Six Days, Seven Nights (or thereabouts) on Kauai, pt. 6

Friday morning was cloudy, windy, and threatening rain. We awoke and immediately started packing, each of us fumbling about in silence. It was hard to believe this day had come. I remembered back to Vancouver and our walk around COSCO; I didn’t believe our trip was happening back then, but now it was almost over. We still had things to do, but the final day of any vacation feels more like awaiting your execution: after a while, you just want to get it over with. All we had planned was shopping and spending time in Kapa’a and Lihue, the two towns we drove through dozens of times but never really lingered in.

We went for breakfast to a run down little restaurant in Kapa’a called Kountry Kitchen (good thing they chose not to add “Kafeteria” to the name), where I ate some ‘cheesy eggs’ based on Lenore’s suggestion. They were delicious, but I was constantly paranoid that the cushion in my booth was about to collapse and send me crashing into the coffin sized wood frame. We went back to the hotel, packed up the Tracker, then Julia checked out while I admired the lobby and fish ponds one more time.

First we drove to the Coconut Plantation Market and walked around the open court, darting in and out of shops like hummingbirds to a pollen feeder. I needed at least one tacky Hawaiian shirt and I still searched in vain for bamboo wind chimes made locally. Unlike Mexico, where only tourists wear dorky wide sombreros, in Hawaii, all the local people wear Hawaiian shirts: they’re cheap, colourful, and cool in the hot weather. We moved on to Kapa’a, parked the car, and walked the three blocks which make up the ‘business district.” The sky darkened as a heavy band of cloud spread across the horizon.

“I don’t like the looks of this, Julia,” I said sombrely. “I think we should stay near the car.”

I figured we had about a half hour before rain, which greatly expedited our shopping pace. Our first stop was the Original Kauai Red Dirt Shirt store where they take a plain white T-Shirt, put a slogan on it, then wash it in pure red Kauai red soil. I liked many of the shirts there, but our finances were drying up while our suitcases were stuffed tighter than spandex pants at a trailer park. I purchased two shirts, sized ‘large’ as if I were to magically return to a prepubescent weight.

We moved on to another one room shop, which had a large selection of Hawaiian shirts, most of them made in Hawaii. The store was plain, with bare walls and a make-shift change room fashioned from a shower curtain and steel rod. The shirts were cheap, but so am I, so I bought two. I turned to walk out of the store just as the rain began to pound the pavement, sending outdoor shoppers in a frenzy, seeking shelter wherever the nearest store or awning was in view. We waited out the storm in the store, attempting to converse with the owner whose dense Vietnamese accent made her words only vaguely audible. The rain subsided after less than ten minutes so we decided to take our chances; the lady behind the counter called out in near perfect English: “Please come again!”

Would that statement ever come true? I wondered.

Having seen much of Kapa’a, we stopped in for lunch at Bubba’s Hamburgers, with their unabashed motto: “We cheat tourists, drunks and attorneys.” We sat on their narrow patio overlooking the ocean as another smear of ominous clouds approached off in the distance.

We ate greasy hamburgers and fries quickly then drove south to Lihue, stopping at the infamous Hilo Hatte where we had seen numerous commercials advertising their “one stop shop for everything Hawaiian.” We were greeted at the door by a girl who placed a shell lei around everyone’s neck. I thought perhaps a better slogan would be: “Hilo Hatte, where everyone gets lei-ed.” We purchased a few small items but had another couple hours to kill.

“Let’s drive to Wailua Falls,” I said. “We never saw it by canoe, so the least we can do is drive there by car.”

Julia agreed and found the turn then navigated a narrow, snaking road of bright red dirt, surrounded by 10 foot high fields of sugarcane, which provided visibility only as far as the next bend. The road was barely wide enough for one vehicle and I constantly felt a head-on collision lurked around each hairpin turn.

“This is going to be neat,” I kept telling Julia, “and totally worth our effort.”

Finally we arrived at a fenced off area overlooking a broad green valley. We parked the car where the road ended and walked to a rickety barrier. There we saw, in magical splendour, the top 5% of Wailua Falls.

“What?” I cursed, “That’s it? That’s all we can see?”

“Aaaa…rrrr…a…rrr…a…rrrrrrr!” A rooster bellowed.

We took a couple pictures: one looking over the valley and one of Julia pointing at the dirt. Eat your heart out, Ansel Adams.

Devoid of further tourist ambition, we left for the airport. It seemed like yesterday when we turned the car onto the highway for the first time and instantly recognized the scenery of Kauai from the many photographs etched permanently in our minds. I longed to jump back in time–one week earlier–and feel that warm tropical wind in my face and omnipresent scent of flowers invading my nostrils. Kauai was, for me, everything I had hoped it would be: quaint, quiet, and incredibly picturesque. Did we miss the night life? No. We still had great memories of sharing the hot tub with Jason and drinking incredible Mai Tais. Nothing about Kauai invites stress; the island resonates tranquility, natural scenery, and a carefree lifestyle. Ask anyone who lives there and they will tell you the secret, which isn’t actually a secret: “Someone has to live in paradise so it may as well be me.”

We sat in Kauai airport, empty of thought, hollow of emotions. We barely spoke as we looked around at the tropical flowers which had seemed like colourful smiles upon our arrival, but now imparted grief like the floral garnish on a casket.

“Geez, I feel like crying.” I mumbled aloud.

“Yeah… me too.”

We boarded the crowded plane back to Honolulu and strained to see, through the small window portal, a last glimpse of Kauai. We faced the ocean and never did. We arrived back at Honolulu airport in less than half an hour, had dinner, then boarded the plane for the flight back to Seattle then Vancouver. We looked forward to a couple of days in Vancouver with our friends Ben and Denise before heading back to Winnipeg. I secretly hoped Winnipeg was under a blanket of snow in the middle of May–it can happen!

The DC-10 lumbered towards the runway in the faint remnants of dusk. A lady beside us clutched rosary beads tightly in her hand and prayed intensely for a successful flight. The lights of Waikiki sparkled brightly in the port side windows as we banked around southern Oahu. It was our final view of Hawaii before our plane disappeared into the black void of night.