Sunday, June 28, 2015

Living Dinosaurs (A Real Gem)

Sam's guidebook includes a little entry for nearly every bit of Kaua'i, and for the exceptionally nice trips and beaches there is a parenthetical (A Real Gem) added to the title to indicate that such and such beach should not be missed.

The plan for today was a run along the Nā Pali coast (A Real Gem), a trip which is one of the most popular because of the great views. We got an early start, knowing that parking would be tight, and we arrived in the lot at 7:15 and found a place though the remaining spots filled up really quickly. The trail along the coast is rather rugged and although we were only going about 13 miles round trip, we planned to take 4-5 hours for the adventure. We made sure to stop and take many photos of lush jungle, sharp cliffs and staggeringly blue ocean. The turn around point for our run was Hanakoa falls, where we sat eating granola bars and watching some circling birds that looked like pterodactyls. Everything on this part of the island looks like Jurassic Park.

Cairns stacked along the beach. We beat the crowds here

Still early in the run, because my shirt isn't soaked yet

Every turn on the trail gives a nicer view

A tree, or a hammock?
Location, location, location
It's nice when there is a breeze

The parking for our run along the coast was directly adjacent to Ke'e beach (A Real Gem) and despite being a bit tired from the morning, we gamely plunged in and paddled around over the reef looking at fish. The conditions were such that we were in very shallow water most of the time and therefore the fish were all very close. The beach was very pretty and after snorkeling we just lay in the shade feeling drowsy.

On the way back to our place, we stopped in Hanalei to grab some things to make dinner and to try a Puka Dog. A Puka Dog is a polish sausage which is inserted into a hole drilled into a hot dog bun. The sausage is coated in hot sauce and fruit relish, and was pretty good recovery food after a long day in the sun.

In truth, we found the sun to be pretty overwhelming and so decided to wait until later in the evening before venturing out again. So at 6pm, we packed our picnic dinner and our mask and fins and walked over to Sealodge Beach (A Real Gem) to see some fish and watch the sunset. The beach was almost deserted and saw a lot of fish, although we did not venture outside the reef into the rougher water where there apparently are often turtles.

Dinner was lovely, and we had a couple of very cute and curious beagles come over to investigate whether we were interested in sharing our teriyaki chicken thighs with eggplant, green onions and hoisin sauce flavored udon. The sunset was worth the wait, and moon was bright enough that we almost didn't need our headlamp to make it back to the house.

Doesn't get any better than this
Tomorrow we head to the airport and fly over to continue our honeymoon adventures on the Big Island.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Snorkeling with Turtles

We have only been in Princeville one night, but we've already started making friends. In fact, we had breakfast with one of the neighborhood regulars that just appeared on the lanai in the morning. Lanai, I learned this trip, is the Hawaiian word for a veranda or patio with a roof.
breakfast buddy was all tuckered out
The big event for me in the morning was getting a surfing lesson. Sam was hesitant to go surfing because she isn't as comfortable in conditions with big waves. After all of the beaches we visited on the south shore, where the surf is pretty high in the summer time, she thought that surfing wouldn't be very much fun. For me, on the other hand, surfing has always had a great appeal, and so at 9:30 I checked in for my first lesson. I was grouped together with a nice couple about my age and we got a fun and friendly instructor Cody to show us the ropes.
surfboard squats
We spent a fair amount of time on the beach at first, learning about the boards and proper positioning and safety considerations. But it wasn't too long before we were in the water paddling about. Cody spent a big portion of the time propelling us forward so that we could catch the little waves close to the beach and we all popped up and rode the waves to shore. He could tell we wanted a bit more independence so then he allowed us to spend the rest of the lesson trying to catch our own waves. I always thought that finding the proper balance would be the hardest part of surfing, but for me it was paddling fast enough to catch the little waves that was the stopping point. I succeeded a couple of times, and the time just flew by.
hanging out on their surfboards

Ross surfing!
While I was surfing Sam snapped a few photos, swam and read on the beach. We are thinking to invest in some stronger sun block because even after frequent applications we are still picking up bits and pieces of sun burns. (Note for the future Sam - bathing suit rides up about an inch while snorkeling, put sunscreen there. And on your shoulders. And lower back. And front. And feet. Frequently. I have the look of wearing a bikini, even when I'm not.)

The surf school was just down the road from a recommended sushi restaurant, Dolphin Sushi (there is a theme to our dining out) and we had an excellent lunch before heading down the coast to Tunnels beach, which is one of the places that Eric and Emily liked best on their honeymoon. The beach was beautiful and not too crowded because there is very limited parking, and we set up our towels in the shade at the edge of the beach. Then we went snorkeling all afternoon. We are really regretting not having a waterproof camera option, because we can't show pictures of all the amazing fish we saw. The absolute highlight was watching a trio of sea turtles (turtles!!!) grazing just inches away from us, but we also saw big schools of fish, a long needle fish, pastel palette colored fish, unicorn fish that look like Sam the Eagle from the muppets. We don't know their real names yet, sadly. Also, the snorkeling area is huge and because of limited parking (which we scored) and maybe just so many other beaches, there were at most 10 people snorkeling at any given time. Which means it felt like you had the whole reef to yourself. Just awesome.
At Tunnels.

This is a small Shave Ice.
Next we took a quick peek inside the dry cave, which was a very deep dry cave under a gigantic cliff along the beach. In the deepest recesses it was darker than our iPhone flashlight app could light ;) Then we drove back to base, stopping along the way to grab some materials for cooking dinner and another Shave Ice (Emily said that we should have one for her).

(Sam takeover, Ross is washing dishes) After that we headed home with the plan to start marinating the Ahi tuna and go for a sunset run to Hideaway beach. One of the great things about staying in Princeville is that many of the nice beaches on the north side are right here and the parking lots are small - but we can run or walk to them! However, I feel asleep and Ross tried twice unsuccessfully to convince me to get out of bed. On the third try he succeeded and we ran to Hideaway beach to catch the end of sunset. Too cloudy tonight to see the sun set into the ocean, but it was beautiful nevertheless. Dinner, coconut lager and dragon fruit and now it's time for bed. Up early tomorrow to run along the Na Pali Coast ahead of the crowds!

Hiking down to Hideaway Beach.
Sunset at Hideaway.
Sunset at Hideaway

And yes, more sunset. The iphone couldn't capture the orange color of the sky.

Friday, June 26, 2015

That's aggressive

Alright, I will admit that I selected the name for this blog post pretty early on in the day. Sam and I had gotten an early start and headed back over to the canyon to get one more trail run on the south side of the island. We parked at the trail head and said hello to the very friendly chickens that came over to inspect our car. They were adorable but we refused to capitulate to their cuteness, and they remained unfed as we headed down the Canyon Trail to Waipoo falls.

Must. Not. Give. Gu Chomps.

Running downhill is tough going with sore legs, so our descending speed was definitely throttled down a bit. We had the trail pretty much to ourselves on the way out, and we stopped several times along the trail for stunning views of the Waimea Canyon (and a constant stream of helicopter tours sweeping through).
Small Sam, Big Canyon

We made it to the falls, and continued on just a bit farther to get a bit more distance. The guidebook was oddly quiet about the route that continued past the waterfall, maybe because the trail was really gnarly and overgrown and not appropriate for the faint of heart, so we pleasantly surprised at the awesome views that we came across.

This is as close as Sam wants to be to the edge of the falls

The whole canyon all to ourselves

We had to check out of our place at noon, so we turned around and headed for home and discovered that many more hikers were up and about by this time. As we ran back to the parking lot one friendly woman commented "That's aggressive" in a complimentary sort of way as we approached. Another said that she knew I was a runner because of how how short my shorts were. Sam and I are both really enjoying how friendly and outgoing Americans can be!

For the afternoon activity we headed back to Poipu beach to do some snorkling. The ocean is amazing here and pretty much any place you hop into the water you can find lots of colorful fish. We spent a pleasant hour chasing them around, and then later in the day discovered that we didn't put enough sunscreen on our lower backs.

We picked up some more sushi from the same place we visited on the food tour, and drove over to the East coast where we found a lovely beach to have a late lunch, before continuing on to Princeville, where we are staying for the rest of our time on Kaua'i. We dropped off our things and grabbed a couple of towels to visit the number one attraction for Princeville a cool place called the Queen's Bath. This is a section along the coast where there are a couple deep rock pools that fill with water and form these amazing calm secluded bathing spots. On the way out across the rocks we saw some giant sea turtles swimming nearby in the ocean, getting buffeted about by the waves. We keep on getting lucky with our timing, and we managed to have a pool all to ourselves, unless you count all the beautiful fish and scuttling crabs that really lived there. We're already thinking to return on another evening with our snorkling gear to get a better view of the aquatic life and maybe stick
around for the sunset.
Bigger than our tub at home

Beautiful sky just before sunset

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Whatever the opposite of hungry is

Hello dear readers, we have reached the end of day three here on Kaua'i and it has been another fabulous day in paradise. Sam had researched and booked a tour called Tasting Kauai, and so our schedule for today needed to leave the whole afternoon free for that.
Sweaty and warm at 9 in the morn'

Our day of adventures up in the canyon had left us with sore muscles, and so after a leisurely breakfast, we decided that a local run around the neighborhood might help loosen the legs. We heard that Puu road was a quiet and scenic route, and it lived up to its reputation. Many other groups were out enjoying the late morning along the road, making us feel confident that we discovered where the locals go.

After the run, there was enough time for me to sneak over to a hair salon down in town to get a hair cut, and Sam went looking for coffee and browsing through an art gallery. I had meant to get the haircut in Uppsala before we left, but midsommar weekend is not a great time to schedule a last minute appointment. Hopefully the shorter hair will keep me cool in both senses of the term :)

By this time it was noon and we were getting a little bit hungry. The tasting tour started in an hour, but we were anxious that maybe we wouldn't be eating enough food while on the tour and that we would be hungry. (Spoiler, we needn't have worried). We spied a handpainted sign advertising fish tacos and followed the arrow to a cute little food truck, where we bought a very good lunch. Afterward we walked around the tourist area before meeting up with the tour group.
Ross protecting the fish tacos from opportunistic flies

Our guide, Melissa, was charming and knowledgeable and the rest of our tour group was a family of six from Iowa and a couple from Phoenix celebrating their wedding anniversary. They were excited to hear that we came from Sweden, though I think they were hoping for real Swedes. The next section describing the food tour will maybe work best as a photo montage.
Açaí is surprisingly hard to pronounce, but easy to devour

First stop was a smoothie bar, were we got to try the house specialty, an Acai smoothie bowl. Acai berries, we learned, come from Brazil and are very popular in beach towns with a surfing culture. The berries come in little frozen packets from Brazil but then get blended in with other delicious stuff like coconut water and apple bananas, which are a small sweet variety of banana. On top of the berry blend was more cut fruit, coconut, granola, and honey. They were pretty amazing.
Oh so delicious

Just a few meters away, we visited a Sushi bar where the owner talked to us about how he started the company and how he makes the different dishes. He was an amazing storyteller with the gift of Gab for sure, and he charmed the pants off of the whole crowd. His favorite dish they make is a mixture of Ahi, Ono, and Salmon with lots of sesame seeds, wasabi aioli and seaweed salad served on a bed of sushi rice. I am currently voting that we go back there for lunch tomorrow if not every single day that we have left on Kaua'i.

The next stop was a local market that sold goods from all over the island and around Hawaii. We got to hear about how a lot of the businesses are growing and thriving by selling to local restaurants and by making things when they are in season.
So many choices!

Just next to the market was the gelato shop where we got a tour from the owner. He told us about the differences between ice cream and gelato and then let us into the store where we got to sample his flavors and see how a batch of gelato gets made. It was really hard to choose what flavors to get from the dozens on display. Sam settled on pineapple and cheesecake, where I was very satisfied with a tart frozen yogurt and a coconut chocolate chip.

It was about this time that we were already starting to feel full and we had several stops to go!

The rest of the tour was in and around a shopping plaza that has a farmer's market every Wednesday. We ate kobe beef sliders with cheese and slaw topping served on a homemade brioche bun and then wandered around the inside of the food market shop which was a lot like a Wegman's but filled with mostly Hawaiian things. We got to sample some freshly delivered Lychee fruits, which were delicious and fun to peel and eat.
Dragon fruit are in season. We are curious.

Across the plaza was a stand selling croissants and other pastries that were made using the same flaky buttery dough. Sam has saved her dark chocolate one for tomorrow but I selected a spinach goat cheese sundried tomato version which was very quickly dispatched. It was highlighted that at this particular farmer's market, everything needs to made with things that come from the island, which is really special because most food gets imported from the mainland.
Out in the sun all day, both Ross and the slider are grilled to perfection

We stopped by a lot of small stalls just for a taste, and sampled white pineapple, fantastic jellies and jams, and some really great honey. The beekeeper did a great job describing how the honey is made and how it takes 10,000 bee trips to collect nectar to make an ounce of honey. And also, how a normal worker bee can maybe only make 10,000 trips in her life. They have a lot of wild bees on the island too, and many different kinds of crops and plants so that the bees always have something to eat and so the hives don't need to be moved.

The last stop on the official tour was at a fancy restaurant owned by celebrity chef Peter Merriman. We were treated to a glass of passionfruit lemonade and a small dish of spanish omelet (made with eggs and potatoes from the executive chef, Mark's, yard) topped with a grilled shrimp and some yogurt sauce. In keeping with the rest of the tour, it was delicious and tastes so much better when the head chef comes out to describe all the ingredients and how it is prepared!
Sam was a little creeped out by the eyes on the shrimp

At this point we said goodbye to our tour group and had some time to wander around the market by ourselves. We purchased a mango (they are in season, and the season this year is very good according to what we heard all day) some amazing heirloomy cherry tomatoes as well as a cool looking dragonfruit. Sam also got a coconut with a straw so that she could drink the coconut water. We'll eat the meat of the coconut later as well. The food market also featured a little demonstration from another restaurant on how to make nori rolls. These are tuna filled nori packets dipped in tempura and fried very quickly and served with a sesame/soy/mirin sauce. The demonstration ended with food for everyone!
Seriously, there are chickens everywhere

Bonus food!

Shopping success

To work off some of the calories from our extended peripatetic feast we headed off to see the Spouting Horn, a geyser formation in the rocks along the coast. A cool breeze and a lovely view out across the ocean were beautiful enough but whenever a big wave came in, a towering jet of foam would spurt up from the spouting horn and the water droplets would drift and catch the light to make bright rainbows and double rainbows appear before fading away again.

Spouting horn, post spout with a bright rainbow

Our last stop of the evening was another spot along the coast where an arch of lava bridges over the crashing surf on the rocky shoreline. The arch was surprisingly hard to find, and without Sam's guidebook we would not have even known to look for it. The arch itself can really only be seen from one small area though the rocks are perfect for scrambling on and so you can stand out on top of the arch for photos.
Looking cool, in both senses of the term

It has been a long day, and bedtime beckons. More adventures await tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

We saw a wild pig!

That was Ross's favorite quote of the day, though mine was "This is really good. This is the best thing I have had in a long time" said with incredible sincerity. That was inspired by the shaved ice, after our two runs of the day exploring Waimea Canyon and Koke'e State Park.

Jo-Jos for coconut shaved ice - with mochi, coconut and cannellini beans (??) on the bottom
The morning started with a drive to end of the road in Waimea Canyon and a run on Pihea Trail to Alaka'i Swamp Trail. Fun history of a princess who hiked through these swamps, and then later on the government tried to build a road through them but failed. The clay dirt was really slick at times and so running was really slow in places. Once there were boardwalks it was much better because most of the wood was covered in metal meshing. But it's old and not well maintained so parts are just the wet slick board - I have the bruise on my butt to prove how slippery they were.
Just a sampling of the mud on the trails (at least this part was flat!)
Out in the swamps - don't worry we were rewarded with a fantastic view at the end!

On the way back we discovered that we had actually been running next to an amazing valley - Kalalau Canyon. But it was so cloudy when we started that we had no idea! Lots of stops to take pictures of this amazing place on the way back. And we looked hardcore enough that we got asked to be in the pictures with the Japanese tourists back at the viewing station by the parking lot. We walked around for the remainder of the day with mud covering our legs.

Selfie with the Canyon.
Kalalau Canyon

Then we snacked a bit and drove back down the road to the trailhead for Awa-'awapuhi Trail. This is a 6 mile (total) out and back trail with 1,520 feet of elevation change. We heard it has one of the best views at the bottom of the Nu'alolo Valley along the Na Pali Coast. It was amazing. I ran the whole way back up to the top, which was a great final workout.

Standing out on the edge.

We think it's a it blurry because Ross sweat all over his iphone. But it was a looong way down. 
We ended the day with snorkeling at Salt Pond Beach, which is protected by a rocky point. This made it so I could actually swim in the water without getting thrown around and see lots of colorful fish.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Honeymoon Begins

We are writing from the sleepy space of a warm evening on the island of Kaua'i. It is 8 pm local time, but our bodies feel like it might be more like the 8 am Tuesday morning that my watch, still on Swedish time, expects it to be.

We are doing our best to get over that 12 hours of jetlag, but we thought we would upload a couple of pictures from the last two days of adventures to get the ball rolling. We are in Hawaii on our honeymoon and hope to post often in the next 3 weeks.

Our adventure started on Sunday morning, and our travels took us from our apartment in Uppsala to Arlanda, through Heathrow and then a long flight to LA. Katie and Aaron were gracious enough to host us and Katie picked us up at the airport after we finally emerged through customs. They brought us to a fantastic Indian restaurant with remarkable food and atmosphere. The naan alone was worth the whole trip :)

Too busy eating chocolate chai desserts at the restaurant, so our selfie was back at the bat cave

This morning Aaron dropped us back at the airport and we got on a plane to Kaua'i. An interminable wait at Hertz counter was eventually rewarded with the pickup of a nice new Grey Versa and we sped off to the next stop on our itinerary, the nearby Walmart, where we picked up some snorkling gear and some food essentials.

The place where we are staying is a little south of the airport along the coast. The woman that owns the house, Maureen, is very friendly and lives in the house and rents a room out to tourists like us.

Although we were tired and hungry, we set off on a short excursion. We quickly found a trail that Sam had researched and went for a short run along the coast. The views off into the ocean were amazing and the cool breeze was a relief from the 85 degree F heat and sun. When we got back to the car we hopped down to the nearby beach but didn't stay long because the waves were pretty big and powerful and not so great for swimming. A few minutes drive down the coast provided a much better location for wading and swimming, and so we cooled off there.
Weather forecast is sunny with a chance of smiles
The trail was sandy in places, rocky in others. This was the turnaround for us

Dinner was quick stirfry and some edamame eaten outside on the patio to enjoy the warm summer evening.

Now it is truly bedtime (in fact, roughly one half of the writing team has already fallen asleep) and so Aloha po from us, which is the Hawaiian for good night!
For some reason, there was an armchair sitting out along the cliffs. Nice!