Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Blow Into Auckland, Steal From A Liquor Store

Charmingly, they call liquor stores "bottle shops" here. After a pre-dawn arrival in Auckland followed by some sumptuous fish on the wharf (pix to come), we grocery shopped and trudged back. It's very warm in this absolutely sweet city.

Chores done and to quell the jetlag haze, we needed a G&T.

No worries, says the lovely lobby guy. There's a shop across the street and two blocks down. We find it, buy the gin and the tonic, check out, walk back. And suddenly remember we have no ice.

No worries, says the lobby guy--they should have it at the bottle shop. So I return and the proprietor greets me with "you stole a bottle of wine."

This bottle of wine
We did not! Oh yes you did and I have your husband on video (why is this reminding me of the TSA knife episode?). "He's allergic to sulfites and can't even drink wine," (this doesn't register at all), I exclaim, as he proceeds to show me a vid of Art putting someone else's wine into our bag with the G&T. The propeieter is still looking askance. I ask him why I would return for ice if I'd stolen his wine.

He softens. Walkwalkwalk back to the lobby guy, who thinks this is the funniest story he's ever heard. I ask him if he's seen Groundhog Day and he doubles over ("It's exactly like Groundhog Day!"). Up to the room. Do you have a bottle of wine, honey?

Yes, says Art. Why? (Some of us are a bit more jetlagged than others.)

Walkwalkwalkback back to the bottle shop, triumphantly holding up the wine. Big smiles and all is forgiven.

Way past time for a cocktail...

Monday, March 30, 2015

Mahalo Hanalei, Kauai!

gratitude, admiration, praise, esteem, regards, or respects.

For 73 degrees with a nonstop breeze, sun and rain, sand in our shoes, your incredibly warm hospitality, and, of course, mai tais in an open-air resto.

Off to Auckland on the night train, er plane...

Beaches: Past, Present, Future

So...beaches. Glorious, wave-pounded/water-lapped spots for walking, sunning, and, with luck, swimming. I like to get right in and roll with the waves, which is a challenge where we are on Kauai.

The beach in front of our hotel is a stunner. Check it out. But see also the fierce coral in dark strips out in the water? Lethal.

This month of March, four people drowned off Kauai. Drownings are the leading cause of death here, maybe no surprise, but still.

Here's the beach I spent a week every year on for 35 years. Silky sugar-white sand and virtually nothing on the sea floor (not a sign of sickness--just the way the beach is, though all the Corexit they dumped in the Gulf after the BP disaster makes it suspect for other reasons).

West of Panama City, FL

You can still get pounded by some monster waves when bodysurfing, trust me, but you get pounded onto a sand bottom, not razor-sharp coral.

The Kauai beach we wrote about in an earlier post, Ke’e, is protected by a reef that forms a sort of pool where it's OK for swimming. Plus there's a lifeguard station there. Ke'e was mentioned by our knowledgeable van driver Joe as one of the safe spots to swim on the north shore of Kauai.


No real conclusions here except some beaches are treacherous and you'd better know where it's safe to swim. Maybe I'm spoiled or just wishing I could walk out the door and get in there.

However, there's always the saltwater pool...

Sunday, March 29, 2015

North Shore Kauai Limahuli Garden

On a misty Kauai Saturday night (photo taken out living room window toward the mountain) we prop up tired legs stretched out on a five-mile hike to Limahuli Garden, a 17-acre terraced jewel that's part of the 985-acre Limahuli Preserve.

Situated just before the road ends at Ke'e Beach (the famed Kalalau Trail begins at the western end of the beach), the gardens are overseen by the majestic Mount Makana, aka Bali Hai for its role in the 1958 film South Pacific.

Ke'e Beach

But first we walked there along a road--the only road on the north side of the island--that was fairly quiet at 9 am, but loaded with Saturday traffic on the return.

GMOs are a contentious issue here on Kauai

Dry cave across from Ke'e Beach

A food vendor was setting up shop at the beach. On our return trip we shared one of their yummy barbecued Kauai pig sandwiches.

A dollar buys a bright red Mountain Apple,
one of the original canoe plants brought by Polynesians to Hawaii

A little like a pear, the fruit was most refreshing. Also on our walk we passed this old and artful water diverter. See the water channel running down the drive on the left above the diverter?

Here's the outflow...
...and the inflow.

These gardens are a sacred space, beautifully presented and tended.
In Hawaiian, the name Limahuli means “turning hands,” which recognizes the ancient Hawaiians who built agricultural terraces out of lava rock and planted cultivars of kalo (taro), an important cultural food crop.
The terraces

Take a walk with us.

Remarkable discovery in 1992...

Perfectly quiet, except for birdsong. Any guesses here, Birder Sev?

We walked and walked, consulting the well-written guidebook as we wandered.

Stunning, the loss.
Flowering Uhiuhi, with burrowing honeybee

The scale of the place is difficult to capture.

Look at this tiny beauty...only discovered in the 70s.

Wayne used to do this when we worked together...

Breathtaking vistas...

This icon for the conservation movement in Hawaii is now extinct in the wild. Its fragrant flowers are used in lei.

Originally discovered in 1913, the white hibiscus was considered extinct until it was rediscovered in Limahuli Preserve by staff in 1976. Imagine!

Walking back was a challenge with all the traffic, an enormous issue on Kauai. I can understand not wanting to widen the road, but would a small walking path hurt?

Not to worry, someone's putting steaks on the grill. 


ps: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently shelled out a cool $100 million for 707 acres on the North Shore of Kauai.

Enough Said

Sign seen on the road to the Limahuli botanic gardens, near Ke'e Beach. My favorite part:
or follow them with your GoPro.

Aloha, Kauai

Aloha in the Hawaiian language means affection, peace, compassion and mercy.[1] Since the middle of the 19th century, it also has come to be used as an English greeting to say goodbye and hello.
Aloha is like the Swiss Army knife of words, utilitarian yes, but with a optimistic melody all its own.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Girl On The Train, Er Plane

Someone's been marketing the dickens out of this thriller, and I succumbed. Nothing like pondering 13 hours of flying time to convince you to reduce the Costco stack by one. Mini review? Meh. But it held my attention through a brutal (even in first class--miles) hop from Chi to Phoenix Wed night, followed by an early call Thursday morning bound for Honolulu and then a puddle jumper to Kauai.

Let's be honest. I am not complaining about this.
But air travel is grueling, period. Add to our late-night Phoenix landing an insane taxi driver who didn't know how to drive to the closest hotel to the Phoenix Airport (weaving across three interstate lanes as he pecked addresses into his GPS) and got so rattled he jumped a curb going 30 mph as we approached the hotel and right there's an inauspicious start to a big adventure.

Pause to glance out the lanai doors at something green

Far too early the Thursday morning, bolstered by half a cup of bad coffee, we and eight others head back to the airport in the hotel shuttle, the driver tosses out our luggage, and we head to security. Still groggy, I shuffle along to the TSA conveyor belt, hoist up my new rolling bag and stop mid-air.

"This isn't my bag" I say. "This isn't my bag!" I say, louder.

Remember See Something, Say Something? Well I was saying something and the TSA agents were less than mildly interested.

"This has never happened before," one opined (really?). Art was already on the other side of the TSA fence. My under-caffeinated brain struggled to figure out how I ended up with not-my rolly bag. Was it switched out (John Le Carre style) when we got boarding passes?

And then it hit me: the shuttle.

 This egret outside our Kauai deck 
will never know the stress of a lost suitcase

Yes I know it's my responsibility and I just got back from the pool and Art is making cocktails, but please hold the snark. The TSA agents had absolutely no interest in the fact that I was about to load a bag that wasn't mine, which still seems bizarre.  I fled. Back downstairs to the US Airways check-in, where I got no love, and then swiftly unzipping the bag to find a clue and yes! there it was. A check-out receipt from our mutual hotel. On the phone fast (how much time did I have? I attempt to breathe through the mounting adrenaline) to the hotel, "Hi, I'm at the airport..." "Is this Heidi?" someone interrupts. "The driver's outside with your bag."

Running...handing off...apologies...back through TSA...Art with a questioning look...board plane for Honolulu. Even in First, it feels like some sort of Medieval torture, shorter on legroom than I remember from the old days. We do not sit easily for eight hours.

Maybe meditating on orchids would have helped

An in-flight moment: A woman who looked and was built like a Lake Street club bouncer (air marshal?) blocking the passageway to the toilet while the pilot and then co-pilot took turns using it. Germanwings disaster writ large.

Honolulu arrival smooth, transfer to Island Air for the flight to Kauai, an earlier one--good--and weigh bags because only 16 pounds allowed for carry on. Lovely agent Rocky suggests repacking to save some $, so we do, head for TSA, where inspector paws through my now-carryon (formerly checked) bag, reaches in, and pulls out...a knife. Oh that, I say. That was in my checked bag but because of weight restrictions it's now in my carry-on (as if that explains it). 

Eyebrow arch while he goes through every item (flight boarding in 6 minutes), adding to his stack a jar of ghee and a large bottle of contact lens solution, with each item giving me the evil eyebrow. Can these items be returned to checked baggage? Sure, just go back to check-in and have them locate your already checked bag and give them these things...go back through security and etc.

Sweet mural in Hanalei Town

Fun to fly on small planes, land at Lahui, taxi to Hanalei 50 minutes away. Wait, what time did I get up today (5:30) and when did we eat that omelet? Blood sugar plunging, we check in and discover the only resto on site burned in a fire a few weeks back. Hanalei Colony Resort is a tiny enclave of beautifully sited, remote living spaces whose staff couldn't have been nicer as I gripped the check-in desk and croaked "is there any food here?"

No, but since the fire (and to cut back on car usage) the accommodating management has a van to take us back to Hanalei, where we could eat, grocery shop, and be picked up. So we did. All of that.

Marlin sammy, shrimp, and clam chowder
offset the shakes

That's better. But why am I exhausted?

 Aloha because it's midnight in Chi

Shuttling back to this breezy paradise, we got talking with driver Joe and learned he'd spent three months camping in New Zealand and then married a NZ national. Much discussion ensued. Maps will be marked with insider locations, secret places learned.

 Travel is brutal, true. But given a chance it reliably delivers on its promise.

Special thanks to Dr Gary, who pointed us toward perfect decompression.