Coconut Flesh & Creepy Camping on Kauai

The next two stories have become part of our Quisel family lore and, as such, morphed into somewhat silly and grotesque inside jokes between Tom and me. On Monday, Dec. 9th 2013, Tom and I made the long drive to the west part of the island, where we’d spend a night camping in a more isolated area on the island. Along the way we, we stopped at a fruit stand. Tom picked out a papaya. I had had enough coconuts at this point to discern which ones I preferred and so asked the gnarled and bent over vendor for a coconut that tasted sweet and was easy to chew.

She leaned forward so she was only a few inches from my face, peered deeply into my eyes and crowed, “So, you like the flesh of the young coconut.” For some reason, a flush of color rushed to my cheeks and a guilty grin spread across my face. “Yes” I said, “I like the flesh of the young coconut.” She pointed her finger in the air and declared, “Ah ha!” as though she had just uncovered some deep secret about my inner psyche then picked out one of the juiciest coconuts I’ve ever had the pleasure of devouring. To this day, more than three years later, during the most inappropriate times, Tom will peer deeply into my eyes and cackle, “So, you like….” and I will dissolve into a pile of giggles on the floor.

The second Quisel mythos inspiring event occurred while we were camping in Koke`e state park. While re-reading my journal entries from this time period, I was surprised to find that I hadn’t mentioned the haunting event. I think somewhere deep down inside me I knew it would be an unforgettable event so journaling wasn’t necessary. Perhaps I should have, because, depending on who you ask, Tom or me, you’ll get a different version the story, this is mine.

We decided to spend some time at higher elevation, so we could experience colder temperatures and different variety of animal and plant species. Koke`e park offered just that and is described as a lush, mountainous park with waterfalls, a campground, a museum, panoramic ocean & valley views. It was all of these things and, after sunset, it was also completely deserted. The campsites sit in a grassy area beside the woods and around each one was a semi-circle of tall, lush hedges that you couldn’t see over and made our site feel a bit like a cocoon.

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There was an abundance of chickens in and around the campsite. More chickens than I had ever encountered in a state park, or, anywhere, actually.

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We had a brilliant day hiking through a lush, back country trail that wasn’t exactly well tended. This spot was technically “on trail”.

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Afterwards, we must have taken our boots off to give our swollen feet a break then cooked a simple meal over the camp stove, but I don’t remember any of that. What I remember is how the sounds of the wilderness enveloped me like a blanket as I fell asleep, shortly after the sunset and how I cuddled closer to my inhouse radiator, aka Tom, for warmth.

I remember waking up in the dead of night to a noise that seemed like it was only inches from my head. It was a sound wholly different from the ones I had fallen asleep to, and my brain interpreted it as a large, multi-jointed metal farm tool hitting packed earth, and then being dragging along the earth until in chinked against something else, making a sharp metallic noise.

I knew instantly that this noise wasn’t a part of the natural, local soundscape and received a vision of a psychopathic murderer on a rampage leering over our tent. I knew in only the way a mostly still asleep person can know things, that there was nothing I could do to protect myself from his bloodlust and, so, the best I could do was enjoy the last few minutes I had with Tom.

It was at this point that Tom’s hand gripped my shoulder,”Rachael, are you awake? I think there’s someone outside the tent.” He shook me gently but insistently and repeated himself, his voice a shaky, high pitched whisper, breathy panic squeezing his words.

“It’s nothing,” I whispered into Tom’s ear so the murderer couldn’t hear me, “It’s just the chickens.” A loud, “Chink! Chuuuuug, clunk!” sounded right next to us, just outside the thin tent walls, “The….chickens?” He whispered, half believing me, “Yes, it’s just the chickens, go back to sleep.” I squeezed him tighter and he lay back down, his heart rate slowing down, “Yeah…those chickens….they’re really loud.” and fell back to sleep.

We woke as soon as the first pink streak of dawn stretched across the sky and began packing up the tent. We packed the site up in record time.Neither of us spoke to each other. Despite both of us badly needing showers, neither of us so much as mentioned heading over to the campsite facilities to brush our teeth. I don’t think I even changed my clothing. Within minutes of waking, we were in our rental car and the doors made a secure sounding, ‘click’ as Tom locked all four of them at once.

We were halfway down the mountain before Tom turned to me and uttered the first words of the morning, as quiet as a heart attack, he said, “Rachael, that wasn’t a chicken.”

Thanksgiving in Hana

Thursday, Nov. 28, Thanksgiving. We took the long road to Hana to meet up with Erin, a gal we had connected with on Couchsuring.org. We found a private jaunt along a little hike, spent some time enjoying the ambiance of Twin Falls and, after a few hours of driving on a twisty road (I drove to keep my motion sickness in check) we arrived to the undeveloped, isolated paradise of Hana.

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What followed was a bit of a comedy of errors. We went to a farm that Erin had told us to meet her at only to discover she wasn’t there. The guys there were a friendly lot and told us to come back in a few hours, when she was expected to return. We had no luck connecting with her via phone or email so spent some time having Thanksgiving dinner at the lone restaurant that was open that evening, Travasa Restaurant. Their dining experience is described as a celebration of life and the bounty of the earth that nourishes us body and soul. Unfortunately for us, it was also above our budget and so we ordered small plates from the bar. I had three delectable, zesty prawns that, we decided, were as far from traditional thanksgiving dinner fare as one could possibly get.

As we were munching and enjoying the dancing by women made more graceful with age do solo dances to the live, Hawaiian band, we had the forethought to ask the server if they happened to know Erin, hoping that, it being a small town, there was a chance she might. We were surprised to find that not only did she know Erin, Erin was working there this evening! We finally met our host for the evening and exchanged big, patchouli smelling, hugs. She explained how to get to her house, which involved unmarked roads, a very long driveway and an “overgrown lawn” that, in reality, turned out to be a forest.

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She wouldn’t be able to join us back to Chez Erin but would meet us there in a few hours, after she got off work, so we set out to find her place alone. Using our spidey senses, we located the large craftsman house amidst of jungle of papaya trees and foliage. Upon entering, we found a crowd of about 20 folks, crowded together in the living room. Erin had mentioned roommates but this was more than we had bargained for. I remember two people in particular. A mother, daughter duo who were sharing a joint and giggling to each other. The bedrooms were spoken for and the couch space was filling up fast, hippies were passing out where they lay, so we opted to set up our tent in the jungle, aka their backyard. I clutched my sleeping bag as Tom told me scary stories and a gnarly storm tore at our tent walls, the wind wailing like a crying child.

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The next morning, we woke early and spent the day enjoying the many natural delights in Hana. We hiked 7 sacred pools, ‘ohe’o gulch trail, and followed a tiny, precarious path out to the Red Sand Beach, and hiked to Waimoku falls through a tantalizing bamboo forest. All the while, we picked produce from trees and cracked open the coconuts we found, hoping for a refreshing taste of the sweet, sweet water within. Later, we made our way back to mainstream Maui, feeling the touch of Hana’s wild beauty upon us as we left.

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Learning to Fly

Nearly every day for the 3 weeks that we were on Maui, Tom and I rose early and headed over to Polipoli Spring State Recreation Park to paraglide with the Proflyght Paragliding School of Maui. Sometimes we would spend time kiting before driving the steep, curvy road all the way up to the launch site. Here’s two short videos of footage from my first, tandem, flight — you mostly get to see my legs and Tom’s superb flying skills (his wing is black, white, red and blue).

 

Here are excerpts from my journal:

Sunday, Nov. 17: T’s gratitude – improving forward launch. R’s gratitudes began paragliding pilot training.

Monday, Nov. 18: R’s 2nd pilot lesson! T’s gratitude: getting two amazing flights in from Ferns (flew in clouds a bit). R’s Gratitude’s: how supportive Tom’s being about my slow progress paragliding.

Tuesday, Nov. 19: R’s 3rd pilot lesson – got in 4 official flights.

Wednesday, Nov. 20: 5 more flights added to my repertoire, learned how to sit back in harness seat. Took p1 rest.

Thursday, Nov. 21: Paragliding, Laci & John’s tandem flight, Luau with Laci & John . Tom and I aren’t the type to do a Luau but our friends were really excited about it and it was relatively  cheap, ($100/person), so we gave it a try. While it felt like it was created with the tourist in mind, it was neat to see once.

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#Hula

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Friday, Nov. 22: Spent the morning paragliding, big thrill as I completed my first flight from Echoes, the top of the training hill, which is 4,500 ft. above sea level and 1,000 ft. to the landing zone. Soon afterwards, Heather, a fellow paraglider, lost control of her wing, crashed into the hill and broke her femur directly in front of us. Her partner ran to her my instructor, Dexter, called 911. I bought health insurance.

Saturday, Nov. 23: Took a day off from paragliding, spent it going from the pool to the hot tub and sunning at Grand Champions resort villa.

Sunday, Nov. 24: Made 1 flight from Echoes and another from RC, a lower training launch. T and I spent the afternoon with another couch surfer, Reiko, from a small town in Japan, at little beach. There, we stripped down to match the common attire and enjoyed a fire dancing infused drum circle.

Drum circles and naked #poi.

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Monday, Nov. 25: We spent the morning paragliding and I made 3 flights from RC. After paragliding, I felt particularly dizzy and went to the doctor. Turns out, I had an infection in my mouth that had spread to my inner ear, leading to some internal calibration issues. This marked the beginning of the end of my self-piloting paragliding days.

Sunday, Dec. 1: T spent the morning paragliding and the afternoon bodysurfing in the ocean. My nose ring fell out and the hole left began healing immediately. We weren’t able to get the ring back in it so I ended up getting it re-pierced by guy with gentle hands and a British accent. We had egg nog and enjoyed our last night camping at Polipoli. It was a frigid night and we slept in one sleeping bag to stave off the cold.

Monday, Dec. 2: We packed up our tent gear then went to the flight park. Tom enjoyed a morning of paragliding. Afterwards, we volunteered at Leilani animal sanctuary where I spent most of my time pulling weeds as Tom made the acquaintance of a baby goat. That evening, we stayed with new friends, Garrett & Crystal. We felt right at home in a pod in their backyard, which was an outdoor shed converted into a polished, cozy and delightful bedroom with a private lanai overlooking the ocean. It was luxury.

Tom’s Nature Photography – 3rd Installation

Help me pick art for my new home! Which pieces from Tom’s nature photography should be blown up and put on the walls of our place in Santa Barbara – which one (or two or three) do you like best?

(Nature photography refers to a wide range of photography taken outdoors and devoted to displaying natural elements such as landscapes, wildlife, plants, and close-ups of natural scenes and textures).

Maui (1 – 7)

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Kauai (8 – 16)

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O’ahu (17 – 23)

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Maui Wowie

T and I spent 3 weeks on Maui, the Valley Isle, which is the 2nd largest island in the Hawaiian chain. Maui is known for long stretches of beautiful beaches and the landmark Haleakala Crater, the House of the Sun, which is a now dormant volcano (the only active volcano in the islands is on the big island, Hawaii). The summit depression is 21 miles across, and 4,000 feet deep, large enough to hold the island of Manhattan! Tom and I hiked to the top (Maui’s highest point) via the Crater Rim Trail, which is a 5 mile hike with 1,600ft gain in elevation.

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We stayed overnight at a total of 7 different places through couchsurfing, camping and AirBnB’ing spending only $1,254 total for  accomodations (which is proportionately much less than our rent in NYC) and nearly completed a circuit around the island. Each place offered uniquely pleasant experiences and surprises. A few of the highlights are the fresh pineapple waiting in the room for us when we arrived at the Tiny Cabin located in the quaint upcountry town of Makawao, enjoying Garrett & Crystal’s company in their beautiful home in Pukalani, meeting Jamie & her daughter, Kaya, who taught us how to properly open, drink and nom on a coconut and last, but not least, sharing a 2 bedroom condo with our ‘frainds’ Laci & John at the Grand Champions Resort in Wailea (more on that in another post!)

 T’s highlights & gratitude’s

The three miles of white sand and crystal clear water at Ka’anapali beach offered T & me a playground for acro & snorkeling as well as a canvas for our sand sculpture – the green sea turtle! People all along the beach hiked over to check it out – we were so proud :3.

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Sneaking into the Hyatt regency resort hot tub & dining at Mala Ocean tavern with Jon, a friend we made through paragliding and an amazing guy with tons of great ideas on how to make the world a better place.

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Exploring the Iao Valley, aka “cloud supreme”, a lush, stream-cut valley in West Maui where T picked passion fruit from the trees along the unofficial  hiking trail which crested the ridge, giving us spectacular views of the 1200-foot Iao Needle.

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The cerulean blue water of the many beaches, this short vid is from Big Beach….

#Sunset #Romantic #Maui

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and here’s Red Sand beach!

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R’s highlights & gratitude’s

Sunning, swimming & hot-tubbing at Grand Champions resort villa (our paragliding friend, Vin, broke his ribs (while mountain biking not flying) so he and his gf, Lauren, joined us for a few nights of hot-tubbin’ – so much good times).

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Hiking the waihou spring trail (moderate, 1.7 miles). Along the trail there were monterey cypress and eucalyptus trees, as well as the native tree species `ala`a, halapepe, and koa. The trail ended on a ridge top offering views of the Central Valley.

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Pineapple upside down cake at Hali’imaile & Pineapple wine tasting at Tedeschi Winery

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Visit to Paia, which is a reflection of Maui’s history as a booming sugar cane plantation town with its old plantation style wooden buildings still intact, T & I  stopped at Ono Gelato for their infamous (and very yummy) sandy beach gelato.

Taking the ‘Road to Hana’ which has 620 curves and 59 bridges, most of which are single-lane bridges – along which we played in the waterfalls, sniffed the tropical flowers, hiked through bamboo forests, and marveled at the spectacular scenery. Waimoku Falls, this gigantic waterfall drops 400-feet down a sheer lava rock wall into a boulder-strewn pool.

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We found a heart :3

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Hiking the Pipiwai trail (this name delighted T)

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We stayed overnight in Hana camping on the front lawn of a friendly yet ‘tuned out’ couch surfing host who nearly left us to sleep in our car on Thanksgiving.  Keeping the tent up in the rainstorm (and ignoring the creepy screaming noises that kept waking us up) proved to make the night spent camping there a bit of a harrowing experience (and probably the closest thing to a thorn that we experienced during the time period this post covers!). Thankfully, things worked out (sorta) and T & I had scrumptious shrimp for our T-giving dinner while enjoying live music and hula dancing.

Couchsuring & Camping on Kona

What is Couchsurfing? For the founders, it was vision of a world made better by travel and travel made richer by connection. Couchsurfering isn’t just about a free place to stay, it’s about sharing your life with new people from all of the world as well as fostering cultural exchange and mutual respect.

The couchsurfing.org site provides a platform for members to “surf” on couches by staying as a guest at a host’s home, host travelers, or join an event. In March 2013, the website had 6 million members in 100,000 cities worldwide. Tom & I have had an account for close to a year now (our cs account) and have hosted and/or met people from Germany, Belgium and Seattle. 

Our first surfing experience was in Kailua-Kona, the center of commerce and of the tourist industry on West Hawaiʻi. Our generous host, along with his partner and son, live on an acre of land with a starfruit tree, beautiful outdoor lanai, inground pool & a beer fridge full of local brews. Tom & and were absolutely spoiled by the experience and can’t wait to do it again on the other islands!

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T’s gratitude’s & highlights

Snorkeling at white Sands Beach (aka Magic Sands beach because the sand disappears at certain times during the year). Unlike many east coast beaches, the Big Islands beaches are full of natural shade trees that provide a perfect setting for watching the ethereal sunsets on the water.

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Sneaking into the Hilton Lagoon & bourgeois-ing it up. R practically ran head-first into an eel (much to T’s enjoyment)! While it is a terrifying-looking creature, I’m sure did not intend any harm (at least, I’m pretty sure it didn’t).

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R’s gratitude’s & highlights

While I’m not a proponent of keeping animals in cages (esp. when those animals are as intelligent as dolphins) it was incredible to be so close to them.

#dolphins are smarter than dogs (& cuter) @leafitalone

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Spending time sunning and swimming at Kahalu’u beach. T introducing me to snorkeling – the clear waters here are teeming with bright tropical fish & large green sea turtles.

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This sign.

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Hawaiians LOVE Spam. Hawaii consumes more Spam than any state in our union — in total, 7 million cans a year. I found Spam flavored macadamia nuts….it makes me happy just knowing they exist.

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After couchsurfing for 4 nights we camped out at Spencer Beach where we itroduced some island kids to s’mores. It’s not a thing here like it is on the mainland and the children flocked to us like seagulls to fish for the rest of the time we spent camping here. It was the most expensive camping experience so far ($40/night) BUT we bamboozled the park ranger and got two nights for the price of one. Small victories ;).

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….and the Thorn (quite literally)

Tom was attacked by a sea urchin! ….well, sorta. He accidentally kicked a reef during one of our snorkeling trips and the reef kicked back. Sometimes called sea hedgehogs, sea urchins are small, spiny, globular sea creatures and they are the self-imposed protectors of coral reefs. Their spines inflict a painful wound when they penetrate human skin, but are not dangerous if fully removed promptly – although the purple ones do tend to tattoo their victims (now both T & I have foot tattoos!). One panicked drive and visit to the ER later and things were back to relative normalcy, although I’ll never look at sea urchin the same way again. o.O

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