Yes. That is how our journey started. With the news of a hurricane coming right our way.
After a good 5½-hour direct flight from Oakland, CA, we slowly start our descent, and, passing under the clouds, we start to see the beautiful dark red coast of Līhu’e, main city of Kaua’i island.
Turquoise and deep blue ocean, black lava rock, red soil, lush green landscapes … the paradise we see from our small window is enough to give our bodies a first adrenaline rush.
“- We’re here!!”
At the gate, we leave the A/C-ed plane to enter a new hot and humid environment. It is surprising at first, as we are used to cold and sterilized airports. Here, except for the ones between you and the tarmac, there are no windows, and you can feel and smell the wind.
“Welcome to the Garden Island” says the sign at the exit, and it really is how it feels.
We get our backpacks, and sit and wait for the bus that will bring us downtown. I am on the phone, checking my Couchsurfing messages, Tetyana is sewing, fixing my Tunisian fabric sandals.
My mind switches back to “planning mode” for a bit and reviews how the upcoming days will unfold, as if I need to remember and double-check:
- Day 1: get supplies and head to the North Shore, close to the trailhead. Sleep at Eli’s (CouchSurfer) ;
- Day 2, 3 & 4: hike the Kalalau trail. 11 miles one-way, strenuous, one of the 20 most dangerous hikes, but taking place in the middle of the untouched paradisiac nature named Nā Pali Coast. Camping ;
- Day 5 & 6: back to Līhu’e to get the rental car (would be silly to pay for the first four days while we will be hiking, and the car waiting on a parking lot), rest and explore the South Shore, while staying in Kōloa at Yvonne’s ;
- Day 7 & 8: Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Park. Exploring the top of the island. Cool and humid conditions expected. Nothing but trails and nature. Camping ;
- Day 9: early packing, airport, fly to Big Island.
I pulled some hair off to make this itinerary, got lucky finding super late permits for Kalalau (they are very limited—60 permits per day, meaning 60 people per day authorized on the trail and campgrounds!— and usually get sold out up to a year in advance, found them 3 weeks before, a group probably cancelled, our luck), looking for hosts, messaging, finding activities …
Anyway! Let’s start our adventure!
Bad news come quickly. Eli, the guy who offered to host us for our first night on the island, has not replied yet and is unreachable. Phone in hand, I contact as many people as I can to find a last-minute shelter, as we ride the bus through the city.
We just have to make a quick stop at Walmart to get a can of isobutane for the camp stove, and we are supposed to head North, getting close to the Kalalau trailhead. Tomorrow, we will start hiking in supposedly the most beautiful landscapes we would have ever seen.
Well. Walmart is out of gas. That’s our luck. We hitch-hike our first ride to reach Kukui Grove, another commercial area with a K-Mart. Out of supplies too. Well. Third and last option is Sport Authority, where we finally find the providential cans. The woman at the register is also the kindest, and generously applies all kinds of discounts on our purchase. “That 20% coupon, that other one” … even splitting the receipts so that coupons can be applied multiple times. Karma.
We get a beer from the local store in Kukui Grove, slowly and happily sip it (“we’re here! It’s happening!”), and eat our sandwiches, waiting for the bus 70 to Hanalei. The names here are amazingly beautiful.
We hop on, and a few stops later, a couple of young people boards and sits in front of us. She looks like she is from mainland, he is probably local. They have an argue, and he moves across the alley, to the opposite window. Bad words probably. He opens a case, and pulls a ukulele out, starts singing and playing.
We reach Fruit Stand, our first stop. We need to hitch-hike the last three miles to get to Chanterelle, a kind person who accepted for us to leave a bag at her place, while hiking.
But things got more complicated on the way. Heavy rain started. Not-your-everyday-rain. Tropical rain. Long. Heavy. Intense. Soaking showers.
A car finally stops to pick us up. Inside, a couple from Bulgaria with two adorable kids, and here they start speaking Russian to Tetyana. It is our first day on the island, it is their last day of vacation. Karma again.
They drop us right is front of Chanterelle’s house and wish us good luck.
We walk and pass the gate to discover an amazing house, surrounded by beautiful gardens, fountain and sculptures.
We are greeted welcome, and start conversing while re-packing for the next days.
Mahalo (thank you) and we get back on the highway (the highway here is a single lane each way following the shore) to hitch-hike to reach the end of the road.
That is something we are not really used to: “the end of the road”. While the island makes an almost-perfect circle, the highway doesn’t make a loop around, but more like an mirrored C shape, or a U (depends how you look at it). And the part where there is no road is where we are going, of course.