We enjoyed the breakfast buffet at the hotel, charged out to rent snorkelling gear for the week, then headed out to explore the North.
“Let’s go to Larson’s Beach,” Julia said while reading from Lenore. “It sounds beautiful and we may be able to do some snorkelling there.”
“Great!” I responded. “How do we get there?”
“Okay, turn right on a dirt road after the mile 16 marker; if you pass the dairy farm on the left, you’ve gone too far.”
We found what appeared to be the road by locating the large dairy farm just in front of us, turned off then tracked through a green pasture bound by a rickety wood and wire fence. We continued driving to the road end and saw two other cars parked along the trees. We got out and could immediately see the southern portion of the beach.
“Geez, this looks nice, let’s get our stuff and go.”
“Ooo, yeah.” Julia responded.
We walked down a gentle slope of coarse shrubs, wild flowers, and auburn soil until we planted our feet on soft white sand. A family frolicked in the water by the trail end, but as we looked north, the beach, possibly a mile long, was completely deserted. We took off our flip-flops and savoured the soft, cool sand oozing through our toes. The entire beach was enclosed by a shallow reef which kept the water ripple calm and crystal clear down to 4 feet. Upon the white sand were charcoal black lava boulders, seemly sprinkled by nature’s own hand. Never had I seen, even in pictures, a more beautiful beach.
We walked for twenty minutes then found a nice spot to drop our belongings, capture some sun, and snorkel. We were surrounded by only the distant dull thunder of waves and the wind in our ears. I could not help but marvel at the tranquility before us. “Could this be paradise?” I wondered, wading slowly into the warm turquoise water.
“Paul,” Julia whispered.
I kept wading, snorkelling gear firmly affixed to my head.
“Paul,” she said louder.
I turned around, then mouthed the word, “what.”
“There’s a naked man over there.”
“Wha’… okay, we’re outta’ here.”
Right behind us, not more than 30 metres away, sitting amongst the shrubs and long grass, was a deeply tanned, scraggly blond haired man eating something from a bowl. When he stood up to dump the rest of the contents from the bowl, it was a full moon on Larson’s Beach in the middle of the afternoon.
“Well, what do you want to do,” I said, “I don’t really want to sit here with a naked guy right there.”
“We can stay here for a while; I just want to sit down and enjoy a beach for a while.”
“Well… ah… ooo, look at those clouds over there; we should at least head back towards the trail in case these clouds get closer and it starts to rain. We are a good 20 minutes away from the car rights now.”
“Oh,” Julia moaned, “alright then.”
We trudged back towards the trail and it did get noticeably cloudier along the way. A band of clouds off to the southeast approached us quickly and as we got back to the trail head we had only enough time for a few pictures before it started sprinkling.
We headed for the car and, for whatever reason, naked guy followed and was coming up the path behind us, now wearing a worn leather shirt that hung just below his ‘things.’ No sooner did we get into the car when it started to rain harder, then as we drove through the pasture it poured. We were discouraged but equally determined to forge on to the north side and hit the main snorkelling spot, Tunnels Beach. We arrived back at the highway and continued on to the north then west side of the island, towards the rugged Na Pali coast. The rain beat down on the windshield and shrouded the countryside in a grey curtain. We drove past the resort town of Princeville with its simple airport. It is also the sod runway where Harrison Ford and Anne Heche take off from the fictional Macatea Airport.
From majestic Princeville we drove west along the north coast to quaint Hanalei, a small tourist town hugging the wide, near semi-circular beach at Hanalei Bay, famous for sailing on gentle currents and watching daily postcard quality sunsets. We continued on because the rain was letting up and we were only a few minutes from Tunnels. First, we had to ford several one-laned bridges where, to this day, I am still not sure if I ever had the right of way. These bridges were at the bottom of long deep valleys offering breathtaking vistas of forest green foliage, cascading rivers, and the deep, dark lava cliffs. A few large plantation homes were nestled in each valley, further enhancing the fairy tale ambiance. The air was moist and infused with oxygen.
“Oh my god, people live here?” I wondered aloud.
Again, there were no signs and no obvious landmarks denoting the beach. According to Lenore, though, it was right after the YMCA which, upon passing, put us in the vicinity. The rain had stopped but it was still cloudy, damp, and hazy. We walked along a path between two cabins and emerged onto Tunnels Beach.
What a sight.
The beach was fairly straight, but curved out towards the ocean to the west where our eyes were drawn to the jagged mountains of the Na Pali Coast, standing at attention like an honour guard, an almost impenetrable barrier to the heart of the Island’s west coast. With mist hovering on the peaks and green and black sodden fauna decorating the foothills, the mountains seemed plucked from Eden.
We pushed our belonging under some shrubs at the back of the beach, put on our snorkelling gear and headed for the reef where a few other snorkelers floated about. I swam in and was immediately struck by the sight of an eel, slithering in and amongst the reef, never exposing itself for longer than a few short seconds. The fish in this area were much larger than at Hanauma Bay and the reef itself was topped by bright orange, yellow and purple coral. Only a few hundred feet out, the reef dropped off into blackness; several divers glided down to explore these nether regions and I wished I could follow. I found Julia and motioned for her to stand. We found a patch of sand and stood up, again admiring the beauty in our midst.
“Wow,” I huffed, “I saw an eel, I tried to tell you… hah… hah… but you were too far.”
As we talked, a school of large blue fish converged on us, swimming around us in circles and sometimes darting through our legs. These fish numbered in the dozens, each about a foot long and as blue as the evening sky. It was like standing in an aquarium. Needless to say, Julia started getting a little freaked as these blue fish clearly had nefarious intent, but we continued snorkelling for another hour.
After an hour of beach lazing, we decided to move further west towards Ke’e Beach and the furthest you can travel by car. We negotiated several more one-laned bridges, and past Zen inspired waterfalls and streams decorated by moss and stunning clusters of tropical flowers. We pulled into Ke’e, parked and walked to the beach. The mountains were much closer; their long silouettes loomed overhead. It was truly awe inspiring and not diminished by the leaden sky. On this day, the low clouds and hovering mist gave bold perspective to the colours and shapes on the Na Pali coast. We planned to hike the first two miles of the Kalalau trail that started at Ke’e and hugged the side of the steep cliffs on the coast. That hike would be in two days when sunny skies promised to return, but first we had to return to the hotel, seek some supper, and go to bed early. The next day would be our excursion to the South Shore, where it never rains and, at this time of year, the surfing is exceptional. That night we went to a restaurant called the “Bull Shed” (If you pronounce this with a Scottish accent it really sounds like you’re swearing) where I tried a fillet of swordfish.
“Just don’t bring me the sword,” I pleaded to the waitress. “I hear it’s pretty crunchy.”
A few feet outside the restaurant, the waves crashed violently against the shore. The faint reflection of light from the restaurant provide a dim view of the spectacle, but the ambiance was perfect for my dinner. The swordfish tasted like chicken, honestly, with a fishy aftertaste. Well, what did you expect? It’s fish. Exhausted, we returned to the hotel and lay down, with sound of the waterfall caressing our ears and a cool breeze rustling the curtains. In mere seconds, I was out cold.