Friday, June 8, 2012

A Jam-Packed Thursday

I will (gasp!) be 50 years old next Thursday, so yesterday I put this aging body to the test and emerged relatively unscathed, although I admit I did spend part of yesterday being mad at myself for spending the better part of my mid-40s drinking like a fish and packing on way too many pounds.

But to the point at hand.

We decided to go see Waimea Canyon (second video below), dubbed "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific." Guidebooks say different things, but as best as I can make it out, two natural events caused its formation: on the one hand, the old volcano on the island's western end, of which Wai'ale'ale is one tip. Repeated eruptions and lava flows created the various layers of color. There is also a fault, so at another point, a massive earthquake caused part of the volcano to collapse, causing what was once three rivers to join into one. It flowed into the fault, further carving out the niches of the old lava flows.

Wai'ale'ale itself is known as one of the wettest spots on the planet because it rains there every day. I mean, we are talking on average 450 inches a year. When you get to the end of Waimea Canyon Drive, you are looking down into Kalalau Valley, and what you see is rapidly evaporating clouds with glimpses of green in the gaps. The fog can get really thick, too, as you'll see in the video below.

Here is video of Waimea Canyon itself from the first lookout.

Now, you cannot get to the North Shore of Kauai from the end of Waimea Canyon Road (or from any road that cuts across the island): there is the Na Pali Coast on one side, which is all sheer cliffs, and a swamp in front of you. Builders tried to get a road through the swamp once but had to abandon the effort. So, even though as the crow flies you are only about seven miles from the north coast, you have to turn around, go back down the road, and drive around the east side of the island (about 45 miles) to get to Princeville, Hanalei, and the north shore beaches. This "inconvenience" has turned into a blessing in disguise for Kauai, because it has ensured that parts of the island remain remote.

We wanted to visit Tunnels Beach, which is known as the best snorkeling spot on the island. I left my phone in the car, so I didn't get any photos, but trust me when I say it is a gorgeous beach--a HUGE beach. There is limited parking, so even though at first you think the beach is going to be as crowded as Waikiki on a weekend, it isn't. There's just too much of it. There is a beautiful, wide expanse of golden sand; the water is crystal clear blue, blue, blue; and on the east side there is a reef with some awesome snorkeling. Tons of colorful fish and then came the real treat: a sea turtle! He was feeding along the reef, and every time a big wave came through, he'd kind of flip up on one side so you could see his belly, ride out the wave, and then return to munching on whatever it was he was devouring from some small crevice in the reef. I basically just held still and stared at him, fascinated. Several times he came so near to me it felt like I could have reached out a hand and felt the rough surface of his shell.

All told, we spent about ten hours traveling around the island yesterday.

Today I am just going to sit on my ass, read, watch movies, and listen to the sea.