can’t guarantee it and it could last for a while.”

The other portion of the reality was that he was sitting in his driveway in Kapa’a wondering if he had to drive to Lihue to give us the mopeds, particularly since we were his only reservation for the day. With Steve looking at me incredulous that I was still even considering it, and the scooter guy willing to cancel with no penalties, I reluctantly decided to let it go for the day with the plan to reschedule for a day later in the week.

Now we were hit with a difficulty; I reviewed our remaining plans for the week to see if anything could be shifted into the day’s opening, but nothing was moveable – two days relied on a 4WD rental, there was a photo tour pending for a specific date, and any of the other options we had were closed because it was Sunday – no meadery, no gift shopping at the fabric store, even the humane society was closed so we couldn’t have a spontaneous wet dog day. I got so desperate, I even looked at the Kaua’i Museum. Normally, I love going to history museums on vacation, but it’s not something I would usually do in Hawai’i; I’d much rather be outside. But even they were closed on Sunday.

With the rain continuing to pour down, I proclaimed enthusiastically that this was Stephen’s Day and we could do anything he wanted! Much laughter ensued as Steve thanked me for letting him have the rainy day.

So, we sat for a while as he thought. After sitting a while longer, I made a couple of suggestions, and he said that all sounded okay with him. See folks, there’s a reason I plan these trips.

So, we went to the local marketplace and an outdoor craft market (it had stopped raining by the time we left the condo). We had a lunch of leftovers back at the condo and Steve dosed off while I was still eating. It had a been a tough morning, what with him having to do a bit of planning and idea generation. I figured, “What the hell, it’s His Day” and took a lie down myself for an hour.

Next it was down to the beach right in front of our condo to try boogie boarding! We have never spent any time on this beach, in spite of the fact that we can walk to it in two minutes. It’s not good for snorkeling and there were always other places to go and things to see.

But this afternoon, it was the perfect answer as we headed out into the surf. It took a few tries, but the first time I actually managed to catch a wave and ride it in, I started laughing and whooping with glee, only to find myself with a mouth and nose full of water as the wave crashed in front of me. Thus was the first of the 3 Truths of Boogie Boarding revealed to me: It isn’t a roller coaster, so you shouldn’t ride with your mouth open.

Anne boogie boarding

Anne with a face full of wave

I had trouble getting the timing right, and seldom managed to actually catch a wave at the perfect moment, but the first time I got it just right, as the Beach Boys’ “Catch a Wave” started playing in my head, a light when on as the second of the 3 Truths of Boogie Boarding came to me: If you get right in front of wave and ride on top of it, it doesn’t crash over your head! When I chastised Steve for neglecting to tell me that he responded, “We hold these truths to be self-evident. . .”

Anne in front a wave

Anne in front a wave

We spent about an hour and a half playing in the surf, during which time I collected a few cups of sand in my drawers. It was as we were reviewing some of the photos about halfway through playtime, being sure we had a few good ones before packing the camera away, that I had a revelatory moment of understanding the third of the 3 Truths of Boogie Boarding: It doesn’t matter how bad you are overall. For a quick second, as long as it takes a camera shutter to click even, you can look like something other than a complete jackass.

Anne riding a wave

Steve riding a wave

Too many fun pics to choose from, so much more below!

Anne boogie boarding

Steve riding a wave

Anne boogie boarding

Steve boogie boarding

Anne boogie boarding

Steve boogie boarding

Anne boogie boarding

Steve boogie boarding

Anne boogie boarding

Anne boogie boarding

Arts & Crafts Day on the North Shore

It’s a rare day on Kaua’i that doesn’t include much in the way of photos, but today was a very low-key day.

We started the day with a drive over to the North Shore to go to the Hanalei Art & Farmer’s Market. The art portion was fairly small, but we did get a few lovely pieces of fruit to enjoy. Afterwards, we drove back towards Princeville for the Kauai Island Crafters’ Fair. This is held at The Church of the Pacific and is also pretty small. Definitely leaning more toward the craft side than the art side.

After lunch, we headed back to Hanalei to stroll around the town area and look in the shops. So far the only places to take our money today were some food vendors. With a couple of hours left before the start of the final fair of the day, we slipped over to Wai’oli Beach Park to lie down in the sand for a little while. Yes, folks, I willingly let Steve take a nap on vacation!

Steve napping on the beach

After our little rest, we headed over to the Kilauea Art Night. This was definitely the best of the art and craft fairs we’ve been to on Kaua’i. Whether or not to our taste, the materials were high quality and clearly made by the people we were speaking to. Although it was in a small area, it was positioned well and allowed for live music in one place and a DJ in another, creating totally different vibes. Lots of food truck options and right next to the Kilauea Fish Market. Very well done.

We finally picked up a small piece – the tree, water, and bird portion of this photograph transferred onto a piece of nicely grained Koa wood, sold to us by the artist himself.

All in all, an easy and pleasant way to spend the day.

Oh, yeah, and here was sunrise!

sunrise from the lanai

Dog Day Afternoon

Finally made it to the shore for sunrise this morning! I must finally be feeling better.

sunrise

sunrise

Today was a brand new activity for us, even though we spent it visiting a few places we’ve been before. Today we took a dog from the Kaua’i Humane Society out for a field trip! What a seriously great program this is! The humane society lets island visitors select a dog that’s been approved for field trips, puts a little “Adopt Me” vest on them, and sends them out for a day in the parks, at the beach, or around town. Recognizing there’s some risk in handing a dog to an unknown person, they take your credit card number to charge you $200 in the event you don’t return the dog. And then, you’re on your way!

The shelter opened at 11:00 today and we wanted to get there right on time. Primarily this was because the dogs have to be returned by 5:30 and we wanted as much time as possible out and about, but we joked about there being a line and not being able to get a dog for the day. Well, perhaps we shouldn’t have joked! We got there at about 11:10 after a quick stop at the discount store to get a towel for the back seat and a wash cloth for paw wiping. By the time we got to the shelter, three other groups had already selecting their dogs for the day, and another few sets were looking through the kennels for their match!

Not all of the dogs are cleared for the activity – some are too new, have just had surgery, or probably haven’t had (or have failed) temperament testing. So we rushed into the kennels and took a look at the dogs that had a golden ticket for the day. I was quickly drawn to Dallas, a brindle pit mix. He was a bit of a larger dog than we had planned on, but brindle coats always draw me in with the way they look like tortoiseshell cats. 🙂

I went up to the desk and told them we’d take Dallas if he was available, and he was! Meanwhile, I noticed the young couple next to me at the desk were taking out William, a young red pit mix. William was going to be our choice if Dallas had already been claimed, and I mentioned it to them. They replied with a grin that Dallas had been their back-up plan, too, and we were all glad that both dogs were getting a day out.

picking up Dallas at the Kauai Humane Society

We had planned to start our day by going to the West Kaua’i Craft Fair in Waimea. However, after driving all the way there, the fair turned out to be two pretty lackluster tables in the park. Maybe it’s better other days. So, we turned around and headed back to the Po’ipu area. Dallas seemed a bit disappointed that the ride was longer than expected and gave a couple of big sighs before settling down for a resigned nap in the back seat.

Dallas hanging in the back seat

We hurried along, and decided to take a break from the drive for a walk around Koloa. It’s only a few miles from Po’ipu, but it presented a good opportunity to walk Dallas around an area where more people might get to see him for adopting purposes, and kind of took the place of the craft fair for the day. Holy cow, did he get attention! Not being a modern day dog owner, I have no idea if this is common or not, but I couldn’t believe the number of excited people asking if they could give Dallas a pat and just gushing over him, young and old alike. Is this what it’s like to walk around with a dog on a daily basis, or was it because we were walking around an area full of people who were missing their own dogs back home and Dallas’ vest clearly marked him as special?

I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that Dallas got lots of love in town.

From Koloa, we drove to Po’ipu to get lunch and then take a walk along the sandstone cliffs at the eastern edge of Shipwrecks beach.

Makawehi Lithified Cliffs

Makawehi Lithified Cliffs

Makawehi Lithified Cliffs

Makawehi Lithified Cliffs

Dallas was perfectly well-behaved in every instance and environment, never tugging on the leash and waiting patiently to gently take the dog biscuit from my fingers. Although his attention was laser-focused, he was even well-behaved when I was eating my Kalua pork lunch. I shared a few small pieces with him, but he never jumped up or took the food from my plate. One particularly funny moment was when I popped a small string of pork in his mouth and he didn’t realize it. He sat there waiting hopefully while the bit of meat sat stuck to his lolling tongue!

The only time he displayed any stubbornness was when we lost sight of Steve on the trail. On a few occasions, Steve would fall behind or walk in a different direction to take a photo. As soon as Steve got out of sight, Dallas would stop and pull back on the leash a little, then, if I didn’t turn around to go back, he’d wait for Steve to reappear before he would budge. Steve said Dallas just wouldn’t leave a man behind.

Anne with Dallas

Wanting to maximize our time with Dallas, we tried to take a quick trip to a beach near Lihue to take one last walk. We got a little off-course, and ended up at the Kuki’i Point Lighthouse instead, a spot we’d never been to before. It was very disappointing to see all of the cast off bits of fishing line strewn all over the point. Yo bros! Respect for the ocean means not leaving your fishing line around for all the ocean critters to get tangled up in!

We were on the point for only about 10 minutes, most of which I spent walking Dallas around, but we still managed to collect a bunch of fishing line. Felt like the smallest drop in the bucket.

fishing line from Kukii Point Lighthouse

Dallas was a very happy dog and quite excited by all the attention he got as we walked around town, and he loved rolling in the grass as we waited for Steve to return with lunch. And, let’s just say, as a boy dog, his excitement was quite visible.

We had a great outing with Dallas! I know Steve had some concerns about it and did it mainly to humor me, but he agreed it was a good day and even used phrases like, “if we do this again. . .”

And here’s possibly the best part of the whole thing – the moment that really stood out to me was when we returned Dallas to the shelter. Every time we got back into the car throughout the day, Dallas would settle in the back seat with a sigh and I imagined he thought we were taking him back. Closer to the end of the day, he started contemplating how to best to become a front seat dog, and Steve commented that he was really working it. The moment I was dreading was pulling back up to the shelter and Dallas looking at us like, “You’re returning me? But I was so good and we had such a fun day!”

In reality, Dallas trotted back into the shelter with his tail wagging, running up to the caretaker who came out to get him with his dinner bowl in her hand. We got his attention to give him a good-bye scratch, but he otherwise might have headed off without a backward glance! He wasn’t stressed by being at the shelter, or depressed to be going back. Thinking back, none of the dogs we saw in the runs that morning had that horrible scared and depressed vibe that makes trips to the shelter so difficult.

Sure, of course it would be better for these dogs to go to a home at night rather than to a run at the shelter, but they get to go out for long field trips, and get lots of love and attention. And the results really show. This is a brilliant program and one that should definitely be replicated in other high tourist, outdoorsy areas. Honestly, as dog-friendly as Marin County is, I’m surprised it isn’t happening there. Maybe they’re too hung up on possible liability.

I only wish there could be a similar program for the cats, but that’s a whole different ball of wax and it just doesn’t work the same way. There were some beautiful kitties there, some of whom locked eyes with us, trying desperately to keep our attention. I can only hope, based on what we saw of the facility and the volunteers working with the animals, that they get love and attention to keep them from getting depressed, too.

After we parted ways with Dallas, I filled out his little fieldtrip diary, talking about how great he was with other dogs he met and with people, both kids and adults, and about how he was both calm and energetic. Having completed my trip evaluation, I read back at the details of his last few days out, where people talked about how great he was just hanging out on the beach, and how he liked to dig in the sand before settling down for a nap.

Steve and I joked that I had taken Dallas on a Death March vacation day just like I usually do for us, with Steve quipping that Dallas was back in his run writing his own evaluation of us – “Crazy lady who tries to do too much. Young dogs only!”

Maybe Dallas was so happy to get back to the shelter because he knew he could finally get a good nap!

Anne with Dallas

Pools of Mokolea

Uggh, still sick. Got up for sunrise, but couldn’t make myself head down to the shore. That’s okay, it was fine, but it wasn’t a particularly spectacular sunrise anyway.

sunrise from the lanai

After a piece of dry toast, I laid down and went back to sleep for another hour and a half. That was definitely the right call. I felt marginally better when I got up and, with the help of a few OTC meds, felt well enough to start the day.

I was actually feeling pretty good for the first few hours and we were able to go on one of the planned shoreline hikes we had put off yesterday. Just east of Kilauea, we headed off to Kahili Beach and the trailhead for the Pools of Mokolea.

This is a hike that we had tried to do back in 2007, but we obviously ended up on the wrong trail and headed down a trash-strewn scary path into the jungle before turning around and walking quickly back to our car.

This time we went online in advance and found the trailhead using a variety of mapping sites and grabbed the exact GPS coordinates. It was so easy to find after that! Perhaps the real trail to the beach was overgrown 9 years ago, or perhaps we just blinked, but we had clearly missed the trail and went on the completely wrong one. This unpaved road to the beach parking lot was in great shape and it was a very short walk from there to the beach and over to the Kilauea River at the west end of the beach.

This was the trickiest part of the hike. Although the surf was fairly calm, we were there at a higher tide than we had planned on if we’d been able to go yesterday. We had to cross the river right where it met the ocean to get over to the trail to the lava bench that forms the pools. I would never have tried this if the surf had been rougher, but Steve and I both had our swimsuits on under our clothes and, as I said to Steve, “what are we here for?” So we stashed our clothes in our backpacks and headed in.

It was only about 15 feet across at that point of the river and 12 of those feet were in water that only came up to our knees or thighs. But right in the middle of the passage, there were 2 to 3 steps that took me into water up to my chest. Again, the waves were not rough, and I wasn’t in any danger, but I was having to carry my backpack over my head to keep our sandwiches, clothes, etc. dry, so it was a bit tricky.

Once across, we headed along the trail that took us back to the coast and the large lava bench that forms the Pools of Mokolea. Gosh, what a beautiful area. We walked along for a while, stopping at a large hole where the ocean surges in and out. It looks like a Jacuzzi, but certainly not one I’d feel comfortable climbing in! Here’s the water at the low, just-been-sucked-out stage, followed by the fuller, water-rushing-in stage.

jacuzzi at Pools of Mokolea

jacuzzi at Pools of Mokolea

At that point, I looked behind us at the coast we had been walking away from and saw just how beautiful a landscape it was.

Steve at Pools of Mokolea

Pools of Mokolea

We continued walking along the lava bench, passing several small tide pools, but they didn’t have many critters in them. Further along, the pools got much bigger, and watching the ocean wash in and out of them was beautiful. We sat watching this area for quite some time while we had our sandwiches.

Anne at Pools of Mokolea

Pools of Mokolea

Pools of Mokolea

A wee bit further along and it wasn’t possible to keep walking, as a large crack in the lava had split the bench in two and the ocean rushed into the gap.

split in lava bench

split in lava bench

We took some pictures at this vantage point of the Kilauea Lighthouse and the large birds hovering over the cliffs.

Kilauea Lighthouse in distance

birds

We also found a couple of spots that will likely become blowholes in a couple hundred thousand years. Right now, they are just gasping bubble-blowers.

Up to this point, I had been feeling pretty good and it was almost like we had our vacation back, but I started to feel sick again as we were leaving the area. Probably my OTC meds had worn off. We got back to the car and headed to Princeville where I hoped I would be able to catch a second wind. The plan was to hike to the Queen’s Bath there, but it was still over an hour before the tide would be low enough for it to be a good idea, so we walked around the shops and sat in the shade while I tried to rally.

I almost made it. We drove to the trailhead against Steve’s better judgement, but the world had other plans and the limited parking area was entirely full. We waited for a few minutes behind another waiting car, but it was obvious no spots would be available soon, and I still wasn’t feeling great, so we decided to put it off for another day, or possibly another trip. This is a hike that really relies on low tide and calm seas, and I had intentionally scheduled it for these first few days on Kaua’i because low tide on the North Shore is either 6 or 7 in the morning, or 7 or 8 at night for the rest of the our trip (sunset is 7pm). It’s possible we might be able to catch it on our last full day here, but it’s not a sure thing, so I’d really wanted to manage it today.

Instead, I continue to feel ill and hope I’ll be back to normal soon. We rested back at the condo for an hour or so before heading out to dinner at a local Italian place we like. Dinner was more than I could manage last night, so hopefully I’m on the mend.

Having My Legs Knocked Out From Under Me

Rain was coming down pretty hard when I got up this morning for the sunrise, but it stopped just in time for me to head out to the shore. Unfortunately, the sunrise was pretty much a non-event, with far too many clouds on the horizon to allow much to be seen.

sunrise from the lanai

sunrise from the lanai

We had other plans for the day that involved heading to the North Shore for a couple of shoreline hikes, but I started feeling ill this morning, and we decided to shift things around on our schedule. I don’t know if it’s the result off yesterday’s sun, or a flu, or something I ate, but it was just not the day to spend on any kind of physical exertion. We were planning on a quiet hang-around-town day later in the trip, so we just moved it to today. It wasn’t really quite as simple as that because things like tide schedules and sea swells were factored into when we were going to do the shoreline hikes, but we’ll just have to make it work on another day.

So, today we walked around downtown Kapa’a a little bit and visited a few shops before having lunch at the Olympic Café. I started feeling worse after lunch and we decided it was best just to head back to the condo to rest. We were going to head to a tour of Coco Palms after a short lie-down, but I had heard someone talking about how demolition had started on the site in advance of the Hilton re-building it, so I was concerned. Although the tour web site is still up and running, I went to Yelp and, sure enough, the most recent reviews indicate that the tour is no longer running. Then I called the phone number on the web site to confirm and got a recorded message saying the tours were over. It sure would be nice if the web site was updated as well, but at least we found out before we drove down there. Instead, we napped longer, which was really just what I needed.

But I hated it. I am not the type to lie around while on vacation. It’s a waste of time. We should be out seeing things. While still not feeling 100%, I was better enough by the evening that we were at least able to head out for the slack-key guitar and ukulele concert we had bought tickets for. Doug and Sandy McMaster give four concerts every week around the island, proceeds going to various community projects, with the one on Wednesday night being held at All Saint’s Church in Kapa’a. This concert is held as a fundraiser to support the church’s project to restore their old pipe organ.

It was a lovely evening, with beautiful music in a small, intimate setting, along with personal stories and the history of slack-key guitar. I highly recommend the McMaster’s concerts as a lovely way to spend a peaceful evening. Going tonight also helped me feel like the day hadn’t been totally wasted.

Doug and Sandy McMaster

It Burns! It Burns!

One of my favorite things about staying in Kapa’a, particularly at the location we keep coming back to, is the view of the sunrise. I don’t let my internal clock fully convert to Hawai’i time, so I manage to rise early and catch the sunrise every morning from the balcony. This particular balcony fronts more trees than some we’ve sat on, though; it’s lovely, but the sun came up *right* behind that tree there. I think tomorrow I’ll need to walk down to the shore.

sunrise from the lanai

As promised to Steve, with the increased number of days on Kaua’i, we were able to get a slower start on our first day here. I had done some research in advance and found that an hour before low tide seems to be a good time to go snorkeling. The only problem with following this guideline, for this trip at least, is that there are only a few days when low tide isn’t way early in the morning or quite late in the evening. Today was one such day, though, and all we needed to do was to get down to the South Shore to snorkel around 1:00. So, we easily managed to leave the condo by 9:30 and start our drive south, having plenty of time for a couple of quick errand stops along the way – for snorkel gear and ice packs for the cooler. We got to Po’ipu at 11:00, walked around a shopping center, ate a leisurely lunch, and then headed to Po’ipu Beach Park.

When we got there, we set down our towels and walked along the strip of sand to the rocks in the middle of the bay to pay homage from a respectful distance to the first Hawaiian monk seal sighted on this trip.

Hawaiian monk seal

Anne with Hawaiian monk seal

As he continued to sun himself, Steve and I hopped into the water right on time at 1:00. The water was a bit rougher than anticipated; I had forgotten to look at the forecast for the swells in the area (which can’t be done as far in advance as the tide schedule), and the choppy water made for some difficulty and high hilarity as I tried to slip on my flippers while contending with the waves.

We finally managed to get underway and saw a fair number of fish, but it wasn’t a huge amount and there were no sea turtles to be seen. It was also pretty crowded people-wise, so we only stayed in the water for about a half an hour before taking a break to sit in the sun.

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Steve snorkeling

Anne snorkeling

Anne snorkeling

A short time later, we decided to go back in sans snorkel gear and just lounged in the warm water for a while, sometimes letting the waves carry us to the center sand bar where I once “beached” myself and made seal noises. Vacation mode achieved.

As our fingers started to wrinkle, we left the beach and continued along the South Shore, making quick stops at Spouting Horn and the glass beach. Our intent had been to drive all the way to the end of the road at Polihale State Park to watch the sunset. Unfortunately, it was becoming uncomfortably clear that the sunscreen I had used earlier in the day had totally failed me. Although I had slathered it on about 15 minutes before getting in the water, and we’d only been at the beach for about 90 minutes from the time we first got into the water, and the sunblock was supposed to be water resistant for 80 minutes, I was turning a brighter shade of fuchsia than should have resulted from the extra 10 minutes. I was kind of feeling the need for a shower and a chance to start slathering myself in aloe, and Steve was in easy agreement, so we decided to postpone our sunset viewing to another time and started the drive back to Kapa’a.

We did stop at the Hanapepe Valley on the way back, taking our time in the late afternoon light to enjoy the beautiful valley overlook.

Hanapepe Valley

Under the harsher lights back at the condo, the extent of my sunburn became clearer and I quickly began the aloeing that will get me past the worst of the burn. Some may call this a rookie mistake, but I SWEAR I applied lots of sunblock! Looking at reviews online for the brand afterward revealed lots of complaints by other people who’ve gotten bad burns. Shoulda done the research in advance.

sunburned Anne

sunburned Anne

Kaua’i, Here We Come!

Our previous trips to Hawai’i have always involved us splitting our time between two islands, spending about 5-6 days on Kaua’i and another week elsewhere. This trip, I was able to convince Steve that we should spend the entire time on Kaua’i, my favorite island. It made sense in a couple of ways. Financially, the flights were about half the cost, without the addition of the inter-island flight plus the extra baggage fees, and getting a great round trip deal that wouldn’t have been available for a multi-island trip. It also made sense time-wise so the trip might not feel like the Death March that Steve usually complains about. With a full 10 days on Kaua’i, I didn’t need to pack so many activities into just 5 days!

Plus, did I mention this is my favorite island? So, off we went for our long stay on Kaua’i!

Arriving on Kauai

Arriving on Kauai

Of course, the first stop we make when we get to any of the islands is a stock-up trip to Costco, getting foodstuffs to start us out in the condo we rent. But from there, our second stop, and the first after getting settled into the condo, was for a happy hour at a new place in town, Lava Lava Beach Club. Run by the same proprietors as Huggo’s in Kona, this place has a great relaxed seating area on the beach and good happy hour prices. This was a super way to spend our first night on the island, as we get acclimated to the idea of slowing down for a few days.

Mai Tai at Lava Lava Beach Club

View from Lava Lava Beach Club