Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hawaiian monk seals on Maha'ulepu Beach

I may have left Hawaii physically, but part of my spirit remains there. On our last full day on Kauai, we visited the one last remaining undeveloped stretch of beach on the island, the beautiful Maha'ulepu Beach. Both our cars on the Mainland sport bumper stickers proclaiming "Malama Maha'ulepu", which means "Help (save) Maha'ulepu." All beaches in Hawaii are open for public use, but the land above the high tide line is mostly private. So far, the land adjoining this beautiful stretch of beach has not been developed, making it much more appealing to the public than beaches that lead up to plush hotels and private homes. The public can rest under trees and hike through the dunes and relax here.

We were lucky when we visited, as a mother endangered Hawaiian monk seal had hauled out of the sea on the beach, and a volunteer kept watch to make sure no one disturbed them. They spend most of their time sleeping, but now and then the pup gets hungry and waddles over to mom, nosing her and crying out until she rolls over to expose her teats for him to feed. We got to watch this process. At the time, the baby was only 2 weeks old but growing fast. What a treat, and a fine ending to our time on this beautiful island.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Farewell to Kauai

As the day of our departure from Kauai neared, I feared that I would feel very sad on our last day. We've had such a great time on all the islands and avoided brutal subzero temperatures at home in Montana. Kauai's weather stayed glorious for our entire stay, and we were able to get a tiny taste of a rare phenomenon--giant swells, formed by a huge storm far north in the Aleutian Islands, that turned into 25-foot plus waves as they struck the Hawaiian Islands. We drove to Hanalei again and watched as these monsters crashed onto the beach. A photo can't capture their size, but you can see from the thick sea mist that the sea is roiling. The beach there was closed, but on Oahu, the giant waves triggered the Eddie Aikau Invitational Tournament, a surfer's dream that only occurs when the waves turn huge.
Surfers from around the Pacific flew in to compete, and the roads to the North Shore became completely gridlocked as thousands of fans did their best to reach the beach.

Now I'm in Northern California, experiencing the wind and rain from the same weather system as it drenches the Pacific Coast. Our Hawaiian Idyll has ended, but because it was so satisfying, I did not feel sad when we left. We watched the sun set at Lawai Beach, then drove to the airport for a red-eye to the mainland. But before we left, we arranged a time share trade back to this place for next November, certainly part of the reason for my lack of sadness.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

On Kauai, Visiting Hanalei

We've been so lucky with weather on this trip. Kauai, the Garden Isle, had a couple of weeks of heavy rainfall that led to flooding and disappointment for travelers, but that all ended before we got here. We've been having beautiful sunshine and bright green vistas, as in this photo of the taro fields of Hanalei, a quirky town on the north coast of the island. These fields, on a National Wildlife Refuge, are the major source of taro for making poi, a staple of the Hawaiian diet. They have been here for hundreds of years and are home to several endangered endemic (they live only in Hawaii) birds, like this Hawaiian nene, the native goose that is the state bird.

Hanalei is the site of a thriving farmer's market, where one can buy local produce of many kinds, including salad greens, papayas, pineapple, and local varieties of banana. My favorite is the apple banana, a small variety with a wonderful sweet-tart flavor. The market is a place to take part in local island life and see amusing sights, like this lei-wearing dog enthusiastically pawing and chewing a half coconut.