I couldn’t find a direct flight from the Big Island to Kauai, the fourth and last Hawaiian island on my list. This wasn’t helped by Hawaiian airlines not accepting non-US credit cards. Through a third-party website I booked a flight to Oahu and another on to Kauai.
Big Island airport at Kona is impressively small, and I always enjoy walking out onto the tarmac to climb aboard a plane. Unwilling to join the scrum to sit in a chair that bit longer I managed to be the last person to board the plane. As we approached Honolulu airport the pilot announced that anyone continuing to Kauai on flight 313 should stay on-board.
That’s a new one on me, so I sat and watched as the other passengers deplaned one-by-one, until I was left alone as even the flight crew got off!
For about 20 minutes I had an entire Boeing 717 to myself. I was tempted to prance down the aisle, or sneak into the open cockpit, but I figured they’d be back any second and I’d end up in airline jail. So I sat and revelled in the stillness of a plane without the hubbub of a hundred passengers. I watched out of the window as my bag was separated from the others and put back in the hold, then I buried my head in my book. Soon, the moment passed and I was returned to the real world as people one-by-one invaded my space.
At Kauai airport in Lihue I collect rental car number nine. I manage to grab the last Mustang between a pair of Sebrings, check the roof works and drive to my hotel. For the first time in weeks I arrive at a hotel after dark. The Kauai Sands is in a scruffy looking side street and has an unappealing entrance, but then it is cheap. Unsure if Hawaii has rough areas I’m glad not to be driving a zip-up Jeep as I hit the lock button on the remote.
Try again - nope. OK, well, I can use the key for that, I just hope I can open the boot. Nope.
Eeurrgh. How many things do you have to check on a sodding rental car?! Worse still, they charge two hundred dollars for damage to the key fob. So if I put up with it for a few days will I get charged as well?!
But just as I’m getting annoyed I round the corner and discover that the rest of the hotel is quite nice. There’s a lawn with a pool in the centre, a reasonable reception and the Pacific Ocean washing up fifty feet away. I chat with the receptionist until she gives me the best room available and half an hour later I’m relaxing on my balcony with a Spicy Italian.
The beach is too soft to run on, and it’s chucking it down. But I’ve found KVIC, a local TV channel which loops a guide to the island. It must be three hours long and after a while I wonder if I need to leave the room, but the sun turns up and I’m off clockwise.
Kauai has only one major road, and it doesn’t quite join up to circumnavigate the island. This means everyone on the island seems to spend most of their day on the same road. Despite some rapid work from Alamo to swap my fob battery, it takes me an hour to get twenty miles down to the south coast, before the traffic eases and I can head North West to Waimea Canyon.
The guidebooks quote Mark Twain describing it as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”, but that’s both an obvious description and quite misleading. I’d seen both canyons on TV before seeing them in real life. When I stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon I could hardly catch my breath. It’s overwhelming, so huge you can’t take it all in, nothing like you imagine from pictures. The Waimea canyon is far more colourful, the red dirt contrasting with the plush greenery and the black rocks. But at the same time, it looks like the pictures.
In fact, that’s my overall impression of Hawaii. It looks like the pictures.
The clouds are descending into the canyon, and my attempt to go for a hike is thwarted by the lack of a view other than billowing white. I head back out to the coast and reach the end of the road. In many senses.
After eighty four days in the USA, I’ve gone as far West as I can drive. I’ve met many interesting people, seen many incredible sights and had many wonderful times. With three days to go, I’m done. There’s no bars near where I’m staying, if there’s any on Kauai. The vast majority of holidaymakers are couples, so I’m unable to hang out and make friends in the evening. The next day I take a drive round the North of the island, but it’s one long busy road.
No road trips and no sports bars. A couple of restaurants promise “live music” but it’s just a fat bloke with a ukulele. I could sign up for an “activity” but I can’t be bothered joining honeymooning couples. It’s hot and humid, so I retire to the hotel pool for my last couple of days in the States.
Sipping a cool drink under the palm trees, with the warm sun on my back and the waves splashing onto the beach, I grumble to myself about how harsh life can be.