Sunday 27 October 2013

Halloween 2013: Jack-O-Lanterns

E bought huge pumpkins this year: 10.9kg and 9.5kg.  We rushed through carving while the grandparents kept the kids occupied, but they still turned out pretty nicely.

Friday 25 October 2013

Gig: Naked and Famous with The Colourist @ Fox Theatre

Free babysitting, so we found a concert to go to :) First time at the Fox Theatre, it's an amazing venue. Standing was sold out so we had to settle for seats, but it was still good. Naked and Famous were great, and The Colourist were also really good - highly recommend their LIDO EP.

4 stars.

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Kauai: Beach days, flight disaster

Our last few days on Kauai were spent mostly at the beach.

Sea turtle @Poipu beach

Poipu beach, named America's best beach by the travel channel.  It's a great place for kids.

Brennecke's Beach, adjoining and just to the East of Poipu.  M and I spent quite a few hours body boarding here.  Heaps of fun.

Poipu Beach

Monk seal @ kiahuna plantation beach.  Just chillin.

Spouting horn blowhole.  It's a fairly unremarkable tourist trap, complete with tacky souvenir places.  I'd skip it.
Lydgate Beach.  Another super-kid-friendly beach.

Lydgate Beach Park playground.  This thing is huge, and strangely deserted when we were there.
Kapaa coconut festival

Kapaa coconut festival

Kapaa coconut festival
Our final day in Kauai was a disaster.  We had a taxi screwup that made B+M miss their flight (they managed to get a later one), then rushed ourselves out of the house, returned our hire car, took the shuttle to the airport and arrived at the airport about 6 hours before our flight was due to leave.  We had a timezone fail due to the calendar reminder we created for the flight in PST :(  There was nowhere to wait outside the airport except on the kerb in the heat, and check-in for our flight wasn't going to open for hours.  So I got back on the rental shuttle, picked up the car again (lucky it was available), loaded up kids and bags, and we went for breakfast followed by a few hours in a cool local toy shop.

When we got back to the airport and returned the car for the second time our flight was delayed because of a landing gear brake failure (there was apparently smoke coming out of the wheels when it landed in Kauai).  After 3.5 mind-numbing hours waiting in the airport it was declared cancelled, and we'd either need to get rescheduled to fly via LA or come back tomorrow.

We picked up all 9 of our bags for the third time that day and waited with the kids outside in the brutal heat for another 2.5 hours or so, just for them (United) to issue us vouchers for a hotel (rebooking was just as slow) and put us on a shuttle bus.  The hotel was pretty decent, but being stranded in Hawaii in this way was definitely not fun.  Both of us were exhausted and the kids were understandably tired and upset :(  Thankfully the trip home the next day was fairly uneventful.

The pool at the hotel courtesy of United.  Looks a lot more fun than it was.

Saturday 5 October 2013

Kauai: Poipu and Waimea Canyon

After 5 days on the north shore, we relocated down to the more touristy south shore, mostly to see Waimea Canyon.  We stayed at the Kiahuna Plantation Resort, and took in some waterfalls on the way down the coast.

View Larger Map

Wailua Falls
Beach at Kiahuna Plantation
Waimea canyon continued to impress from the ground, and is well worth the trip to the southern side of the island.

Waimea Canyon
Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon

View from the Pu'u o Kila overlook, end of highway 550.  At this point we are actually quite close in straight line distance to the start of the Kalalau trail!
A few interesting hikes left from the Pu'u o Kila overlook down the Pihea trail that I wish we'd had time to do.  These alone would take most of a day, and we'd already spent almost an entire day ogling the canyon.

Start of the Pihea trail

Thursday 3 October 2013

Kauai: Kalalau Trail Trip Report

The Kalalau Trail, a TODO item!  Having flown over the Na Pali coast the day before, I wanted to walk it.  The Kalalau trail is one of the most famous walks in the world, and the only land access to the Na Pali.  We hoped that a couple of days of mostly rain-free weather was enough to have dried the trail out somewhat.

You start the walk at Ke'e beach, one of the best beaches on the whole island.  The great beach plus the popularity of the trail means parking is a major hassle.  There is a small turning circle and a tiny carpark at the beach and trailhead, but you'll likely have to park in the larger carpark 0.3 miles back up the road.

The trailhead is well-marked but the sign is inaccurate: it claims permits are required to hike past Hanakapi'ai, but this is no longer the case.  As of Jan 1, 2012, permits are only required for hiking past Hanakoa (at which point it is really an overnight hike).

Kalalau Trail
We decided to hike all the way to Hanakoa.  We knew it was going to be a big day, so we carried a fair bit of water, food, and were on the trail by 9am.  I'd definitely recommend carrying water purification tablets to give yourself the ability to re-supply: there are multiple large creeks/rivers.  Hat and sunscreen are mandatory, and be prepared for brutal heat and humidity.

While hundreds of people hike to the first beach (Hanakapi'ai) each day, and a reasonable number head 1.8 miles up the valley from there to see the waterfall, almost no-one day-hikes to Hanakoa.  We were literally the only people without overnight packs who went any significant distance past Hanakapi'ai for the entire day.

First good view: Ke'e Beach and reef

Looking towards Na Pali

It's a dangerous beach, sure, but this sign is bullshit

River crossing at Hanakapi'ai

Climbing up from Hanakapi'ai, looking back over the beach

View from Space Rock, highest point of the trail

Looking down from Space Rock

Trail as it passes Space Rock.  You can clamber around the side via a precarious path for fantastic views.

On our helicopter trip our pilot claimed the Kalalau trail was "the most dangerous trail in the world".  This has no basis in reality.  The biggest danger is the heat (we passed someone on the way back who was really struggling).  The trail is fairly exposed, but not in a scary way, just in a the-views-are-amazing way.  The trail condition was good, not too muddy, although we noticed the section closest to the trailhead deteriorated drastically over the course of the day from the hundreds of people doing the short version of the hike.

The views as you enter the Hanakoa valley are amazing, a natural amphitheatre of knife-edge ridges.  The campgrounds there were pretty ordinary though: in the forest near the creek with no views.  They were also covered in trash :(
Stupendous Hanakoa valley

Hanakoa Valley
The 13 mile round trip to Hanakoa took us 7 hours (half the time suggested on the trailhead sign), but it was a pretty epic day.  There was plenty of elevation change and the heat and humidity were brutal, with little shade for most of the walk.  We set a pretty quick pace but didn't rush the experience and took plenty of photos.

Doing it with an overnight pack would be fairly tough work but something I want to come back and do.  I think the best itinerary would be to do both waterfall side trips (Hanakapi'ai and Hanakoa) on the first day and camp at Hanakoa, have a short walk the next day to Kalalau, then come back in a single day.

Best of all we got to soak our bones and wash off the mud in the warm water at Ke'e at the end of the day and watch a great sunset.

Fantastic Ke'e beach.  This was my favourite beach on the whole island.  Beautiful, and kid-friendly water and shade.

Sunset swimming at Ke'e.  One of the island's best sunset locations

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Kauai: By Helicopter

The biggest tragedy of all would be to go to Kauai and not see it from a helicopter.  Take Wai'ale'ale Crater, the Na Pali coast, Waimea Canyon, and Jurassic Falls: any one of these would be enough reason to take to the air, but seeing them all at once was one of the coolest experiences of my life.  We went with Sunshine Helicopters, mostly because they flew out of Princeville, but there are a plethora of companies to choose from.  Don't expect any to be cheap.  The standard cheesy joke is the the helicopter is Hawaii's state bird...

Our chopper taking off
We started by heading for Mount Wai'ale'ale, a shield volcano crater, billed by the local tourist industry as the wettest place on Earth (I thought it was a place in India that gets monsoon rain, which is closer to the truth, but "wettest" is hotly debated).  In any case, watching the water cascade down the wall of tears is an impressive sight.

On the approach to Wai'ale'ale, green so green it hurts your eyes and waterfalls everywhere

Wall of tears (really hard to capture in a single photo)
We threaded the needle with the weather: enough rain that every single waterfall was operating, and just clear enough of clouds to actually see it.  Without large bodies of water to feed the falls many of them dry up less than an hour after rain.  Our pilot had only seen all the falls operating a handful of times, despite hundreds of flights.

Look like the set of Jurassic Park?  That's because it is.  Manawaipuna (Jurassic Park) falls.
Approach to Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon: "Grand Canyon of the Pacific" isn't overselling.
Waimea Canyon
Razor sharp knife-edge ridges of the Na Pali coast

Impossibly pretty Na Pali coast

The Na Pali coast: land of knife-edge ridges that plummet into warm turquoise water
Ke'e beach center right, looking East towards Hanalei Bay 
Once we were done with the helicopter, and swapped kid-minding duties so the rest of the family could go, we went and hung out at the fanciest hotel on the island: the St. Regis in Princeville.

St. Regis, private beach
St Regis