Kauai: Capricious Rain, Conflicting Emotions

To read my Kauai journal from the beginning, click here

Martin was up again before sunrise and out of the condo in his quest for Sunrise Pictures. Hope does spring eternal. By the time I rolled out of bed, several very-civilized hours later, the sky was as it’s always been: grey, with darker grey patches and slashing rain on the horizon. Heavy brown surf pitched in the bay, and wind whipped through the coconut trees.

3-10-013_01And Martin is out there somewhere, facing bravely into the wind, camera optimistically set up, waiting to see if the sun just might burst through the heavy bank of black clouds.

I just love him for that.

I sat in the tall captain’s chair on the lanai, feet up on the railing, and watched the waves. Like fire, they were hypnotizing. The roar of the breakers (or maybe the wind?), the parallel lines of waves rising up, moving shoreward, curling in succession, breaking as grey foam, sweeping up onto the sand with grace and fluidity, then withdrawing smoothly as more waves slid in to take their place.

Martin arrived back home. He had no sunrise pictures (imagine that) but he did get some great shots of a flag whipping wildly in the gale, and of driftwood detritus sloshing briskly around in the bay’s murky surge.

I guess you take what you can get.

Today we decided to explore further afield, and hoped to hike the Kuilau Trail, whose trailhead was up near the jungly green arboretum of yesterday. The weather was threatening but dry, so we (hopefully) gathered our hiking clothes and boots … hearty lunch… daypacks… binoculars and birdbooks…  stepped outside…  and, unbelievably, it began to rain.

That, right there, was the theme of the day.

If we ventured out of the car, it rained. If we plunged onward, proceeded with determination, the rain increased, worsened, fought us. If we scuttled back into the safety of the car, the rain stopped, satisfied.

There was a very strong relationship between distance from the Jeep and the poundingness of the rain.

Initially, we thought we’d try to do the hike anyway – maybe it was a passing shower? (hope springs eternal!) – so we drove back up towards ‘Opeaka’a Falls. We stopped at an overlook so Martin could get some lashing-raindrops-on-the-car’s-windshield video footage – and the rain stopped.

Wailua Falls after heavy rains

See? Like that, all day.

Rather than hike the trail in the rain (which sounded chilly and uncomfortable, not to mention awfully gloppy), we decided to spend the day exploring the island by car. We drove over to Wailua Falls, swollen from the heavy rains, and watched the torrent of water thunder down.

We continued south and west, past Lihu’e and into Poipu, crammed with hotels and resorts, where we found a little beach and parked facing the ocean. The wind lashed the trees and huge waves crashed onto the beach, but we sat comfortably inside the car and ate lunch, the view unobstructed by raindrops.

We stepped out to explore the cool-looking sandstone cliffs at the end of the beach – and were greeted by a few warning sprinkles.

We wandered on down the beach. It started actively misting. We climbed the cliffs up to the ridge, and were hit by violent wind and suffocating mist. We pressed grimly along the ridge, hoods up, heads down, and the mist turned into a painful needly spray. It stung our faces, pricked our hands.

Okay, okay, we get the picture! We turned back and were practically blown back to the Jeep – “Go faster!” the wind seemed to scream, shoving furiously at our backs  – and the moment we collapsed into the Jeep, breathless, wet and bedraggled, the rain stopped.3-11-077_01

I’m telling you: Like that, all day.

We drove back up through Poipu (no rain, since we were in the Jeep) and up the coast to Spouting Horn Blowhole. We got out – and it misted threateningly at us.

Truly. Like that. All day.

Down the little trail in the spitting rain, past all the junk shops, to the blowhole. Water crashed against the lava rocks and then – whoosh – was shot up into the air through the hole. Impressive! Such power! We stood watching in the rain.

But then – wait, what’s that brown thing in the water – is it – eh, blowhole spray is in the way – is it a seal? There’s definitely a head sticking up out of the water – eh, stupid blowhole! Everyone is all excited about the blowhole, but I’m trying to see through its spray, see the animal in the water behind it – and then (Oh! My! Gosh! Is it?) – we saw a round brown disk just under the water (Yes! Yes, it is!) – and thrilled over our very first sea turtle.

Exhilaratingly, there were two turtles behind the blowhole, then three in a little cove to the right. They bobbed happily in the raging sloshing frothy waves, ducking effortlessly underwater, lazily returning to a new spot, sometimes poking their heads above water, sometimes just teasing us by showing their backs. Off in the distance, whales’ backs broke the surface of the water and a puff of spray floated into the air – now that’s a blowhole to get excited over!

Whales and sea turtles. It doesn’t get much better than that. My heart was singing as we returned to the Jeep in the slackening rain.

We drove to Hanapepe Swinging Bridge. The town was a bit run-down – certainly mostly shuttered on this Sunday – and the bridge looked old and rickety. But we crossed because I love bridges, and it did bounce and sway very satisfyingly.

On the far side, Martin and I turned and walked along the berm, between the river and the houses below, but the houses were dilapidated shacks, practically falling apart.  The yards consisted of churned-up dirt, devoid of any plants, full of old cars and junk and trash, usually with tattered clothing flapping on a clothesline and a skinny dog chained to a post.

I just didn’t expect this kind of poverty or hardship here. In Samoa, people were cash-poor, but they took pride in their land. Their yards were always neat and tidy. Rocks lining the walkways were painted brilliant white, the grass was kept short by boys wielding machetes (imagine cutting a football field of grass by hand, with a machete, next time you complain about having to mow the lawn!), and houses were swept out daily with rush-brooms. There was no trash, no junk. Clumps of yellow bananas hung from trees, brilliant pink hibiscus flowered effortlessly, fields of green taro greeted the eye. It was pretty in Samoa.

Here, it was disappointing. Ugly, I’m sorry to say. Even a little scary.

A dog approached us along the berm, and my heart quickened with delight. I squatted down and opened my arms – and was stricken to see her condition. She was thin, dirty, with swollen teats (where were her puppies?) and festering sores around her ears and trunk. My heart broke as I stood hastily up.

She never looked at me, just kept trotting, head down, right past us along the berm.

That evening we saw a thin wet cat, poking along a rock wall near the ocean, presumably looking for food or a dry nook out of the rain.

I remembered that Samoans often didn’t treat their animals well. Dogs and cats were generally left to fend for themselves. It was so incongruous, being in a place that made my heart sing – and then having my heart ripped out of my chest and shredded.

Such a conflicting, confusing, competing mix of emotions, of love and despair! Breathtaking beauty, abject poverty, utter perfection, sheer desperation, pure bliss, blatant misery.

Exquisite paradise. Unqualified hell.

We turned back towards the Jeep, and it started to rain.

4 Comments Kauai: Capricious Rain, Conflicting Emotions

  1. Karen Gake

    As always, love reading your writings…puts me right there, seeing Kauai through your eyes, re-living your visit with you (although I was at your house, safe and warm, with 3 dogs to love) 🙂

    1. Carol



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