#Kaua’i: A Not-So-Pretty Parakeet

The rose-ringed parakeet

After enjoying a bumper crop of lychees two years ago, when farmers were practically giving them away, we thought last year’s crops were anemic. We figured it was just an off year, but this year’s lychee crop was even more pitiful. Same for lilikoi (passionfruit). We’ve learned recently though about an invasive species on Kaua’i that’s been attacking crops all over the island – the pretty little rose-ringed parakeet! These little birds now numbers in the thousands and are causing environmental and economic damage all around the Garden Island.

Normally not considered a nuisance bird, the parakeet population on Kaua’i has exploded in the past few years, becoming more than just a nuisance to farmers, gardeners and others in the neighborhoods where they roost. Kaua’i is not alone either – they’re also causing problems on Oahu.

A flock of parakeets flies over the island at dusk.

The parakeet population is estimated to be around 5,000 on Kaua’i, and is growing exponentially. Believe it or not, the current horde started when two of the pretty birds were imported to the island by the owner of a B&B in Lawai, on the south side of the island, and escaped into the wild in 1968 and started a family. They’ve been a “slow invader,” and up until recently the birds were considered an entertaining novelty, especially when the bright green flocks would swoop into the trees at dusk. In the past couple of years however the population has reached what is called “critical mass” and unless steps are taken the number of parakeets will continue to expand at an increasingly faster and faster rate.

All these parakeets need to eat, and they have been going after fruit crops around the island with a vengeance, particularly lychee and longan trees. However, no fruit is safe from them. Although the birds are small, a flock of them, armed with their sharp, hooked beaks, can strip a large fruit tree in a day or overnight, whether that’s lychees or tangerines or bananas. They have also gone after the seed corn crops grown on the west side, and have been eating unripe lilikoi on the vine, damaging that crop. They primarily tend to flock at the tops of trees though, and besides eating the best fruit at the top they defecate on fruit below, contaminating it so that it’s unable to be sold or eaten. It’s the same for other fruits and vegetables in any area where they flock. Farmers have reported losing as much as a 30% of their fruit crops last year because of the parakeets.

The birds have also become a nuisance to condo and home owners. Once thought to be pretty, intelligent and interesting, the increasingly larger flocks of parakeets leave a mess in their wake, sometimes covering an entire property in droppings overnight. The flocks can also be incredibly noisy. The parakeets also have the potential to cause disturbing environmental damage. For now they are eating and roosting in the island lowlands, but as their population grows it’s feared they will begin moving to higher elevations, driving out native species of birds and other animals.

Kaua’i farmers are having to cover crops with netting to protect them from the marauding parakeets.

Farmers have tried to protect their crops but their efforts have either been ineffective against the parakeet hoards, or cumbersome and difficult, such as covering trees or plants with netting. Condo owners have butchered palm trees in an effort to keep the parakeet swarms away from their property. The rose-ringed parakeet has been labeled as an invasive species, and farmers and other stakeholders are now collaborating with county, state and federal agencies to try to stop their spread. The fear is that left unchecked, the parakeet population on Kaua’i could reach 10,000 in the next five years, causing widespread crop destruction as well as other economic and environmental disasters.

I first heard about the parakeets from other residents shortly after we arrived, but until recently had never seen them. I’ve now seen flocks roost in the palm trees across the way several times, although they don’t stay for long – they’re apparently on their way to somewhere else. They are pretty to look at, and I hope a solution can be found soon that protects both the birds and farmers.

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#Kauai: Secret Beach

To new arrivals the official name of this beach, Kauapea (“the fair rain”), is certainly more secret than what most call it, Secret Beach. That’s because it’s located at the end of a dirt road, coincidentally named Secret Beach Road, which is to the right off the first Kalihiwai Road (which was split into two parts by a bridge outage back in 1957) just north of Kilauea off Kuhio Highway. One should proceed slowly onto the dirt road as it is usually washboarded at the start (by cars and trucks operated by people afflicted with the hurry sickness), and occasionally deeply rutted toward the end by heavy rains.

Secret Beach Road Parking Lot

Parking lot and trailhead (between the stone gateposts)

Parking may be crowded on any sunny afternoon as it’s only adequate for about a dozen vehicles, and there are several driveways not to be blocked. Between the stone gateposts, by the bamboo, is the trail to the beach, a little over a quarter-mile and mostly STEEP and very slippery when it’s raining.

At the bottom of the trail lies the most beautiful stretch of sand I’ve seen on Kauai, and the sand stretches eastward all the way to Kilauea Point. To the west, alternating expanses of lava rock and sandy beach.

Secret Beach to the west

By the way, that small island off Kilauea Point is called Moku‘ae‘ae, Hawaiian for “small island.”

Obviously, the greatest extent of Secret Beach lies between the bottom of the trail and Kilauea Point. Nevertheless, the expanse of sandy beach beyond the first lava ‘finger’ is difficult to appreciate in the panoramic shot, so here’s a better glimpse of that western extent of Secret Beach, viewed from atop the rocks.

Western expanse of Secret Beach

Perhaps this view is inaccurate in the opposite extreme, appearing more vast than it really is, but suffice it to say, it is not crowded. …and give a listen to the surf on this side of the rocks.

Breakers at Secret Beach

Rumors abound concerning both the location and the activities and sights at this beach, often touted as a nude beach. Admittedly, the location is obscured from view, but easily located via Google Maps, and the only sights I’ve seen are pictured in this post, so evidence that hedonist scofflaws are cavorting anywhere on Kauai is thin. In fact I’ve rarely seen more than a handful of people here—students doing beach cleanup, families large and small hiking up/down the trail, one or two modestly dressed couples, and half a dozen surfers.

Since this post is more about the destination than the journey, I’ll throw up some farewell shots from the beach, along with a few from the climb.

Finally, as a hiker, I rather enjoy the trail more than the beach, so here are a few shots heading out to the car.

As a reminder, if it was raining or had just rained this would be an extremely slippery, if not outright dangerous trek. On the other hand, why go to the beach when it’s raining?

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Our Monthly Big Shop, Part 2 (Big Save, Cost U Less & Walmart)

Brett and I went to Big Save and Cost U Less on Friday and spent $55.24. Brett went to Walmart on Saturday and spent $7.34, for a total of $62.58, so we ended up $1.04 over budget for the month with the Big Shop. We’re in very good shape for the coming month (and beyond) though, except for a fruit run in a couple of weeks, which will put us even more over budget this month, but probably only around $25 or so at the most.

Cost U Less is a funky warehouse store that predates the arrival of Costco. Lots of locals still like to shop there though because there’s no membership fee. They have some of the best produce on the island outside of the farmers’ markets, and also have a huge selection of natural and organic foods, with better prices than the local natural food stores. When we were there we discovered why there was no organic peanut butter at Costco the other day – Cost U Less bought it all and was selling it for $3 more per twin-pack!

Big Save: $31.56

  • 2 boxes rice pilaf: $6.58
  • Salsa: $2.00
  • Chinese chicken salad dressing: $4.98
  • Refried beans: $1.50 (these used to be 88¢ a can back in Portland – sob!)
  • Diced green chilis: $2.00
  • 2 CookDo stir-fry sauce: $7.96 (A big splurge, but we all love it. We bought this in Japan for around $1/box, but have used up all we brought home with us)
  • Onion rings: $4.78 (these will last for 2 meals)

Cost U Less: $23.68

  • 2 cartons roasted red pepper & tomato soup: $7.98
  • 1 carton carrot ginger soup: $3.99
  • 36-oz crunchy peanut butter: $6.98
  • 2-lbs sweet onions: $2.49
  • 1 large green bell pepper: $1.29

Walmart: $7.34

  • 1 gallon bleach (we need to keep bleach in the toilets year round to combat algae): $2.86
  • 16-oz soba tsuyu (soup base for Japanese noodles): $4.48

I’m hoping you can see from the above prices the reason we do most of our shopping at Costco, where prices are the same or only slightly above prices on the mainland. Unfortunately, we can can’t get everything we need there, so we have to shop elsewhere, but we try to keep our purchases at the above three stores to a minimum.

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Our Monthly Big Shop, Part 1 (Costco)

I took pictures yesterday of what we bought at Costco – I thought you might find it interesting to see what a monthly Big Shop looks like, and what we’re paying for food, toiletries and some other items here.

We bought a little bit more than usual this month because a) WenYu will be at home for another month; and b) YaYu goes back to school in less than three weeks and we had to buy things for that change in our meal planning. We also seemed to have run out of more than a few things during the last month, and while they upped our bill this month we won’t have to buy them again for several months or even a year.

Our monthly food budget is typically $500, but with WenYu home we’ve upped that to $600. We stuck to our list yesterday, and spent $538.46, which leaves us only $61.54 for Round 2 on Friday, when I’ll finish up at Walmart, Big Save, and Cost U Less. It will be a challenge, but I’ll stick to our list like glue and hope for the best.

Here goes:

Frozen:

  • 3 bags of frozen organic dark sweet cherries (4 lbs each): $32.07 (probably more than we need for the month, but I don’t want to run out)
  • 1 bag frozen organic blueberries (3 lbs): $11.39
  • 1 bag LingLing frozen potstickers: $10.49 (breakfast for YaYu; the girls also like them in their ramen bowls)
  • 1 box grass-fed beef patties: $15.89 (I cannot make these myself for less)
  • 1 gallon vanilla ice cream: $7.59

Refrigerated/deli:

  • 50-oz organic fresh sauerkraut: $8.49 (to go with the Polish sausages)
  • 3-lbs Fage Greek yogurt: $6.89
  • 8 Manapua: $12.49 (Chinese steamed barbecue pork buns – one of WenYu’s favorite things to have for breakfast)
  • Organic chicken flautas 2-pack: $12.49 (for YaYu’s lunches and sometimes breakfast)
  • 13.4-oz brie cheese: $4.99
  • Aidell’s teriyaki chicken meatballs with pineapple 2-pack: $13.69
  • 8 nitrite-free beef Polish sausages: $9.89 (two meals for us)
  • Uncured (nitrite-free) smoked ham twin-pack (4 lbs): $11.99
  • Not shown: 2 dozen organic eggs: $6.99 (they went right into the refrigerator)

Bakery:

  • 2 loaves country French bread: $5.99
  • 1 package (10) torta rolls: $6.99
  • 8 danish pastries (4 cherry, 4 cream cheese): $7.99 (I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the danish at Costco, but they are HUGE, and a bargain at $1 each)Meat/fish:
  • 1 big roast chicken: $4.99 (enough chicken for at least four meals)
  • 7-lbs ground pork: $17.53 (I was so excited to see this yesterday – first time ever at Costco! This much will last us three or four months)
  • 6-lbs pork loin chops: $17.34 (I broke this down into four packages, and the chops are huge)
  • 1.5-lbs of wild-caught Hawaiian mongchong: $16.67 (fish is our big splurge here, but this will be enough for three meals for us)

Grocery (Part 1):

  • Organic spaghetti 8-pack: $9.99
  • Organic chicken stock 6-pack: $11.99
  • 2 Melon Mix mixed nuts: $27.38 ( my snack every day – I have 1/4 cup)
  • Case of Sapporo Ichiban Japanese-style ramen (24 packages): $12.99 (the girls’ favorite brand)
  • Graham crackers (4-box pack): $7.99 (Brett’s favorite snack)
  • 3-lbs pistachios: $15.79 (more nuts for snacks)

Grocery (Part 2):

  • 12-pack organic macaroni & cheese: $12.59 (half for YaYu’s lunches, and half will go back to college with WenYu)
  • 12-pack organic vanilla soy milk (this will last us close to four months)
  • Not shown: 4-pack of Choco Pie (48 total): $8.99 (favorite lunchtime snack, and WenYu will take one of the four boxes of 12 back to college with her)

Produce:

  • Bag of 6 mixed peppers (2 each red, orange & yellow): $7.79
  • 2 organic cabbage: $3.99 (Hawaii grown)
  • 4-pack of local (!) zucchini: $7.99 (better price than the farmers’ market, and they are huge and straight, perfect for making zoodles!)
  • 2.5-lbs celery sticks: $4.99
  • 14-pack organic Gala apples: $11.49
  • 11-pack nectarines: $12.99
  • 1 watermelon: $9.99 (it’s in the upper right corner, and it’s HUGE!)

Non-food:

  • Costco bar soap (15 bars): $10.49
  • 6-pack dental floss: $12.99
  • Chewable vitamins: $9.49 (the girls have these every day)
  • Maxi pads (90-count): $11.49
  • 72 AA-batteries: $19.99
  • Not shown: 1.75 liter bottle of Bacardi light rum: $18.99 (Wait- mojitos aren’t food? Still, this bottle will last us for nearly a year)
  • Not shown: case of Diet Coke (24 cans): $9.49 + $1.44 deposit (my vice – I have one a day)

The only thing Costco did not have that was on our list was organic peanut butter, but I will get two jars of something at Big Save or Cost U Less on Friday. Costco pretty much beats everyone else in town’s prices for the items we bought, but they don’t carry everything which is why we will go to the three other stores. We will not have to go back to Costco for a month now except (hopefully) once for some more fruit, which sadly will most likely take us over our monthly budget. As you might notice, many of the items are organic, or nitrate-free, or locally grown – they cost more, but it’s what and how we like to eat. All the plastic packaging from Costco can and will be recycled.

I’ll post Part 2 next Thursday!

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#Kauai: Moalepe Trail (Part 2)

This post covers the hike from Mile 1.0 (approximately where the trail label is pointing on the map) to Mile 2.5 and about 100 steps beyond to “Ende Moalepe Trail.”

Not to scale, regardless of appearance

Beyond the first mile, the trail ascends from pasture through a tunnel of old eucalyptus and albizia trees and into forest. In the pictures below, the view at left is on the portion of the trail that overlays old Kalama Road, which terminates at its intercept with the old Moalepe Road through the first eucalyptus tree tunnel in the photo on the right.

Old Moalepe Road is a meandering assortment of ruts, wider in some places than others, but obviously a roadbed that’s fallen on hard times. Beyond the first summit the eucalyptus gives way to ohia trees, and a different variety of wildflowers from those encountered in the first mile.

In spite of the fact that it hadn’t rained at home for several days, many segments of the trail within the forest reserve were considerably wetter than expected. Nevertheless, these obstacles were easily leaped over, and skirted or filled in with fallen branches close at hand.

Speaking of obstacles, bear in mind that this trail is shared with horseback riders (and their horses). Although I’ve never encountered horses on this trail, it’s evident that they have been here so one must step carefully.

Beyond the muck the trail remains fairly dry and an easy hike. The highest point along the trail is a little over halfway between the 1.0 Mile marker and the footbridge at the end of the trail. Just beyond the 1.75 Mile marker I captured a nice shot of Kamali‘i Ridge and its most significant peak, Kamāhuna, to the right (north) of the trail.

Many plants found upland, in the interior, vary greatly from their lowland neighbors. Such is the case with the little ginger plants beside the trail in moderately wet places. An additional bonus when hiking anywhere on the island is finding the odd lilikoi (passion fruit) because they pop up so unexpectedly.

Past the summit, eucalyptus tree tunnel number two shades half of the remaining hike. On warm days in early Spring, when the bark is popping and curling, the aroma is so soothing and cooling for the better part of a quarter-mile along the old roadbed. On the day I was hiking, the trail was simply calm with scattered direct and indirect light—the cathedral effect.

Moss covered stumps, “moss men,” seemingly keep watch over the east end of the tree tunnel. The steep descent from the far end of this tree tunnel was increasingly mud-slicked, ending in a hog wallow at the bottom, by the 2.5 Mile marker.

Even the bridge across the headwaters of Opaeka’a Stream was covered in a heavy layer of mud. In spite of this, it wasn’t really slick and the bridge still felt strong under foot. Although the signpost indicates that it’s 2.75 miles back to the trailhead at Olohena Road, the actual distance back to the 2.5 mile marker is no more than 250 feet (quite a bit shy of a quarter-mile).

Remarkably, the forests have grown so much in the past three years that it’s difficult to see the ocean from the trail. Near the trail summit (approximately 1,000 feet above sea level), I captured one good shot looking southeast to Wailua Water Gap. Nounou, better known as Sleeping Giant, is on the left, extending north from the confluence of Opaeka’a Stream and Wailua River, and Kalepa Ridge is to the right, extending south to Lihue.

Wailua Water Gap

At a break in the trees near the 1.0 mile marker, I caught a glimpse of blue ocean further east at Kapa’a.

Kapa’a and the Pacific Ocean

Almost home, I stopped to photograph this hala tree, also known as screwpine, at about one quarter-mile from the trailhead. This was a ‘canoe plant’, among the first brought from Polynesia, and the leaves originally woven into mats and used for thatching roofs because it kept out the rain longer than palm leaves.

Hala Tree (Pandanus Tectoris)

Depending upon where you look, the total length of this trail is variously reported between 2.15 miles and 2.75 miles, but based on the trail markings it’s fair to call it about 2.6 one way, and depending on how often one stops to enjoy the scenery, allow 2-3 hours for the entire hike.

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#Kaua’i: Mark’s Place

There’s nothing fancy about Mark’s Place, but the plate lunches are fabulous!

Mark’s Place has been on our dining bucket list for a long, long time. Located in an industrial area just south of Lihue (and not all that easy to find), Mark’s is THE place to go on Kaua’i for authentic and delicious Hawaiian plate lunches. The owner of Mark’s Place is Mark Oyama, a local gourmet chef who owns and operates Contemporary Flavors Catering, specializing in Pacific Rim and cross-current Asian cuisine.

The menu at Mark’s Place – sadly there is no kalua pig or laulau!

Plate lunch is a uniquely Hawaiian creation, an off-shoot of Japanese bentos. Rather than bringing a sandwich to work, plantation workers from Japan, China, Korea, Portugal and the Philippines brought rice and other leftovers to work each day. Their different foods eventually jumped cultures and were shared and eaten by others. Macaroni salad was the bridge that went with almost everything.

Brett and I shared a mixed plate of teri beef and chicken katsu. Under our meat is a large serving of fried noodles.

A plate lunch traditionally consists of a protein, one or two scoops of rice, salad, and sometimes fried noodles. Proteins include favorites like chicken or pork katsu (fried chicken or pork cutlet breaded in panko), teriyaki beef or chicken (‘teri beef’),  Hawaiian favorites kalua pig or laulau (butterfish and chicken or pork steamed in ti leaves) or hamburger steak with gravy. There’ll always be a scoop of macaroni salad, but sometimes plate lunches also have green salad, kimchi or pickled cucumbers.

WenYu had Korean chicken plate lunch, with tasty pieces of fried chicken.

Lunches at Mark’s place start at $10.50, but they are HUGE, way more than enough for one meal. Brett and I shared a combination (‘mixed plate’) teri beef and chicken katsu lunch (granted, I only ate the teriyaki beef) and there was plenty for both of us plus lunch for Brett the next day. WenYu’s Korean chicken lunch gave her big meals for two days.

The “dining room” at Mark’s Place.

Each lunch at Mark’s is cooked to order – there is nothing sitting out under a heat lamp. You might have to wait a bit, but your meal will be hot and fresh. If you’re planning to eat there versus taking your lunch to go, picnic tables with umbrellas are set up outside.

There’s a big collection of maneki neko (‘lucky cats’) inside the store to check out while waiting for your order.

Fresh pastries are also available for sale at Mark’s place (Mark’s wife is a pastry chef), and every day Mark also prepares two ‘upscale’ daily specials. The day we visited a grilled salmon plate was one of the offerings on the specials’ menu. It sounded fabulous, but we were there for the plate lunches!

Mark’s Place is located at 1610 Haleukana Street, in Puhi, 808-245-2522. Mark’s is open most days from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., but can close for catering events, so it’s best to check ahead and make sure they’re open.

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#Kaua’i: The Kaua’i Coastal Path Through Kapaa

The path passes by Kapa'a Beach Park and Waipouli Beach Park on its way south. Lots of windsurfers were out the day of our walk.

The following is a reprint of a previously published post.

The Ke Ala Hele Makalae, the “path that goes by the coast,” runs for eight miles along Kauai’s east side, from just south of Lydgate Park all the way up through the eastside’s “Coconut Coast” past Donkey Beach in the north (and it’s currently being extended all the way north to Anahola Beach Park). The wide and mostly flat path is shared daily by walkers, runners and bike riders, and provides beautiful shoreline views almost the entire length. While the stretch from Kealia Beach to the old Pineapple Dump is our favorite, Brett and I also enjoy the walk along the Kapaa shoreline.

There are frequent signs along the path letting you know where you are.

A couple of weeks ago, while the girls went for a run heading north, Brett and I set off in the other direction on the path, a flat 3/4-mile stretch that runs from the Kapaa Community Center south to Keaka Road, where the path turns to go through town for a while before coming back to the shore. The day was quite breezy, and we could see storm clouds out to sea as well as coming over the mountains from the other side, but we felt we had enough time to get to Keaka Road and back before any rain arrived. We packed a few beach towels just in case we got our timing wrong.

And get it wrong we did! A squall came sailing in from the northeast and drenched Brett & me just before we reached our car. The girls were also on their way back to the car and got soaked as well, but we all toweled off and headed for home, admitting that we were actually thankful for the rain because it had cooled us off.

The path crosses over an old stream channel as it heads out to sea. The low bridge in front of the highway used to carry the sugar cane and pineapple trains.

The main Kapa'i boat channel is used by local fishers.

A windsurfer speeds by at Fuji Beach. Lots of locals like to get together at this beach after work to relax.

Just down from Fuji Beach is Baby Beach. The rock wall is naturally occurring, and creates a safe swimming spot in front for keiki (kids), so the beach is popular with local families.

Just down from Fuji Beach is Baby Beach. The rock "wall" in the back is naturally occurring, and creates a safe bathing area for keiki, so the beach is popular with local families.

Sunrise Cottage, located across the road from Baby Beach, offers front row seat for each day's sunrise.

The Hotel Coral Reef always makes me want to walk over and book a room! (the rain arrived just as I snapped this picture)

Although it’s a great walk any time of day, sunrises are a speciality on the eastside coastal path. I’m not an early riser, but an early-morning walk along the Kapaa stretch to experience one of Kauai’s spectacular sunrises is high on my bucket list!

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#Kauai: The Moalepe Trail (Part 1)

 

The Moalepe (chicken comb) Trail, located on Kauai’s east side, follows the old Moalepe Road from the continuation of Olohena Road beyond Waipouli (dark water) Road. The trail goes across Moalepe Ridge to a footbridge over the headwaters of Ōpaekaʻa (rolling shrimp) Stream, which serves as the dividing line between Moalepe and Kuilau Trails.

The first half of the trail is more of a road through fields, but eventually transitions to a true trail as it gains elevation. Wildflowers bloom almost year-round along this trail. The six- to eight-foot yellow giants below (which have long defied my limited ability to identify them) stand behind the parking area across from the trailhead.

Unidentified yellow flowers, 6-8 feet tall

Flowers gone wild

Smaller flowers that lie along both sides of the trail, as well as up the center strip, fall into the weed category, but are nonetheless quite pretty in bloom. If anyone can identify these two ankle-high weeds, or the giant yellow flowers above, I and maybe many others would be delighted.

 

Orchids are chief among the easily identifiable delights in the first mile of this little hike. First, within a quarter-mile of the trailhead is the Bamboo Orchid, Arundina graminifolia.

 

In late spring/early summer, strawberry guava (psidium cattleianum) blooms, and the first fruits appear in mid to late summer. Strawberry guava are edible, but hikers are asked not to spit seeds on the ground as it’s an invasive species that consumes one-third of the rainfall and upland mists on which Kaua’i depends for drinking water.

Strawberry Guava

Strawberry Guava

At about the half-mile marker, there’s a less problematic, and sweeter fruit growing low to the ground. This little briar was introduced to the island, but is not as invasive as the strawberry guava or Malaysian blackberry, and the fruit is more scarce.

 

Hikers may also encounter a second orchid variety between half-mile and three-quarter-mile markers, the Philippine ground orchid (Spathoglottis plicata).

 

On one hike I blundered onto this gorgeous specimen of the hau (hibiscus tiliaceus), The blossoms of the hau tree transition daily from yellow in daylight to crimson by night. This flower below obviously missed the roosters’ call.

Blushing hau blossom

Another of the dazzling, low growing weeds that often fills in between and beneath others is variously called whiteweed or flossflower (Ageratum spp). As shown below, it’s white in the bud and varies from blue to lavender after it opens. Similar to the story of the ugly duckling, what begins as a common weed becomes a flower in maturity.

 

Owing to a rapid change in the weather, I was only able to complete half a hike on my last trip to Moalepe, but captured the change just beyond the one mile marker. This is approximately where the road truly becomes trail as one leaves pastureland behind and enters the Kealia Forest Reserve.

 

Stay tuned for Moalepe Trail (Part 2) which will show off the other half of this gentle hike.

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Nine Tourist “Tells”

Kaua’i welcomes tourists with open arms and aloha. We know we live in a very special, very beautiful place, and that people spend lots of money to come here to experience the island, even if it’s just for a week. We want all our visitors to have a positive experience, and make wonderful memories.

After three years here, I’m still taken for a tourist now and then. I’m pale and pretty much look like I just stepped off the plane from the mainland (I don’t tan, and also have to watch how much time I spend in the sun). Brett has a nice tan, but we’re still occasionally asked where we’re visiting from, or how long we’re staying. However, more often than not these days we’re recognized as kamaaina (residents).

Being a pale haole (white) is not something that automatically marks someone as a tourist though as whites make up over 30% of the island’s population, and not all have a tan. What does make visitors stand out from locals are their actions and behavior, which are often markedly in contrast to local culture and customs, and are the equivalent of carrying a sign saying “I am a tourist.”

Here are the tourist “tells” our family came up with. The hardest part was admitting that we did some of these things too once upon a time:

  1. In a hurry. The island pace of life is slower than it is on the mainland, so when someone’s in a hurry, there’s a better than good chance he or she is a tourist. We get that people are only here for a week or so and want to see and do it all, but slowing down lets you experience one of the things that makes life in Hawai’i so special.
  2. Traveling in packs, and being loud. Visitors almost always come here with family and friends, and we understand that they want to spend time together, but moving in a pack on the sidewalk or through stores and making everyone else move is not cool. Also, people in Hawai’i generally talk softly, so loud voices really stands out.
  3. Pronouncing the name of the island “Kow-ee.” It’s Kah-wah-ee. We’ve been genuinely shocked by how many times we’ve heard the first pronunciation.
  4. Too dressed up or matchy-matchy. Kaua’i is casual. When we see someone with lots of jewelry, or a perfectly coordinated outfit, chances are very good they’re a tourist.
  5. Wearing expensive sport sandals: Slippahs (flip flops) are the name of the game here, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wearing cheap slippahs either.
  6. Not using the crosswalks. Year-round, we typically have to stop two or three times on every trip through Kapaa for tourists who can’t be bothered to walk a few feet down to the crosswalk, where we and every other local driver would stop when they see them waiting to cross (see “In a hurry”).
  7. Not slowing down to let people turn into the highway or make a left turn. We have one mostly two-lane highway around the island, and in cities like Kapaa or Lihue it can be hard at times to turn into the highway from businesses along the road, or to make a left turn, depending on the traffic. There aren’t many stoplights or stop signs on the highway either. Local drivers will often slow down or stop to let someone make a turn or come onto the highway. Maybe visitors don’t know that letting someone in might earn them a shaka!
  8. Costco carts loaded with big bottles of liquor, wine and/or beer. We understand that visitors don’t want to have to drive to Costco from Princeville or Poipu more than once while they’re here, but having enough liquor in their cart to open their own store is a dead giveaway they’re not from around here, even if they are wearing a DejaVu surf shirt and already have a tan.
  9. Driving a convertible or a shiny new Jeep. This is probably the number one indicator that someone is a tourist. Locals don’t drive convertibles, and very, very few drive new Jeeps. There’s a reason these two cars are broken into more often than any other type of car on the island.

We were guilty of a few of these on our first trip to the island, although we’ve never mispronounced Kaua’i, always use a crosswalk, and don’t buy tons of liquor. I’m not sure we’ve ever been accused of dressing too nicely either. We did drive a Jeep on our first trip though.

Again, we enjoy having tourists visit Kaua’i, and want them to have a wonderful time while they’re here, spend lots of money, and make wonderful memories. We’re not judging them either – honestly. But after being here for a while we have noticed that they self-identify pretty easily.

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#Kaua’i: Hamura’s Saimin

Hamura’s Saimin – in business since 1951

WenYu and YaYu are both huge noodle afficionadas, so it made perfect sense that Hamura’s Saimin would be their choice of where to go to celebrate the end of their respective school years last week.

A small bowl of Hamura’s regular saimin is very filling!

Hamura’s Saimin is an institution on Kaua’i, and has been around as long as most people can remember. Aiko and Charlie Hamura began selling bowls of noodles from their car in 1951, and the restaurant they eventually opened is still family owned and operated. Every day locals and visitors alike head to the humble restaurant, located on a back street in Lihue, and often line up to wait for a spot at the big winding counter in order to enjoy a bowl of homemade noodles and wontons topped with meat, kamaboko (Japanese fish cake) and vegetables.

There were seats available when this picture was taken, but there’s often a wait for a place at the counter.

Originally developed in Hawai’i during its plantation days, saimin is a Hawaiian version of ramen, with Chinese, Japanese and Filipino influences. It is considered a traditional state food in Hawai’i.

Hamura’s is old school, and proud of it. Noodles and wontons are made fresh from scratch every morning, then cooked and served in bowls of fragrant broth. The small restaurant has won many awards over the years, including an “American Classic” award from the James Beard Foundation in 2006. In spite of it all, their noodles remain affordable: $6.75 for a small bowl of regular saimin, $7.00 for medium, and $7.75 for large. Specialty bowls are only slightly more.

Our girls eat their saimin Chinese style: Chopsticks in one hand for the noodles, and the soup spoon in the other for sipping the broth.

Hamura’s also offers an incredible homemade lilikoi (passionfruit) chiffon pie for dessert, the perfect finish after a bowl of saimin. It’s sold by the slice, but sometimes whole pies are available for sale.

Hamura’s light and fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth homemade lilikoi chiffon pie

If you want a taste of traditional Hawai’i, Hamura’s is the real deal. Hamura’s Saimin is located at 2956 Kress Street in Lihue. It’s open from 10:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on weekdays, and 12:00 a.m. on weekends. Payment is cash only.

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