The Post In Which We Meet the Guru at the Top of the Mountain

OK, it’s official – I’m whining. I know I’ve said it once, but I’m going to say it again: it’s cold here. The weather forecast showing a high of 70 and a low of 66 is simply deceptive, because the wind howling off of the ocean just to the north of our condo is chilly, humid, and downright punishing. And the North Shore of the island is perpetually cloudy, it seems, so that we don’t get any warmth from the sun.

The seas are even more furious, railing fiercly against the stubborn shore. The tidepools would be deadly today.

The solution? We drove to the south side of the island (Kauai really isn’t a big island). 

We had eaten fruit for breakfast, but that really didn’t hold me, so during the drive we stopped in Lihue for breakfast. I was most intrigued by moco, a local favorite involving rice, a beef patty, eggs, and brown gravy. I, however, wanted the “feral moco,” which is rice, a beef and pork patty, grilled onions, cheddar cheese, smoked pork belly, eggs, and brown gravy. Given that this is a local favorite I couldn’t resist.

Yup it looks like a disaster. I simply can’t begin to list the things that were wrong with this dish, from the unseasoned patty, to the over-smoked belly, to the excessive overseasoned gravy. It’s the evil, un-American, Hawaiian cousin of poutine. It’s total hangover food, but we were not hungover. Still I was hungry and ate it all. Afterward we bought t-shirts from the joint, so something came out of it.

Sated, we continued southward and westward to where the road ends at the Polihale State Park and Queen’s Pond. The South Shore was warm and sunny, and the lovely weather continued through most of our drive, which gradually transitioned from paved roads, to dirt roads, to sandy trails in which even our AWD vehicle wanted to get bogged down. Looking at the cars around us we couldn’t help but wonder at the naïveté of people driving Camaros, Mustangs, and Hyundais in such conditions.


The Polihale State Park is just south of the impassable Napali Coast.

The seas raged savagely here, gales of cold air blasting at us with a misture of mist and sand, the rabid furor of Mother Nature on full display.

We lingered a while, taking in the spectacle before departing.

Next stop – the Waimea Canyon lookout. D told me he didn’t need the GPS because Kauai is a small island. After some time, I decided to ignore him and checked our location. At that point we reversed course to find our route 15 minutes behind us. We turned away from the coast and started driving up.

And up.

We passed many glorious lookouts, but continued ever upward, around serpentine cambered curves, passing from desert climate, to temperate, to rainforest. The colors of the world around us were surreal shades of green, orange, and red. The temperature dropped into the 40’s, indicating our ever increasing altitude.

At the end of the road, 5,000 feet above sea level, we found ourselves looking out over the primeival Kalalau Valley, the misty air lending a prehistoric feeling to this sheer, hallowed, place. We were enraptured. In the distance, the sea glowed an uneartlhy blue, and even from miles away we could still hear the persistent rumble.


The next lookout brought us a different view of the same valley. I liked this view for some ot the things it showed us differently, but D insisted the prior view had been better. The Guru of the Mountain sitting on the grass trying to sell pictures of double rainbows chimed in, “It’s all good. Just different perspectives of the same thing. Shaka brah!”

And with that the Guru had spoken and the issue was settled.

Descending down the mountain, we stopped periodically to take in the Waimea Canyon, with her rainbow of color, leading the opposite direction across the island

And the Waipo’o Falls. Nothing about the place seemed real.

As we stopped, people would periodically ask whether there was a point in continuing. We urged them forward to the view above, just as we continued downward.

Eventually,  still belching moco (8 hours after the “meal”) we reached the bottom and sought out dinner (delicious macadamia encrusted opah). Like many restaurants here, our only option was outdoor seating. When the air was calm the temperature was just fine, but mostly the glacial Hawaiian wind was an unwelcome guest at our table, chilling me despite a light jacket. So, after dinner we went shopping in a nearby mall. As we walked into the only store with sweatshirts, the saleswoman looked at us knowingly and asked, “you want a sweatshirt?” we fought our way through the crowd of other unprepared tourists and I made a selection.

With that, our day was done. We had to exchange our rental car, which had a problem with the key fob so that every time we entered it alarmed, and then we made our way back to the condo (a new one tonight) and settled in for the evening.

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