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Our alarm went off at 6:00, giving us plenty of time to prepare for our hike. We met Leslie in the Islander lobby at 7:30am and headed off to Kokee State Park. We got our first experience of rush hour on Kauai. Highway 56 north of Lihue has two lanes running north and one lane running south. During the morning rush our, the highway department puts traffic cones between the two north-bound lanes and uses the center lane for south-bound traffic. It is called "contra flow traffic". That makes the traffic flow smoothly into north Lihue. However, on the west side of Lihue, the highway has only two lanes. The east-bound lane was backed up for miles. Fortunately, we were headed west, and it was pretty clear for us.
As we neared Hanapepe, Leslie told us of an embarrasing incident that had happened there on Sunday. She has given her permission for me to include her story here. Leslie had been driving through Hanapepe on Sunday when she spotted a Bhudist temple beside the highway and stopped to look. When she had been on Oahu several years before, she had been in a tour group that went to such a temple. The tour guide at the time had encouraged each tourist to make a wish and ring the temple bell. Remembering that, Leslie walked up to the bell at the Hanapepa temple, made a wish and rang the bell.
About that time, people started walking out of the temple. Leslie wondered if it was coincidence, or of they had come out because she rang the bell. Unsure, but not getting dirty looks or any sort of confirmation she had done anything wrong, Leslie continued to walk around the temple grounds. Finally, an older woman walked up to her and said "You aren't supposed to ring the bell. The priest is very mad at you. That bell is only for very special occasions, like New Year." Leslie apologized and felt really bad about upsetting the congregation and the priest.
When we got to Hanapepe, we asked Leslie if she wanted to make a wish, but she passed on the opportunity.
When we got to the town of Waimea, we turned north on Highway 550, a winding, well-maintained road that climbs from near sea level to nearly 4000 feet. We stopped at a couple of overlooks for views of Waimea canyon before parking at the trail head.
We were hunting a geocache called The "Why Me?" cache. It was the only cache on Kauai, and the hike sounded like a fun one. Our original plan had been to hike an 11-mile loop through Kokee State Park. Chris's back felt better than previous days, but we didn't want to risk hurting it more with a long hike. So we decided to shorten our trek to about 4 miles -- just out to the cache and back to the car.
Our hike took us along a rutted dirt four-wheel-drive road named Hale Manu Road. We then turned onto Cliff Trail, which ends at a cliff-top overlook. We backtracked a hundred yards or so on Cliff trail, then got on the Canyon Trail. This trail follows the north rim of Waimea Canyon east. After about a mile, the GPS told us we were at the cache. We found it easily, as there weren't many places it could have been hidden. If we had not known it was there to be found, though, I don't think we would have stumbled across it.
The cache box was pretty bare. It wasn't water-proof, and had obviously gotten wet a couple of times. We donated a couple of zip-lock bags for items that would be damaged by water, then left an electronic Blackjack game. We took out a wind-up red crab toy that had been left by visitors from Maryland. We planned to tag it and move it to a cache in the Bay Area when we returned home. The hike back to the trail head was uneventful. It was getting hot, and the ground was very dry. We met a couple of groups of hikers who were hoping to see waterfalls. We hadn't even seen any water, so we couldn't help them.
Back at the car, we loaded up, then headed back down to the coast. We stopped for lunch at the Camp House Grill in Kalaleo. Leslie had eaten there a couple days before and said it was really good. We agreed with her after a lunch of burgers, chicken sandwiches, and onion rings. Chris and Leslie ordered desserts, but I passed, having had a vanilla shake -- with real ice cream! -- with my meal. Chris orderd the "Pineapple Cream Cheese Macadamia Nut Pie," which was more of a cheesecake, and Leslie had Coconut Cream Pie, which also had a layer of chocolate in it. They seemed to thouroughly enjoy their treats, leaving their plates quite clean.
During lunch we made plans to visit a nearby coffee plantation we had seen on our way out that morning. However, we managed to miss it on the way back and found ourselves in Lihue. Instead of looking for it, we headed back to the Islander. Leslie headed off to do her own thing, and Chris and I went back to our room to rest. Chris headed for the pool, and I journaled. While I was still writing, Chris returned to the room, saying "It's raining." She settled in on the balcony to read, while I stayed at the laptop.
The rain soon stopped. I finished typing and we headed back down to the pool where we took a dip, read, and then got in the hot tub. Dark clouds started gathering overhead, and it was soon raining again. We got back to our room before the bottom fell out. It rained heavily for about 20 minutes, then stopped again. Since we were running out of milk, grapefruit juice, and wine, I made a run to Safeway and picked up a quart of each (actually 1.5 liters of wine). We sipped wine on the balcony, enjoying the breeze and the periodic rain showers.
While we were on the balcony, our phone rang. Luan, one of my co-workers, was calling to let us know that many in the group were going out to celebrate the birthday of another of our colleagues, named Ray. The plan was to meet at Trade Winds bar in Coconut Marketplace, the shopping center next to the Islander. Luan planned to be there between 8:00 and 8:30. The highlight of the evening was to be Karaoke. Neither Chris nor I had ever been to a Karaoke bar, and we hadn't ever planned to. However, I told Luan we'd make it if we could.
At 6:30, we headed out to dinner. Several people we had talked to had recommended Coconuts, a fairly new restaurant in Kapa'a. We found it with no trouble and checked in with the hostess who told us there would be about a 25-minute wait. We found seats in the bar, ordered beers and, about 25 minutes later, were shown to our table. The service was very good, the atmosphere was perfect, and the food was excellent. Chris had barbecued seabass with coconut rice. I had tempura ono with Japanese fried rice. Both dishes were heavenly. If you find yourself on Kauai, you should definitely check out Coconuts!
It was only about 8:00 when we got back to the Islander after dinner. We decided to window-shop in the Coconut Marketplace, then head to Trade Winds. There are lots of clothing and knick knack shops in the center's open-air courtyard. We didn't see anything we wanted, though. We found Trade Winds about 8:45 and looked around inside. I didn't see any of our group there, so we left, hoping to run into them between there and the Islander. We stopped in one last shop where Chris bought an ankle bracelet made of flat shells about 1/4 inch in diameter.
Nearing the Islander, we met Ding, who was also looking for the rest of the group. As we talked with him, several others walked up. Having reached critical mass, we headed back to the bar, where we found Ray and some of the others at a table near the Karaoke stage. We joined them, listened to a couple of not-bad singers, and then Leslie got up to sing. She dedicated her song to the birthday boy, then started into "Birthday" by the Beatles. Halfway through, she was joined by Nick (another Qucken team member) who really hammed it up. Nick got into the singing and performed about five more songs before relinquishing the microphone.
Once Nick, Leslie, and Ray stopped singing, Chris and I decided that it wasn't as much fun listening to people we didn't know. We slipped out of the crowd and headed back to the room. Once again, we turned out the lights at 10:00 and were asleep soon after that.
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