First, a disclaimer: this is was not our first time in Kauai. In fact, in January 2012, when we were here together for the first time, it was sort of a honeymoon. But then we decided that only one won’t do, and followed it with another honeymoon trip to Cabo …
On our first trip to Kauai, we had the luck and fortune of a) being able to coordinate with our friends Meghan and Wes, who were also on the island for the first part of our stay
And b) got an incredible local guide in the person of our friend Eric, aka Holmes, who not only showed us the most incredible beaches and best spots for poke tuna (Foodland in Kapaa), but also took us on the beautiful, treacherous and spiritually loaded Kalalau trail, along Kauai’s Napali Coast. The 11 mile trail leads to the Kalalau Valley, a place that is basically Disneyland for adults: all you can eat fruit buffet, courtesy of mother nature, including fresh mangoes, lilikoi (passion fruit) and guava (watch out for your heads), room to run around barefoot, bamboo sticks to play Jedi-knight with, waves to bodysurf, crystal-clear lava rock pools to swim in and, of course, clothing is entirely optional…
For me in particular, the Kalalau trail at the time was a BIG milestone: the most strenuous backpacking I had ever done and, once in the valley, my first experience in a place that felt both welcoming and completely wild. Legend has it that the Dalai Lama was once in an airplane, flying above Kauai’s Napali coast and he was compelled to look down upon it and name it “the eye of the earth.”
Stories about Kalalau abound, and allegedly the valley was home to a few thousand natives way back in the day, before it became a US state and was evacuated and turned into a state park. Long disclaimer taken care of. Now, the fun part.
Day 1: Up There Someone is Laughing Hard at Our Plans.
We arrive at Lihue, two pasty white people, frail like two snowballs under the blazing sun of the Mother Island. Our friend Eric, his sister, Karla, and mom pick us up in their car preloaded with provisions for the long and strenuous hike to Kalalau. In the backseat, I carboload like I’m about to cross the Pacific in a canoe, on delicious sandwiches made by Eric’s mom and sister.
There’s a reason they used to call Hawai’i the Sandwich Islands. I am now told actual sandwiches have nothing to do with it.
But as soon as we get to the foot of the trail, we attract the attention of a ranger, who immediately asks for our plans and camping permits. This is pretty unprecedented and catches us totally by surprise. Later, we find out that the state park was doing a sweep of the valley, in an attempt to uproot some of the folks who’ve made Kalalau their semi-permanent home. The ranger is adamant that if we get caught on the trail without camping permits, we’ll be cited and brought to court, and face felony charges if we fail to show up. Also, the ranger seems to know our friend and singles him out as someone who goes to Kalalau often (with an implication of “too often”).
After some internal deliberation and considering our extensive travel plans, we make a 180. It’s beyond disappointing, as we both were looking forward to reconnect with nature and start the trip with a bang. But hey. We head to Hanalei and we all pass out at the beach for the rest of the afternoon, exhausted from the emotional travails of ranger rejection and sandwich-eating. We camp at Blackpot beach, right of the lovely, recently stored Hanalei pier, with the ocean view on one side and the gentle slope of the Hanalei river on the other. Dinner at Tahiti Nouie, where George Clooney shot a scene in his Descendants movie, and off to bed under the stars.
Carbs: sooooooo many………
Camelia, the Hungry-Hungry Hippo