Monday, September 16, 2013

Photo Shoot: The Ukulele Pilgrimage

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Hey Stockers (people who read Wood's Stock, in case you've forgotten) I apologize for the dearth of posts the last couple weeks but as you'll see in these photos, I've been enjoying some much-needed R&R in Hawaii. So forget you.

This was my virginal voyage to the Sandwich Islands and we selected Kauai since it's more rural and peaceful while still filled with the kind of breathtaking vistas that are often featured in swashbuckling adventure movies or anything with dinosaurs.

My goals for the trip were simple. 1) Drink from a coconut 2) Hike through the jungle 3) Sit on the beach and lose track of time and 4) Buy a new Ukulele.

Mission accomplished.

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Our first day was spent snorkeling at the beach by our hotel and checking out the shops in Old Kaloa Town, which is where we came across The Ukulele Store, which sells Kamoa Ukuleles, a brand owned and operated on Kauai.

Kamoa's line is elegant in its simplicity. They have their high-end Kauai-made Koa wood ukuleles that will cost you two month's rent, but for the average Uker they carry six sizes of solid wood ukes (Vintage, Soprano, Pineapple Soprano, Concert, Grand Concert and Tenor) available in three colors (yellow, red and brown).

They also tune most of their ukes with a low-G base string, which is gangbusters for finger-picking and fills out chords with a full, deep sound. I bought a brown pineapple with low-G, and you know that means I'll be posting a One Wood Uke video soon.

As for the snorkeling at Poipu beach, I unfortunately didn't plan ahead for waterproof camera gear. So just take my word for it when I tell you that I was literally waist deep in fish. It was bananas.

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Day two was our chartered boat tour of the Na Pali Coast, a.k.a Jurassic Park. "Na Pali," I am told, means "cliffs" and the coast is so named for the staggeringly steep topography that drops into the ocean (see header photo above). Some of Hawaii's most iconic images come from Na Pali, which is only accessible by boat or hiking trails.

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On our way around the island we ran into a (school? I'm not sure what the collective known is) of dolphins who took advantage of our catamaran to scratch their backs. This didn't make for particularly amazing photos, but when you come across dolphins in the wild you basically have to take pictures and when you take pictures of dolphins in the wild you basically have to post them on your blog.

We also stopped for some deep sea snorkeling, where we were yet again surrounded by exotic marine life, including a giant turtle that was close enough for me to touch (I didn't, I controlled myself). Again, I wish I had the equipment neccessary to capture this but alas...

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After we got back in port we took a drive up Waimea Canyon for the land-based view of the Na Pali. This is the wet side of the island and the entire time we were walking around these low-lying clouds would rush in every few minutes, mist us, then vanish. This had the repeated effect of making it nearly impossible to see five feet in front of you one second, then in the blink of an eye a 1,000-foot drop would open up in front of your eyes. It was spooky. I loved it.

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 This is the tree tunnel on Maluhia Road, which we drove through every day to get to and from our hotel on Poipu.

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On Day three we hiked a little bit into the Na Pali on the Hanakapiai beach trail at the end of the road. When we first arrived, our rental car guy told us there's two choices leaving the airport: turn left or turn right. If you turn left you eventually end up on the end of the road on Kauai's North Shore, which is literally the end of the road at Ke'e Beach, which is also great for snorkeling (pictured below).

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Hanakapiai Beach, on the other hand, is another beast entirely. After hiking two miles on a trail that skirts the cliff edges (and is lined with fresh-growing Guava, om-nom-nom) you end up at a wooden sign that basically says "If you swim here, you die" and includes a couple dozen hash marks chronicling the number of tourists the beach has claimed. I looked it up on Wikipedia and apparently the sign is not officially maintained and the number of dead is largely speculative.

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The problem is that swells on the North Shore are the biggest on the island, to the point that in the winter time the waves are so strong that the sandy beaches are completely washed away only to be re-deposited when the season subsides. I looked it up on Google and found several yelp-style reviews from parents who had nearly lost their children to unseen rip currents. We decided not to swim at that particular spot, but I did stop to contribute a cairn to the rock garden.

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From the beach its another two miles up river to the Hanakapiai waterfall. At this point it was raining fairly regularly (which I loved because I felt like Indiana Freaking Jones) but my mother was less keen to the idea of. Still, like a trooper, she made it the whole way, carefully navigating the muddy and slippery trail while clutching a pink umbrella in her hand and gathering humorous glances from the seasoned hikers that passed us on the way. Like a boss.

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The waterfall itself was a several-hundreed-foot drop that cascaded down two or three levels. I swam out underneath it but was a little scared to stay out and enjoy myself because minutes before I entered the water a shower of rather large rocks had fallen into the pool like gun fire.

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The beach at our hotel, at dusk. Everything you've heard about Hawaiian beaches? They're better.

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Some waterfall whose name I don't remember that we saw from the road.

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The Hanamaulu stream, making its way to the ocean. There's several jungle-type adventures you can have along this river, from kayak tours to zip-line exploring. When I go back I'd love to spend more time in that area.

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