Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Day 3 - Drive to Hanalei Bay (just the pictures) After the ride to Waimea canyon, we hung onto the rental for another day to head in the opposite direction around Kaua'i to Hanalei Bay. Allegedly, the South side of Kaua'i is the dry side, and the north is the wet side. Our hotel was on the south side, and we got a little rain each day, usually in the morning. So I kind of figured, "this whole wet-side dry-side theory is hype". The drive to the east (counter-clockwise) runs through a slightly more inhabited area of a very uninhabited island. There is the main town of Lihue, which has the airport, and the ship port of Nawiliwili (Hawaiins tend to name the good stuff twice, and use the good names for more than one place, for example Waimea and Kona are used all over). Then you hit Wailua bay, and then it's all verdant mountains, waterfalls, and untouched coastline. By untouched, I mean rugged. Kaua'i gets so much rain that there are rivers every few miles draining the mountain rain to the sea, and the estuaries are mellow at low-tide, and churning at high-tide. We found out from locals that many of the rivers are seasonal, as are the waterfalls we could see all along the mountains. Unfortunately, the weather was so dark and rainy that we couldn't really photography the mountains or the waterfalls. They were both covered by grey clouds. Even with the rain, though, the landscape is amazing. The mountains are quite tall, but more impressive is the steep grade. The peaks cut near-vertical lines, and somehow remain completely covered in lush green vegetation. We were unable to reach the end of the road, Haena State Park, because the road was washed out by a roaring stream. Since the rain was still falling, we decided to turn around instead of fording the temporary river. We found out later this was a good decision (I got a haircut, and barbers always seem to know everything about their locale). Apparently the whole coastal road, and the housing around it, will flood this time of year, forcing the local magistrates to close the road. If you time it badly, you can get stuck on the far side of Hanalei Bay until the rain stops and the water recedes. Another useful fact from Owen the Barber: the swollen rivers often nab wild boars and chickens on their way from the mountains to the ocean. Tiger Sharks and other junk eaters hang around the river estuaries waiting for an easy meal of drowned pig. So, if you want to swim, swim well up river in the completely fresh water and stay the heck away from the estuary when the river is running high from rain. Owen the Barber didn't stop there, he had a little local gossip about Bethany Hamilton, the local surfer who lost her arm. Owen told us (my haircut took so long, the shop was closed and Caitie had sidled up into the other barber's chair) that shark attacks definitely happened periodically, but usually under avoidable circumstances. Apparently, Bethany was on morning patrol, surfing right at dawn. She wasn't in school, because she is home schooled, and she and her friend were at a line-up near a river estuary (actually the one in our pictures). Rumor has it that she and her friend were trying to call dolphins by squeaking and chattering in the water. "All these little things -- the vibrations in the water, the estuary, being out there at dawn -- they add up." Owen explained that he, like many Hawaiians, believes sharks are protectors (for pure-blooded Hawaiians anyway). As evidence, he pointed out that most shark attacks were not fatal, just nibbles to see if the victim tasted any good. The only fatalities occur when the shark is so big that the nibble is your whole torso. Bethany Hamilton, he claimed, even said the attack was almost instantaneous -- in one moment her arm was just gone ("A nice clean incision" according to Owen). The traditional, friendly view of sharks basically boils down to: if they bite you it's all your fault. Like the old hawaiian adage "never turn your back on the sea," every once in a while a tourist or a newcomer will forget the rules of nature's polite society. If you're a descendant of the hardy folks that paddled 3000 miles from polynesia to populate the islands, well, you're expected to know better. That's why the big local scandal wasn't the Hamilton attack, but a young Hawaiin named Hoku Aki who lost his foot to a shark attack (he was out early after a rain too). As if losing his foot to what is meant to be a spiritual protector wasn't bad enough, this Aki had to get his leg amputated at the knee, to allow him to use a prosthetic (or so says Owen, but Caitie concurred that was to standard protocol). The final insult was all the media attention paid to the Hamilton attack, which happened about a year later, while this guy Aki got a two paragraph mention in a Scottish newspaper. Contrary to the barber maxim of shark nibbling, Aki apparently reported having to gauge the shark's eye to escape. Owen's theory (what can I say, the guy was a genius of local whatnot) is Hamilton was already known by a few surf reporters, because she was a rising star on the competitive circuit. When she was attacked, the surf-reporters were able to ignite the media frenzy that ensued. "Would you give your arm to be rich and famous?" Owen chuckled, "Not me. You gotta live simple, because eventually the well will run dry. Do you want gel in your hair?"