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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Kauai from the air

We got up at 6:30 this morning in order to get to our helicopter ride on time. With the Port Allen airport 20-30 minutes away, we wanted to leave around 7:00 for our 7:30 check-in time. We arrived on time, and went inside the little office. The airport was pretty hilarious... really tiny.
Once inside, we had to watch a short safety video.

Now, I have to admit... now that it's all over, I'm not afraid to admit it to myself. I was extremely scared of the helicopter ride. But it was one of those things that I really wanted to do... mind over matter. So I forced myself to do it.

Our flight was supposed to take off at 8:00, but our helicopter was late arriving. Inter-Island Helicopters also does search and rescue work. Apparently, our helicopter was up along the northern coast looking for a lost/stranded hiker. I don't know whether they found him/her or not, but our helicopter arrived for our tour about 20-30 minutes late.

There was a plumeria tree right where we were waiting to board the helicopter

Another important thing to note about Inter-Island Helicopters... you fly with the DOORS OFF! I thought this sounded pretty amazing (it's not the heights I was afraid of, it was the potential crashing), so this is one of the main reasons we decided to go with this company.

Once we were up in the air, I was actually OK. Everything was so beautiful, it was hard to think about anything bad happening. It was REALLY windy and cold up there! They tell you that it is, but it was even more so than I imagined. It was a really cool way to see the island, though. Quite the experience of a lifetime!

Between the two of us, we took more than 500 photos during the hour flight. It was extremely difficult to choose which ones to share... this is just a sampling. And, as always... the photos do not do this any justice.

We started by flying over (and into) Waimea Canyon. We saw it from the lookout the other day, but it was even more spectacular by air:

That's another helicopter in the middle there... we saw several during our flight

We went from the canyon to the Na Pali Coast, which is only accessible by air and by sea. It's basically all wilderness because of this reason, and it is absolutely gorgeous. Indescribable, really. It was my favorite part of the helicopter tour.

From there, we flew to the north shore of the island. It was cool to see the places we visited yesterday (Tunnels Beach, Hanalei Bay--where we took surfing lessons, etc.) from the air.

Then, we flew toward the middle of the island, and went inside the crater of the volcano (which is obviously not active) that created the island. Kauai is so green!! It rains a ton in this area of the island. We could definitely feel the moisture in the air (remember, we were out in the open), and it was noticeably cooler while we were inside the crater.
Waterfall. It was strange to see birds flying around, and seeing how small they were. It helped put what we were seeing in perspective. These mountains, these waterfalls... all enormous.

This is the Jurassic Park waterfall. Toward the beginning of the movie, when the characters are arriving at Jurassic Park, they are in a helicopter that lands right near a waterfall. This is the waterfall they used in the filming of the movie.

We also flew over many fields of coffee, which was pretty cool to see from above.

Before we knew it, we were arriving back at the airport to land. The airport is in a beautiful spot, right on the ocean.

I was so happy to be back on the ground safely. A huge weight of anxiety was lifted off of me, and I was now able to fully appreciate what I had just experienced. Would I do it again? Yes. And I'd recommend it to anyone else visiting Kauai as well. It's the only way to really see the beauty of the whole island.

Michael and me (self portrait) after we landed

With our helicopter and our cool pilot (I think his name was Luke or Lou)

After the helicopter tour, we went back to the condo and relaxed for a few hours. We have been on the go much of our honeymoon, and it's starting to wear on me a little bit. We didn't come all the way to Hawaii to lounge on the beach or by the pool, so I'm happy that we have done all that we have... but I just needed a few hours to veg out.

Once we recuperated a little bit, we decided to take the short drive down the road to see Spouting Horn. It was really cool to watch. It's basically a lava shelf where water from waves is forced through a small opening, which causes water and air to squirt out a blowhole. Pretty impressive. Below is a series of pictures I took (gotta love our Canon digital SLR!), so you can see it in stages:

Cool, huh?

We then went back to our condo to change into our bathing suits and try snorkeling in the little alcove next to our building. We could see several sea turtles swimming in there and wanted to try to go out and see them up close and personal.

Unfortunately, conditions were not ideal. I was actually pretty scared getting into the water. There were some pretty big waves coming in, and the current was rough. We were only out there for a few minutes before I decided I was too nervous (plus, we could barely see anything), and we got out. We're going to try again if we can... we want to wait to see if the water might be more calm at a different time of day. We want to go swim with those turtles! They are such neat animals, and we love watching them pop their little heads above water to get air, right from our lanai.

On the way down to attempt snorkeling, we did run into a little gecko:

We showered and headed up to Lihue for dinner at Scotty's Beachside BBQ. This restaurant is owned in part by the author of the Revealed guidebooks. Several people left good reviews for it in the guestbook here at the condo, so we decided to give it a try. It's supposedly the only decent place to get BBQ on the island of Kauai.

It was quite a drive for us from Poipu with traffic, but we wanted to try it. Plus, who can complain about driving around when there is such wonderful scenery everywhere you look? We were there early (right around 5:00 p.m.), so we were seated right away. Come to think about it, though... we have not waited at a single restaurant throughout this entire trip. I don't know if we've just had good luck, good timing, or what... but we've been going to some of the more popular and most recommended restaurants, and we still have not had any problems getting a table right away. Love it.

View from our table. The seating here is tiered so that every table has an unobstructed view of the ocean. It was nice.

I was not very impressed with my strawberry margarita (it was sort of icy, not all blended together very well like you usually find at restaurants). But all was forgotten once our food came.

We both ordered pulled pork. It came without a bun (they had garlic bread on the side), french fries, and baked beans. They have three different kinds of sauce on the table for you to use... two BBQ sauces (that they make at the restaurant)--one mild, one hot--and some other kind of plum sauce. We used both the mild and hot BBQ sauces. Both were excellent. We loved the sauces. I preferred the hot one just because it gave the food a little kick, which I like. Yum! The pork itself was really tender and tasty. The garlic bread was also delicious. All around, another very good meal for us.

On our way back through Lihue, we stopped at the Walmart there to pick up a few things. We also bought a couple of cheap movies. We plan to settle in and watch one tonight. That was one thing we neglected to pack--we should have brought a couple of DVDs from home to put on in the evenings when there is nothing on TV. Oh well, live and learn.

Tomorrow is our last full day in Hawaii! I can't believe it... it has gone by so quickly.


Sara said...

you look like you are having so much fun! you're pics are fabulous what kind of camera do you have? are you using the same camera for the underwater pics? (very impressive!) HAVE FUN TOMORROW!!!!!!!

Mandala Reina said...

My sis and I went to Kauai in 2005 (I think it was). We also took the helicopter trip - it's really an amazingly different world over there. Of course, this was b.d.c. (before digital camera) and I'd left mine at home - I'd had to make do with a $20 drug store camera. Your pics of the trip are gorgeous!