by Betsy Herbert
September 18, 2016
I can't seem to stay put. I'd been home for several months after taking a year-long trip around the world. I'd been working on a book about my travels . . .but I needed a break. My brother and his wife live in Kauai and they have a guest room. See where I'm going with this?
Just so happens that the IUCN World Conservation Congress was meeting in Honolulu the first week of September 2016. Some of my environmental heroes would be speaking...people like E.O. Wilson, Jane Goodall, Kathryn Sullivan, and Sylvia Earle.
That clinched it. After chatting with my brother Charlie, I booked a flight directly from San Jose to Lihue, Kauai, arriving on August 25. Great flight on Alaska Airlines. It was a small jet with quite a few empty seats. I had a whole row to myself, so I sprawled out.
I drove a rental car from Lihue to Kilauea, where my brother lives, on Kauai's north coast. Traffic was heavy at first, making me wonder if Kauai was really the island getaway I remembered. The strip malls and cars gradually thinned out as we got closer to Kilauea. Then all of a sudden, I looked up to see what looks like a primeval Jurassic Park movie set... steep, jungly emerald cliffs plunging straight down to the sea. Now we're talking. (Oh, and by the way, Kauai was the set of the Jurassic Park sequel).
It was great to pull up to Charlie & Vi's place, at the end of the road on a ridge top overlooking vast mountains and canyons that are populated more heavily with feral pigs than people. I recalled my last visit here when I hiked with Charlie down to the bottom of the canyon below their house.
The way down was very steep and there was no pathway. On the way back up we clung to vines and branches to help pull ourselves up. I was freaking out about running into feral pigs. Charlie wasn't. He seemed to have developed a sort of competitive relationship with the feral pigs and he was determined to outsmart them. He had fenced the entire edge of the property to keep them from invading his gorgeous garden, which he had planted and nurtured into a five acre tropical paradise. Just like in California, feral pigs can destroy a whole yard in one night with their rooting and scavenging.
Now, as I pulled into the long, winding red rock driveway, I was astounded by how enormous and lush the garden had become in five years. After all, this is the jungle and things grow at a breakneck speed.
It was extremely hot and humid. Charlie and his wife Vi told me it had been the north shore's rainiest summer on record. Just a few miles from their house as the crow flies is the wettest place on earth, with some 451 inches of rain last year.
It rained a lot while I visited, but the rain came and went. One afternoon, Vi and I managed to go zip-lining over Princeville Ranch without getting rained on. Charlie, Vi and I also took a catamaran cruise up the wild Napali coast one day. This west coast of Kauai is not accessible by car. You can drive to the state parks which overlook the coast, but the only way to access the coast is to sail or hike. With all the recent rain, hiking was not a good idea. The steep, slippery red clay trails are especially treacherous after rain.
Charlie and Vi's house is big, beautiful and sprawling, with dark polished wood floors, a huge kitchen and a lovely screened lanai that overlooks the garden. While feral pigs dominated my thoughts the last time I had visited, they weren't now much of an issue, because of my brother's successful fencing efforts. Now, there were three other critters that could not be ignored: mosquitoes, chickens, and centipedes.
I got eaten by mosquitoes the morning I walked with my brother down the driveway to pick up the newspaper. I wore sandals and shorts and I hadn't thought to apply insect repellent. I itched for days afterward. I didn't want to use the Deet heavy insect repellent that they had, so I went to the local pharmacy and bought an herbal, locally made variety that reeked of Neem oil. It worked! My brother told me he was no longer bothered by mosquitoes, though he never wore insect repellent. Go figure.
What did bother him and Vi on the other hand, were the 4 inch long centipedes that found their way into the house, and in some cases, into beds and clothing. I was constantly on my guard. They had been bitten before, and I couldn't stand the thought...
My brother assured me that all of the wild chickens foraging around the house were doing a great job of keeping the centipede populations in check.
But the morning I left, there was a big centipede in the hallway. I called Charlie and he showed up with a pair of scissors. After he swatted the unfortunate creature, he cut it in half with the scissors and flushed it down the toilet.
Bidding goodbye to Charlie and Vi, I drove back to the Kauai airport to catch my flight home. The Enterprise Car Rental office wasn't open yet and, much to my chagrin, they had no key-drop. My choice was to leave the car in the lot with the key under the mat or drive to the airport, a few miles away, in hopes that I could leave it there. When I got to the airport, I realized there was no place to leave the car, except in the parking lot, again, with the key under the mat. I couldn't bring myself to do this, so I went inside and changed my flight to the next later departure back to Oahu. It cost me only $25.00.
Then I headed back to the car rental office and waited until the office staff showed up at 9:30 a..m. They took me back to the airport in their shuttle. Last time I'll ever rent from Enterprise!!
Once in Oahu, I took a hotel shuttle to my hotel in Waikiki, which I had booked to attend the 2016 IUCN Worldwide Conservation Conference that week. Read about that conference here.