Archive for the 'Further Afield' Category
Tom and I spent Christmas in the UK. I fully intended to write every day while we were away but most of the time I was driving and the rest of the time we spent with family.
We took a week long road trip while we were there and Tom saw some parts of England he had never seen before. On the first day of our road trip, we drove from Reading to Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. Unfortunately the palace itself was closed but we took a walk around the large lake. That evening we stayed at the Falklands Arms, which was built in the 16th century, and is situated in the quaint village of Great Tew. The next day we drove up to Nottingham. We tried very hard to make our way on the back roads but somehow each road seemed to lead to the M1. In the end we just took the M1 north because we were wasting so much time. There is not too much to say about Nottingham because once we found a hotel we didn’t stir outside the front door until the next morning.
On Wednesday we drove to Pickering in Yorkshire for a brief stop before driving over the North Yorkshire Moors – a remote and wild area – to Kirkby Mills where we stayed one night at Brickfields Farm Bed & Breakfast. This was the best B&B we have ever stayed in – the room was wonderful and the breakfast was to die for. Our journey on Thursday took us through Thirsk to Ripon and then on to Skipton. Here we stayed in a B&B within walking distance of the town center. It was pouring rain but that didn’t stop us taking the walk and enjoying a pint at the Woolly Sheep Inn.
We loved Liverpool
The next day we made our way from Yorkshire to Lancashire. We headed to Southport where my daughter and son-in-law now live. Before going to see them in the evening, we set out to find our B&B in Scarisbrick where we would be staying for the next two nights. The landlady at the B&B had given me instructions but we found ourselves lost in a remote area where the only roads were muddy tracks with huge potholes filled with water. It took us half an hour to find the right road before eventually finding our way to the B&B.
Saturday Lizzie and Ric took us to Liverpool for the day. We had particularly requested to visit there because we’d heard there was so much to see and, of course, it is the home of The Beatles. We spent a marvellous day looking at old docks, the refurbished Albert Dock, St. George’s Hall, the Cavern Club, Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields and John Lennon’s house and – the cherry on the top – Eleanor Rigby’s grave.
On the Sunday we began to make our way further south but first we had to visit the historic city of Chester. I spent some time in Chester when I was a child because an aunt of mine lived there. The city is very old and has hardly changed since I was last there in the 1970′s. It is possible to walk all round the city up on the city walls, which were built by the Romans 2,000 years ago. It has a nice shopping center which was heaving with Christmas shoppers when we visited.
Chester. We could have spent a couple days here. An amazing city.
That evening we spent in Hereford. Once again, we didn’t have any time to explore the area and next morning we were up bright and early to make our way back to Reading. The UK had an awful lot of rain while we were there and the south west was particularly affected. As we traveled from Hereford to the M4 around the Gloucester area we could see all the fields were under water and only the hedges round the edges could be seen. When we arrived that night at our hotel in Winnersh, the car park was completely flooded and we had to park in a temporary car park.
All in all, we had a wonderful Christmas and enjoyed two Christmas dinners – one in Southport and one in Winnersh. Even though we experienced a lot of rain, it in no way dampened our spirits or hampered our travels. Although Tom has now seen some new areas, there is still so much for him to see. So far we have not touched Scotland or Ireland and both are high on our list.
January 15 2013 | Further Afield and Special Places | 1 Comment »
As mentioned in previous posts, we ate breakfast at three places in Hanalei. Instead of doing a separate post for each, we’ve put them altogether in this one post.
Hanalei Coffee Roasters
Hanalei Coffee Roasters in Hanalei, Kauai
Our first breakfast in Hanalei was at the Hanalei Coffee Roasters. This was our second visit to the shop. When we first discovered this place a few days before, Tom bought some coffee beans. At that time, we saw that they served breakfast and we checked the menu out. It looked good so made a note to come back to try the breakfast.
It opens at 7.15 a.m so we arrived early. There is not a lot of seating, especially inside, but they have a wrap around veranda where there are half a dozen small bamboo tables and chairs. The place is in the historic center of Hanalei, not too far from the old School House. Sacks of coffee are stored inside beside a coffee roaster.
You order inside from the small breakfast menu. Besides selling coffee and breakfast, they also have some delicious looking pastries displayed. Tom ordered the waffles ($8.95) and my choice was the Papaya Boat ($8.65). To drink Tom ordered coffee and for me it was orange and spice green tea.
There was no room inside so we took a look outside. We could have sat in the front with a good view over the main street but it was a little too windy for us. We chose one of the two tables at the side. We could see a little of what was going on out in front. It was very pleasant just sitting there. There was soft music playing in the background.
You know it is laid back sort of place when you read the notes pinned up – Hot Stone of Delight at Golden Lotus Kauai Massage; Mantra Meditation; Youssoupa Sidibe revealing The Magic of the Kora; Access Consciousness (which has nothing to do with computers) and last but not least, a course in Miracles. One notice did especcially appeal to me – Hoopdance Kauai. on another board there were postcards of surfers
Now for the food. The waffle was huge and covered in chopped papya, pineapple, macadamia nuts, toasted coconut and whipped cream. Mine was a sight to behold - half a papya with chopped nuts, sliced banana macadamia nuts on one plate and, on another plate, a small bowl of yoghurt and small bowl of granola. Everything was covered in toasted, shredded coconut. There was a choice of ordinary syrup for the waffles or coconut syrup. Tom couldn’t decide, so the server left both. He tried the cocconut syrup, which he said was really good, so the maple syrup did not get a look in.
Our server very friendly and chatted to us. She asked about our plans for the day and talked about the weather. It was a bit windy but we didn’t complain. Afterall it’s their winter here.
Neither of us tried the restrooms out as they were located in another building. In fact they were near the Hanalei Gourmet Cafe and were in the same location as original school toilets. At one end of the veranda were the Girls and, at the other end, the Boys. I would hope that they are a little larger than the original toilets.
Our verdict – we really enjoyed our breakfast and the ambiance. It was a wonderful experience.
Wake Up Cafe
Wake Up Cafe in Hanalei, Kauai
Our second breakfast in Hanalei was at the Wake Up Cafe. Before we arrived in Kauai, I Googled places to eat breakfast in Hanalei and this is the only one which seemed likely. Although we had been to Hanalei quite a few times that week, we had never noticed it. In fact it is opposite the public car park and close to Aku Road, which is the road to the beach.
The Wake Up Cafe has a seating area on a balcony. The entrace to the cafe is around the back. It is not very big and there were quite a few customers. We sat at a table on the side next to a window. There was just one server and she was rushing around serving everybody but we were not in any particular hurry. Hey, we were on vacation.
The menu is your typical diner fare but with an Hawaiian twist. I ordered the Hanalie Boat ($10) with papya on the side ($2) whilst Tom went for something called Hang Ten ($10).
This is another funky place with lots of photos on the wall of surfing, biking and fishing. Newspaper clippings also adorned the walls. The furniture is all sixties style chrome and plastic. Hawaiian music was playing in the background.
The food arrived very quickly. No compalints about the fast service. Tom’s Hang Ten consisted of two eggs over mediuam and a Portugese sausage accompanied by hash browns. My Papaya Boat came with yogurt and granola. On the face of it, it sounds just like the Papya Boat I enjoyed at the Hanalei Coffee Roasters but there the similarity ended. The presentation here was very poor and sloppy and nowhere near as good as the one I had a few days earlier. Besides which, it was much more expensive.
Not long after we started eating our food, an argument started up in the kitchen. I could see into the kitchen from where I sat and saw someone (maybe the cook) gesticulating and shouting at someone outside the door. It carried on for some time and their voices got louder and louder. Eventually there was a the sound of a truck starting up and, with tires screeching, it raced away. Everybody returned to what they were doing before the disturbance, almost as if nothing had happened.
Our verdict – definitely not as good as Hanalie Coffee Roasters.
Kalypso Island Bar & Grill
Kalypso Island Bar & Grill in Hanalei, Kauai
There we were wanting breakfast and looking for something different. As we wandered around we noticed that the Kalypso Island Bar and Grill also served breakfast so we thought we would give it a go. We had dinner here on the first night while the Super Bowl was going on. Today it was much quieter.
This time we were shown to a table for two at the side on a small balcony. It was a lovely day (at least there was no rain yet) and we had a view onto Aku Road. As mentioned before, this is the main road to the beach and the Kalypso is there at the junction with the Kuhio Highway. A lot was going on outside and it was fun to sit there and watch the world go by.
The menu had lots of interesting choices. I saw they served acai so it didn’t take me long to decide what to have - the Acai Bowl of Amazon Superfruit ($8.95). Tom took longer to work out what he wanted and eventually plumped for the Blackened Mahi-Mahi Benedict ($14.95).
The Kalypso Island Bar and Grill is dominated by a bamboo bar, complete with thatched roof, and even at 9 in the morning there were already a couple of people imbibing. Several big screens showing basketball and skiing hung on the walls. The main material used thoughout is bamboo including the table tops and the walls are covered with bamboo mats. The walls are decorated with wooden silhouettes of trees, fish and figures. Hawaiian songs are playing not so softly. Even though it is by no means full, it had a lively, happy-go-lucky feel about it.
Never did visit the restrooms there so nothing to report on that front.
The food looked great when it was served and tasted divine. If only we had found this place earlier. Everything was great about the Kalypso, the ambience, the view, the server, the prices (cheaper for my breakfast than the Wake Up Cafe) and the presentation and deliciousness of the food.
Our verdict – we both decided this was the best darn breakfast in town.
April 23 2012 | Breakfast Log and Further Afield and Special Places | No Comments »
This was our last full day on Kauai and our last chance to do any snorkeling. We had breakfast in Hanalei (our next post will be about the three breakfasts we had in Hanalei) and then headed back to Kayak Kauai to book the snorkeling gear. I had geared myself to go snorkeling as well, even though I was still a bit reluctant. Afterall, there was still a big surf advisory posted. This time there was a different person serving and when I asked to rent a floatation belt he was a bit taken aback because they don’t rent them out. I could buy one though. We told him that the guy yesterday showed us the belt and said it was for hire. He apolgised but it was a no go. I then decied against going snorkeling myself but encouraged Tom to go for it.
Off we set for Anini Beach which was not too far of a drive. The road runs along the beach for some way and we kept a look out to see where the snorkelers were but we got almost to the end of the road before we saw any snorkeling action and then it was just three people wading out. We assumed this was the best place to try so we parked the car and made our way to the beach.
It is a really nice beach but there was not a lot of shade. I did manage to find a little bit of protection in front of a large woody shrub and laid out the towels. Tom kept his eyes on the three snorkelers to see how far they would go but they spent most of the time just standing around in the water talking. I noticed a man at the waters edge kneeling down and I wondered what he would be looking at. Then he got up and walked slowly along the sand bent nearly double, obviously on the lookout for something.
Eventually Tom decided that he would venture out to see for himself what the snorkeling was like. I watched as he walked into the water and set out wading towards the reef. The water here is quite shallow and he got a long way out before the water even reached his knees. Beyond the reef the surf pounded and plumed onto the reef but this side it appeared calm.
I gave up watching him slowly get smaller in the distance and glanced to see what the serching man was up to. He was sifting sand through a tiny sieve and I was really intrigued. After watching him for a few minutes, I got my iPad out to read a book. Although the iPad is good for reading indoors, it is hopeless in bright sunlight. After a couple of minutes I gave up and looked out to see if Tom had started snorkeling and was amazed to see him walking back. When he finally reached me he said it was impossible as there was nothing to see. The sand was all churned up and he didn’t think it was likely to improve any time soon. So much for snorkeling, which is a real shame. Both times we have been to Hawaii the snorkeling has been great, especially on the Big Island, and each time it has been at the same time of the year. Guess we just struck unlucky this time. It was also just as well we had only rented one set of mask and fins.
It was really pleasant though to sit on the sand in the sun and while away the time. I returned to watching the man with the sieve and he had moved to another location. He was sifting sand through his sieve again. Then I saw him put something into his mouth. Curiouser and curiouser.
As we left the beach, I just had to go and find out what the man was doing. It turns out he was looking for really tiny shells which he uses to make jewelry. When he finds any, he puts them into his mouth for safekeeping. He showed one to me and it was minscule. The shells are called Ni’hau and it takes him months to find enough to complete one piece of jewelry.Most days he finds less than five shells and that is after four hours of searching. The shells are mostly found on the beaches of Ni’hau, the island just offshore from Kauai, but they can also be found on the northen beaches of Kauai.
On our way back to the car, we searched for the footpath which would take us back to the hotel – not that we were going to climb it! We were just curious to know where it came out. After walking some way, we saw no sign of it. Guess we will just have to walk down from the hotel next time we are here.
After our abortive snorkeling attempt, we returned the equipment to Kayak Kauai. Almost next door is The Hanalei Dolphin Restaurant and decided that we would come back tonight to eat there. It is right on the river’s edge and does have outside seating in a nice garden.
We arrived early for dinner at the Dolphin expecting to get a table easily but it was not the case. The place was already very busy and we had to wait. It would have been nice to sit outside in the garden while we waited but it was raining. There were some brave souls out there and the servers were busy rushing backwards and forwards to serve them and taking no heed of the rain. In the end a table became free on the covered veranda and we decided to take it. Tom and I both had fish and it was wonderful. There is certainly some good places to eat in Hanalei.
Back at the hotel it was time to start packing our cases. We both enjoyed Kauai immensely, even though the weather turned out to be not quite what we expected. Every day had been fun and we were sad to be going home. But we will be back.
April 17 2012 | Further Afield and Special Places | No Comments »
Kayaking the Hanalei River
As yesterday’s trip involved a lot of driving, we decided to stay close to base today. We couldn’t decide whether to go kayaking or snorkeling. During breakfast we discussed our options and in the end plumped to go snorkeling. We drove into Hanalei to find some place where they rented snorkeling equipment. Before we left though, I decided to try the poi again. Well, it definitely tasted different as it was more acidic but still not a lot of taste. Decided that my experiment was over and ditched the rest of the poi.
The day was overcast and I wasn’t too enthusiastic about snorkeling. We pulled into Kayak Kauai, which is the first place we saw as we drove into Hanalei, where snorkeling equipment could be rented. The place was right behind Hanalei Taro and Juice where I bought the poi earlier in the week. Outside Kayak Kauai there lots of kayaks so we were able to kill two birds with one stone. The guy behind the counter told us that snorkeling is still not advisable due to the high surf but he gave us all the information and prices. For just $8 each we could get both the mask and fins. I asked if they also rented floatation gear because I’m not a good swimmer and hate going out of my depth. He showed us the floatation belts they rented so I was a bit happier about giving snorkeling a try here. Maybe tomorrow we will be able to snorkel.
We then asked about kayak rental. Once again the prices seemed very reasonable at $29 each. We decided to get a double instead of two separate kayaks. Included in the price was a waterproof pack for our belongings. Before we signed up though we had to go back to the hotel to change. I was wearing jeans and that is definitely not a good idea in a kayak. We were back and rarin’ to go within thirty minutes, complete with a sandwich lunch.
Before we could be introduced to our kayak, we had to don life jackets and select a paddle each. Then we made our way to the kayaks where a very cheerful guy met us and set us up with our bright yellow kayak. He showed us where to store the waterproof bag and led us to the ramp, all the while chatting away. I noticed he had some fingers missing and, as we were talking about sharks, I asked if a shark had attacked him. He said a shark had taken a little bite obviously didn’t like the taste as he only took a few fingers. I asked if it happened while he was surfing and he said yes but it hadn’t stopped him surfing. He went on to say that he doesn’t blame the shark as he was intruding in the shark’s territory so he was the interloper.
Kayaking the Hanalei River. Margaret looks like she knows what she's doing.
Getting into the kayak was a little awkward but we managed it without embarrassing ourselves too much. We were directed to turn left and head to the main river where we could either turn left again to head to the mouth of the river where it empties into Hanalei Bay or we could turn right to go upstream. As we had been to the beach a few days before we turned right and set off inland. The Hanalei River is only 15 miles long and is by no means the longest river in Hawaii but it discharges the second highest amount of water. It starts on the slopes of Mount Wai’ale’ale, which is the second highest point in Kauai. As mentioned in the previous post, Mount Wai’ale’ale is one of the wettest places on earth, due to the amount of rain that falls there. You would think that the Hanalei River, with all that water cascading down the mountain over a relatively short distance, would be a difficult river to negotiate but it is not so. The lower section is flat and very calm and a real pleasure to kayak.
It is a busy river but not crowded. We passed a dozen or so other kayakers plus a few folks on paddle boards (I wonder where they put their lunch). Two outriggers flew past us and there were amazing to watch. Each outrigger had a float on one side to keep it stable and half a dozen rowers on board. Outriggers are often seen in Hawaii but this was the first time I had been that close.
The first part of our journey took us alongside the main road. It took half an hour to reach the bridge, which is the first one lane bridge we crossed on our drive from Princeville into Hanalei. I learnt today that the bridge, along with the the whole of Highway 560, is on the National Register of Historic Places in Hawaii. Seeing the bridge from underneath was an experience and, due to the wooden floor, cars traveling over it made a rumbling noise.
I must say it was a delightful trip. Huge trees, many covered with bright colored flowers, crowded to the bank on our left. After the bridge, there were a few open spaces but nowhere to pull in and investigate. On our right, we paddled alongside the road through the Halalei National Wildlife Refuge we investigated on Day 1. The sun shone brightly overhead and there was a slight breeze. As we were paddling against the current and a little out of practice, our arms were getting tired but we could not stop because the banks were too steep. We did pull in under some trees to take a rest and I took the opportunity to apply a little sun block while Tom held on tightly to some overhanging branches. It was also time to drink some water. Sitting there in the shade, looking over the taro fields, was so quiet and peaceful.
Kayaking the Hanalei River. I think this guy is completely lost.
Off we set again, passing a couple of banana trees with bunches of green bananas hanging from the branches. We also spotted an egret on the left bank. It didn’t appear to be hunting so I wandered whether it was guarding it’s nest. I know egrets sometimes build their nests on the ground. After another half and hour of paddling we were ready for our second break. We really wanted to pull in somewhere and have our lunch but we saw no likely places. That is, until I espied a sand bank off to the right. We navigated to the sand bank and I jumped out to secure the boat while Tom climbed out. Although it was a convenient place to take a rest, it was not at all suitable to sit down and eat our sanwiches as the sand was wet and our feet sunk some way into it. It did enable us to have another drink of water.
The river became narrower on the last leg of our journey upstream. We had to negotiate around protruding logs and overhanging trees and the water got shallower. We did pass quite a few snapping turtles sunbathing and I managed to take a photo of them though it was a perilious endeavour. Then it was time to turn round, not because we were getting bored – far from it – but we were hungry and I didn’t fancy eating in the kayak.
The trip back was a breeze. The current flowing downstream enabled us to take it easier and sometimes we just drifted along. We did seriously consider carrying on down to the beach and then mooring up on the sand while we ate our sandwiches. In fact we carried on past the creek to the launching ramp expecting to see the open ocean from around the next bend but the bend went on and on. Our arms were really complaining by then so we turned around once again and headed back to base.
Then it was off to find somewhere to eat our lunch. We drove to Hanalei beach and found a nice little park at the back of the beach with some handy picnic benches. Almost as soon as we sat down and started to unpack our lunch, a large black retriever appeared in front of us. He plopped himself down at our feet and looked at us pleadingly. We didn’t know who he belonged to and, as he looked extremely well fed, we tried to ignore him. It was extremely difficult to sit there enjoying our sandwiches and apple bananas with those baleful eyes and lolling tongue right in front of our noses but we resisted. Thank goodness a family arrived at another table and off he went to see if he could scrounge from them.
On our way home we stopped at the Foodland Market to see what they had on offer for our dinner that evening. We fancied steak and found what we were looking for. Tom cooked it later and, boy, it was good and went very well with a bottle of wine we also bought today. It rounded off another perfect day.
April 09 2012 | Further Afield and Special Places | 1 Comment »
So much for getting up early and setting out before the rush hour to drive to Waimea Canyon! We revised our plans and left after 9 to avoid getting stuck in traffic. Instead of getting breakfast somewhere en route, we went into Hanalei to find something. I had read a review of the Wake Up Cafe so we set out to find it. The Wake Up Cafe will be in a later post.
The weather was cool and misty and we wandered what the weather conditions would be like on the other side of the island. We took sweaters with us just in case it was cold. The drive to the canyon proved uneventful and fortunately the traffic was not too bad. For most of the journey we followed the same route we took on Day 2 but instead of turning left to Poipu we kept on Route 50 to Waimea. My road atlas had large scale maps only as far as Hanapepe; after that I had to rely on a smaller map.
After driving through Hanapepe, I spotted an island off the the west. Looking at the road atlas I could see it was called Nihau. When I got back to the hotel I checked to see if it was inhabited. Wikipedia estimates the population to be about 130 and the majority are native Hawaiian. It has been privately owned by the same family since 1864. As there are no roads, the main form of transport is on horseback. There are no shops or hotels on the island at all and visitors are not encouraged.
My map showed the quickest route to the canyon was along Route 550 but for some reason we missed it completely. We were on the lookout for signs to Waimea Canyon but the only directions we saw said to keep straight ahead. I noticed that it was much dryer on this side of the island plus there were hardly any trees. In fact it was nowhere near so lush and tropical as the northern part where we were staying. Maybe it used to be greener but Hurricane Iniki in 1992 might have devastated the area. So far the weather on the south of the island was a bit nicer than the overcast conditions we left behind at Princeville.
Waimea Canyon. Can you make out the helicopter? Click on the photo for a larger version.
Eventually we turned north on Highway 552 heading towards Waimea Canyon and almost immediately we started to climb. The vegetation became scrub like and I even spotted a few cacti. The higher we rose though, the colder it became. Waimea is one of the biggest tourist attractions on Kauai and we were expecting far more traffic. The canyon is likened to the Grand Canyon in Arizona but on a much smaller scale and we were looking forward to seeing it. As we climbed higher, it became overcast and misty. The vegetation changed and became greener.
We pulled into the car park for the Waimea Canyon Lookout where there were a few cars plus a scattering of chickens. A mother hen and her nine tiny chicks came around foraging for food. These chicks were mostly gray and white with a black stripe and not at all like the bright yellow offspring of domestic chickens. According to my bird book they are not domestic chickens but are called Red Junglefowl or Moa and were originally brought here by the Polynesians. When we got out of the car I was so pleased to have my sweatshirt with me because it was really cold.
The overlook itself was on two levels and commanded a view of the canyon. The canyon is 14 miles long, one mile wide and 3,600 feet deep. Compared to the Grand Canyon which is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and over a mile deep, it is small. The color of the rock in the Waimea Canyon is bright red which is spectacular. From this lookout you can see down into the valley to the Waimea River. Because it was windy and cold, I didn’t hang around too long, but I was there long enough to count six helicopters flying low over the canyon. I’m sure the view the passengers had of the canyon was much better than the one we had from the overlook but that fact alone would never persuade me to go up in a helicopter.
We were pleased to get back into the car and we drove a few miles to the next overlook, which was called Pu’u Hinahina. Once again chickens, or should I now say junglefowl, were hanging about in the car park. It was amazing that we had not seen any along the road. They obviously know that the places where people were likely to be. This time, when we got out of the car, it was colder than at our last stop and we even felt some rain drops while we were there.. This lookout did not have as good a view as the first one but once again we didn’t stay very long.
Waterfalls from Pu'u o Kila Lookout
Onwards and upwards. We left the Waimea State Park and entered the Koke’e State Park and drove past the Koke’e Lodge and Museum. The lodge had a restaurant and it was really tempting to stop. A nice drink to warm ourselves up would have been lovely but knew there were a couple more lookouts yet to be visited so we decided to check them out first before we stopped. About two miles past the lodge we came to the Kalalau Lookout. When we got out of the car we had a repeat performance of the other two stops, namely a few foraging jungleflowl and even colder temperatures. But we braved the inclement conditions to climb to the lookout platform. We were fully expecting to see more of the canyon but we were totally wrong. The view turned out to be of the Kalalau Valley towards the ocean. Kalalau Valley is only accessible by boat or a long and difficult hike. It is uninhabited now but native Hawaiians lived and farmed there, using the terrace system, until the early 1900s. The wind was bitterly cold so once again we didn’t spend as long as we would have liked to.
The last viewing platform was the Pu’u o Kila Lookout. Here we were greeted by one very forlorn rooster. It was so misty we could hardly see anything at all. There was a sign which said:
One of the wettest spots on earth.
Elev 5140 ft
and I could well believe it. It was bitterly cold and raining to boot. We almost had the place to ourselves. Once again we didn’t hang around very long at all. It was really a great pity. I’m sure we would really have enjoyed the views from all the lookouts if the weather had been kinder. Even though the weather had been awful I enjoyed seeing and admiring the many different colors and shades of the volcanic rock.
We hastened with all speed down the mountain to the lodge but first visited the small museum. As museums go it wasn’t the most interesting. A few native American baskets, cooking utensils and tools were displayed, plus a motley collection of stuffed birds and animals and a model of the canyon. The most interesting exhibit to me told the story of the dowager Queen Emma of Hawaii who in 1871 undertook an expedition into the Alaka’i Swamp with her 100 strong retinue which included musicians and hula dancers. The Alaka’i Swamp is a notorious place which has claimed many lives.
Then it was time to have that warm drink so we battled our way through the wind and drizzle to the lodge. Sure enough there was a restaurant but apart from somebody at a reception desk near the door, there didn’t seem to be anybody serving. There was one group of people eating breakfast near the fire but we had to wait a long time at the counter before anybody came out. Somebody would have turned up quicker if only we had seen the bell on the counter! Finally we had our hot drink which revived us no end.
Waimea Canyon Road. Much prettier than the drive up.
On the way back to Waimea we decided to take the alternative route down the Waimea Canyon Road, which turned out to be far more scenic. The road was narrower the one we came up on but far more interesting. We stopped enroute at an unofficial lookout. The view was the best we’d seen that day. Looking the the left we could see part of the canyon, straight down we could see the river and straight ahead we saw Waimea and the ocean beyond. The weather was very much warmer there which certainly made everything more pleasant.
Back on Highway 50 we decided it was time to stop for lunch. I had made sandwiches so I looked on the map for a place with a a view of the sea. In Hanapepe, right next to Salt Pond Park, we found the perfect spot. This lunch was made memorable when we spotted whale spouts out at sea and then saw a whale breach. It certainly was a WOW moment.
In the evening we dinned royally at the St. Regis Hotel in Princeville. While we waited for our table we sat in comfortable chairs outside on the balcony with a wonderful view of Hanalei. It was a warm evening and we watched the surfers. We sat at a table near the window and we could still see the surfers. The sun started to set and still the surfers stayed. They must have made their way back to land in almost complete darkness. The meal was supurb and the waiting staff excellent. It rounded off another pleasant day on Kauai.
March 22 2012 | Further Afield and Special Places | No Comments »
The beach at Makahoa Point
The weather did not look too good today so decided not to go snorkeling. There was still an advisory out on the high surf though but Anini Beach is considered pretty safe.
(Click on the photos for larger versions)
We headed first into Hanalei in search of breakfast and went to the Hanalei Coffee Roasters (we’ll talk about our breakfasts in a later post). Over breakfast we decided that today would be a good day to visit the Limahuli Gardens and Preserve which is almost at the end of Highway 560. Along the way we stopped on Makahoa Point as we could see the surf was indeed big. There were several other cars pulled over at the side of the road and we saw a guy walking towards his car with a big camera on a tripod. Tom asked him whether there was anything worth photographing and was told that down on the beach there were some decent shots of the surf breaking over the rocks.
We walked down a short sandy trail. When wet, the trail would be slippery and dangerous but there is a semblance of stone steps at the top to assist. Down on the beach there were three other photographers so obviously this was the place to come. The waves breaking over rocks just offshore and out on the point were large and the noise of them colliding and crashing was awesome. One photographer had set up close to the water and at one point had to lift his tripod clear and retreat up the beach when the waves got a little too close. I left Tom to continue taking photographs and climbed back to the car to wait for him. When Tom returned to the car he told me that he had been chatting to one of the photographers on the beach who just happens to live in Mountain View, which is about twenty miles from where we live in San Jose.
Terraces at Limahuli Gardens
It took about twenty minutes to drive to Haena where the Limahuli Garden and Preserve is located. We arrived not long after the gardens opened. The car park is relatively small but only a few other cars were there so we had no trouble parking. It also meant there were not too many people already there. The entrance fee is $16 each, which I thought was a bit steep but the price does include a substantial guidebook. On the inside cover of the guidebook is a map showing the route to take around the gardens. Indicated on the map are 41 locations where particular features can be seen. Each feature is described fully in the guidebook, along with the Hawaiian, common, scientific and family name of plants and where the plants came from originally. There is a drawing of each plant for easy identification.
Armed with this plethora of information, we set out. The first section is called the Canoe Garden. In A.D 200-300 the first settlers arrived. They were Polnesians who traveled across the ocean in long distance voyaging canoes along with plants and animals to sustain them during the journey and to help them survive when they arrived. They operated a system of terraces where fresh water was diverted (but never more than half) to irrigate the land and the water was then channeled back to the main stream so it could irrigate lower terraces. The terraces in the garden are 700 years old and an archaeological site.
The first plants we saw growing were taro, from which poi is made and the staple food of Hawaii. The guidebook tells the legend of why taro is so important to the Hawaiian people. Other foods brought by the Polynesians and cultivated by them, which can be seen on the terraces, are sweet potato, banana, sugar cane and palm trees. A number of other plants we saw growing there were used for medicine, clothes and household uses. The next and higher section was the Plantation Era Garden where we could see the trees, flowers and frutis – like mango, pineapple, etc., which were introduced in the 18th century after the arrival of Captain Cook. A convenient bench near the Limahuli Stream afforded me the chance to stop for a while. While I sat there I thought about the first people who discovered Hawaii – why did the Polynesians set off on a quest to find other islands without knowing how long the journey would take? How many set out on such quests and never returned? Did the ones who found Hawaii ever return home? If not, how did they get the news back so that more could follow them? Even if they did return home, how did they lead others back to Hawaii without any navigational aids apart from the stars?
Makena Peak and a view of Limahuli Gardens
We were less than halfway around the gardens and already we had seen so much. We continued on, walking through a native forest, then a section where threatened and endangered species could be viewed. Another bench allowed us to survey the Makena mountain peak. Here the ancient fire throwing ceremony of was performed. At night, lighted logs from the papala tree were thrown out towards the ocean from the top of the mountain. The fiery logs were lifted by the updraft and carried some way out to sea.
We then passed through a section called the Invasive Forest Walk. Several non native trees and plants were to be seen and the guidebook explained why they were harmful, mainly by preventing native trees from growing by strangling them or having the ability to grow so fast they stopped native trees from getting the light and space they needed.
All this time we had been climbing and then we reached an open grassy area with wonderful views out to the sea. This was called the Whale Walk. The weather had improved while we were in the lower sections of the garden an now the sun shone overhead it was very pleasant. Once again I found a seat and took the opportunity to look for any signs of whales. I could have sat there for hours just contemplating the view and absorbing the peace and serenity of the location. Eventually I had to leave and although I didn’t spot any water spouts or breaching whales it was time well spent.
The path now went down a series of steps. We were now in the last section which is dedicated to showing how native plants can be used for landscaping. There were many interesting specimens but the only one I recognized was a hibiscus. Before long we had reached the bottom and were back at the Visitors Center. Just one last tree to look at and this was the breadfruit. I had heard of it but this was my first sight of one. The fruit is large and very strange looking but it is edible and can be used in many different ways.
The view from Whale Walk at Limahuli Gardens
We really enjoyed our visit to the Limahuli Garden and came to the conclusion that it was $32 well spent plus we have the guidebook to keep. After all the walking, climbing and fresh air, we were hungry and thirsty. We drove back to Hanalei where we ate lunch at the Gourmet Cafe in the old School Building. At least it is drier today than yesterday. On our way home we stopped at a roadside stand because it was advertising poi. This was my chance to buy some and try it out. I was surprised to discover that poi is mauve in color and sold in plastic bags. The consistency is almost liquid. To be truthful, it didn’t look all that appetizing but I was determined to try it out. Back at the hotel I read the instructions. First I added a little bit of water to the poi, fastened the bag and kneaded it. Then I squeezed the mixture into a bowl and trickled water on top to a depth of a quarter of an inch. The water is to stop a crust forming on top. To keep it fresh I could have put it in the fridge but as the taste reputedly improves over time, I decided to leave it out on the counter. A few hours later I had my first taste. Hmm… it was almost tasteless. Maybe it will taste better tomorrow.
That evening Tom and I didn’t venture too far but went to the Nanea Restaurant and Bar in the Westin Princeville Resort. We arrived early as we didn’t have a reservation but there was no trouble getting a table. We both had fish dishes which weren’t too bad at all. We enjoyed live entertainment from a guitarist and a hula dancer, who went round the tables. The hula dancer looked very exotic but she spoilt the whole effect when she went to talk to friends at the bar and lifted her dress up to reveal to them that she was wearing blue jeans underneath. I found that very amusing though it ruined the illusion.
We had an early night as we planned to leave early the next morning to visit the Waimea Canyon.
March 13 2012 | Further Afield and Special Places | No Comments »
Bronze plaques by Jan Gordon Fisher in Kolea with the space above the Hawaiian where we think the Caucasion was. Was he removed over a local political skirmish?
Today we decided to drive to the south of Kauai to see if we could find somewhere to snorkel. We went totally prepared with our bathing suits and towels. Before setting off we feasted on fresh papaya, apples and yoghurt. The sun was rising as we left which caused problems for us. As we drove east for the first part, there were times when the sun was shining directly into our eyes. Tom had to slow right down just to make sure we stayed on the road. Leaving at that time as well, we had forgotten to take rush hour into account. All was well until we approached Lihue. Suddenly cones appeared turning our direction into two lanes. Before long we were crawling along and it took about three quarters of an hour to drive around Lihue and through a major road construction.
(Click on the photos for larger versions.)
Finally we were on Highway 50 and heading west. We were hoping that the weather would be better in the south but it was overcast. We had come this far so we persevered. We took Highway 520 south towards Poipu. The road was lined with tall trees with twisty bark. I found out later that it is call The Avenue of Trees.
We stopped in the small town of Kolea because it looked interesting and we wanted to stretch our legs. There were some historic buildings which had been converted into small boutique shops. Even though it was only 9:30 some of then were open. Tom wanted to buy some new sandals. He brought leather ones with him but they had got soaked yesterday and he was on the lookout for something more waterproof. We found the perfect pair. In another shop I spotted a book on Hawaiian birds and just had to have it. Maybe now I would be able to find out the names of some of the birds I had already seen. On our way back to the car we saw part of a ruined brick building across the way. Tom thought it was a chimney so we went to investigate. Tom was absolutely correct as the building used to be a sugar mill and the chimney is pretty much all that remains. Nearby there was a monument to the fact that Kolea is the first location to be commercially successful in sugar cane production. The monument contained a number of bronze plaques describing the history and a brass sculpture by Jan Gordon Fisher. The sculpture contains six full sized figures depicting the different cultures which represent the people who worked on the plantation. One of the bronze plaques has a description of the figures but also mentions, “In the background, riding upon a horse, is a Caucasian, representing the North American and European entrepreneurs who started and developed the industry.” Search as hard as I could I could see no sign of anybody on a horse. Has the Hawaiian weather worn it away or maybe it has been deliberately erased by human hand? Pondering this mystery, we returned to the car to continue our journey.
Beach in Poipu. The wind is kicking up and storm clouds are rolling in.
Before long we arrived at the beach and found somewhere to park. As soon as we got out of the car we remarked on how windy. The wind got worse as we reached the beach. It was a warm wind but it got stronger and stronger. While Tom took a few photos, I sat at the top of the beach in a slightly secluded spot. There were people trying to walk along the beach but they all had difficulty with the wind. Some of them were bent nearly double. When Tom joined me he pointed out to sea at an ominous dark cloud. We immediately decided to head back to the car. It turned out to be a wise decision as we felt the first drops of rain on the way and made it back to the car just in time. The heavens opened and for ten minutes we sat in the car and watched the almost horizontal rain drench the area. Rivers appeared across the car park. Was this a tropical storm? It certainly looked and felt like it.
Snorkeling was definitely out so we called it a day and drove back towards Princeville. In Wailua on the eastern coast we passed a derelict resort building. Tom wondered whether the building had been destroyed by the hurricane in the early 1990′s. Later that evening we did some research and once again he was right. The building was the Coco Palms Resort which was opened in 1953 and became known worldwide when the last twenty minutes of ‘Blue Hawaii’ starring Elvis Presley was filmed there. When Hurricane Iniki struck in September of 1992, the Coco Palms Resort was damaged beyond repair and has slowly been decaying ever since.
Not far past Coco Palms, as we were passing the Coconut Marketplace, we spotted a small farmers market in the car park. We had planned to visit a farmers market in Hanalei this afternoon but thought we might as well check this one out as well as the rain had stopped. There were half a dozen stalls selling an exotic array of tropical fruits and vegetables, some of which we’d never seen before. At one stall the ladies were extremely friendly and helpful. When We asked them what the strange, small, red, hairy fruit were, they told us rambutan. They went so far as to peel one and let us try it. Inside was a white translucent fruit which looked and tasted like a lychee. We were curious about a largish, green, spiky fruit as well, which was called soursop, and once again they cut one open and let us try it. Inside it was white and gooey and tasted both sweet and sour. Neither of those appealed to us at all but we did buy three papaya and a bunch of apple bananas. As we were walking away, we noticed some coconuts in a cooler chest, so we bought one. To complete the deal they made a hole in the top and put a straw in. Lovely, fresh coconut milk. At another stall a very animated smallholder persuaded us to buy a starfruit, which Tom ate right away. By the time we got back to the car, juice was running down his arm. This is the life!
Lighthouse on Kilauea Point
Driving through Kilauea we decided on the spur of the moment to visit the lighthouse on Kilauea Point. Just before we reached the lighthouse we stopped at an observation platform and took a couple of photos. Then we felt raindrops and once again made a mad dash back to the car before the heavy rain descended. We sat in the car and ate our sandwich lunch hoping the weather would improve so we could visit the lighthouse but it wasn’t to be.
As we wanted to visit the farmers market on the other side of Hanalei, we drove past the entrance to our hotel and onto to Hanalei. We had half an hour to spare before the market opened so we stopped off for a drink at the Hanalei Gourmet Bar. It was still raining but nobody seemed too concerned about it. People were walking about in shorts and t-shirts and ignoring the rain altogether. We were the only ones with an umbrella. We cogitated whether the farmers market would be operating but decided that we would check it out and if it were open, regardless of the weather, we would stop and investigate.
Heading to the farmer's market we passed this church. It was just about to really start raining. We got soaked but who cares, it's Kauai.
Armed with our umbrella, we drove about a mile outside Hanalei to the farmers market. Even though it was just after two, there were already a number of cars parked in the field next to the market. By now the rain was coming down heavily but it was not cold at all. There were a couple of other people sporting umbrellas so we didn’t feel so odd. Once again, stall holders were cheerful and very helpful. We hade decided to cook an omelet tonight and were able to buy most of the ingredients there at the farmers market – half a dozen eggs, bell pepper and goat cheese. We couldn’t decide which greens to serve with the omelet as the choice was overwhelming. A very friendly stall holder explained the different varieties of greens she had on sale and we chose something that looked like nettles. At another stall we bought two small pineapples. Another customer buying them told us to snap them up as they would go fast. She explained that they are the sweetest pineapples around and that they were so good, you can even eat the core. We also bought some lemons and the stall holder threw in two limes for free.
By this time, the umbrella was almost superfluous as we were both extremely wet. To make matters worse, somebody had managed with their umbrella to dislodge a large amount of water from a tent roof over a stall, which then cascaded down my neck. On the way back to the car, we stamped in all the puddles just to show we didn’t mind how wet we were as we were having such a good time. This vacation is certainly turning out to be a wet one.
Colorful rooster on our patio
Back to the hotel we changed out of our wet clothes and relaxed with a nice glass of wine on our patio. The zebra doves (now I have a bird book, I can identify some of the birds) came to investigate. They were very tame and come to within six inches of our feet. Then a mother hen and eight chicks came and milled around in anticipation. Tom went to get some bread out of the fridge and we scattered crumbs about. A rooster also appeared on the scene but couldn’t get a look in for awhile. The mother hen made sure that all the chicks were eating before she had anything for herself. We thought the little chicks were aggressive because they would jump up and try to snatch the crumbs out of the hen’s beak, but that was nothing. Tom stood up to scatter more crumbs and the mother hen flew up to his chest to snatch the bread out of his hand. We then decided they were ferocious and it was probably not a good idea to feed them. Lesson learnt.
That evening we had a gorgeous meal – goat cheese omelet with tasty greens followed by fresh pineapple and ice cream. This is the life. We retired for another blissful night’s sleep.
March 02 2012 | Further Afield and Special Places | 2 Comments »
Scenic overlook of the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge
This is the first day of our vacation on Kauai, the northernmost of the Hawaiian Islands. We arrived yesterday and drove to the Westin Princeville Ocean Resort Village on the northern coast in the pouring rain. Today, though, has been nice and sunny. We set out early for our first day of adventure to drive to the end of Highway 560 and it turned out to be quite a day.
We turned right on Highway 56 which soon turns into Highway 560. Less than quarter of a mile down the road we turned into a scenic overlook with fantastic views over the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge. Down on the valley floor we could see the taro beds set out in rectangular areas of water. Taro is used to make poi, which is the staple food of most Hawaiians. I have yet to taste poi, maybe on this visit to Hawaii I will get to sample some. Taro beds make an ideal refuge for many endangered species of wetland birds, which use the plants for protection and nesting.
A little further down the highway we turned off the main road, after crossing a one lane bridge, onto Ohiki Road. We had bought an atlas of the Hawaiian Islands and I could see this road led into the wildlife refuge. Immediately we were in close proximity to the taro beds and an amazing number of wetland birds. Already on this trip I have seen so many different kinds of birds and top of my list of things to buy is a book on Hawaiian birds. The road is just one lane. Fortunately there was not a lot to traffic as very few tourists venture down here I’m sure. We passed small houses with lush tropical plants in the yards. Seeing a few local houses instead of the ultra modernness of the resort is a refreshing change. Along the way we picked up a bit of tree debris brought down by yesterday’s rain. Immediately we heard a continuous noise under the car but we had to go some way before we were able to find anywhere to pull over. Looking under the car we spotted a twig. It was an easy job to remove it and miraculously the noise disappeared.
A gate barred our way so we turned around and drove back. Along the way we stopped of in a small parking lot. On our way down we had spotted a trail and now decided to try it out. It was called the Okolehau Trail. It started with a little wooden bridge over a ditch and the path rose quickly. The trail was narrow and a bit muddy. A dense tropical array of trees surrounded us. It was wet and drippy. It felt like we were in a jungle. The path twisted and turned so frequently that Tom kept losing sight of me. As I didn’t want to be completely isolated I stopped often and waited until Tom caught up with me. He kept stopping to take photos of course. Each time I stopped I just stood and soaked in the restricted view. All the trees, plants, shrubs and flowers were alien to me.
The narrow trail we were on came to an end when we reached a wider trail which was probably the beginning of the Okolehau Trail proper. Instead of taking the uphill route to the left, we turned right and soon came to a large grassy open area on the side of a hill. On closer examination we found it was an old Chinese cemetery but the headstones were in several isolated sections. The first group appeared to be the oldest section with some headstones with Chinese writing. All of the ones with English writing belonged to the Ching family. Further up the hill we spotted another section with another family name and to the far right were two more sections where the headstones had different names. In the middle of the whole area was the remains of an old water fountain. It was a beautiful place, very quiet and isolated and hidden from view. From there is was an easy walk down to the road to our car.
Hanalei and Hanalei Bay
Back on Highway 560 again, we headed into Hanalei. Last night we drove into the town and had dinner at the Kalypso Island Bar and Grill in the heart of downtown Hanalie. Tom wondered whether Hanalei was the place where Puff the Magic Dragon lived. When we got back to the hotel we looked up the lyrics to the song and it goes like this:
Puff, the Magic Dragon lived by and sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee
Though Hanalei is pronounced Honah Lee, the spelling is completely different. In my opinion, Hanalei is the sort of place you would expect Puff to live as it is the perfect spot for a magic dragon.
Before we hit Hanalei town itself, we took a right towards the sea and headed to the beach. As it was still relatively early, we easily found a parking spot in the small car park adjacent to the beach. The sun was warm and the sea looked inviting. I slung a beach towel – courtesy of the Westin Princelville – over my back pack and set off. Our first goal was to walk out on the concrete pier which had a covered area at the end. People were frolicking in the water (no sign of Puff or Jackie Paper). The water looked very shallow but not at all clear so no good for snorkeling. We then returned to the beach passing a couple of vans with lots of surf boards. I walked down to the waters edge, took off my sandals and enjoyed the sensation of the sea washing in over my feet. High on the beach near the high water mark I saw a lone coconut. Tom said it had probably been washed ashore. I expected a coconut to be brown and hairy but the outside husk is green. At the end of the beach the Hanalei River flows into the sea and here the water is clear. I could see a shoal of tiny fish at the water’s edge and watched them for a while. When we decided to walk back to the car and carry on with our drive, I realalized that the towel was no longer slung over my back pack. Thinking I had dropped it along the way I hurried to retrace my steps. I desperately wanted to find it because if the towel was not returned to the hotel, I wouldn’t get my card returned so I would be charged $20. Fortunately I spotted it hanging from one of the vans hiring out surf boards. I profusely thanked the guy and he said he was happy to oblige.
Back in the car and on to our next adventure. I must just mention that the whole of Highway 560 is very scenic and, in fact, is now on my list of the top ten scenic routes I’ve had the pleasure of driving along. Apart from the idyllic sandy beaches and the crashing surf, there’s the lush vegetation including palm trees and colorful flowers plus exotic birds and one must not forget the feral chickens. One interesting feature along this highway is the one lane bridges. Before each bridge there is a sign saying that the courtesy is to allow 5-6 cars to cross the bridge at one time and for the most part this is adhered to.
Lumahai Beach waves
Our next stop was at the end of Lumahai Beach where the Lumahai River empties into the ocean. An official notice is posted telling visitors to be careful as there is no lifeguard on duty. There was even an unofficial sign warning tourists to be aware. We were warned by the concierge that at the moment the surf is high and snorkeling is not advised. Indeed, the waves breaking offshore did look pretty fearsome but the shore side of the coral reef seemed calm. I wandered down to where the river met the sand and wondered how the river reached the sea. Tom explained that it sinks through the sand. I paddled in the clear river water to get the sand out from between my toes and then sat of a three foot high bank of sand at least twenty feet away from the the incoming waves. Tom was closer to the water’s edge and had to retreat in haste when the water surged in. I felt fairly safe where I sat and started to apply sun block. I always try to heed the warning about not turning my back on the ocean and on this occasion I was facing the sea but concentrating on applying sun block to the back of my neck and had taken my eyes off the water. In a split second I was up to my waist in water and felt the sand back collapse under me. I acted very fast by grabbing my backpack and shoes and getting the hell out of the way. Tom was by my side immediately to assist me out of harms way, though a little wet. I quickly checked that everything in my pack to was OK including my iPad and watch and checked they were in working order. My brand new camera was in the pocket of my shorts and I was convinced that it would be out of commission bu,t thank goodness, it was OK. The only casualties, apart from me being wet from the waist down, were my nice black leather backpack which now sports white patches and the sun block lotion which had disappeared completely, presumably sucked out to sea.
Maniniholo Dry Cave. That's Margaret way back there.
I had no other clothes to change into but felt confident that I would soon dry out as it was a warm day. I sat on a towel in the car though to protect the seat. We drove a little further along the road passing through Wainiha. For the next few miles we passed a lot of houses built on stilts. Obviously living close to the ocean has its hazards so it is best to take precautions. Our next stop was at the Maniniholo Dry Cave. What an awesome site. The entrance to the cave is right at the side of the road. The entrance is wide and it is possible to walk some way into the cave. What takes your breath away is the immensity of the towering peak above with sheer sides but is also covered in vegetation including trees where the roots hang down until they find something to latch onto.
After that experience, we walked to the beach and watched a mother chicken clucking over her one partly grown chick and a flock of zebra doves hunkering down in the sand, seeming oblivious of humans nearby. Parked in the car park was a van selling drinks and snacks. A sign announced the fact that they sold shave ice. This is something I had not tried before so now was my chance to try something new. They had lots of different flavors and I chose coconut and pineapple. Tom chose vanilla and coconut. They were served in polystyrene cups with the white coconut flavor filling half the cup and the yellow pineapple, for me and the lurid blue vanilla for Tom, filling the other half and peaking six inches above the top of the cup. Each came complete with a wooden spoon and a straw. I must say it was delicious though the cold ice caused several painful instances of chest freeze.
Almost at the end of the road is the Limahuli Garden and Preserve in Haena. This is one of the places on our list to visit but today it wasn’t possible as it is not open on Mondays. We drove right to the end of Highway 560 at Kee Beach but decided to turn around without visiting the beach as parking was almost impossible. We stopped on the drive back to eat our sandwich lunch looking over Lumahai Beach.
Before returning to the hotel, we drove past the entrance and on to Anini Beach. This is the nearest beach to our hotel and though it is possible to walk to it, the trail is particularly treacherous when it has been raining. There were several people snorkeling so we promised ourselves we would return later in the week to do some snorkeling.
In the evening we drove back to Wainihi to have dinner at the Mediterranean Gourmet which is located in the Colony Resort. It had been recommended by the concierge at the hotel. Finding somewhere nice to eat on a Monday night is challenging but we struck gold here. Tom had a very tasty seafood broth and I enjoyed a tower of portobello mushrooms, grilled eggplant and mozzarella cheese. To finish we shared a pineapple upside down dessert al la mode.
Back to a second night of blissful sleep in our Heavenly bed.
February 20 2012 | Further Afield and Special Places | 2 Comments »
Carnegie Arts Center in Turlock, California
We are back on the road again after a long absence. This Summer has been interesting with visitors, vacations and other obligations. It is good to be on our travels once again.
It was a Sunday and we were on our way home from Fresno to San Jose via Turlock. Why did we want to go to Turlock and where the heck is it? Turlock is in the Central Valley to the south of Sacramento and we wanted to go to the Ansel Adams photography exhibition in the Carnegie Arts Center . I had to look on the map to see exactly where Turlock was as I had never heard of it. Our route was along Highway 99. Up to this point, I had only been on Highway 99 from Fresno to Highway 152 and so far I had not impressed. Once beyond Chowchilla the surroundings improved for a while. Turlock itself was not too bad either.
The exhibition is being held at the newly refurbished Carnegie Arts Center until January 8, 2012 . The building was once a library built in 1916 with Carnegie funding. In 1968 a new library was built in Turlock and the original building became an Arts Center. In 2005 a fire gutted the building. For a few years it was debated whether or not to rebuild or to start from scratch. Thank goodness the decision was made to preserve as much of the original building as possible and to build an extension to it which complemented the original design. The newly restored outside was impressive; the blending of the new with the original had been very well done. Inside was remarkable too. The grand opening had been the day before and we were the first members of the general public to turn up that day. We were greeted very warmly and made to feel really special. We were expecting to pay the advertsied entrance fee of $10 but were told the first weekend was free. We were encouraged to give a donation, which we were happy to do.
The exhibition itself was amazing. Of course there were the well known Ansel Adams photographs but also a lot nobody had seen before. There was one section on his portraits and these were the ones I liked the best. My favorite was one depicting a farming family in the Central Valley sitting on a porch. Tom liked one of a lady on the inside of a screen door looking out but not at the camera. Each picture had a comprehensive description at the side including where it was taken and when. One interesting touch was a long video showing excerpts from different interviews with Ansel Adams. I had seen photos of him but to actually hear him talk and see him in different locations was truly revealing.
It took us a couple of hours to take in all the Ansel Adams photographs and then we took a wander around the rest of the building. At one point we could see the external wall of the original brick building with signs of the damage caused by the fire. One gallery is in the old building but it was completely empty. The day before it had been a hive of activity on Opening Day. It looks like a great place to hold a wedding. In the new section there is also a conference room.
Del Puerto Canyon
Back on the road again, we drove towards I5 through Patterson. Now Patterson was another town I had never been to before and was surprised at the number of palm trees lining the roads. Tom and I were discussing which route we would take home – drive south to Highway 152 through Gilroy and onto 101 or north to I580 and over the Altamont, through Livermore to I680. Then we noticed that there was a third alternative over the Diablo Range and Mount Hamilton to Highway 130. We decided to live dangerously and go the road ‘less traveled’. Before we embarked on our adventure, we stocked up on food and water just in case we broke down. We were a little worried how we would find the right road over the mountains but it turned out to be easy. The main road from Patterson passed under I5 and we found ourselves on Del Puerto Canyon Road. Within minutes we left civilisation behind and enjoyed the scenic ride. The road, at least until we had driven through Frank Raines Park where we saw green grass, was well maintained but we saw very few cars on Del Puerto Canyon Road. We stopped to eat our lunch in idyllic surroundings halfway between the park and Highway 130. Not one car passed us. We were relieved to reach 130 without breaking down. The highest point was Mt Hamilton, where the Lick Observatory is situated. From then on we had plenty of traffic to contend with, especially all the cyclists. We were happy to drive slowly behind them as they coasted down the mountain until it was safe to pass them. The cyclists going the other way took the steep gradient effortlessly but I didn’t envy them. As we drove through the Joseph D Grant Country Road I saw Quimby Road off the the right. Checking the map, it looked a quicker way to get back, so we turned round and turned onto it. Then began the narrowest and steepest road we had encountered all day with some really heart stopping hairpin bends. The views over Silicon Valley were spectacular though. Before too long we were back into civilization and on Capital Expressway. Yes it did take longer to take that route home but we really enjoyed ourselves. It is not something we would do every time we travel to the Central Valley but we were pleased we had done it once.
September 26 2011 | Further Afield and Special Places | No Comments »
Quaint Mendocino along the northern California coast
This is our last day in Fort Bragg. Several family members were driving home today and left early in the morning so we bid them farewell. A large proportion of the wedding party remained and were going on the Skunk Train. We did think about joining them but when we looked into it we changed our mind. We thought the train would be going all the way from Fort Bragg to Willits but, on looking closer, the round trip from Fort Bragg only goes halfway to Northspur. There is another train which goes from Willits to Northspur. The price was $49 each, presumably for each round trip, so we decided it was too expensive. The weekend so far had been just within our budget and a trip on the Skunk Train would have pushed us over the limit. We decided to do a bit of sightseeing.
Judy, Rachel’s Mum, came with us so the three of us set off at about 9:30 in the morning. Our first stop was Noyo Harbor. It was a little difficult to find. We guessed where it was because just north of the junction with Highway 20, Highway 1 crosses over a bridge and we could see some small ships. There were no signs pointing to it that we could see but when we saw a street sign which said Harbor Drive we thought it could lead to the harbor, which it did. I, for one, was surprised how far in from Highway 1 it was and the number of big fishing ships which were moored there. We parked our car near the Highway 1 bridge and walked down to a small beach. Tom, as usual, was busy taking photographs so Judy and I wandered on down to the water and chatted. I noticed some strange tracks in the sand. They led from underneath some rocks and meandered across the sand, under a log and to another rock. At first I was convinced they had been left by a snake but on studying them closer we came to the conclusion that a smallish crab had made them.
We got back into the car and headed to the main harbor, but most of the boats were on the other side of the estuary. On our side of the water were a couple of eating and watering holes, fishing tackle shops and other marine type services. A lot of places were advertising fishing trips.
Noyo Harbor in Fort Bragg
After we had exhausted what there was to see at Noyo Harbor we turned south on Highway 1 and headed to Mendocino. I have been to Mendocino a few times and it is cute. It is a very arty crafty sort of place with lots of boutique shops selling higher end gifts – but not too classy. I did buy a couple of Christmas presents which I will take to England when I visit in August. The weather was once again on the sunny side though occasionally the sun disappeared behind the clouds. We wandered around a couple of art galleries and then to the back streets looking for the Mendocino Art Center. Judy had been there a few times and had been very impressed with it but she couldn’t remember quite where it was. We went up and down streets looking for it but it was no hardship. We were away from most of the shops and in the residential area. There are some very nice little houses there and most gardens were well tended with lots of flowers and shrubs. We kept seeing a strange looking tree and none of us knew what it was. They seemed to be growing like weeds there. In one house where they had at least half a dozen specimens, they had posted a sign explaining what they were. I did write down the name on the back of a receipt but, of course, when I needed the information I could not find the receipt. I hoped Tom managed to get some nice photos of them (Tom: Nope I didn’t). If anybody who has been to Mendocino knows what they are, I would be most grateful to hear from you.
By this time we were all hungry and still hadn’t found the Art Center. Near the Post Office we found the Mendocino Deli on Ukiah street and it looked ideal. I had a bowl of clam chowder, Tom and Judy had sandwiches. They have a nice little garden at the back which we retreated to to wait for our food. It was very pleasant sitting there eating our lunch and chatting, chatting, chatting. After we had our fill we continued our mission to find the Mendocino Art Center by tramping the back streets of Mendocino.
Eventually Judy became excited because she began to recognize familiar signs and suddenly there it was - The Mendocino Art Center . The main building was set in a beautiful garden with other associated buildings on the periphery. Looking at their website, the art center has more to offer than a tour round the various galleries in the main building. The other buildings houses artists’ studios and workshops are held throughout the year. There is also accommodation available at a very reasonable reate for those attending workshops. The center offers various musical entertainments as well and during the summer months BBQs are held where the entrance and music is free but there is a small charge for the food. It is quite a happening place.
But to get round to our visit on this day, the garden is a sight for sore eyes even before the front entrance is reached. Many interesting and varied sculptures can be spotted and discovered in various areas of the garden. On the front lawn were an amusing collection of sculptures which twisted and twirled with the wind, made out of a variety of odd materials. To the left of the front door, is a wonderful, large horse’s head made from twigs and small branches. It is a powerful exhibit.
Saw this guy taking a little siesta at Noyo Harbor
Inside the three of took off in different directions. Don’t know where Judy and Tom wandered off to but I strolled around the ground floor. I found a gallery displaying paintings which had been entered into a competition, with the winners and runners up marked by ribbons. Then I found myself in a wonderful little gallery which was dedicated to a local artist , Christopher Stuart Lloyd. Sadly he died suddenly in early June this year of a heart attack when he was just 54 years of age. What he has left behind is amazing. What drew me in were a couple of big, round mobiles hanging from the ceiling. On closer inspection of the first one I could see that suspended inside on very thin fishing line, hanging in straight lines, were an assortment of metal objects. Some were relatively large like spoons but others were tiny – nuts, bolts, nails etc. The other mobile contained a collection of cog wheels and clock parts. I read that Christopher used to explore some of the inaccessible beaches on the Mendocino headlands by climbing down to them on a rope. Most of the objects had been washed up many, many years ago from ships which had been shipwrecked along the coast. Also on display at the art center was a poignant poem written by someone who knew him very well. Reading it brought tears to my eyes. Just wish I had written some of the words down.
I had to go outside and sit down on a bench near the horse’s head to reflect and contemplate. When Tom and then Judy joined me I told them about the Christopher Lloyd exhibition and they went to view it. They were similarly affected. Makes me wish I knew about his work beforehand.
We made our way back to Shoreline Cottages to get ready for our last night of celebration, though it was a much reduced party. We all met up at the house where Rachel had been staying and had a BBQ in the garden. This is where Rachel originally planned to hold the wedding. It was right on the coast with a wonderful view of the ocean. We gloried in a wonderful sunset after we had eaten our fill and then chatted and laughed for hours before sad farewells were exchanged and we all made our way back to our respective lodgings.
August 03 2011 | Further Afield and Special Places | No Comments »