Spent 10 days in the Pacific Northwest in August 2012, traipsing around Vancouver Island with family. Blessed and blissed with fantastic weather and more natural beauty in a week than anyone has a right to. Old growth forests and craggy cliffs, a wild sea full of salmon, sea lions, humpback whales, otters. Sea kayaking, touring through the Broken Group islands, hiking some of the most amazing trails I’ve ever witnessed. One peak experience after another.
Vancouver Island may be an island, but it’s a big island – it was ambitious of us even to try and circle its lower half in a week. And distances are longer than you think, with one-lane roads being the norm, as well as frequent closures for maintenance, accidents, etc. If we had it to do over, we’d probably cut a couple cities out of the itinerary and stay put more. But we did get a great “Whitman’s sampler” overview of what the island has to offer.
Once again frustrated by the quality of smartphone photos in forest conditions, but managed to salvage a hundred or so keepers. This is the last time I’ll do a major trip with just an iPhone for a camera. The convenience is tops, but Apple just can’t seem to solve the forest/greenery problem.
It’s sometimes said that Kauai is the last remaining vestige of “the old Hawaii” or “the real Hawaii” – the last bastion of island life as it was before much of it was taken over by hotel chains and tourism. Kauai isn’t without its share of commercialism, but it’s true that it’s almost entirely free of high-rise hotels, and that natural wonders abound.
At the same time, some of your old-school stereotypes about Hawaii just aren’t going to come true. Visitors are no longer greeted on the tarmac with a flower lei around the neck, you aren’t going to hear ukulele concerts or witness spontaneous hula dances on every corner, and luaus are no longer organic affairs where people sit around on the beach sipping Mai Tais and picking meat off a pit-grilled pig, scooping three-finger poi with bare hands.
To be fair, your visions of stereotypical Hawaiian nature are still real, while the stereotypes you may hold of Hawaiian culture are probably not.
View Kauai in a larger map The two blue marker points show where we stayed on our two-week Kauai adventure.
Kauai is encircled – for the most part – by a single road running through a dozen or so major towns. You can drive around the entire island in a couple of hours (note that “driving through” does not equal “exploring,” and that driving the outer rim will only get you to the beach towns, not to the juicy jungles that comprise Kauai’s interior). I say “for the most part” because the insane terrain of the Napali coast has proven impenetrable to road builders – it’s simply not possible to build a drivable road through the mountains of the northwest coast.
You won’t find the “real” Kauai by hanging around in the downtown areas. But if you make an effort to get even a little off the beaten path, you will find yourself surrounded by nature at its most powerful. Kauai is a volcanic wonderland of dense jungle, incredible ocean life, succulent wild fruit, and loose chickens.
Throw yourself into the environment, and you won’t be able to avoid swimming in impossibly blue/green waters, inhaling the cleanest air your nostrils have ever encountered (remember you’re surrounded on all sides by thousands of miles of wild Pacific). You will find that the Aloha spirit is omnipresent and real. You will find yourself slowing down, being reminded why you’re walking this earth, and what nature at its most raw can do for your soul.
In June/July 2010, we spent two weeks in Kauai, staying in two different houses with two different families, in two very different environments. In the end, I shot more than a thousand photos. Thought I’d turn all my vacation notes and photos into a quick blog entry on return; the process ended up taking a couple of days — which was OK since I needed that time just to transition back to “real” life and get the hang of cold weather and the absence of snorkeling grounds outside my back door. Editing the photos down to a “mere” 470 and filling in the details from my notes turned out to be the perfect obsessive/compulsive transitional gig.
Photos: Here’s the Flickr standard photo set view, but much better is the Flickr lightbox view. I’ve also embedded a slideshow version below, but for best results dim the lights, put some Hawaiian music on the hi-fi, and put your browser in full-screen mode.
Note: I lost my camera on the very last day — turned out I left it under the seat in the rental car — so the set isn’t quite complete. Fortunately I had been backing up the camera’s contents to iPhoto throughout the trip, so had an almost complete set. Super-lucky news is that Budget Rent-a-Car in Lihue found the camera and is returning it to me; I’ll add the final images when it arrives. Thanks Budget! Continue reading →
An interesting bit of cultural relativism: Met a woman who told us that when her baby had a runny nose (babies can’t blow their noses; it’s very hard to get their noses clean), she would put her mouth over his nose and suck out the snot, then spit it out. “It’s my baby and I love him. What is the harm?” Then she told us that when a breastfeeding friend had pain from engorgement, her husband sucked out the milk to relieve the pain. She was careful to emphasize that he spit it out. What interested me was that she saw both acts as being on the same grossness par. I’d expect it would be rare to find an American woman who would be willing to suck out her baby’s snot; but it’s probably not uncommon for men to sample their nursing wives’ breast milk. Continue reading →
A prevalence of speakers mounted on top of cars driving around announcing upcoming concerts etc. in a funky patois. Why did this practice disappear in the States? Last I saw it was in John Waters’ “Polyester.” Continue reading →
Amy’s and my fourth wedding anniversary. Landed in Mobay and traveled by van to Negril. Our driver is the gregarous Jinx Elegant, couldn’t ask for a better info source for first hour trip. Taking in the roadside shacks, hand-painted signs. Many shacks do double service as businesses and homes — people live and sleep in them, but also serve lunch from the front stoop. Passed one labeled “Rastarant.” Continue reading →