Saturday, December 13, 2008

Kauai trip recap

Here are some photos and a summary of our trip to Kauai with the kids and my parents, Dean and Linda.
I already wrote about our first 3 days in a previous post.
Friday Dec. 5
A few minute walk from our condo gets us to Poipu beach, where we do some snorkeling and the kids played in the sand. Some endangered monk seals spend their days sleeping on the beach here, and locals rope off an area of beach around them so they can rest without being bothered by people.
The sheltered swim area at Poipu beach (above) is great for kids.
Dean enjoys a crossword puzzle and the feral chickens while the rest of us play in on the beach.
A monk seal naps on the beach.

Saturday Dec. 6
I got in a coastline run before sunrise. Then we packed everyone into our 2 rental cars and headed to the north side. We spent the afternoon at Hanalei beach, shown below.

Sunday December 7 - a lazy day.

Monday December 8
I twisted my back at the tide pools at shipwreck beach in front of Hyatt. Waimea Canyon, which wreaked havoc with our scuba diving plans over the next 3 days. At any rate, we spent Monday at Waimea canyon, a 10 mile long, 3000 foot deep canyon. Quite impressive. The photos below don't really do it justice. My mom & dad went to Beach House for a fancy dinner while Amy and I entertained the kids at the condo.
Amy and Elizabeth at the top of Kalalau valley.
Tuesday December 9
Mom & dad took a helicopter tour and had the front seats. Amy and I did that last time we were here so we saved our $400 for other things, like the chiropractor I unfortunately had to visit while Amy & the kids played at shipwreck beach and made a sandcastle. Andrew collected shells and coral bits.

Shipwreck beach at sunrise

Andrew and Elizabeth in front of their sand castle.

Wednesday December 10
Amy, Linda and kids rode the train at Kilohana Plantation. Dean and I went to Poipu beach to snorkel, but dad couldn't get the hang of breathing through the snorkel and didn't like the choppy surf, so I went out briefly by myself. Amy and Linda went to botanical gardens and picked some amazing star fruit while dad and I played with the kids at the pool. Amy snorkeled at Lawai beach - best snorkelling yet, and I missed it. This was the end of the good weather - overnight and into Thursday morning we got a downpour of about 4 inches of rain.

Thursday December 11
Amy and I tried to snorkel at Lawai again after 4 inches of overnight rain and gale force winds. After 2 minutes in the water, Amy says "I can't see s**t". She was right. We gave up. Next we took the kids to Wailua falls (below) and Opaeka'a falls, not to mention their favorite spot on the island, Lydgate park, which has an amazing "play bridge"; an elaborate structure and maze with a big bridge. Mom & dad toured the coffee plantation while we were out with the kids, and we enjoyed a nice weather day in between storms. We decided to cook our own fresh fish dinner again tonight - this time grilled swordfish, wild rice and an excellent stir fry. Yummy.

My back got 90% better after diving into pool after dinner. No idea why that would fix it. Andrew is diving - head first - into the pool now, without goggles! To celebrate my ability to once again move without terrible pain, Amy and I went to the Stevenson's Library bar at the nearby swanky Grand Hyatt where I enjoyed a $16 organic margarita and $8 beer from a can. At least we got in 2 games of pool and enjoyed the live jazz band for no extra charge.

Wailua Falls (above)

Andrew dives!

Friday December 12
More rain fell overnight, but this morning we had a few hours of respite with just a few sprinkles, so we took the kids on a hike along the coastal cliffs (below). Andrew insisted on going back this afternoon to his favorite spot - the play bridge - despite the rain. Amy and I each bought $30 used wet suits, which I promptly used during my surf lesson in the rain. We had our hearts set on pizza for dinner, and checked reviews on the internet, our guide book, and by asking the locals before finally choosing Brick Oven Pizza in nearby Kalaheo town (a 15 minute drive). It was worth it. Great pizza, but pretty pricy, like most things on the island.

Hiking the south coast of Kauai

Saturday December 13

Our last day on Kauai was wet. I started the day with a run in pouring rain and wind, which was a refreshing change from the cold rain in Colorado. The rain slowed long enough for a brief walk in the tide pools again where Amy spotted a very cool sea snake slithering around in a little pool. I convinced Andrew that the rain didn't matter if you're in the pool, so enjoyed so more father-son bonding time while Elizabeth napped and I watched him repeatedly dive in to the pool. Hopefully our flight home will be on time - if so, we'll arrive at 6 am Denver time, just when the kids should be waking up.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Surfing in the rain

Since I last reported on our lazy Sunday in Kauai, things have been interesting. I arrived in Kauai last week fighting a cold, and since that means trouble clearing my ears, it meant waiting to arrange a scuba diving trip. That quickly cleared up thanks to the warm, humid climate but then on Monday morning, I threw out my back. I wish I had a great story to tell about how I did it, but I think I'm just getting old. What a drag it is getting old. I just leaned over a bit and something in lower back went completely haywire and I spent the next 3 and half days in pain, even visiting a chiropractor, until it miraculously healed itself upon diving into the pool on Thursday night.

The real bummer is that we had fantastic weather while I was in agony with back pain, but Wednesday night the island got 4 inches of rain and it hasn't really stopped raining since then. All the rivers blew out with mud and debris, and the wind tossed up huge waves. That nixed our dive plans. Amy was even more disappointed than I was.

So today I settled for a surfing lesson - in the pouring rain. I called a few people and no one was doing surf lessons in these conditions, so we packed the kids in the car to drive to the awesome playground at Lydgate beach/park (yes, also in the rain). Surfing must have been ordained, for this is apparently the one spot on the island today where the water wasn't dangerously murky and polluted. In another sign from the heavens, there was a truck parked at the beach with surf boards strapped to the top and the message "surf lessons 645-1029" painted on the door. I called and got my surf lesson, which renewed my respect for surfing. It's hard as hell to time the wave, paddle, and launch yourself up on the board while placing your feet precisely in the right spot to balance. I managed to ride 4 or 5 easy waves in my hour long lesson. Kudos to my instructor, a Hawaiian native named Lono, for showing me a great time.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Lazy Sunday on the Garden Isle

We spent a lazy day today on the Garden Isle, as Kauai is often called. After breakfast we lounged at the pool and hot tub with the kids. For our most ambitious part of the day, we hauled a couple of boogie boards down to the nearby Brennecke's beach and Amy and I enjoyed waves of up to 4 feet while my mom watched the kids play in the sand. My dad searched fruitlessly for a sports bar that would have the Bronco game on, and then we retired to our condo for lunch and the 49'ers - Jets game. With the 3 hour time difference, the early NFL games come on at 8 am. The kids and I had a nice siesta and then we took a short trip to the store for some supplies - and ice cream. Right now we're cooking our own dinner again - baked whole chicken, wild rice, and salad. Most people would probably eat out every day while on vacation, but I don't mind cooking - especially with the kids, who get restless sitting at a restaurant table.

I love staying at a condo with a fully equiped kitchen, but the one thing hate at every condo I've ever stayed in is dull knives. Drives me nuts. This place is no exception. This afternoon, though, I found a knife sharpener in the drawer and went to town. Now I can slice a tomato without smashing it.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Denver to Kauai

We woke up on Thursday at 3 am. That's right. 3 am. I took a 2 minute shower just to wake up, threw on some clothes, and tossed the luggage in the car. Check flight status: United says our flight at 6 am is on time. It's snowing outside. We grabbed the kids out of bed. Andrew was so excited about going to Hawaii that he was already awake. We strapped him and Liz into their car seats and backed out into the snow, heading to my parents house. Dean and Linda are joining us on our Kauai trip, and we don't want to pay to park 2 cars for 10 days. Yep, we're cheapskates.

We arrived at DIA a little before 5 am, and we're fumbling with the self-check-in kiosks, wondering why it keeps telling us to talk to an attendant. Finally, we give up and follow it's instructions, and learn that our plane has mechanical problems. The 6 am flight is canceled, so we'll be departing at 10:30 instead. 10:30? I got up at frickin' 3 am!!!

At least they gave us each $15 meal vouchers for our trouble I wanted to explain that my hourly rate is much higher than that, but I refrained. Of course the only place open that early is McD's, so we got some coffee and a burrito, hashbrows for the kids, all just appetizers for the big breakfast at Pour La France - whenever it finally opens. You gotta keep the kids entertained, and we figured if we stuffed ourselves now we wouldn't need to pay $10 for crappy airline food. If there was a silver lining to all this, on our new flight from LA to Kauai, Amy and I and the kids had a whole row of 6 seats to ourselves, so we could at least stretch out a bit.

At any rate, we arrived on the garden isle at 6 pm. 5 hours later than planned. Got to our condo in Poi Pu and crashed for the night. Good thing we went to bed early, because the kids woke up at 4 am. If you have kids, then you know that we also, therefore, got up at 4 am. The good thing about getting up at 4 am is you can have a lazy morning and still beat the crowds to the beach. Poi Pu beach state park is a short walk from our condo, and a great spot for the kids, with a breakwater creating a calm area for the kids. Pretty decent snorkelling, to. We spotted banner fish, unicorn fish, trumpet fish, and many others. Humuhumnukunukuapua'a - the Hawaii state fish - a type of trigger fish with pattern so geometric you can't believe it's natural. Oh yeah, and 3 monk seals were snoozing on beach, oblivious to the hordes of gawking tourists.

80 degrees and sunny, with a nice breeze. Perfect temp. Back in Denver we heard the overnight low temp was 5 below zero (F). Brrrrrr. Low temp here was about 75 (above zero). Nice.

Saturday. Up early again. About 5 am today. I went for a shoreline run in the dark while the kids watched TV. After a big breakfast, we headed to the north side. Stopped at some roadside stands to buy some freshly picked grapefruit, bananas, tangerines, and limes. Yummy. Next stop was Hanalei (inspiration for Puff the Magic Dragon, and still crawling with hippies). Bought some fresh fish at the Dolphin fish market. Took our chances with 2 pounds of Walu, which we've never tried before, and were richly rewarded with one of the best fish meals I've ever had, thanks to Dean's grilling skills.

Back to Hanalei. The north shore is famous for surf, especially in the winter, and today we saw why at the mile-long crescent shaped Hanalei beach bay. I'm not a surfer, but after watching dozens of people ride the great waves here today, I think I gotta spend a day and try it my self. At least I got in some body surfing in. I held Andrew's hand for about an hour as we both played in the edge of the surf. He absolutely loved the waves.

Next stop - the pools of Mokolea, some small tide pool and one lava tube perfectly situated so the waves come shooting up out of it. Pretty neat. No one else is around.

After an hour-long drive back around the island while Andrew slept, we enjoyed the grilled walu, along with a stir fry of bok choy, onion, and mushroom, plus Dean's specialty baked potato recipe. A fabulous meal that would have cost $40 per person at a restaurant.

I'm pooped. Time for bed!