A Week on Kauai
Feb. 16 / Feb. 23, 1996

Michael J. Ferguson

Les Publications INRS-Télécommunications, Montréal

Journal Index


1  Friday, Feb. 16, Montréal
2  Saturday, Feb. 17, Honolulu
3  Sunday, February 18, Anini Beach Park
4  Monday, Feb. 19, Anini Beach Park
5  Tuesday, Feb. 20, Salt Ponds Beach Park, Hanapepe
6  Wednesday, Feb. 21, Polihale State Park
7  Thursday, Feb. 22, Salt Ponds
8  Maps

1  Friday, Feb. 16, Montréal

It is slightly amazing. This is my second vacation in less than two months and my second trip to Hawaii. This is another Canadian (CP) special - not quite as good as the last time ($499.00 vs $399.00), but I can stay a week. Although I was able to get the non-stop from Toronto/Honolulu going, I had to compromise on my return date and am coming back via Vancouver - but not overnight, unless I can get on the non-stop to Toronto instead at the Honolulu airport. Any change now in the ticket will double the cost.

The flights were both smooth and appropriately uneventful. The major trauma was not mine. A kid from Waterloo was taking his old $10,000 MAC back home to Australia. It wouldn't fit in the overhead rack or under the seat. He couldn't lift it up because he had just broken his wrist in a snowmobile accident. I tried and failed to put in the overhead rack. Then I took the keyboard out of its front pouch and bent the rack door out of the way and got it in. At his halfway point, Honolulu, I bent it again and got it out.

Both bags made it. They actually were off the baggage carousel before I got there.

2  Saturday, Feb. 17, Honolulu

It is now 4:00am and this time the Interisland terminal is open. In December it did not open until 4:45am - but that was a Friday - today is Saturday. My 25 minute flight to Lihue, Kauai leaves at 5:30am. The first flights leave at 5:15am for Hilo or Kahalui. There is a huge queue already.

Aloha is really quite fussy. They insist on a photo id. The Samoan agent picked up my bike and threw it onto the belt - perhaps I gave CP a bum rap the last time. However, my bike pack and other pack arrived in Lihue with no overt problems. At about 7:45am, I was on my way.

However, the morning was not without trauma. I found the WWW homepage of Howard Faria, a Kauai resident and asked him if the new Camping Gaz C270 cartridges existed on Kauai. He assured me that they did so I did not break airline rules and bring gas canisters with me. I found Longs Drugs, one of Harold's sources, in a new shopping center just outside Lihue. They had some Coleman canisters but not mine. I was pointed, by the nice saleslady in Longs to Gaspro. After some help from a kid in dive shop, who phoned ahead, I found it. They had only Coleman canisters. The suggestion was to go to Walmart in Lihue - the sleepy town is expanding.

As I expected, Walmart did not have my canisters. However, they did have a cheap Coleman stove and lantern, each $16. I now have two stoves and lanterns and some light and coffee in the morning.

At the moment I am in Kapaa, waiting for my Kamaaina Lasagna to be cooked. It was a 40 minute wait, but worth it. This was a house special at Papayas Natural Foods and Cafe in the Kauai Village shopping center in Kapaa. I have come a whole 8 miles from Lihue. The traffic has been horrible - quite unpleasant.

*** The first luxury resort on Kauai is no more. The Coco Palms is shut down. It apparently did not survive an insurance squabble after Hurricane Iniki. It was famous as the honeymoon spot for Elvis Presley and Michael Ferguson.

It was two miles up to Opaeka'a Falls along the Wailua River with a short side trip beside the river along a dead end dirt track. At the end, I was standing in a small opening by the river when three ladies came by in kayaks. One shouted to the others when she saw my day glow green, ``Hey - look at that outfit - what is it?'' Perhaps I looked like their image of a Menehune.

The road up to the escarpment that holds the falls looks back over sacred and secular valleys. It rises about 200m (600 feet) to give some magnificent, detailed views - if you take the time to look. Most of the people in the heavy traffic, even here, did not. The falls are worth the detour. I didn't go up any further. I was a little worried about getting to Haena before it got dark.

*** The big tour buses advertise, on their back ends ``Aloha in motion!''. I trust that is not really intended to mean, ``Our bow wave blows bicyclists into the ditch!''.

The interior on all the islands is intimidating. The volcanic ridges rise to sharp knife edges. For the most part, they are covered with scrub Ohia-Lehua, but that just allows you to see the rock.

Although the coast, where there are roads, is much less exhausting than the interior, it does drain energy, and sometimes spirit. At about 4:00pm, I was still 20 miles or so from Haena, struggling up a small hill, when Jerry stopped his battered pickup and asked ``Are you going north? Would you like a ride?''. I thought for a few seconds and said ``Yes''. We lifted my bike over the top of the tailgate (it didn't go down) and were on our way to Anini Beach Park where there was some camping. Jerry is a, legitimate and high profile, operator in the scrimshaw business. We talked about the ins and outs of the legal ivory trade and he invited me to his show at the Coconut Marketplace. Jerry lived in Anahola - strange because he was from San Diego and Anahola is a Hawaiian Homes Project, a settlement for native Hawaiians. He was going to Anini to relay some news to a friend.

I put my tent up in an open, quite vacant area near the washrooms. I was going to put it up right on the shore, but the gale force winds, and the sand did not give me confidence of the tent remaining in one place. My vacant place, with a picnic table was considered undesirable by everyone else here - it has its own ``street'' light.

3  Sunday, February 18, Anini Beach Park

It is now about 5:00am and I have been up for a while. I do believe the wind is continuous. Everyone says it is very cold. Its about 60F (15C) and I agree - it's too cold for surfing, and certainly too rough for snorkeling - perhaps on the south shore.

After first light, I took a walk on the beach. It is really beautiful - the beach is lined with Ironwoods and Kamani Haole trees. The wind is strong, but not fierce. It is still ``junk'' weather but quite pleasant - I am sitting at my picnic table absorbing the ocean between the trees.

I started out along the coast going straight towards Princeville. The road was supposed to dead end, and I had been warned of a deep river at its end. The warnings were accurate. It was passable if I completely unloaded my bike and carried everything across. A couple on bikes, that I met by the river, said that there was dirt road, the lady corrected that to a trial (trail?), that led up the cliff. It was not at all obvious where it started from this side. I opted to go back, around, and up the normal road.


At an overlook announcing Hanalei, I realized that I had forgotten why it existed. We were high up on the cliff looking down onto the Taro patches that filled the flat Hanalei river valley. Taro patches are wetlands that are home to several endangered Hawaiian ducks and stilts. There is a very real danger that these wetlands will be lost. The demand for poi, has dropped dramatically and it is no longer economic to plant taro. The Hanalei valley is still covered with taro patches because of support from the government to the farmers for wetland preservation. I didn't see the birds but the taro patches were quite pleasant, both from the cliff and riding by.

Hanalei is almost totally a tourist town, but a quite pleasant one, especially when compared with Kapaa or Wailua. As I was talking with a kid from North Vancouver, who was preparing for his next bicycle safari, this time to Africa, I noticed that I had a very bent and broken spoke in the back wheel. I moved into the shade in the I Ching Village market and took the back wheel off, only to discover that the spokes that I had with me were too short. I also discovered my wrench would not work with my new freewheel remover. You must take off the freewheel (rear sprocket) to change any spoke. I put the bike back together, minus one spoke in the rear wheel, and had an acceptable, and filling, Beef Teriyaki Plate Lunch.

Hanalei has a Bike Doctor but he was away on a mountain bike ride to Anahola. It was now 1:30pm and clearly impossible to get to Poipu today. I decided instead to go to Haena State Park where there is a campground and the beginning of the Napali Coast Trail. The South Pacific Lumahai Beach, was as pretty as ever, and the ridges and cliffs that begin the Napali coast were spectacular. However, the campground was quite depressing. It was a small, grassy, treeless, and crowded protuberance into the beach. Anini is much prettier, and it was not too late. I decided to go back.

The ride back was much easier with the light trades at my back. In fact the day has been rather normal beautiful, sort of warm, and mostly sunny Kauai weather. When I got back to Hanalei, the Bike Doctor had returned. He was busy trueing a wheel but had the right sized spokes, lent me a large wrench, and I replaced the spoke. I checked, and tightened the other spokes and noticed a flat spot on the rim. I asked him what could cause it. He suggested that I hit something too hard. He wanted to see what he could do with it so he put it on his trueing machine and played for a while. He felt that he bearings were shot and that he could straighten it a bit but not perfectly. His suggestion was that I should get a new wheel when I get home. This wheel has only gone 15,000 miles (24,000 km). I guess bicycle parts are not meant to last. My total cost was only for five spokes, $2.00.

I was back at Anini by 5:30pm. The wind is much stronger here than at Haena, but tonight I am going to put my tent up right under the trees by the ocean.

4  Monday, Feb. 19, Anini Beach Park

I left at about 8:30am after almost parasailing to Lihue when I lifted my tent to shake it clean. After talking to the couple with from Vancouver Island, I discovered that Salt Ponds Beach Park allowed camping. My ``Let's Go'' guide did not list this one as being allowed. It is a little closer, and in their opinion, prettier than Lucy Wright Beach Park in Waimea. The only downside was that it was too close to the Hawaiian Humane Society and you could hear the dogs. That last piece of information was quite valuable. There were no signs to Salt Ponds but lots to the Humane Society.

The ride to Lihue was about 30 miles and 4000 feet of climb (40km & 1200m). I was a little surprised at the climb. It was up and down, but my bananas and trail mix supplied sufficient energy. One major advantage was that the trades were at my back.

*** Quote of the day: From Banana Joe as I passed his fruit stand - ``You need a truck, not a bicycle''

Lihue is a little sad in two ways. The Kukui Grove shopping center could be anywhere on the mainland and the historic commercial stores downtown, looked relatively undamaged from Iniki but were largely empty. The, once graceful, Kauai Music Theatre was, however, quite damaged and abandoned.

In Koloa, I met Sue and Jim, a middle aged couple from Seattle who were on a two week bicycle-camping tour of Kauai. Sue's comment, ``I didn't think we would ever see anyone with more on their bike than we have. Michael - you are positively scary!''. They were off to explore the Tree Tunnel, but they too intended to spend the night at Salt Ponds. Koloa is known as Hawaii's oldest plantation town. Its historic commercial district is now restored stuff shops, but for me the real treat was to see the actual construction of the building in one shop that had not been rented. From the plaques on the walls, it appears that the plantation workers lived on rice, ice, and ice cream - with considerable competition. Ice cream is still sold. This time it is Lapperts. It is as good as the advertisements in all the tourist magazines claim.

From Koloa I went south a few miles to take a cane road, which was marked as a ``Private Road'' on my map. About two miles down the road was the locked gate. On both sides of the gate were huge rocks, making the passage almost impossible. With some difficulty, I was able to lift my bike over. However, I think it would have discouraged all but the most intrepid trail motorcyclist. The ``cane road'' metamorphosed at the halfway point to become a ``coffee road''. The success of Kona Coffee has not gone unnoticed and now Kauai Coffee is to be found in all the grocery stores, drugstores, and stuff shops. The sugar cane is giving way to coffee, and sugar cane is expected to be totally gone from Kauai by 2010.

Hanapepe, bills itself as ``Hawaii's Biggest Little Town''. It has charm, but is the first place that I have seen that still has extensive Iniki damage. There was some reconstruction in progress, single man construction crews, as I passed, but it was sad.

After following the Humane Society signs for a couple of miles I found Salt Ponds. It is pleasant, quiet, not too much wind, and full of people picnicking. However there was too much wind for me to have an outside shower so I opted for a rinseless bath in the bathroom.

Today was approximately 50 miles and 6000 feet of vertical (80km and 1800m). I am not totally certain of the vertical. A cold front moved through this afternoon and I watched my altimeter go up and down 300 feet (100m) in minutes - while I was standing still. When I arrived at Salt Ponds, its reading seemed to be reasonably accurate.

5  Tuesday, Feb. 20, Salt Ponds Beach Park, Hanapepe

Sue and Jim are going to Koke'e, possibly for two days. I decided to go to Polihale Beach State Park, and possibly Koke'e tomorrow. The ride to Polihale takes me through a long, rather dull, very flat, coastal plain of sugar cane fields, parallel to a very high ridge, at the end of which is Polihale. On the way I passed through old Waimea. It is famous for its Russian fort and the fact that Cook first landed on Kauai. It was a delight to see that it was still much as it had been when I first saw it. I stopped at their Big Save grocery store to get some bananas and luncheon meats. The bananas were quite green and for luncheon meats I substituted some things that you can only easily get in Hawaii - heated sweet pork, seafood tempura with vegetables, ocean salad - (looks like assorted seaweed), cooked Tako Pake (no idea!), roast chinese pork, and kushiten - deep fried fish cakes with carrots. This should cover supper for the rest of the trip.

I arrived at Polihale at about 1:30pm. The last five miles was a mogully cane road. The major problem was that I had to pay too much attention to the road to see what was going on. When I arrived, a lady asked me if I had ridden all of that ``awful road''. Polihale is, at once, inspiring and depressing. The setting at the end of the ridge, the ocean, the surf are all magnificent. The depression is due to the vandalism in the campground. There is hardly one of the concrete picnic tables that has both of its seats and most have one seat reduced to two stumps. The camp consists of three separate areas. Area 1 and 2 have no washroom. It is boarded up. The washroom in area 3, where I decided to stay, is functional but decrepit - very sad. I do have a very nice spot under the trees right beside the washroom. The only others are a young couple, Tracy and Pete, with a small tent, and two heavy packs. They look as though they have just come down from the mountains. In fact, they have just come from Kalalau and Koke'e. The busses would not take them with their packs - there are no Beach Busses on Kauai. A Beach Bus on Oahu will transport surfers with their boards. On Sunday, a couple of kids with their boards were looking for a ride. Unlike most of the other islands, hitchhiking on Kauai is legal.

After walking on the beach, I am wondering whether the problem with the concrete picnic tables is vandalism or crooked contractors and poor concrete. Many of the tables in the picnic area had been buried or snapped by sand. Several also looked as though their tops had deteriorated off. The wooden tables are all intact.

This is winter and the surf is up and sloppy. There are some kids here looking as though they want to surf. The waves break simultaneously along their entire crest. This makes it impossible to run to the edge and gracefully bail out over the top. It is late and cloudy now. Perhaps they will try tomorrow. Unfortunately I won't get to see.

At about 4:00pm, Marisa's hale (house) rolled in. She is ``hapa haole'' (half Hawaiian) but her bruddah, Gary was very proud that he was 100% Hawaiian. Marisa is one of a family of 14, seven sisters and seven brothers. She has an inoperable brain tumor, suffers from tunnel vision, and was absolutely thrilled when I told her that I had three aneurisms and my doctor considered me a success story. ``Your not a success, your a f***ing miracle!'' was her comment. Marisa was a nurse for 25 years at Queens Hospital in Honolulu before retiring on disability a few years ago. She bought her hale bus for $500 and her old Chevy Impala for $25. Neither is junk. Tracy, Pete, Laurie and Tom (two more late arrivals) and I were invited to visit and inspect her bus. She asked me what I thought. I said that there was too much space. Then she told us of her plans for filling in the space - putting in a queen size bed, a kitchen and a ``lua''. They also had plans to paint the bus ... right where it was presently standing. Marisa was very upset that her bruddah had drunk all the beer and there was none for her. I raised her spirits somewhat with an offer of wine. She came back with her 16oz (500ml) cup and I filled it up, stopping and restarting several times on command.

Her bruddah, Gary, quizzed me about my relationship to nature and my feelings about the high ridges behind me. At one point he felt that maybe I might be a reincarnated Hawaiian. We had an arm wrestling contest, and much to my surprise and his, I won. Several beers later, in Marisa hale, he felt that I should go back where I came from, and that no one should ever leave where they came from. This time our arm wrestling was a little tougher. I won again, and Marisa threw Gary out of her hale. No one was going to fight with her guests in her hale. Gary disappeared to get some more beer. Tracy was also upset and left. I talked for sometime with Gordon, Marisa's husband, about the state of the world, dropping of atomic bombs, and other light topics. Marisa was still angry when I left at about 8:30pm to get some supper - it had been prepared and eaten outside while I was entertaining inside. Dinner had been demolished so then I tried to find my tent. It was pitch black, and I was lost. Fortunately Pete came back with a flashlight and I was rescued.

After some organizing, I went back to say good night to Marisa. She didn't want me to go but after a few hugs and kisses, let me. At about 9:30pm, after some Tako Pake - still a mystery - I went to bed.

6  Wednesday, Feb. 21, Polihale State Park

I left at about 8:30am. Marisa and her family were of course asleep - maybe - Puulike, their tiny puppy barked protection as I walked by and then stopped to see if I had picked up any Kiawe thorns in my tires. There are plenty in my shoes.

I was still on the cane road when I heard ``Stand by for targeted launch.'' Then a tiny missile streaked off into the sky - no explosion though. Did it miss? The road here passes by the Pacific Missile Range Facility.

My aim for today was to climb up to Koke'e along Waimea Canyon. After climbing a steep 2000 feet to the edge of the canyon, I ran out of water. It was noon, ideal cloudy climbing weather, but there was no way. I had lunch and my two hour climb was reversed in about ten minutes, with some stops to let impatient cars (drivers?) by.

When I got back to Waimea, it was dribbling, and you could not see the mountains. I suspect it was pouring in Koke'e. The Lucy Wright Beach Park is an acceptable emergency campground, but not one of choice. I rode up Menehune Rd. and discovered rural Hawaii of the 60s has not disappeared. The paved road became a dirt track with the announcement ``Happy New Year from Waimea Valley'', and four dogs that attacked me, one nipping my ankle. I stopped and talked fiercely and they backed off. The end of the road was an agricultural research station with seven foot. fully grown papaya trees, and bananas covered in plastic.

*** The Waimea Valley/Canyon is much more impressive if you can see it from water level.

On my way back, the dogs were down by the river, and I had passed before they could regroup. I continued to Waimea and then battled a very strong headwind to Salt Ponds. At the Thrifty Mart where I stopped for an unsuccessful attempt to find some bananas, a little old lady told me ``You have all your things on your bike!'' After hearing that I had come from Polihale - ``a long way'' - she offered to help me with my heavy load to Salt Ponds. She said, ``We always offer to help strangers with heavy loads.'' After a ``No thank you.'' I was on my way.

My tent was put up in gale? force winds.

7  Thursday, Feb. 22, Salt Ponds

I left at about 8:00am after giving my Coleman Propane canisters to a German Vintner from Niagara-on-the-Lake. He has 10 acres and sells to the Vintners Coop. This is a slow time so he is away. However he is quite worried about the several days of -36c that his vineyard has endured. I slowly made my way to Lihue. Slowly was imposed by the winds. At one time, when I was barely moving, it blew my bicycle helmet off my head. In many ways, Hawaii HI50 was more interesting than the cane/coffee road that I first went on. The terrain was more varied and rugged. It is always fun to see rural Hawaii.

I arrived in Lihue at about 12:30pm and found the map that I should have had for the entire trip. It had a detailed street map of Lihue, and of other metropolises on the island. I found the Huleia National Wildlife Refuge and the Menehune/Alakoko Fishpond - one and the same. I had forgotten how beautiful it was -- the coastal ridge, the river and the fishpond.

I then visited the old Kauai Surf that has metamorphosed into the Kauai Marriot with fake Roman statues and a golf course. I talked for sometime to one of the employees about the changes and the loss of the Kauai Surf. Given the sorry state of the Kauai economy, any success is advantageous. The rest of afternoon was spent wandering around Lihue looking for books and things.

I arrived at the airport at about 4:30pm and was all packed by 5:30pm. Aloha let me take an earlier flight so I was able to check in by about 7:30pm instead of 10:00pm. Beside me on this flight was a school girl from Japan who was making some of the most incredible miniature origami that I have ever seen. I expressed my admiration and she gave them to me - a stork and a turtle.

I did indulge myself somewhat. Honolulu airport has a Sleep and Shower facility. I just had my first hot shower in a week. I hope my seat companions are appropriately appreciative.

The trip home was uneventful, except for the fact that my bags did not make it to Montréal when I did. They were delivered to the house at about 1:00am - my choice.

*** Kauai is still the Garden Isle, but the best time to visit is in the summer - no junk weather with good snorkeling and decent surfing. Perhaps is will become my favorite island.

8  Maps

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On 12 Nov 2008, 13:10.