Day 3: The Day Hike to Hanakapiai Falls

Camping is only allowed at Blackpot during the weekends, it being such a lovely location and all, so we wake up early on Sunday and pack up our tents. Karla suggests we check out the Hanakapiai Falls, a leisurely 8 mile hike up boulders and through mud, and since Kalalau refused itself to us this time around, we contend with just a day hike.

This turns out to be the BEST IDEA EVER!!!! The trail is mostly dry, the weather is perfect and we already have five days worth of bars, snacks and dried fruit, so we proceed. At this point, words cannot do this trail justice, so I’ll let the photos speak.

View from mile 1. In the background, that very last point jutting out, is Kalalau beach.

View from mile 1. In the background, that very last point jutting out, is Kalalau beach.

At Hanakapiai we were surprised to find a small lagoon on the beach. When we were there last, in wintertime, the beach was half its size and there was no lagoon.

At Hanakapiai we were surprised to find a small lagoon on the beach. When we were there last, in wintertime, the beach was half its size and there was no lagoon.

We picnic at Hanakapiai beach, 2 miles into our 4 mile hike to the Hanakapiai falls. Time to consume some of those provisions we stocked up on the first day...

We picnic at Hanakapiai beach, 2 miles into our 4 mile hike to the Hanakapiai falls. Time to consume some of those provisions we stocked up on the first day. After this, it’s back to the trail, onward and forward. And much of it, upward….

Awapuhi was introduced to the Hawaiian Islands in the canoes of early settlers. It's also commonly called 'shampoo ginger.'The flower head is filled with an aromatic slimy liquid that is, apparently, the wild man's shampoo...

Awapuhi was introduced to the Hawaiian Islands in the canoes of early settlers. It’s also commonly called ‘shampoo ginger.’The flower head is filled with an aromatic slimy liquid that is, apparently, the wild man’s shampoo…

Rubbing in Awapuhi goo all over my hair. I'm going for that $100 salon-shine, for free. Thank you Mother Island!

Rubbing in Awapuhi goo all over my hair. I’m going for that $100 salon-shine, for free. Thank you Mother Island!

Contestant No. 1: A beautifully executed "holding my bladder" jump, into the pristine pools of water a few miles before the waterfall.  But what will the jury think...?

Contestant No. 1: A beautifully executed “holding my bladder” jump, into the pristine pools of water a few miles before the waterfall. But what will the jury think…?

Contestant no. 2: The "Sitting Frog" pose. Jury awarded it first prize, even though mine was more ambitious. (Apparently I had slight execution problems, like keeping my eyes shot the whole time...)

Contestant no. 2: The “Sitting Frog” pose. Jury awarded it first prize, even though mine was more ambitious. (Apparently I had slight execution problems, like keeping my eyes shot the whole time…)

Rock hoppin' all the way to the falls

Rock hoppin’ all the way to the falls

The Hanakapiai falls is about 300 ft. high. The best part about it is that you can swim through it (if you don't mind the icy water) and stand on top of some rocks directly behind it. We took in the luxuriantly green vista around us and took a nice, long shower, at the same time...

The Hanakapiai waterfall is about 300 ft. high. The best part about it is that you can swim through  (if you don’t mind the icy water) and stand on top of some rocks directly behind it. We took in the luxuriantly green vista around us, and a nice, long, cold shower, at the same time…

These humongous asparagus-lookalikes are new bamboo shoots. Bamboo groves punctuated the trail from the beach to the waterfall, and underneath their moaning emerald canopy, it seemed like time stood still. We found a few other interesting things in the bamboo groves...

These humongous asparagus look-alikes are new bamboo shoots. Bamboo groves punctuated the trail from the beach to the waterfall, and underneath their moaning emerald canopy, it seemed like time stood still. We found a few other interesting things in the bamboo groves…

... like this ancient-looking fireplace, part of which seemed to be built out of rocks old Hawaiians used to enforce their taro terraces. For a moment we imagined who could live in a bamboo-grove living room, with a lava rock fireplace and what kind of photos they would put on the mantle. "Auntie Pele on vacation in Kauai" or maybe "Grandma  Poli'ahu snowboarding," or "Uncle Kāmohoaliʻi going for a swim" .... *smirk*

… like this ancient-looking fireplace, part of which seemed to be built out of rocks old Hawaiians used to enforce their taro terraces. For a moment we imagined who could live in a bamboo-grove living room, with a lava rock fireplace and what kind of photos they would put on the mantle. “Auntie Pele on vacation in Kauai” or maybe “Grandma Poli’ahu snowboarding,” or “Uncle Kāmohoaliʻi going for a swim” …. *smirk*

Quick water stop on the way back from the falls, again at Hnakapiai beach, where sunset is fully ON

Quick water stop on the way back from the falls, again at Hnakapiai beach, right before sunset. The heat is starting to subside a bit.

Getting close to sunset at Hanakapiai Beach

Getting close to sunset at Hanakapiai Beach

Second stop at mile 1, to take in the beautiful sunset.

Second stop at mile 1, to take in the orange-pink beauty.

We return right after sunset, are bled dry by vampiric mosquitoes on the walk from the trailhead to the car, and, exhausted, we cop out and stay at the Coral Reef in Kapaa.

We are starved and our feet feel like bloody stumps, it’s 9 pm on Sunday night and EVERYTHING is closed. The owner of the almost closed Kapaa Cafe takes pity on us and makes us a salad and doesn’t even ask for our firstborn in return. Just cash. Aloha, man.

Papayas: a half, in the morning.
Trails: one, and so GLORIOUS.
Camelia, the star of the Awapuhi shampoo commercial.

Day 2: Rainy Day in Hanalei Bay

Sometime during the night, it starts raining, and the rain continues throughout most of the morning, with short – and sweet – sunny intervals that make every blade of grass glitter like a green jewel. Eric and his sister Karla camped with us, although “camp” is a bit of an overstatement in Eric’s case, as he prefers to wrap himself in a tarp in burrito-fashion and sleep directly on the ground.
We go for a dip in the ocean and afterwards head into Hanalei, where apparently Saturday morning is surfboard swap meet.

Swapmeet, Hawaii-style

Swapmeet, Hawaii-style

After hours of hide and seek with the rain and the sun, which follow in quick succession, Eric and Karla zoom in on a hefty 12′ board that can double as standup paddle board (SUP) and we go back to the beach.

The best of both worlds: stand-up paddling and surfing, on one board

The best of both worlds: stand-up paddling and surfing, on one board. Also, the raised posing arm runs in the family.

But not before I buy several papayas from the Big Save. I’m on a declared mission, on this trip, to stuff myself silly with those delicious small and fragrant papayas that grow on the Island like dandelions on mainland.
Back at the pier, I totally monopolize my friends’ board to SUP up and down Hanalei river and, through the river mouth, into the ocean. The rain picks up again, shrouding the river and its verdant banks in uncanny quiet, and as i paddle up the stream, Hibiscus flowers gently drop into the river, slowly changing colors from fluorescent yellow to warm, goldflecked jewel tones as the day goes by, and I feel like I’m in the right place, at the right time and wouldn’t trade it for a sunny day. But a half hour later the sun does burn through most of the clouds and it’s hot again.
Karla is an incredible swimmer and swims circles around me and the boys, who are surfing their brains off. When we get out of the water, we are all ravenous and we get burgers at Bubba’s, and then promptly move to dinner number two of burritos at the Mexican/Brazilian place.Yes. You counted right.

Clear evening sky above Kauai's mountains

Clear evening sky above Kauai’s mountains

Boards: One
Papayas: Two (these suckers don’t stand a chance)
Dinners: Also two!!! (I lost count of the carbs entirely by now)

Camelia, SUPer SUPper

Short Trip to Paradise: Kauai Revisited

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
Ed and Wes get 'barreled' on the dry.

Ed and Wes get ‘barreled’ on the dry.

 
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…
 
The Kalalau trip came at a rough time for me and helped me re-focus and re-align my priorities

The Kalalau trip came at a rough time for me and helped me re-focus and re-align my priorities

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.”
 
View from the Kalalau trail on the Na Pali coast of Kauai

View from the Kalalau trail on the Na Pali coast of Kauai

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.
Eric and Karla, browned to a crisp

Eric and Karla, browned to a crisp

 
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.
We'll take Hanalei Bay anytime

We’ll take Hanalei Bay anytime

 
Trails: None.
Carbs: sooooooo many………
Camelia, the Hungry-Hungry Hippo

Enjoy’n San Francisco

Fog Snake
Looking out over a snake of fog running through, under and over the mighty Golden Gate, feeling the California sun uninhibited by our window, causing me to sweat out the last domestic cold for a while…Snaking Fog
Soon, we will be opening our own gate, and traveling in the opposite direction, East.  Having been two who have spent their lives trying to go West, this is uncharted territory.  Ironically, we’ll end up at the source of the transport ship trying to touch the painters working on the Golden Gate’s exfoliated paint.

What awaits us?  The internet is doing a good job answering this question…in 2-D. Can’t wait to answer it ourselves!

I’m expecting some crowded streets with people weaving in and out on their motorcycles.  Verdant countrysides with some areas of crystal clear water, with some near urban centers being less so.  Some social people looking to get insights on life, international relations, food, and the finer philosophies in life.  We just hope to be able to communicate especially about the finer philosophies.  The only place I’ve been where I can’t even recognize characters, I either spoke the commercial language, or was accompanied by a local.

Will we get lost in Angkor Wat? Float down the wrong river? Will we overdose on Pho that we’ll have to be rolled to the nearest hospital?  Hopefully the winds of luck will be filling our sails.

Two spots for some Young Pilgrims, left on the train, departing for the East, ALL ABOARD!
(Sorry, no pets allowed!)

Good Night San Francisco

 

Ed

Big Travel Plans: the Whys

For me it all boils down to these three simple reasons:

  1. There’s no better time than now. This one is the most mundane, and probably the most compelling in the end. We don’t have a mortgage, we don’t have kids and we have some savings. Of course, if we didn’t have the travel itch, this would also be the best time in the world to settle down and start a family. But we do, and, boy does it itch. So there’s no day like today to leave the jobs we love, the city we call home and our steal of a rent-controlled apartment with a Golden Gate bridge view… Right?! Right.

    Yes, leaving this view behind. For now.

    Yes, leaving this view behind. For now.

  2. The books. And the movies. Growing up in Romania in the ’90s, books were my best refuge from a grim and gray post-communist reality. Before MTV rocked my world, I took cover with books like the Romanian classic “Toate Panzele Sus” (All Sails Up), a travel book thinly disguised as a story about one man’s quest to find his world-wandering father. Moby Dick, Heart of Darkness and One Hundred Years of Solitude were a few other favorites, so I think it was really just a question of time for me… And then, in high school, the miracle of cable TV struck me like lightning and books were temporarily replaced by a period of binge-watching, in which i more or less  managed to cram about two decades worth of Western pop culture. It was then, between MTV’s beach dance parties and reruns of Latin America’s wholesale exported telenovelas, that I discovered gems like Indochine with Catherine Deneuve, the wonderful Out of Africa and The English Patient. Indochine in particular, with its beautiful costumes and colonial decadence, made a very strong impression – South East Asia, you guessed, is BIG on out itinerary.

    "All Sails Up" - my fave Romanian travel book of all times.

    “All Sails Up” – my fave Romanian travel book of all times.

  3. The screens. They are killing me. A few months ago, after a few particularly intense weeks at work, i took stock of where i spent most of my life – and it was in front of a screen. Between reading the news on my phone in the morning, work, which is mostly in front of the computer, reading the news on my phone on the way home and watching a movie or the Daily Show in the evening, or trashy reality TV on the treadmill, I  was spending a whopping 12 hours+/day in front of some sort of a screen… And what i felt was PURE FEAR. Fear that my tombstone would read “The Girl Who Read the News on a Tiny Screen” instead of “The Girl Who Hugged the World.” So there. I’m posting this, shutting down my laptop and going outside to hug the world now. Let’s hope it doesn’t sue me for harassment.hugCamelia, the girl who spent the nineties reading Camus and watching Muneca Brava.