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Hawaii: Kauai Sights and the North Shore

May 16, 2011

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On this trip we decided to make the pilgrimage to Hanalei, Ke’e Beach, and some of the other North Shore highlights . It’s an arduous trip from Waimea that involves fighting a lot of traffic around Lihue and Kapa’a, but in the end the journey is worthwhile, if only for the variety of wildlife and scenery along the road.

We got distracted early in the trip by a stand of Cook pines, located north of Poipu.  These venerable trees, native to the South Pacific, were highly prized for their trunks, from which excellent ships’ masts could be fashioned. Members of the Araucaria genus, they are also called Cook island pines, although they are not native to the Cook Islands, but rather to New Caledonia.  We presume Captain James Cook had something to do with their popularity but that notion was never made clear to us.   They are sometimes confused with the Norfolk pine.

1) Cook pines. This stand was located on private property; any car driving down this road would find a gate that closed behind it, presumably so the authorities could be alerted to prosecute the wanton offense of DWO (Driving While Observing). But when you control a massive tract of land, such are the privileges…

2) Diana poses in front of a tree; they were planted over a hundred years ago to line this lane

A lovely waterway bordered the property of whatever lucky soul laid claim to the trees.

3) The stream

Our next stop came at the well-known landmark of Wailea Falls. In ancient times young men would leap from the falls in a test of manhood; this tradition continues in modern times and a Hawaiian vendor at the parking area told us that in recent years twelve people have made plunge.  Nine have been killed in the attempt.

4) Wailea Falls – 170 ft. high

5) A view of the stone platform on top, from which brave young men occasionally leap

Finally we reached the North Shore. Our first destination was the Kilauea Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge, home to myriad species of birds and great views.

6) Kilauea Lighthouse; no shortage of bird poop on the approach

Near the visitor’s center we were greeted with our first interesting sight – a Wedge-tailed shearwater in its nest, presumably incubating an egg.  This bird breeds throughout the Hawaiian chain and elsewhere.

7) The nesting Shearwater, or at least its hind quarters 

Also in view were an abundance of White-tailed tropic birds, the Nene (Hawaii’s native goose – in true fashion we drove right by a bunch of them and forgot to get a photo), and boobies.

8) A Laysan albatross flies overhead – don’t ask how many pics I shot to get this one

9) Sea cliff nesting sites

10) Offshore lies Moku’ae’ae Islet, home to more birds, monk seals, and playground of humpbacks and dolphins

11) A Monk seal seeking leisure time, Poipu (we weren’t about to climb down the cliff at Kilauea and look for them there!)

Looking southwest we spied the not-so-secret Secret Beach.

12) Secret Beach – another great spot, we had been there before

Driving back to the main road we stopped at an otherwise unremarkable stone edifice with some stores and a restaurant.  The Kong Lung Center turned out to be an original building from Kilauea Sugar Plantation.

13) Kong Lung Center

Our next stop was near Hanalei, at the incessantly photographed pre-contact taro fields, still in use today.

14) Roadside taro fields

Now the design of the road itself became interesting with a series of bridges.

15) This first bridge deters the tour buses, our guidebook claimed

16) The double bridge

All this stretch of road, it bears noting, would be washed away in a tsunami.

At last we reached our destination, the sacred mountain of Makana and Ke’e Beach.

17) Ke’e Beach and the beginning of the Napali Coast, North Shore style

18) Eroded roots, Australian pine – Ke’e Beach

Sometimes it’s nice to know you can’t go any further.

19) End of the road

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