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The Garden Isle

I spent my last week in Hawai`i on Kaua`i, "The Garden Isle". For many people, this is their favorite Hawai`ian island because of the lush vegetation. One example is the famous Tree Tunnel on the road to Koloa and Poipu. It was damaged severely by Hurricane Iniki but with good sunshine and plentiful rainfall, it has come back — still not perfect but time will heal this storm-inflicted damage.

Since I was staying in Poipu, this refreshing sight greeted me on my way home after every hard day of work. I know you are still snickering wondering how one could work hard taking photographs — but I assure you it was arduous.

Don't believe me? Here is Wailua Falls. Kaua`i has many beautiful waterfalls simply because of the amount of rain that falls generally but specifically on Mt. Waialeale. This waterfall is quite accessible — you can drive right up to it, park and stroll to the fence and look down at both the falls and the pond below.

Notice I said, "look down". Now check the angle of the photo. Yes, I climbed down a steep, muddy trail — so steep that previous climbers have left climbing ropes tied to trees to facilitate the descent and the returning ascent. And I had to do all this carrying my camera over my shoulder. It was a challenge but I think the resulting photo is worth it — few visitors will get this view of Wailua Falls.

If you decide to visit Kaua`i and Wailua Falls, do let me know if you take the challenge.

Next stop, Waimea Canyon. Just like the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Waimea Canyon on Kaua`i has been carved by flowing water. In both cases, it has resulted in incredible views of rock strata that remind us of the geological forces that built the original landmass then exposed the strata by erosion. As a result, Waimea Canyon is often referred to as "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific".

And I have to confess, in my opinion, the photos of both canyons do not do them justice. You have to see them in person! Do plan a trip to Kaua`i at some time in your lifetime and, on that trip, do visit Waimea Canyon. Another tip, call the Kokee Lodge to check the weather before your drive — morning generally has fewer clouds.

And when you go, take time to look carefully. For instance, you will see waterfalls such as Moeloa Falls — and helicopters noisily taking tourists for a closer look. You will also likely see soaring birds. And goats climbing over the cliffs making a living eating the sparse vegetation that they can reach.

Some people may find enjoyment in hiking some of the trails into the canyon. I met a couple who were staying at the same B&B who did it. They said it was spectacular — although they got soaked as they hiked. I was lucky the day I went and experienced beautiful weather. I suspect they may have found it even more spectacular if they had hiked in better weather.

You may or may not recall that Jurassic Park contained many scenes of canyons and waterfalls that were filmed on Kaua`i. In fact, the closing credits were run over scenes of Hurricane Iniki which hit just as the film crew was finishing their stay on the island. Other movies have also shot footage on Kaua`i but that's another story.

When you visit Waimea Canyon do follow the road to the end where you will encounter the overlook which provides an incredible view of Kalalau Valley. This valley actually is a break in the cliffs of the Na Pali coast. The cliffs have been eroded into sharp chisel-like slabs that are not commonly seen elsewhere.

In fact, it intrigued me so much that I later took a boat cruise to see more of the Na Pali Coast — and the views were incredible. We then went over to Niihau, "The Forbidden Isle" (so named because non-Hawai`ians are generally not allowed to go there). The boat operators do have permission to anchor off the north end of the island and allow their passengers to snorkel in the beautiful clear, blue-green waters in that area. The ride up the coast and over to Niihau was wonderful although the ride back was a bit rough — and the crew said it was one of the best days weather-wise that they had ever seen.

Sorry no pictures from the cruise because Hawai`ian and Aloha airlines seem to have lost one of my suitcases which contains the charger and cables for the Epson P-5000 where I have all my photos stored. Fortuitously, I did carry the P-5000 in my carry-on case — I just can't get the photos off yet.

Of course, Kaua`i does have spectacular ocean waves...and crazy kids who will jump off the cliffs into those waves. One guy really was not a kid — he claimed (and looked) to be 55. If true, I would have thought he would have known better.

More touring brought me back to Kilauea Lighthouse where I had visited on a previous trip and had taken a pretty nice photo back when we all used film — in my case, slide film. I have scanned that slide and wanted to use it but there was one problem — someone reading a posting on the door of the lighthouse. I tried to be patient but eventually took the picture anyway — she was a slow reader. Later I discovered Photoshop and took the lady out of the photo. This trip, there were not as many people and I could be patient to get a number of clear shots.

There were a lot of birds — some nesting just off the walkway — others on the steep hill to the side of this point of land — and some flying overhead.

And on the grounds of the lighthouse were several Nene — the Hawai`ian Goose — the state bird — Branta sandwicensis. It is a relative of the Canadian Goose but has evolved less webbing on its feet, resulting in a more claw-like appearance, as a result of living on lava fields.

It is an endangered species due to predation of its eggs and young by introduced species such as mongoose, pigs and cats. The state is working hard to preserve the Nene and there are some 3,000 individuals (according to an estimate by the Honolulu Zoo that I found online).

Because they evolved in Hawai`i prior to the arrival of humans, they do not seem to fear people as do most wild geese. That probably was a factor that lead to their decline — an easy meal for a hungry Hawai`ian.

The day that I visited Waimea Canyon, I found something interesting in a little strip mall where I stopped for lunch. Now that is one Big Aloha Shirt! I have seen some big Hawai`ians but can you imagine the size of the guy who would wear this shirt? I just had to share.

And I cannot leave Kaua`i without a visit to a nice beach. Thanks to Jami, who owns the Poipu B&B where I stayed, for recommending that I visit Maha`ulepu Beach at the end of a dirt road at the end of Poipu. This is really an awesome beach with some lava outcroppings but lots of pristine sand. In fact, the beach must run at least a mile — which is quite large by Hawai`ian standards — and the sand dunes covered in vegetation (seen in the background of this photo) are a special treat.

An historic note is also in order — this is the spot where legend says King Kamehameha landed on Kaua`i in his effort to unite the Hawai`ian islands under his rule. The leader of Kaua`i decided to pledge his loyalty to Kamehameha rather than enter into a bloody battle that he would most likely lose.

And thanks again to Jami for her hospitality at the Poipu Bed & Breakfast. Except for one night, I was the only guest in the four-bedroom house. It was originally a plantation-style home and later sold and moved across the creek to the current location. Someone bought the home and transformed it into a B&B by adding bathrooms to each of the bedrooms.

I would highly recommend staying here but Jami and her husband are planning to retire and are closing the B&B later this month. I consider myself very lucky to have found this wonderful little spot of paradise.


Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com