Kauai: Getting There

Los Angeles Times, March 8, 2012: “Anyone dreaming of a sunny winter break in Hawaii this week can forget it. The governor has declared a disaster area on Kauai after days of relentless rain that caused flooding, mudslides, water-spouts, hail, and dangerously high surf. The weather service said a low-pressure zone is getting ready to dump more rain, including possible thunderstorms.”

Ah yes. Of course. The forecast is for rain.

Lots of rain. Every weather website displays icons of black clouds and slashing rain drops, usually graced with fierce lightning bolts. Day after day after day.

The Beebees must be going on vacation!

Our honeymoon backpacking in Canada during the usually-sunny month of May: Two weeks of relentless downpours, culminating in the failure of both our Gortex rain gear.

Camping trips to the desert, where (by definition) it doesn’t rain much: Howling winds that partially collapsed the tent in the middle of the night (that was exciting), and torrential rains that flooded the tent’s floor.

Trip to New Zealand, timed strategically to coincide with their generally bright and cloudless fall: Unseasonably cold, rainy, and windy weather, leaving New Zealanders astonished and baffled.

Backpacking up Snowbird Creek in North Carolina in the middle of a brutal five-year drought: Hammering unremitting rain that caused severe flooding and massive mudslides. That storm claimed lives.

Martin and I should lease ourselves out to whatever drought-stricken region in the world that desperately requires rain. “Let us book a holiday in your country!” our ad can read.

“Rain guaranteed!”

So what did we expect when we purchased plane tickets to tropical Kauai, Hawaii, a place which boasts the very wettest spot on earth? Balmy sun-splashed days and white sandy beaches and sparkling blue lagoons?

Really?

You’d think we’d know better by now.

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My view of Wailua Bay from the condo's lanai.

My view of Wailua Bay from the condo’s lanai.

But things really aren’t so bad. I’m sitting here in the lovely condo that Martin found, out on the little lanai with my feet up on the railing. The whole Wailua Bay is before me, with heavy brown surf and angry whitecaps, a steady roar of ocean pummeling against the shore. It’s loud and wonderful. A strip of beach rims the bay, littered with driftwood. Coconut trees, blowing furiously in the wind, half bent-over, fringe the sand. Off in the distance rise dark green mountains.

Not your average tropical island view – and definitely colder than expected! – but all-in-all, pretty darn good. I’ll take a stormy tropical vacation over a sunny day at home anytime.

As the plane descended into Lihu’e and I saw the coconut trees and colorful flowers and distinctive Polynesian-style architecture – with the open support columns and heavy thatched roofs – memories of my Peace Corps experience in Samoa came flooding back. And I cried. I loved Samoa. I love tropical islands, with their lush vibrant greens and picturesque lagoons and cascading waterfalls and indisputable glorious beauty.

I stood in the humid open-air baggage claim in Lihu’e, looking out at the expanse of green grass and bursts of color from hibiscus flowers, at palm trees and banana trees, at plants I recognized as houseplants at home that grow into veritable trees here – and cried some more. Right there in the baggage claim.

We rented a Jeep (flooding? mudslides? days of torrential rain in the forecast? recently declared disaster area? seemed like a good idea) and ventured out into the light rain of Kauai.

Martin and I are vacationing on a verdant tropical island. Stormy skies and drenching rain notwithstanding, I think we’re gonna be just fine.