Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Hawaii Itinerary

We covered a lot of miles on our Hawaii trip, circumnavigating four islands on our drives and getting a birds-eye view from the air during Island hops. Each island is so different from the other, with vast differences within each. Elevation, wind direction, and age of the volcanic eruptions all make a huge impact on how much rain will fall, sun will shine, and plants will grow. 

The longer the Hawaiian place name,  the more it becomes a mist in my memory. Even now as I'm writing them down, any name more than three syllables evaporates. Complicating matters are the place names that appear on multiple islands and maps that identify the same geography with different names.

So before the words disappear like invisible ink, here is a quick overview of our itinerary over the three weeks.

HAWAII ISLAND Makalani Oceanview Cottage Pu'uhonua o'Honaunau (Place of Refuge) National Historic Park  Kealakekua Bay, Ho'okena Beach State Park,  Pebble Beach, Mahai’ula Bay, Green Sands BeachSouth Point, Kona Coffee/Greenwell Farms Stained Glass Cottage Volcanos National Park HILO Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden Kanile’a Ukulele Kaimu Bay MAUI Hana Cabana Road to Hana Waianapanapa State Park, Oheo Gulch, Seven Sacred Pools, Charles Lindburgh’s grave (Palapala Hoomau Congregational Church), Red Sands Beach, Hana town beach Moana Lani B&B-Lil Grass Shack Old Lahaina Town Feast at Lele Ka’anapali, Mokolea Point, Kapalua, Front Street Beach, Napali Beach,WHALE-WATCHING JoDo Mission OAHU Courtyard by Mariott Oahu Northshore Sunset Beach, Waimea Beach Park, Kaena  Point, Pupkea, Kailua, Haleiwa, Bonzai Pipeline Waimea Arboretum and Botanical Garden Iolani Palace KAUI Zen Root Maloaa Bay, Ke’e Beach Park, Tunnels, Wailua River, Princeville, Fern Grotto, Makana Mountain Kilauea Lighthouse  Jo2 Restaurant Waimea Plantation Cottages Driftwood Beach, Poipu Beach, Waimea, Hanapepe Kaui Coffee Waimea Canyon Allerton National Tropical Botanical Garden

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Kaui, Allerton Gardens

Moreton Bay fig trees in
Kauai's Allerton Garden
While in Kaui, we visited Allerton Gardens. This garden is one of five overseen by the National Tropical Botanical Gardens trust (NTBG). The only way to view them is to take a guided tour, which is a good thing. Many of the plant specimens here are imperilled and visitors to gardens are prone to taking seedlings and seeds home in pockets. Limiting visitors controls the volume of people traipsing through the space.  The guided tour also means, if you have a good guide, that you get to hear a bit of the backstory about the place. 

It was our guide's first tour, and he did a great job of telling stories without dropping Latin plant names.

The gardens were originally created by Robert Allerton and John Gregg Allerton, lifelong companions.
On March 4, 1960, Robert Allerton became a father. He was 86 at the time and his newly adopted son, John Wyatt Gregg, was 60. They had met 38 years previously at a "Father-Son" fraternity banquet at the University of Illinois where the single and childless Allerton, 49, had been invited by a friend to stand in as a "father" to a then 22 year-old Gregg, who was an orphan. Interviewed in the 1980s, Gregg explained: "Robert Allerton was invited over there for lunch for a football game and he didn't have a son and I didn't have a father so we were paired off and lived happily ever after. Historical Perspectives on Kinship
Robert Allerton was the artist and John Gregg Allerton was the architect. Together, their combined talents designed a unique garden concept of linked outdoor rooms. They would invite guests for dinner and feast in the moonlit garden. Visitors would be invited to choose costumes to suit their mood from a vast wardrobe. It sounds like the Allerton's knew how to entertain.

The Thanksgiving Room, where they often held their dinner parties, isn't named after the American holiday, but because Allerton was grateful he had not committed suicide earlier in his life, at a point of deep despair. Persevering had meant he lived to share the gardens with friends to an old age.

The Mermaid Room has a fountain that beats 52 times per minute. Just sitting there quietly is lovely meditation, as the fountain is timed to beat at the pace of the human heart at rest. Another area is planted with clumps of golden bamboo that tower overhead, making beautiful music on a windy day. Fountains and statuary adorn the landscape throughout. The gardens were ahead of their time and influenced landscape architecture for decades to come. 

Today the estate is maintained by NTBG and people can sign up for the tours, but it's also been the site of several films, including Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean. 

Research is underway here and at the McBride Gardens to study the potential of plants as healing pharmaceuticals and food sources. We saw a  seeded form of Breadfruit known as 'breadnut' that is grown for its nutritious, tasty seeds which contain 13-20% protein, 6-29% fat, and are a good source of potassium, calcium, and niacin. Seeds are boiled, roasted, or ground into meal or flour. This superfood is highly nutritious and has the potential to feed the world's hungry. NTBG is helping to study, propagate, and deliver breadnut plugs for planting to feed the hungry in Zambia, Costa Rica, Ghana and Nicaragua.

Just spending three hours here I could breathe easier - all the oxygen and the calming effects of the plants. Definitely one of the highlights of our Hawaii trip!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Kaui, Waimea

The Hawaiian word waimea means reddish water, and three places on the islands we visited have the same name. We passed though Waimaea on Big Island, Waimea Bay and Falls at Oahu, and here in Kaui we explored Waimea Canyon, the Plantation Cottages, and Waimea town.

Waimea Plantation Cottages is vintage Hawaii, located on Driftwood Beach and a short walk away from Waimea Pier. More than 60 cottages are here, so it feels like a small town within a town. Each building has a written provenance and story about previous residents. The grounds and gardens are picture perfect and many of the cottages have ocean views. We spent a lot of time on the beach here just wave-watching. Our cottage had a mango tree in front, apple bananas on one side and a pomelo tree on the other.

A short drive away is Waimea Canyon and Koke'e State Park, where we spent a full day and a half. There are many places to pull over and several vantage points along the way, with the highest point of elevation at Pu’u O Kila Lookout, almost a mile high. Views are spectacular, and we literally took hundreds of photos and videos. Now when I look at the photos I find myself closing my eyes to see the canyon better, because really, it is the feeling the place evokes, above the clouds.

Hanapepe is a charming little town closeby that bills itslef Kaui's "biggest small town." We stopped in during the day and it was fairly quiet, but when we returned on Friday evening the art night was in full swing. Musicians were playing at the different ends of town and the galleries were showing the work of local artists. My favourite place was Talk Story, the independent book store, where it was fun to explore the shelves.

Kaui Coffee Company offered a tour of their extensive operations. They have turned what was once a sugar plantation into a coffee farm. Here the plantings are flat and not on slopes. They also harvest and dry the beans with machines, grading them using tumblers. Kaui Blue Mountain and espresso were both delicious roasts. The brand is not quite as expensive as Kona coffee, but not as tasty either.

Waimea historic town has a well-marked walking tour, and the Plantation Cottages where we are staying are part of the circuit. It has erected a monument to Captain Cook, because this was one of the first places the fleet anchored and made contact with the Polynesians. There is also a Russian fort nearby, where territory was claimed for the Russian czarina in 1817.

Waimea Pier
Ishihara Market, a short walk away from our cottage, had a great assortment of pokey at their deli counter. There were also signs posted for food stamps at the check out. It turns out Hawaii has the highest per capita rate of homelessness in the States, and we saw many tents on every island that weren't vacationers'. So many of these islanders were once visitors who decided to stay.

Hanapepe is a charming little town closeby. We stopped in during the day and it was fairly quiet, but when we returned on Friday evening the art night was in full swing. Musicians were playing at the different ends of town and the galleries were showing the work of local artists. My favourite place was Talk Story, the independent book store, where it was fun to explore the shelves.

We reserved a sunset tour of the Napali Coast, which was unfortunately cancelled due to bad weather conditions. So when we get home I think I'll make Mai Tais and watch video clips of different sunset tours as a way to extend the vacation.

Hawaii Kaui Full Moon - February

We are in the Southern hemisphere and have been watching the moon wane and wax over these last three weeks. In Kapa'a it floated in the sky above the clouds, almost full.

Last night was very cloudy, too cloudy to catch it's fullness in a photograph. The clouds brought a tropical rain, which fell through the night onto our tin roof here in Waimea. Sometimes heavily enough to wake me. I went outside on the lanai and tried to memorize the stirring scent.

Other events were hidden in the night sky as well. The penumbral lunar eclipse may have been visible in Toronto from 7:43 pm on February 10, but Facebook friends were complaining of snow, so likely didn't have a great view. There is also a comet passing, in the neighbourhood of Venus.

This year, Friday 10 to Saturday 11 marks the date for the full moon in February. Known as the Snow Moon to Ojibway tribes. I am far away from snow right now, returning soon enough.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Nani Manu - Beautiful Bird

Many joys of this Hawaii vacation have been brought by the gorgeous birds. The first place we stayed, in Kona on Big Island, stocked their bird feeder well. We started our day in the mornings and ended at dusk, watching the birds lit in and out, taking turns for the seed, and then we'd leaf through pages in the guidebook trying to identify their names.

Some we knew. The pretty little House Finch. A Northern red cardinal that came along every evening. Seeing these familiars was like coming across old friends in the jungle.

The rooster was actually the first bird we saw when we arrived, brash and strutting with its gorgeous plumage. They were everywhere, and made me laugh, even at their 5 a.m. early morning calls. Naming the roosters and chickens junglefowl or moa made them seem a bit more exotic than the invasive species they've become.

Red Whiskered Bulbul
photo credit
Also at the feeder in Kona: Japanese white eye, java sparrow, saffron finch, red whiskered bulbul, saffron finch, ring necked pheasant, and zebra dove.

Cattle egrets and mynas were on all the islands, but we first noticed them on Maui. Red crested cardinals were prominent on Maui and Ohau, where they are seen as becoming a threat to local species. We saw white rumped shama thrush enjoying botanical gardens.
shama thrush
photo credit

In Kaui we came across the national goose, Nene. At first they seem a bit plain compared to their colourful cousins, but the pattern of the feathers is striking.

A black-bellied whistling duck jumped out at us on a jungle road, it's odd beak making it easy to identify later. One source hilariously described it as a "boisterous duck."  

Tropicbird in Waimea Canyon
 photo credit
At the Kilauea Lighthouse, Frigates were flying and Masked Booby were hopping at the rocky shore.

We spotted tropicbirds soaring in Waimea Canyon.

Hawaian Honeycreepers
all descended from a single finch ancestor

In Kaui, I would occasionally see a blurr of red in the jungle or against the green of fruit trees. There are a few red forests birds here. It may have been an I'iwi (which are still common on this island although in rapid decline), or an 'Apapane (typically found in forests at higher elevations), but definitely not an akapi (now found only on Big Island, Volcanoes Park).

Unfortunately many of the birds once found in Hawaii are now extinct. Audubon notes "the arrival of Polynesians and then Europeans famously wiped out countless vulnerable island species, many of them before their existence was even recorded." Their feathers made them desirable for Polynesian royalty and later, for haberdashers. Now even more common varieties are becoming endangered and dwindling in number. Even the national goose, the Nene, is endangered. Species are threatened because habitats are dwindling, and some of the food sources such as taro crops are no longer grown. Of course,  pesticides are also a problem. Throughout the islands there were handwritten placards, NO SPRAYING! and NO GMO! However protests are not always heeded.

The other threat to many Hawaian birds are rats, which are not native to Hawaii and go after nesting females, eggs and young chicks. When we were in Kona we trapped a rat that had been eating fruit overnight. It must have been in paradise with all the birds at the feeder... Our host was apologetic but acknowledged rats are a problem across Hawaii. Since the rodents had no natural predators, mongoose were brought to the island to help combat the problem.Unfortunately, mongoose are diurnal, rats nocturnal, so it didn't help the rat situation. Also unfortunately, mongoose love eating little birds. Rats, mongoose and cats are among the greatest threats to birds here and elsewhere.

A number of societies in Hawaii work to protect endangered species, including the Hawaian Audubon Society and the Kauai Forest Birds Recovery Project.


Red junglefowl or moa
House finch
Northern cardinal
Japanese white eye
Java sparrow
Ring necked Pheasant
Red whispered bulbul
Saffron finch 
Zebra dove 
Cattle egret
Breadfruit and Shama thrush
Red crested cardinals
Common mynah
Tropicbird Waimea canyon
Hawaiian goose NuNu 
Black bellied whistling duck 
Masked booby