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Published: September 5th 2017
Geo: 21.876, -159.446
Quiet and uncrowded, the lush, green island of Kauai is known as the "Garden Isle." It is home to spectacular cliffs and canyons. The most popular shore excursions visit Waimea Canyon, the Wailua River and Fern Grotto and that's where we'll be going today. The alarm goes off at 6:30am. Time to get ready. It's Cream of Wheat and fruit for me, oatmeal for Mom. We meet in the Queen's Lounge at 8 but the ship is still positioning so we must wait. We still get off ahead of everyone else because this is a Holland America excursion, our only one on our trip. The balance will be independent tours like Ricky's. At 8:30, about a half hour late, we head out to board the bus. Mom was in the restroom when they called our number so now we're last to get on the bus but it works out for us. We get the front row seats right behind the driver that they normally reserve for impaired travelers. I'm OK with it since we got a great view and who would argue that I'm not impaired. Unfortunately, the newly weds are in the other front row. You'll hear more
about them later.
Kauai is Hawaii's fourth largest island and is sometimes called the “Garden Isle,” which is an entirely accurate description. The oldest and northernmost island in the Hawaiian chain is draped in emerald valleys, sharp mountain spires and jagged cliffs, aged by time and the elements. Centuries of growth have formed tropical rainforests, forking rivers and cascading waterfalls. We find that there are over 100 Hawaiian Islands total but only eight are inhabited and those are the official ones.
We head out for Waimea Canyon but first a quick stop at Hula Boutique for free Kauai coffee and a restroom stop. Oh, by the way, it's a gift shop too and they take credit cards. Duh! I try the Kauai coffee and it's very good. Our driver tells us that Kona coffee is more famous and more expensive. Kauai coffee is picked when it's yellow with machines while Kona coffee is allowed to become red or purple but must be picked by hand, increasing the price. Mom buys me an Hawaiian shirt she likes for $40 and we leave.
Sitting across the aisle from us are two 50 year old newly weds that won't stop talking. Our bus driver,
Lisa, has told us that we left late, have a full day and will need to watch our time throughout the day to make our schedule. The newly weds are ten minutes late at the gift shop stop, delay our departure and the driver lets them know about it. Now we're off to Waimea Canyon which takes about 35 minutes. Lisa talks about the 1992 Ilikei Hurricane that destroyed much of Kauai, with winds over 220 mph. Now those newly weds keep talking to the driver about everything. The lady cackles after every comment and the guy keeps making stupid jokes and asking questions like, "Do people step on wild chicken eggs?" Now one of the twins sitting behind them starts yelling at them and the bus driver for talking. He wants to enjoy the scenery in peace and quiet. I must get pictures of these goobers. They dress alike and everything on their bodies is the same. Shoes, socks, watches, jewelry, hats, shirts and bald heads. They look like Uncle Fester. They may not be actual twins, just kooksters.
Anyway, we stop at the lookout point for Waimea Canyon and get some photos. Described as "The Grand Canyon of the
Pacific" by Mark Twain, who only saw it portrayed in a painting, it's certainly not as big or as old as its Arizona cousin. Stretching 14 miles long, one mile wide and more than 3,600 feet deep, the Waimea Canyon Lookout provides panoramic views of crested buttes, rugged crags and deep valley gorges. From here we can see some of Mount Waialeale (elevation 5,148 ft), with the top obscured today by clouds. It sits at the heart of Kauai's uninhabited interior and is a quintessential rain forest with over 400-inches of rain per year. The rain that falls around Mt. Waialeale generally does not affect the coastal parts of the island, which are much drier. Mom buys some fruit at a stand and we're off on time for a change.
The ride is peaceful down the mountain with the newly weds mumbling to themselves and giggling quietly as we head straight to the Spouting Horn. A hole formed in the lava flow to the sea many years ago is hollow below and wave action pushes water underneath and up through it when the tide is right. It's working today and we get a few pictures. Now it's lunch time. Lisa
points out a few of the million dollar homes right on the beach, the closest to water anywhere on the island. In a few minutes we arrive at our lunch stop, Keoki's Paradise. There are a few other buses there as well as cars and a line forms at the door. After 10 minutes, we all move quickly into the building where a large table area is waiting for us.
Now the twins immediately claim some seats and the host politely tells them that once they serve themselves at the buffet, they will be seated by the staff. They start screaming that the place is unorganized and start a big ruckus. These guys are beauties. The restaurant is professional and deals with them while we eat.
With time running tight, we go to Opaekaa Falls next, followed by Mom's favorite, a boat ride up the Wailua River to see the Fern Grotto. She's going to like this. The tranquil Wailua River weaves by gorgeous waterfalls and lush, jungle landscapes along the island's east side. Kauai has the only navigable rivers in Hawaii, and the Wailua River is one of the most popular. The bus pulls up to the dock and
we all head for boat #3. It's just for us so there's plenty of room. I get Mom a good seat on the shady side as the boat heads up the river. There are kayakers all along the way and I point them out to an unresponsive Karen. She's done. Apparently, she's experiencing a sugar low even after taking several sucrose tablets. They're not working fast enough. There are no snacks aboard like candy or Coke. She makes the ride to Fern Grotto, unaware how she got there. She is improving some but her sugar is still low, 92. This happens when she uses the same amount of insulin as always but increases her activity, dropping her blood sugar too low.
She remains in the boat while I run to catch everybody already headed for Fern Grotto. On Kauai, Fern Grotto is one of Kauai's signature attractions. Accessible only by a short boat trip up the Wailua River, the grotto is a natural lava-rock grotto, lush with hanging ferns and tropical foliage, cooled by the mists of a waterfall. There was a time when the Grotto was off-limits to all but Hawaiian royalty. But for more than 50 years, riverboats have
provided tours of the site. Taking advantage of the incredible natural acoustics, visitors are often treated to musicians playing beautiful Hawaiian music. It's no wonder why this unique Kauai setting is such a popular destination for wedding ceremonies.
With no signs indicating which path leads to the Grotto and the other travelers already gone, I just choose one. Just as I'm about to arrive at my destination, the previous performance lets out and 100 people head down the exit path, that's right, the one I'm heading up. I find they're all one way paths. I wait a little, then just blast my way through. Hey, "I'm old and confused" is my story. The dirty looks I get don't phase me as I hurdle the entry gate and cut in to the group I'm supposed to be with. A few jokes and all is well. I video the entire "Hawaiian Wedding Song" performance for Mom to see later and head back to the boat, this time with the flow of traffic.
Mom is better now but not perfect. I video her sitting upright but asleep so I can mess with her later. While not fully appreciative of her little boat ride,
she arrives safely at the dock, we board our bus and head back to the ship. A nice dinner for two in the main dinning room, a fantastic performance by Elika Santos, Hawaii's male star of the year and an hour of Beach Boy music in the Crow's Nest rounds out our evening.
Tomorrow we will be in Honolulu for two days. I'm on a mission for pics of the twins and the newly weds. I'll get them.
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