Thursday, October 27, 2011

Shave Ice And All That's Nice

Kaua'i is an island that boasts several taste highlights that are a must for any visitor. You must try Hanalei poi, you must nibble a Pukka Dog and you must sample shave ice.  Now JoJo's is the place that will usually top shave ice lists or maybe Halo Halo but I didn't get a chance to go to either. Instead, I was advised to visit  Uncle's Shave Ice, a new treat shop in Koloa.  Shave ice might look like typical sno cone fodder but it's not. Good shave ice is literally shaved into a fluffy, snow like texture, it shouldn't be crunchy.  I tried an ice that was covered with my favorite lillikoi (passion fruit) fl as well as guava syrups. It literally melted on my tongue. The popular Hawaiian style is to fill the bottom of the ice cup with rich, macadamia nut ice cream but I nixed that. I figured I'd be overwhelmed by all the strong flavors. As it was, it took me hours to finish the heady fruity flavors of my shave ice. Yes, it melted but it was still tasty!  What was your last memorable travel taste experience?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Kaua'i Mountain Tubing

Kaua'i is a topographically diverse island filled with gorgeous canyons, lovely beaches and sweeping mountains. You have to experience all of these aspects to really get the complete picture of Kaua'i and one of the most adventurous options is to go mountain tubing. I love mountains and I love being in the water so mountain tubing sounded like a fun, if slightly scary excursion to try. I glimpsed the mountains looming over every place I visited on the island and I figured mountain tubing would be a much easier way to see them up close than hiking them. Kauai Backcountry features the only mountain tubing experience  on the gorgeous grounds of the former Lihue Plantation.  I not only gained upfront views of Kaua'i's  majestic mountains, I witnessed the expertise of the complex irrigation system of tunnels and flumes hand dug over a century ago. That's what I call an adventure.

The tour starts with the tour guide outfitting passengers in headlamps, gloves and tubes. Believe it or not, the trickiest part of the adventure was learning how to feel for the headlamp switch with thick gloves on. You need the lamp in the dark tunnels and I did not want to be floating around in pitch black caverns so I spent extra time perfecting my light switching technique.  I also brought my own water shoes which turned out to be a good idea because the area is one of the wettest places in the world and it gets really muddy.  Our group jumped into a four-wheel drive jeep and headed through the lush lands to the mountains.  The vistas and valleys are spectacular, as you can see from the image above. You really get a sense of connecting with nature.  One connection I didn't count on was how frigid the water would be.  My booty felt like a Popsicle as I hopped into a ditch on top of the tube and  floated until we came to a cave. We were instructed to turn our headlamps on and it was eerie and exciting floating through the dark with glimpses of cave walls and markings left by workers who built the system in 1870, which offered a great historical backdrop. Afterwards, a simple picnic lunch is served in a picturesque valley. It's a three-hour tour that really supplies an engaging view of Kaua'i nature and history.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Hula Kupe'e

In Kaua'i hula, like all aspects of traditional Hawaiian culture, is taken very seriously.  It's not about pretty costumes and elegant moves but about the meaning and purpose behind them. The colors, patterns and style of a dancer's adornments all reflect an aspect of their background and training. For instance, if a dancer is honoring Kane who is symbolized by fresh water, they may wear colors and patterns that imitate water. During the Prince Kuhio Celebration, I was honored to learn how to make kupe'e, which are traditional wrist and ankle adornments that draw attention to graceful hand and feet movements.

The process begins with asking permission from the god of hula before picking the plants. Depending on the hula, there are proper plants that should accompany the song. An array of plants were spread out on a table during the kupe'e workshop. Some plants offer wonderful aromas and some supply sounds. I selected the ones that were easiest to weave into the raffia wristband.

It looks easy but it took me awhile to get the plants to lay in the right direction and provide enough visual interest. Dancers of Hula Kahiko or ancient hula, place a lot of emphasis on kupe'e because their movements are usually more structured, using stiff hands whereas  modern hula or Hula Auana, emphasizes graceful hands.

My finished kape'e made me want to bust a few hula moves but that's a whole other post.