This Kauai trip, it’s been interesting. I had the extra burden of writing a book while I’ve been here. That has made the trip decidedly less zen than my typical solo retreat. Also mercury is in retrograde. The Verizon tower was down on the North side of the island for a couple of days, plus the energy feels kinda crazy. Like everything been shaken up a little bit.
But mainly, it’s been windy as hell. And when I say that, I mean literal hell because I cannot imagine a worse eternal punishment than constant, strong wind. When I’ve traveled to other islands in Hawaii, I’ve encountered this [actually—Maui—also windy, also mercury retrograde…hmmm….] but I was able to escape the bluster by going to a different part of the island. That has not worked on Kauai. I don’t know enough about wind and ocean currents and the jet stream and mountains to say why the island isn’t blocking the wind somewhere, but I didn’t find it.
Still even with the wind, I’ve made the best of it. I did a big hike in Waimea Canyon at the beginning of the week. I descended 2.5 miles and 2300 feet down the Kuku’i trial to the river below. The views were spectacular and I treated myself to a luxurious skinny dip in an amazing swimming hole alongside of four other nymphs. Then I ascended the 2300 feet, which wasn’t nearly as fun, but I felt like having a work out so it worked!
That same day I visited Glass Beach, the site of an old landfill, which has now produced a beach filled with grains of sea glass. It was lovely, but windy and raining and I nearly stepped on a sleeping Hawaiian Monk Seal—a federally prosecutable crime—yikes! So I didn’t stay long. I also didn’t take any sea glass even though I love collecting the stuff at home in California. I get it! Glass Beach needs the glass! I stopped at an adorable used bookstore to get another copy of The Artist’s Way to help me write some of this book I’m working on.
The universe seemed to be poking fun at me when I stopped for dinner after the long day of driving and hiking and driving some more. I decided I was too tired to go back to the AirBnB for a shower, so I rifled through my available wardrobe, found a clean shirt and threw it on over my dirty self. The restaurant had no wait and I passed by a man who said hello as I followed the hostess to my table, off to the side, away from the bustle—perfect for me with my book and my journal, ready for a quiet bite.
But I hadn’t had my journal open for a minute before the same man was in front of me asking if he could sit down. Jake. From Boston. The exact name and city of origin as an ex-boyfriend who has made a pattern of resurfacing for YEARS and most recently, just before I left on this trip (I think that’s finally over now). It was all I could do to not laugh out loud, “You’ve gotta be kidding me!”
This guy, was young. Twenty-five, I learned. Which flattered me even though the pickings in this beach town were decidedly slim. We chatted for a bit and then he invited me to join him at the table with his brother and three friends, all men from Boston.
For once in my life, I said yes!
I am characterizing it like that because, having been married from age 20-32ish and having joined the ranks of people who consume alcohol at age 35, I feel intimidated by this scene, meeting people at bars. I don’t really go to them unless I’m with a man already. Now I found myself surrounded by five of them. All of them decidedly interested in ME. It was really fun!
We played some betting game where everyone puts their finger on a glass. I lost the first two rounds, horribly. Had to dance next to a table of two diners—but the woman diner got up and spun me around declaring she was a ballroom dancer!
We chattered away as I ate my salad and we drank beer. When it came time to leave, is when the real cock-show began. At one point they all lifted their shirts to reveal several sets of nicely toned abs. I saw biceps. My gosh! I want to say it was like nothing I have ever experienced…that’s not entirely true. It’s been a loooooong time since I experienced anything like that.
They were all so delightful and so nice and so young [the oldest was 30, and we were celebrating his birthday]. I felt to choose one would be unfair to the rest. Maybe they guessed this because, before I knew exactly what was happening, they were playing the finger on the glass game to determine who would get to enjoy a bowl of chocolate mini wheats at my place (I can’t NOT talk about chocolate mini wheats—duh!).
So the birthday boy won the glass game and offered to walk me to my car. I let him, on the grounds that he had won the game AND it was his birthday. When we got to my rental jeep he asked if he could kiss me. Yes, of course! Because I was in too deep by this point.
The way he kissed me felt like the other man I had known from Boston, the Jake from back home. Maybe that’s why I pulled back after a few minutes, wished him a happy birthday and drove myself home.
Maybe that’s why I said yes when he asked me to have coffee the next morning over text. I got coffee and he got a smoothie. We didn’t have much time because I had booked a shuttle at 8am and I was committed to not sleeping with him. But I did enjoy a fiery episode on a picnic table while old people and honeymooners looked on (I guess…I wasn’t watching!). And I wasn’t lying when I told him, “That’s the most fun I’ve had in broad daylight on a picnic table in the public square.”
He walked me to my jeep, kissed me goodbye and that’s probably the last time I will see the man from Boston.
…Not the one named Jake. I couldn’t do that! I picked his older brother, which, as a younger sibling, I feel some guilt about. [Jake, younger brother, from Boston—if you ever read this, know—I thought you were just as handsome and beguiling as that older brother of yours. But it was his birthday, and he won the glass game.]
Older brother and I carried on over text until we both left the islands. I realized regret lives on both sides of this decision. I wrote to him, “I think what we both want is to feel young and alive. We are, very much, both of those things.” I hope he brings those feelings home with him. Older brother told me he would not forget his 30th birthday.
I went to the beach and braved the wind. The first time, it was arguably not worth it. Lying on the sand getting worked by the wind as you try to enjoy reading a book? Not my fav. Even the ocean was so churned up that I didn’t want to go in deeper than my waist. [Gosh, how do they get the Pacific Ocean so warm and so angry over here?]
The second beach outing was better. I chose a more protected spot where I did some topless sunbathing [incidentally, it’s going to take a lot of topless sunbathing to alter the blinding whiteness of my chest] and read my book in slightly more peace. This beach also had a fair amount of shells for a little beach combing, and an old man, seated on a bench who told me about the great surf break of Kauai that is perfect for goofy-footed people like me.
The Napali Coast
I also enjoyed a wonderfully muddy walk on the Kalalau Trail which, in it’s entirety, traverses 11 miles across the Napali Coast. I did two miles. Partly barefoot because of the blisters I got on the Waimea Canyon hike. It was lush and lovely. And windy.
This brings me to the helicopter ride. I have enjoyed a good travel guidebook for my vacations in the past. They’ve aided me in having some awesome adventures and avoiding some stupid tourist traps. I am a committed fan of the “Revealed” guidebooks for the Hawaiian islands (there is one for each island).
So when the author, Andrew Doughty, recommended a helicopter tour as THE BEST WAY to see Kauai, I bit. It was expensive, but I remembered my own travel advice: You are worth it. [Yes! You are too!] So I booked a tour. It got pushed to the last day of my trip, which I think is just as well…now.
I was excited for this. They called me to confirm the flight the day before and I was on a stand-up paddle board on the Hanalei River. I missed the call, but I called them back from the paddle board, just to make sure I was in. That’s how excited I was!
I drove to the appointed location, made sure I was on time. I wore the appropriate secure footwear and jackets. I was ready!
A few observations:
Being in a helicopter is hella-loud. So it’s kind of a surprise when it lifts off because the sound doesn’t really change. I would liken the sensation to what I would expect being dangled from a stand of thread feels like. It is gentle, in a way. And the first five minutes are awesome.
I chose a flight with the doors off because I was worried about motion sickness. I knew this about myself. I took Dramamine before the flight.
Five minutes in. I surprise-throw-up in my mask.
Fifteen minutes in. Vomit is streaked on the side of my leggings because no napkins in the helicopter and I’m not sure I could hang onto it with the wind anyway.
Thirty-five minutes in, still vomiting and now fear that I might also shit myself, not because we are suspended hundreds of feet in the air with the doors off—trust me!—a catastrophic collision with the Napali coast or a sudden-death fall to the waves below would feel benevolent at this point.
Thirty six minutes in, flying over my AirBnB, I consider asking them to stop and drop me off right there. Twenty-four more minutes, Michelle. You can do this. Can—but should I?!? I start imaging where the shit goes when you are are wearing leggings and seated in a helicopter with four strangers.
Forty two minutes in. The pilot keeps mentioning me by name. I don’t think he can see me but I’m the only one sitting on his side of this contraption that inspires all of my internal organs to stop what they are supposed to be doing and vacate every possible molecule ASAP…he, the pilot, is telling me he will turn so I can see the weeping wall, the crater, this most remote part of Kauai. The wettest spot on earth, averaging 400 and some inches of rain each year (for context Seattle, averages only 46 inches per year). I’m listening, Steven. Obviously! Now let’s land this damn thing!
[To you, dear reader, I will say this—I DID open my eyes and witness the weeping wall amid dry heaves. I did NOT photograph the thing. It was green and wet and my advice to you is to watch an iMAX movie of it. DO NOT under any circumstance, get into a helicopter.]
Forty-eight minutes in, Stephen reports that we are returning to the airport. It’s at this moment, and only this moment, that I am sure I will not shit my pants in a windy helicopter with four strangers. I’m relieved I will not have to use that aircraft THAT thoroughly.
Sixty minutes in. We land with the shit still inside of me. Graciously, the woman charged with unbuckling me from the craft comes to my seat first. By this point, there is a light layer of vomit over everything in front of me. I tried to be careful! But the doors were off and it was incredibly windy and vomit is sticky! I take the vomit bag that is in my hand with me and leave one in the seat-back pocket on the helicopter. Sorry, Stephen. We all made sacrifices.
It is hard to walk. It seems the helicopter has taken my dignity AND my balance. But I am committed to find the porto-potty before I shit myself. And I’m proud to say, I do.
A woman, maybe the one who unbuckled me from my vomit, offers me a ginger ale. I accept, but then she sets it on the water cooler. I cannot summon the strength to mount the journey to the water cooler. So I find a chair and sit. I watch the rest of the passengers from the other flights return. Not one covered in vomit. Come on, people! Then this older couple in the classic Hawaii vacation clothes has the audacity to come and stand right by me while conversing with a (probably honeymooning) couple about all the wonders of New York. I get up and find a corner of cement away from everyone where I huddle into a ball.
The woman, who got me the ginger ale, who unbuckled me from my vomit—okay this woman has done enough—tells me it’s time to go and asks why I haven’t retrieved the ginger ale from the water cooler. Whatever! (In my head). May I please have a mask? out my lips because I cannot imagine putting the vomit covered mask over my face for the van ride back to my car.
God bless the woman at the van, who gives me a fresh mask from a pack she had to open. Obviously I’m the freak here. I do the walk of shame. The last person in the van. The only one with her vomit streaked on her black leggings, jacket and shirt.
Helicopter ride: Zero stars.
I wait an hour or so before I attempt the one-hour drive back to Hanalei. I make it within a couple of miles of the house, when I have to urgently pull over and vomit, first into the extra barf bags the van lady gave me and then outside the jeep in the grass. This is two hours after we stopped flying.
Thankfully, my AirBnB is heaven. Five stars. It’s a perfect place to shower. Lie down. Feel solid ground beneath me. And eventually go to the laptop to compose this.
High wind warning beach weather: Two stars.
Lush canyon hikes: Five stars.
Picnic table make out sesh: Five stars.
Yoga and journal and coffee every morning on the lanai: Five stars. [Especially when it’s raining on and off and the sun is coming up and I’m watching a gorgeous waterfall spilling into the valley miles away.]
Bottom line–don’t come to Kauai, unless you like old people and honeymooners and wind and vomit with a couple of magical hikes and make out sessions…actually don’t trust this review at all…
…because, the next day–the day I am set to return home–I do a yoga kriya for elevation. It feels fantastic. Pulls me from my post-vomit blues.
After I hustle to get everything packed and ready to go, I am short on time and I know it. Kauai is dishing out some extra rain and wind. The bagel lady makes a big deal about my rush to get out of there, because they are busy EVERY morning. I get stuck behind some MF who drives 20mph in a 25mph zone. He also stops at a non-busy intersection to let people turn out in front of him, requiring me to say, “What the actual fuck?” to myself, because I’m sure he cannot hear me in his aloha state of mind.
But I make it to the airport. Slide into my A37 spot just as the Southwest flight starts to board.
And I remember the insight from my yoga session that morning:
Kauai is just messing with you. Don’t take yourself so seriously.
I learn that wind originating from the North and completing to the East is associated with strong foundations for a new project.
Exactly what I need for my book project. Five stars. Sat nam and aloha, Kauai. I feel your magic.