Kauai is a great place to be if you’re a rooster. These birds have attitude and spend a lot of time strutting about like they own the place.
They are everywhere: along the highway, in shops and restaurants and there are countless numbers right outside our condo. Their bravado is well founded as they oversee a number of lovely lady chickens and even one or two subordinate males. Mothers and chicks wander about in small groups, completely unperturbed by us humans. At breakfast, they will happily hop onto the breakfast table and help themselves to crumbs, and more if you allow them to. Their colours are truly spectacular and, despite their friendly behaviour, they are completely feral. This was not always the case as, according to local lore, they were once domesticated. This all changed when, during the hurricanes of 1982 and 1992, domesticated chickens were blown all over the island and ended up mating with other chicken populations; eventually returning them to a wild state. They seem to have no suspicion that they might be food! Come to think of it, we’ve only seen one Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet since we got here. If you ask me, KFC is missing a trick!
All the birds we’ve met since being here have been extremely friendly and trusting. There’s the beautiful red crested cardinal (we call him Spike), another bird with attitude, sporting a blazing red spike of feathers on its head and a red crest.
This is the friendliest of birds. One regular visitor stole a cracker right off my plate but then didn’t have the strength to break it into pieces to eat. This little one even follows Rachel about and comes into the kitchen for a chat.
Then there’s the myna – we call it Balaclava Bird – that stares out through what looks like a hood with holes for its eyes.
It looks like a hardened terrorist and proved it by stealing the cracker from Spike and head-butting it into bite-sized pieces before devouring the lot in double-quick time.
The nene, also known as the Hawaiian goose, looks like any old goose really (no offence intended) but has the honour of being the official bird of the state of Hawaii.
There are roadside warning signs that ask motorists to slow down to allow these important birds to cross the road safely.
We even saw an Albatross feeding its young. There’s something unreal about seeing these magnificent birds. To me, they look somehow prehistoric, like they belong to another age. But there it was, in the flesh! Unfortunately, it was too far away to get a photo.
Yesterday we drove north on highway 56 from Wailua to Kilauea and Princeville. We loved this coastal road and enjoyed wonderful views of the Pacific along the way. One thing we noticed was the number of residential houses that look shabby and unmaintained, often with junk lying around in the garden with bits of old cars or surfboards. It appears that many people spend more money on their cars and pick-up trucks than they do on their houses. Everybody seems to have a huge 4×4 in their driveway. The shabbiness, however, looks just right in this environment and seems to reflect the laid back approach to life here.
We reached Kilauea Lighthouse before lunch and parked up.
There was a family at the edge of the car park, taking photographs and Rachel recognised them as the people we sat next to on our flight to Kauai a few days before. This was Don and Debbie, from Colorado, with their daughter and granddaughter, visiting their timeshare here on the island. It was like meeting old friends and Debbie wanted to adopt us into their family for entry into the lighthouse on a family ticket. Debbie is a force of nature and doesn’t take “no” for an answer.
“We’ll get you in on our family ticket,” said Debbie.
“Not sure that’ll work,” said Don.
“Sure it will,” said Debbie, and looking at me said “I’ve got grey hair, you’ve got grey hair, what ya gonna be?”
“Brother?” I said, “younger!”
“OK, you’re my brother, let’s go.”
So we joined the line and, feeling a little self-conscious, made small talk as best we could.
“It’s only four on a ticket,” said Don.
“Really?” Debbie wasn’t so sure about that but, sure enough, it turned out that it was only four family members to a ticket.
“It’s ok, we would rather pay, really, it’s ok,” we said, not wanting to offend their generosity.
“No, it’s fine,” said Debbie, don’t we still have that other ticket in the car?”
Don was looking a little bemused.
“Well, I don’t think…,” started Don.
“I’ll go check.” Debbie was heading back to the car park, hobbling along due to the foot and ankle brace she was wearing because of an earlier injury. She was gone for some time and we continued to queue.
After further small talk, Debbie arrived back.
“What took you so long?” Don had the expression of a man who had seen all this before.
“I had to check under the seats.”
“Did you find it?”
“It’s fine,” we said, “We’d rather just pay, really, it’s ok”
“Don’t we have that parks ticket from last year?” Rachel was rummaging around in her rucksack. “You know, the one we kept just in case?”
And sure enough, there it was, an annual pass to the parks of the USA.
“It might not work here.” The parks attendant, sitting in her little cabin giving out tickets was shouting over the other people in the line.
By now I was feeling as bemused as Don and, like most men, just kept quiet and let the ladies do their thing.
By now the line was quite long and I wondered how long it would take for the attendant to realise that I was not Debbie’s brother after all.
Eventually, we arrived at the ticket cabin and the attendant scrutinised Rachel’s pass.
“You see these words right here,” she said.
Oh no, I thought, does it say ‘No fake brothers allowed’ or ‘You don’t look remotely old enough to be her brother. You’re rumbled mate!’
“You can hardly see them,” she continued, “they say you’re good to go. You’re in for free!”
I felt a profound sense of relief that we were no longer to be forced to enter under false pretences and pretty chipper about getting in for free after all.
We spent a pleasant hour at the lighthouse and saw amazing views. Don explained one or two things about Poke, which is a local dish of diced, raw Yellowfin Tuna. We’ve seen it served in a Taco or with rice but are still to try it.
We really liked Don and Debbie, who displayed the now very familiar friendliness and generosity of spirit we’ve come to expect from the Americans we meet. We exchanged contact details and will certainly keep in touch.
After all the excitement of Kilauea Lighthouse we needed a drink and headed further along the northern coast of the island to Hanalei Bay and found a nice bar called Kalypso and enjoyed great cocktails.
It’s really friendly there and it has the feel of a tiki bar at the beach. We watched baseball on the TV and couldn’t understand a thing that was going on in the game. But it didn’t matter; we were in a beach bar on a Hawaiian island drinking cocktails and it was 90 degrees outside. What’s not to like?
Later, we just cruised along the coast until we found a nice place to stop for a swim. One thing we’ve noticed here is that there are very few, if any, changing rooms on beaches – only small toilet blocks with one or two cubicles – not nearly enough to cater for the number of visitors. So, as usual, we had to get changed in the car. That’s fine, until, in mid-undress, another car pulls up alongside and the whole family get our right next to a strange naked man in the next car! My advice – be very quick!
So we headed out onto the beach.
“Hey, my brother.” Someone was shouting in the distance. It was Debbie, who came running over and threw her arms around us and hugged us. Then we saw Don, chatting to some people at a picnic table. We talked again about this and that, amazed that we had bumped into each other again. We made it completely clear that we were not stalking them – I’m pretty sure they believed us.