Kaua'i vacation: September 20-October 1, 2001
Posted on The WELL by David Gans
Getting out of Oakland by air was much less of a hassle than we had been led
to expect. While customers of other airlines had their bags opened and
searched, Aloha's passengers checked their bags as usual. The only thing
different about getting on this airplane was an additional security check
before the regular security screening, where we were required to show our
picture ID and our tickets. Nothing unusual happened at the regular security
checkpoint; my computer and Baby Taylor guitar sailed through.
Reva and Jerry arrived from O'ahu around the same time as our flight arrived,
and we're sharing a rental car. We had a great cheap lunch at Hamura Saimin,
just off Rice Street in Lihu'e. Similar to the pho we get at home, but with
thicker noodles. Excellent lilikoi pie for dessert, too!
We're staying on the north shore of Kaua'i, not far from the end of the road
(and the eastern end of the Na Pali Coast). The Hale Makai cottages
(www.hanalei-vacations.com/), on One One Road (just past the driveway of
CHARO'S, no longer a restaurant but recently reopened as a bar), a mile west
of Wainiha (barely a village -- a general store, shave ice stand and gift
shop across Kuhio Highway from the beach at Wainiha Bay), are modest '70s-
vintage (I'm guessing) houses with tin roofs, cheap furnishings, ceiling
fans, and modest but fully-functional kitchens with a reasonable array of
cooking utensils, dishes and flatware.
Our one-bedroom cottage costs $155 per day (there's a discount if you stay
for two weeks); the fourth unit in this compound is a two-bedroom that goes
for $200, so if we're willing to share a kitchen and a bathroom, we could
double up with another couple next time and save a few bucks. Our bedroom is
very close to the house on the adjacent property, so we occasionally overhear
other people's lives (and vice versa, I suppose) -- but it's not really a
bother. The sound of the ocean masks a lot of other stuff. The main road is
far enough away that we never hear it.
Being this close to the water is priceless. The surf is visible from our
living room, and the sound of it is ever-present and soothing. Rita's and my
cottage is the farthest from the beach -- a 50-foot walk to the edge of the
property, then down a three-foot slope to the beach, another 20 feet to the
The phone is part of the deal, and all island calls are local and free.
There's an Earthlink POP, so we can check in online whenever we want.
We arrived at the compound late in the afternoon of September 20, just in
time to see the president address the joint session of congress. After that,
only rarely did anyone in our party turn on the television. I caught a
little of MSNBC here and there -- enough to be frightened about what is going
on in the big world -- but I chose to remain in bliss mode and switched to
The Weather Channel or KVIC (the Kaua'i Visitor Information (and trivia)
Channel), or, more often, hit the OFF switch. Reality will descend upon us
-- or we'll descend back into it -- soon enough.
There is a utility room in the compound with a washing machine for our use as
well as that of the crew who clean the cottages between guests (they don't
come in while we're there). This is a huge convenience, and the next time we
come here we won't bring nearly as many changes of clothing.
There are lots of kids and quite a few dogs in this tiny neighborhood; lots
of non-upscale private residences -- many occupied by permanent residents,
many by daily/weekly transients -- and a not-terribly-opulent resort across a
stone fence to the east of us . Visitors and kama'aina troop through our
compound to get to the beach and back. Everyone is friendly. The place seems
safe enough that we don't lock our doors unless we're leaving the premises,
and even then we don't bother closing all the louvered glass windows which
would be easy to penetrate if you wanted in.
A young woman named Terry passes through once or twice a day, carrying a
naked blond toddler (and, in utero, his sibling) whose universe is, at this
moment, enviably Eden-like. The dogs, too, seem to have a pretty fine time of
it around here.
The three couples -- Rita and me, Reva and Jerry, and Jen and Drew (who
arrived two days after the rest of us, after spending some time surfing and
diving on O'ahu with Jen's daughters) -- have breakfast and lunch separately
most days, and collaborate on dinners. We coordinate our shopping
expeditions and pool our CD collections (which grow over the course of the
week, along with our respective Aloha shirt and pareo collections). Every
day we go into Hanalei, where the Wishing Well shave ice stand (actually, a
large defunct panel van that is towed there six days a week by the couple who
run it, from noon to 5, more or less), the Big Save grocery store, and
various shops are located.
There is a produce stand on the other side of Kuhio Highway and down the road
a bit from the Wishing Well. We buy pineapples and mangoes and huge avocados
there. The pineapples are less acidic, more juicy and vastly more flavorful
than the ones you get in California; Rita said, "I don't know why we even
bother eating them on the mainland," and after a few days of these pineapples
I agree with her wholeheartedly.
Sun 23 Sep 01 17:35
This afternoon, just as we were getting ready to head into town for our daily
shave ice run, a dead body was discovered in the water right outside Reva and
Jerry's cottage. A pair of beach-walkers found the man and came up to ask
Jerry to call the authorities.
It was a Hawaiian man, in corduroy cutoffs and reef shoes. One of the EMTs
recognized him, said he was developmentally disabled; surmises he was fishing
on the reef, fell and hit his head (his face was bloody) and drowned. They
think he was in the water overnight.
This all started happening around 90 minutes ago. A van just came to pick up
I have never seen a dead person before.
Aside from that, it's been a glorious, dolce-far-niente-for-the-most-part,
trip. Snorkeling, watching the sky, meals at home with friends, and
listening to Donna the Buffalo through the speakers in the TV set 'cause
there's no stereo in any of our houses.
My old friend Dan R. is on the island with his fiancee, Gretchen (their
wedding was postponed from 9/16 to 11/11). We ran into them by accident in
the Princeville shopping center the afternoon we arrived, and they came over
for dinner that night. In an hour or so we're all going over to Kapa'a to
meet Dan and Gretchen for a fine meal at A Pacific Cafe, which those who know
say is a world-class restaurant.
Mon 24 Sep 01 07:17
Saturday I spent some serious up-close time with a lovely sea turtle. It was
eatin' seaweed and stuff on the reef where we were snorkeling, and it allowed
me to hang out nearby for a very long time. It was a magical encounter.
Lots of other cool sights in that same venture, including a tightly-packed
school of silver, almond-shaped fish with huge black eyes that swam in close
formation in the same general area, changing direction simultaneously -- and
then streaming off in a narrow column, swimming around in a circle 15 yards
in diameter for a while, then regrouping into the tight cloud. Amazing.
(Later, Reva picked up a book on the fishes of Hawai'i and said to me, "You
know those big-eyed fish we saw scads of? They're called big-eye scad.")
Also of note are the pack of local dogs who hang out here in our compound.
Jimmy, Hoku, Sadie, and Loki are the regulars. They came over and hung with
Rita and me while we watched the sunrise just now.
Tue 25 Sep 01 09:52
Yesterday Rita and I went down to Poipu to spend the day with Dan and
Gretchen. They're staying at the Hyatt down there at the southern end of the
island, and we spent the afternoon swimming around in the hotel's gigantic
lagoons -- two fresh-water and one salt-water, with a water slide to boot.
Today I am missing the morning snorkel run to Ke'e beach to take care of some
book business (Da Capo sent me two HIDEOUS cover possibilities)...
Thu 27 Sep 01 07:17
Yesterday, just before sunset, a big ol' rainbow right in front of us. One
end came down right over there in the middle of Wainiha Bay, and the other
was out on the ocean. For a few moments there were traces of second and
third rainbows visible at the Bay end. Awesome.
Sat 29 Sep 01 13:33
A peak day in the water at Ke'e beach. Maximum variety and density of fish,
letting us get really close to them in the shallow water at low tide.
The water right here at Wainiha Bay is a little too rippy to go in safely,
but Ke'e is not far from here, and if Ke'e is turbulent, Tunnels is even
The other day we went all the way over to Anini, between Princeville and
Kilauea, because the two nearer sites were too fizzy. If the surfers are
happy, the snorkelers won't be. Anini had calm waters, but the undersea
sights weren't anywhere near as thrilling.
What the water outside our house is really good for right now is watching the
surf. The sky is clear, with an occasional clump of clouds coming through to
drop a half a minute of rain, and the wind is high. So the surf is
happening, ad the water under the brilliant sunshine is many varieties of
blue and green.
I am sitting in a comfy chair inside the cottage, and I can see plenty of the
ocean from right here.
Every morning we watch the sun come up, and every evening we watch it go down
over the Na Pali Coast. To the north we see 200 degrees of Pacific horizon,
always showing clouds, and every sunrise and every sunset is different.
Sat 29 Sep 01 19:02
The sun has set. All the clouds are now purple-gray, except for the high
thin layer that rides above this thick tropical air -- that's a backdrop of
muted magenta, with a nearly-full moon shining bright in the east.
A while ago, the small clouds directly overhead were the same gold color as
the sand beneath our feet. Out across the sea, to the west and north and
east, there were thick clumps of billowing clouds, gray on their bottoms and
brilliant white on top, sharp against the rich blue sky. As the sun went
down at the edge of the Earth, the shadow of the planet darkened these
immense cities in the sky while the still-strong sunlight set fire to the
tops. Soon, all we saw were raging pink tufts above purple-gray cloud banks.
And then all was gray in the distance, and magically the clouds that faced us
began to regain their contours in a lower-contrast grey-on-grey palette. And
the moon got brighter and brighter.
Next door, they're playing croquet.
Two boys from down the road are playing with elaborate structures they built
from driftwood, rocks and coral down near the water. Sand crabs skitter here
and there. Half a mile east of us, in sheltered Wainiha Bay, a fisherman has
two lines in the water; a third has something dangling from it, and he's on
his way over there to retrieve his catch.
The neighborhood dogs come and go, singly and in groups. My favorite is
still Jimmy, all white with pale speckles, especially on his ears, with huge
proud dog balls behind and warm brown eyes and snout in front. Sadie, mother
of many litters, is black and chunky and still pretty frisky. Hoku, younger
and slimmer and longer-haired than Sadie but every bit as thoroughly black,
passes by our screen door often because he knows I've got treats that I'm
happy to share.
There's a carpenter working on the now-vacant fourth cottage, and he has his
black bitch, Tina, with him. Tina has had 16 puppies and is now fixed, the
worker tells us. Her black fur is shorter still, exposing pink flesh on her
There are a couple more dogs -- Loki, a boxer-something mix, and Little Bit,
a little white terrier -- but neither of them is as friendly as Jim, Hoku,
Sadie or Tina. They blow through on their way to other destinations now and
then, but they don't visit.
Several times today, I have had all four of my canine pals romping with me on
the lawn between the cottages. They groom each other, and they are generous
with their kisses for the humans, too.
After our nearly two-hour snorkeling excursion this morning, we came back to
the houses to clean up. Reva and Jerry and Rita went off to look at the
rental property newly acquired by jereva's friends the Schaubs; Drew and Jen
went into Hanalei for lunch; I stayed here to listen to music and devour more
of the New Yorker magazines that Reva has been bringing over as she finishes
with them. Drew and Jen came back, disappeared into their place for a nap,
and then emerged an hour or so later ready to go to town. Shave ice!
The other car, with Reva and Rita and Jerry, arrived just as we were pulling
out. Rita still had a little of her shave ice left, and she held it up
triumphantly -- "Li hing mui and passion fruit!"
Today I had what Jerry had yesterday: coffee shave ice over chocolate ice
cream. Yesterday I had li hing mui (a sort of sour plum taste) with coconut
flakes and condensed milk. Another day, I had vanilla (blue!) shave ice;
another day, root beer shave ice over vanilla ice cream. The vanilla ice
cream didn't taste like much of anything under the ice, but a scientist has
to experiment, y'know?
Drew and Jen are leaving first thing tomorrow morning. We're going into town
for dinner at the Postcards Cafe, all six of us. The rest of the party
leaves Monday morning, so Rita and Reva and Jerry and I will have two more
sunrises, one more day of snorkeling, one more visit to the Wishing Well
shave ice truck, one more sunset, one or two or three more romps with the
Sun 30 Sep 01 08:04
Last night we went to dinner at Postcards, in Hanalei. There were two cats
hanging out in the dining room, both of whom spent time in various laps at
The food was excellent. I had Thai-style "summer rolls," and Rita had crab
chowder. Two other members of our party had those same things; Drew had the
"poke salad," with tofu cubes and lots of salad type vegetables, and Jen had
the taro fritters. For our entrees, everyone except the vegetarian (Drew)
had grilled fish of one kind or another, with one of three sauces: macadamia
butter, peppered pineapple sage, or ginger honey mustard. Drew had a coconut
curry vegetable dish -- "spicy, please." Many dishes were passed around;
everyone who wanted a taste of something got it, and everyone was happy.
For dessert, we ordered three items and six sets of utensils. The lilikoi
(passion fruit) mousse was exquisite: tart and sweet and smooth. The
pineapple upside-down cake surprised everyone by being light, two-layered,
not walled with pineapple rings, and topped with a small but potent amount of
caramel. The third dessert, macadamia nut pie (billed as a variant on pecan
pie), was flavorless, the only truly disappointing note in an otherwise
When we got back to the compound, we stood outside and watched the sky in awe
for a while. The nearly-full moon, shining bright, stood against a patch of
black sky, framed by clouds. The palm trees in our yard were silhouetted by
this moonlight, which glinted off the leaves as they stirred in the breeze.
Backlit clouds moved swiftly overhead, still leaving plenty of stars for our
We were in bed by 10, I'd say, and by 10:15 there was a pounding and
persistent rain on the tin roof.
This morning the cloud cover was solid overhead, but in the direction of the
sunrise there was a generous gap in the clouds into which poured the filtered
beams of the morning sun. This gave the purple canopy a pink glow, and over
by the horizon we could see the florid tops of the cloud banks catching fire.
Soon there were golden beams shining into this atmospheric theater, with
some clouds casting shadows into the canopy toward us. More red, then gold,
and then the full disc of the sun made its appearance. Off to the north, the
clouds were dumping rain into the ocean; here, we were allowed to stay dry as
we enjoyed the show.
Sun 30 Sep 01 08:31
And now, at 8:30 am, we are pinned down by a real rainstorm. There is no sky
Sun 30 Sep 01 10:44
An hour later, the rain has stopped long enough for Rita to take off for the
beach. Jerry and Reva have decided that yesterday's snorkeling at Ke'e was
so perfect that it couldn't be topped, so they're staying home. I am sore
from yesterday, and chilled at the thought of going in the water -- and
intimidated by the unbroken thickness of rain cloud that covers the Pacific
to the north and is already dumping rain out there. Whereas the sky for most
of our visit has been clear with larger and smaller gatherings of clouds,
today it is mostly clouds, showing blue through a few thin spots and only
occasionally letting actual sunbeams reach the ground. So I'm sitting here
in the cottage with Jim snoozing at my feet, listening to Gabby Pahinui and
watching the surf outside the door. What sunlight there is out there seems
to illuminate the whitecaps and waves while the ocean reflects the slate-gray
clouds; there is a warm blue visible under the curl of some of the waves as
they rise and then fall.
Visibility is extremely limited at 10:30. I can't see Princeville any more,
and -- here comes the rain again, driven by a chill wind. This is not the
friendly, tropical splash we've enjoyed all week. I'm going to put on long
pants and socks, and I expect Rita to drive back into the compound any second
now. The wind whistles in the palm fronds and the raindrops pound on the tin
roof. Jim, who moved inside the screen door a while ago -- and who I did not
order right back out again as usual -- snoozes through it, stirring
occasionally to curl in on himself a little more for warmth.
We are planning to go down Kapa'a way for some shopping later, and today we
may need our rain gear for the first time.
Sun 30 Sep 01 11:36
And now, another hour later, the sky above is blue, and so is the sea; the
two boy builders just ambled by on their way to their construction site on
the beach; the huge bank of clouds to the north are white and puffy on top;
Jim the dog is still sound asleep at my feet.
I'm going for a walk on the beach!
Rita returned very happy from her solo schnorkel. She went to Tunnels, and
she saw plenty of cool stuff. It rained hard, and she came close to the
beach at times, just to be safe, but she stayed in the water. Toward the end
of her excursion she saw a turtle -- "I'm so glad I stayed there as long as I
By now the weather was back to Kaua'i as usual: patchy clouds, pale blue
skies, a reasonable breeze. Rita and I got in the car to drive to the
Coconut Marketplace, just south of Kapa'a, in search of reasonably-priced
Aloha shirts for me and maybe some gifts, too. We found two nice shirts for
me, and a couple of silly presents for Goldie, my business manager. Rita
shopped a little but didn't buy anything. Then we headed back toward the
North Shore for our daily visit to the Wishing Well shave ice truck.
The nice couple greeted us warmly. We've stopped there every day, including
the two days they weren't open (Monday is their scheduled down day; last
Sunday the weather was unpromising, and when they arrived at their spot in
their pickup truck with the disabled van/shave ice stand in tow, they saw
that there were only two cars in the parking lot -- and they belong to
workers at Kayak Kaua'i -- so they took the day off). When we mentioned that
this was our last visit, they insisted on treating us and refused to take no
for an answer. So I ordered one of the combinations -- a "sweet and sour"
special whose name I can't recall -- and Rita ordered li hing mui and guava.
We both had condensed milk on top -- yum!
We also wanted to bring one back to the compound for Reva. The Wishing Well
people also refused to take money for that one - "Is this for your friend who
has been here with you every day?" So when you go to Kaua'i, go to the
Wishing Well shave ice stand because they are the nicest people!
In the days following the arrival of our deceased neighbor, we watched the
newspaper for more information about who he was and how he died. On the
second day after the discovery, the Garden Island newspaper reported that a
body had washed ashore but said that the gender, age and cause of death were
unknown. The day after that, the paper said "no foul play" but offered no
Our group was looking for a little closure. Drew called the police
department, trying to learn the man's name, but the detective refused on some
vague pretext. Finally, a day ot two later, the Garden Island printed the
name and age of the deceased.
Some of our party built a heiau at the top of the embankment between our yard
and the beach. They stacked rocks and chunks of coral in a roughly pyramidal
heap, with a fresh pineapple on top and a couple of leis, and we had a little
ceremony to bid him farewell
The next day, Rita decorated a flat rock ("Marc Arakawa (1956-2001)") and
placed it on the side that faces the sea.