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.”

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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.

Honeymoon-ish

Not surprisingly, the locals and many other travelers assume T & I are on our Honeymoon. Hawaii is an exotic island chain, full of romance and intrigue, it is also so regularly chosen as a honeymoon destination that there are websites dedicated to just that. I’d like to think that, if T & I were to get married, we wouldn’t pick such a stereotypical Honeymoon destination. That said, right before we left, we confessed to each other (I can’t remember who brought it up first) that it felt like we were leaving for our Honeymoon. While there hasn’t been any class of a ceremony, we feel sure that we’ve met our life partner. As T and I say, ‘it took a long time for us to find each other, but we finally did.’

Wikipedia has this to say about Honeymoons:

Honeymoons in the modern sense (i.e. a pure holiday voyage undertaken by the married couple) became widespread during the Belle Époque, as one of the first instances of modern mass tourism. This came about in spite of initial disapproval by contemporary medical opinion (which worried about women’s frail health) and by savoir vivre guidebooks (which referred the public attention drawn to what was assumed to be the wife’s sexual initiation). The most popular honeymoon destinations at the time were the French Riviera and Italy, particularly its seaside resorts and romantic cities such as RomeVerona or Venice.

While we may have forgotten our savoir vivre guidebook, we are having our own wild kind of initiation.

Hello Hilo!

Hilo is a sleepy town on the east coast of the Big Island. T & I have been making our way through the Historic Downtown Hilo Walking Tour (if you’re curious about it, here’s the link).

T’s gratitudes & highlights

Exploring the inner ecosystem of the giant Banyan tree.

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Hiking down to the startlingly picturesque cove.

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Our (failed) attempt at taking a local’s advice to break into the Botanical Garden via a back entrance that only locals know about. We gave it a good shot, but the Gardens had posted a classical-music-listening sentry to bar our passage.

How connected he feels to me. Dawwww :).

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R’s gratitudes & highlights

T’s antics on the Banyan Tree didn’t get himself injured (or, at least, I hope he isn’t injured). 

@leafitalone climbing the giant #Banyan tree. #Daredevil

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Impromptu caving. It was pitch black and I was terribly anxious at the thought of exploring deep into the craggly lava tube which had created the cave. T’s comforting words didn’t do much to quell my fears, so he switched gears and began to make quiet, derisive comments in my direction, which did work ;). So motivated, we impressed the other tourists with how far and how fearlessly we explored the cave.

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How lush and green the world is here; every time I look out a window I am reminded that I am in the jungle.

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Thorn in my rose

Designated the ‘thorny’ section, this part of my blog will denote any things I may need to get off my chest or that is a particularly good piece of self depricating humor. The issue I face here, in Hilo, is a little bit of both!  The number of warning signs here borders on the ridiculous (and, in some places, steps right into it) and, paired with my neurotic nature, it has become a mental chore to convince myself to ignore the warnings, and dive right in. T, of course, has no hesitation when confronted with these signs.

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Stepping into Paradise

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Maintaining a daily log for a little over two months, while also fitting in all the exploring T & I want to do, would be a daunting task. Instead, I’m going to focus on blogging highlights and gratitudes from the day’s journeys. T & I initially got the idea for recording gratitudes from a TED talk we saw on happiness (if you’re interested in ways to improve your quality of life or just curious, here is the talk, I highly recommend it). We’ve been sharing our daily gratitudes with each other for a few months now and really enjoy reliving these happy moments together.

I think it’s also a good idea to use this blog as a way to let off a little steam by recording things that don’t go so well. I think a little self-depricating humor can go a long way in a blog and, anyway, who wants to read only about the good times? I know well enough that people go to the track not just to watch a race but also see a car wreck ;).  T & I are treating this travel as a journey, rather than the luxurious vacation people tend to associate with tropical places. We are camping on the beach; sleeping on strangers’ couches; exploiting our friends’ generosity by staying in their guest rooms; when we feel like living the good life, renting bedrooms from AirBnB and for some nights, nothing is planned, we’re just going to wing it! For this reason, there will be numerous opportunities for things to, well, screw up – producing more fodder for this cannon.

R’s gratitudes & highlights:

The long nap we took during the hottest part of the day, which helped tremendously with the terrible case of jetlag I’m struggling to get over.

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The warm and muggy climate, from dawn ’til dusk perfect shorts weather. Stepping off the plane felt like someone wrapping me up in a warm, slightly wet, blanket. To some, this may sound unappealing, but it is my ideal climate, and after the 30 degree weather in NYC that we left, it was exactly what I needed.

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Lounging on Coconut Island with the locals. We read, did some acro, swam and had our first taste of jumping off rocks into water. Hopefully, there is more of that to come. Tom jumping from the highest rock:

@leafitalone high jump!

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T’s gratitudes & highlights:

Seeing the Banyan trees, they’re just so beautiful.

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The little goofy birds.

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Getting local fruits at the Farmer’s market.

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Waking up at 4:00AM (it felt like 10:00AM to us), basking in the sounds of the wildlife outside and enjoying our (what we thought was) privacy. We found out later we were sharing the little house with another couple, asleep in the bedroom upstairs – I hope they didn’t mind the early wake up call!

The Countdown Begins

While Tom & I are going to terribly miss so many people and things in NYC, it’s time for us to leave the city behind for greener pastures, (or, rather, bluer oceans). We feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to live in the big apple and will never forget the many things we’ve learned in our time here.  We plan to (most likely) end our journey on the West Coast to put down roots in sunny SoCal after jet setting around the world for 2 + months. We take off in just 24 days, not that we’re counting or anything.

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It took us many months to put the trip itinerary together. In fact, we didn’t know all the details ourselves until just a few days ago (!) but we’ve got it all worked out now and here it is, in black & white =).

Hawaii: Oct. 26 to Dec. 14
Island hopping in this order: Big Island, Maui, Kauai, O’ahu
Celebrating Tom’s Birthday!

Belize: Dec. 15 to Dec. 25

Marseille, France: Dec. 25 – 28
Celebrating Rachael’s Birthday!

Mediterranean Cruise: Dec. 29 to Jan. 5
Docking in France, Spain, Tunisia, Italy
Celebrating our 1 year anniversary!!

Vermont: Jan. 6 to pick up Apollo Cat

California: Jan. 7 +