One major factor in my de-stressification was the lomi lomi massage that Rita arranged for the Monday after we arrived. She and Carol had done it before, but I was a lomi lomi virgin. Oh my. First the sauna, then the salt-scrub, then a deep and thorough four-hand massage. Now I understand where lomi lomi salmon gets its name. We have another session scheduled for later this week.
A couple of nights after we got here, the six of us decided to check out the latest incarnation of the restaurant next door. Locals and long-time visitors still know it as Charo's. Now it's the Mediterranean Gourmet. (I know, I know; beware of restaurants with "gourmet" in their name.) Our dinners were actually pretty tasty, once we'd navigated through the rocky shoals of the "market price" section of the menu. A $60 bouillabaisse? Glad I asked. But then the maitre d' (and apparent proprietor) got into an argument with a customer at another table who'd complained that the bouillabaisse was too hot -- hello? "bouille" means to boil -- and claimed that it must have been microwaved. The ensuing sound of dishes being smashed in the kitchen added nothing to the ambience. Nothing good, anyway.
A much more enjoyable dinner was one we cooked at home for an acquaintance from The WELL who maintains radio towers and equipment throughout the islands. Don is an old Kauai hand and a master at talk story, the Hawaiian equivalent of schmoozing.
Another day, we hung out for a while at a tiny recording studio in Anahola while David sang and played two or three locally made guitars. Rita, Carol and I did talk story with Tracey, who lives upstairs with her husband Jim in a simple but elegant Hawaiian-style house. One story led to another, and Tracey ended up lending us a DVD documentary about Taylor Camp, the long-gone hippie commune at the end of the road, not far from where we're staying. Our dear friends Victor and Sondra were among the original settlers, and we visited the site with them on one of our early visits to Kaua'i.
Thanks to one of David's connections, a programmer at KKCR who also runs an orchid nursery, we got a quick education in island agriculture, plus the opportunity to ooh and aah at dozens of exquisite blossoms -- and a whole lot of talk story, of course.
Sandy and Doug McMaster are talk story masters, too, as well as accomplished slack key musicians. They play uke and guitar, respectively, and perform regularly in and around Hanalei. I've been getting their email newsletter for a couple of years, and Jer and I finally got to attend a concert last Friday. It was delightful; they imparted so much Kaua'i lore along with the music. We're hoping to catch them once more before we go.
Another of Rita's inspirations was signing us up for a tubing trip with Kaua'i Backcountry Adventures. You float through a series of irrigation ditches and tunnels, hand-built in the 1870s, that were once part of a sugar cane plantation. This is more scenic than it might sound, with fern- and flower-bedecked stone walls inches away, and lush jungle and mountain views everywhere you look. Every now and then you hit a mini-waterfall or a tight curve that makes for interesting navigation and occasional fun jam-ups. Our main guide, T, was a sharp and funny dude with an amusing spiel and some awesome tattoos.
My brother Larry and his girlfriend Kate flew over from Oahu, where they live, for a couple of days. We took them snorkling at Tunnels, and to Limahuli Gardens with Carol and Art, and out to dinner at Postcards in Hanalei. It was good to spend some time with them.
I've put up a few dozen shots, including most of these, on Flickr.
The single most magical moment of the trip so far, as far as I'm concerned, was Sunday's turtle sighting. I was hanging in the water at Tunnels, mesmerized by a huge school of Bigeye Scad (their Hawaiian name is akule). There were thousands of them, all moving as one. I felt as if I was in the middle of a slow, cool, silver fireworks explosion, over and over again. Then I glanced down and saw a turtle in the sand below. She was motionless except for an occasional slight head-nod or flipper-wave. I hung over her for about 15 minutes, knowing that she would eventually have to surface to take a breath. Eventually, she loosened from her moorings like a hot air balloon and floated up up up, right next to me. I had to move back a bit to avoid a mid-ocean collision. She stayed close, swimming up and down and around me. I could have reached out and touched her at any point. I've swum with turtles before (and since; two more came by when we went back to Tunnels this morning) but this encounter was long and intense and felt profound, somehow.