Day 7: Up in the Air

Today was the BIG day. Cheryl had insisted that she must have a helicopter tour of the Island. She'd never been on a whirlybird before, and had heard it's the best way to see the backcountry. Most of Kauai is not accessible by car - it's vertical, swamp, jungle, or incessantly rained upon. Or all 4 at once. So we signed up for a 60 minute clockwise spin from Lihue over the volcano flanks to a loop-de-loop by the Na Pali (Hawaiian for "Cliffs") coast, swinging back by the waterfall filled crater ("the wettest place on earth") at the top of the island, and then by th waterfalls we'd already seen, and a few more.

At this point, a digression about Kauai - and Hawaiian - weather. It doesn't quite make sense that Kauai should have more rain than Maui, or the Big Island. Both those islands have much higher mountains. Presumably, the rain happens because of the sudden uplift/cooling of the moist ocean air brought in by the trade winds, hitting the mountain flanks. The higher it rises, the wetter it should get, right? Apparently not. The spend of the uplift must have something to so with it, also. Kauai is the oldest island - the first formed. Now, I'm just speculating on all this - I'm neither a meteorologist nor a geologist, and I've seen nothing about this issue in the tourist guides which form the sum total of my knowledge about Hawaii. - but the northeast slope of Kauai's volcano is way steeper than the south and west side. I presume that this is a combination of 2,000,000 years worth of wind and rain pelting at its side, and the streams subsequently rushing down its flank, giving it a sideways concave profile. Haleakala and Mauna Loa/Kea haven't had time yet to achieve this parabolic slope. So the wind rushes up the slope faster, the faster uplift condensing more moisture than on the new isles, where the air moves upslope more slowly.

Back to the heli trip. We did our research, and decided on Air Kauai - they said they focused on quality, not quantity, were the only ones to use noise reduction headphones, would turn around at no charge after 10 minutes if the weather was socked in, and used the best bird. We also learned they had two seats up front, and seated by weight. Hoping to team up with 4 fatties, we were scheduled for 11:15 today. And voila - Cheryl got the middle front seat, and I got the primo front right, with a 270 deg view unobstructed by anyone else's nose or elbow.

Unfortunately, we were obstructed by rain hitting the window at the 8 minute mark. So Warren, who's done 22,000 trips around the island, suggested we turn back, cause we wouldn't see anything. Great! We get all the excitement of a chopper ride, without having to pay. All right!! (You probably already noticed that the pictures I linked you to are not mine, but from their web site.

So, back to the beach, and more snorkeling, swimming, boarding, etc. Annie met a friend, Melissa (you, the girl who invented that email virus last week!), who spent all afternoon riding down the water slide and playing football with her. Then we watched her while her parents went out to eat (and we packed). Turns out they're from Carlsbad, CA, and her mom (Luann) knows our brother-in-law, Uncle Frog! She was the "cable rep" a few years ago - the lady who sold him time for his photo/telescope shop ads on cable news shows, etc. (That's Oceanside Photo and Telescope, if you need a great deal.)

In the evening, we stopped at the point in front of the Sheraton, to check out the final sunset of our trip. While the waves lapped all around us, we caught the sunset, not once, but twice, as it dipped behind a cloud, than out again for its final drop below the Pacific.

Next Day - (Read it bottom to top!)

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