Six Days, Seven Nights (or thereabouts) on Kauai, pt. 1

We awoke that morning filled with anticipation; we were off to Kauai. Ever since we first started planning the trip, Kauai was the prize. We read about Kauai, talked about Kauai, and thought about Kauai almost constantly, letting Waikiki slip into afterthought. But here we were, on the verge of going to Kauai and all we could think about was how much fun we had in Waikiki. What if Kauai didn’t live up to our hype? Could it possibly live up to our over-inflated expectations?

We hustled out to a local diner for a greasy breakfast then called a shuttle for a ride to the airport. The two major inter-island airlines–Hawaiian Airlines and Aloha Airlines–flew to all islands almost every hour. We waited only 45 minutes before boarding a flight on Aloha Airlines and this is where the story really “takes off.” Two days prior to leaving for Hawaii, we watched the movie Six Days, Seven Nights where Anne Heche and David Schwimmer fly to “Tahiti,” which, we knew, was actually Kauai. The entire movie was filmed on Kauai: Lihue, Princeville, and the Na Pali Coast. Anne ends up crashing on a deserted island with Harrison Ford, where hilarity and romance ensues. I won’t reveal any more spoilers (pssst, there are PIRATES!) but the beautiful scenery really stoked our excitement.

“Oh my god, we’re flying to Tahiti on Aloha Airlines,” I kept saying in Ross Geller tone.

The airport was simple, consisting of one large room with a dark stained wood ceiling and square concrete pillars. There were no walls, only a girder fence about 5 feet high surrounded by tropical plants and flowers. The only people in the airport were those who just got off the plane and a few security personnel who, unlike Honolulu, were relaxed and jovial. We immediately got our bags then walked across the street to a series of car rental kiosks where I booked a 2000 model Chevy Tracker with sunroof and back that could be unzipped and opened to the elements: the perfect car to see the Island.

We followed the road then turned down the highway and headed North towards Wailua and the Holiday Inn. On our left was a tall, grassy, sugar cane field with jagged, dark, mountains engulfed in a halo of clouds in the background. To the right, majestic palms, terracotta coloured soil, and the blue ocean shimmering on the horizon. The day was hot; we had the top down and the wind tossed our hair wildly about. “Wow,” I said. “I have a feeling we’re going to like it here.”

We arrived at the hotel and Julia went in, while I sat, leaning against the car, pretending to be cool. Julia came out moments later and said that check-in wasn’t until 3:00 and that our room wasn’t ready. She also said: “It’s so beautiful there!” I looked at the clock in the car and it was only 12:30; we had some time to kill.

“Well,” I said, “let’s get Lenore out and see what this place has to offer.”

‘Lenore’ is a book called The Kauai Underground Guide, which we received serendipitously from the author, Lenore Horowitz, after she walked into the Celtic Shoppe at The Forks to purchase some Irish music from Julia’s Mom. They struck up a conversation and Lenore passed along her email and told Julia’s Mom that she would give us a copy of the book from her publisher. We contacted her then, within days, had a copy in our hands. The book provides detailed descriptions about Kauai’s beaches, activities and restaurants; it is an absolute necessity considering most of Kauai is off the beaten track.

We drove north, through the village of Kapa’a (Kauai’s second most populated town after Lihue), which consisted of one main street, a Foodland, a Safeway, a couple small strip malls, several small souvenir shops, a McDonalds, and numerous rental outlets. The drive through Kapa’a took less than 5 minutes then it was back to open highway.

“I want to see is Secret Beach.” Julia kept saying.

According to Lenore, Secret Beach is almost totally secluded from everyone but a few locals, is well off the highway, and is a significant hike down a cliff. Without a guidebook, it would be impossible to find. We didn’t have that much time so we decided to put it off and continued driving to the town of Kilauea, turning off to see the lighthouse. We came to a cul-de-sac, parked the car, and saw the lighthouse on a rocky outcrop. We could have gone to the lighthouse itself, but decided to move on to our next stop, Kalihiwai road, which splintered off towards two beaches: Kalihiwai and Anini. First we drove to Kalihiwai along a narrow, curvy ribbon of tarmac with high cliffs on our left and the ocean lapping near the shoulder on the right. We turned the last corner and saw the crescent shaped beach, surrounded by natural flora, nestled in a cove of rock. The turquoise water rolled gently onto the beach and only a few dozen people sunbathed and frolicked in the water, a far cry from Waikiki or Hanauma Bay.

“Oh my God… we’re coming back here for sure!” I blurted.

Anini Beach looked nice too, long and straight with tall trees shading a tidy camping area. It was fairly busy due to a weekend polo tournament, so we turned back towards the hotel. It was nearing 3:00 pm and I was itchin’ for a beer and some relaxation by the pool.

When I walked into the hotel lobby, I too, was in awe. Considering the Holiday Inn was a ‘budget conscious’ resort, they certainly did not scrimp on the amenities. The main lobby consisted of a stone floor, vaulted wood ceiling, and an incredible variety of tropical foliage. A stream, laden with brightly coloured fish, wound through the lobby, snaked around the restaurant, and meandered towards the rooming quarters. The stream started from a small waterfall formed of lava rock near the back of the lobby. At several points it was necessary to walk across short bridges where, expecting food, fish would gather, mouths gaping above the water like a silent choir.

Our room overlooked the garden, another beautiful waterfall, and the sound of cascading water.

“That’s going to make me pee.” I said.

“Everything makes you pee.” Julia retorted, shaking her head.

We donned our bathing suits, grabbed a couple beers then headed for the pool, which was small but engulfed in broad-leafed tropical plants and fragrant flowers. Off to one side was a hot tub and “YOW!” it was hot, turn the other direction and there was a stubby stone wall, beyond which tall crooked palm trees partially shaded a small sandy beach, smooth black boulders, and the ocean crashing at Lydgate Park. We stayed at the pool, read and drank for just over an hour, then, like clockwork, I had to pee. We walked past the restaurant on our way to the room and saw, in bold letters: HAPPY HOUR.

We hurried to the room, got changed and parked ourselves at the bar.

“What’s on for happy hour?” I asked the bartender impatiently.

“Whatever you want,” she replied, “but I recommend Mai Tais; they’re the best on the Island.”

“I’m sold.” I said enthusiastically.

She whipped up a couple of delicious golden brown Mai Tais and we started talking. She was from Salt Lake City and, like many, just one day decided to live in paradise.

“My parents are Mormon,” she said, “so you can imagine how they felt about me moving to Hawaii to work as a bartender.”

“Mormons shun alcohol, right?” I asked.

“Oh, yeah, that’s putting it mildly. They were also not too pleased when I married a Hawaiian man and decided to stay. I think they believed I was going through some kind of a rebellious phase, but it’s been twenty years and I’m still here, with no intention of ever going back to the mainland. This is my home; I love it here.”

We continued talking between her serving customers and mixing drinks (half of the mixing was me getting more Mai Tais). Julia and I were curious if she had ever met anyone famous.

“Oh yeah, all the time.” she replied. “Most of the famous people are really nice, but every so often one of them is a real jerk.”

“Like who?” Julia asked.

“Like, oh, what’s his name, the NRA guy… oh yeah, Charlton Heston. He was a real asshole, made lots of noise and left his room in a shambles.”

“What did the hotel do?”

Her brow tipped downwards as she continued: “The last straw was when he ordered room service. When the server took the food to his room, he opened the door and just stood there… naked. Naturally, she was horrified; she dropped the tray and ran off. We kicked him out later that day.”

She left briefly to take another order then returned.

“Most of the stars keep to themselves,” she said jovially.

“Is there anyone famous here right now?” Julia asked.

Her eyeballs flicked back and forth and she leaned towards us.

“I will let you in on a secret,” she whispered. “They’re filming a movie on the Island and most of the cast and crew are staying at this hotel. One of the other staff members was certain she saw Keifer Sutherland earlier on today.”

“Keifer Sutherland!” I blurted, now in chemical induced excitement. “Hey Julia, maybe we’ll be partyin’ with Ke-fee-ferer Sutherland later, woo-hoo, I bet he knows how to par–tay! Another Mai Tai please…”

We retired back to the room after one last Mai Tai then staggered to the hot tub for a late night drunken dunk, but as we approached the tub we noticed a head perched above the water.

“Damn,” I mumbled. “There’s somebody already here.”

He giggled as I made my usual production slipping into the scalding hot water: “Yeow, wooo, owie, woop-woop, hoo-haw, eeyiyee… okay… okay… balloon ball… ballooooon… ball (my personal trainer Fuji told me that one)… ahhhhhh.”

We sat for a few minutes in awkward silence before Julia asked, “So where are you from?”

“I’m from Oahu.” he replied.

“Oahu… why would you come here?”

“I’m working for a movie production company. We start filming tomorrow; I’m the Best Boy.”

I couldn’t help responding to this:

“What the fffff… does a Best Boy do?”

“Well, basically I am responsible for bringing power to the set and making sure it keeps flowing. The Gaffer, who you’ve probably heard of, is my boss and his job is to oversee all the lights and power grids for the set. He works with the DP, sorry, Director of Photography, to achieve the desired lighting specified by the Director. I am in charge of the Grips, who basically do all the physical stuff, but, mind you, I do my share of hauling cable and lights too.”

“So what’s the movie called?” Julia asked.

“It’s called, To End All Wars, and it’s a World War II film about a Japanese POW camp. It’s sort of a continuation of ‘Bridge on the River Kwai.’ That’s about all I know.”

“So…” I inquired. “Is Keifer Sutherland in the movie?”

“Not that I know of. At least, I haven’t seen his name listed anywhere. Most of the cast are famous in England, Scotland and Japan, but are relative unknowns in the States. One of the main characters is a guy from The Full Monty. I guess I’ll find out tomorrow once I get on set. We haven’t started shooting at this site yet, but they have built an amazing looking POW camp just outside of Lihue. It’s really something what the set and locations people do. It’s going to be hard though, because the set is far from the road, so it means we are stuck there for the day and we’ll have to set up generators, and haul the equipment a long way. It will be interesting; I have never done a job this big before.”

We talked for well over an hour and learned all about the film industry. This was Jason’s first major motion picture after doing mostly commercials and other small productions, but at the paltry sum of $40,000,000, it was considered a “B” movie. We each vowed to return to the tub and talk more; it was getting late, the tub was theoretically closed, and we all had a busy day ahead. Julia and I returned to the room and crashed quickly, but I burst awake at 8:00 am with a prodigious urge to pee.