Swooping Mt. Wai'ale'ale

Trip Start Feb 28, 2008
Trip End Mar 16, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Hawaii
Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Today we got up around 5:30 AM to make our flight time with the powered hang-gliders "Trikes." The pilots were late getting started and they suggested we go into the Olokele Canyon because conditions were perfect for it and they seldom have the opportunity to go into this canyon. At first we were not sure we wanted to do this because we had specifically asked to go through the Waimea Canyon and over to the Napali Coast. The owner/pilot, Jerry, seemed a little irritated with us a first, but I think that's just his normal personality. He's kind of abrupt in a non-stop sort of way. I know that sounds like a contradiction, but it isn't really. He speaks in phrases, never seeming to finish a sentence before moving on to another topic without taking a breath. So, it's sort of constant run on phrases, instead of run on sentences. This makes it hard to have a discussion with him, because he doesn't fully explain what he's talking about before he moves onto another topic. He never gives you a chance to ask him to explain what he was talking about in the prior topic. Anyway, Dave and I decided we would go where they suggested because it was an area we would never have time to see otherwise because it would take days to hike into it and some of it was privately owned by the Robinson Family (owners of the private island of Ni'ihau and a huge portion of Kauai.)

The trike takes off really fast. You don't have t o go very far before the pilot pushes out and up on a bar attached to the wings of the hang-glider and up the trike goes. What a rush! It's like sitting in a plastic rickshaw and looking down thousands of feet. It's hard to explain just how exposed you feel in one of these. The only thing holding you in the seat is this seat belt that goes over each shoulder and clips into a belt that goes across your waist. It's very secure, but your arms and legs can flap around and hang out of the trike because there is no enclosure at all. It's relatively quiet compared to a small plane or helicopter. They give you an insulated flight suit and gloves to wear and a helmet with headphones for two-way communications. So, you can ask questions and chat with the pilot while you're gliding/flying. They also mount a video camera on the wing of the trike so the whole trip is recorded on video. They give you a DVD at the end of the trip. Unfortunately, there is no DVD player at the cottage and my computer doesn't have a DVD player. It's old. So, we can't watch it until we get back. I'm bummed about that.

You don't get cold, but if you've ever been to one of those IMAX films with the super high speed film and experienced some motion sickness, then be prepared with some Dramamine because you will probably experience it. The land goes by so fast at times that I experienced a little queasiness now and then.
This was one of the best experiences I've ever had! Huge waterfalls, enormous cliffs, swooping up and over the largest peak on Kauai, Mt. Wai'ale'ale and into the crater, thousands of feet down. Talk about exhilarating! We spiraled down from the top, getting video the whole time.

At one point Jim, my pilot, and I were discussing the valley and I asked him if there were goats in this part of Kauai. I knew that some of the erosion problems in some of the canyons were caused by the goats creating wallows, but I hadn't seen any goats so far. Jim, took me to a cliff wall that had a ledge that looked like a bisected tunnel in the center of the cliff that ran the full width of the cliff, maybe a few hundred feet long, five feet high and 18 inches wide. There must have been about 50 goats on this ledge no wider than the width of a goat. We flew right at them and then swooped up, causing them too scatter, goats attempting to climb over the top of each other since they couldn't get around. It was quite a sight to see. The ledge was really something to see. I hope it shows up in the video.

We also flew into the Waimea canyon, right over the Kukui trail that we hiked. Such a beautiful canyon.
Jim didn't really fly with Jerry much so I seldom saw Dave except as a tiny speck far off in the distance. The author that wrote our travel guide flies is a Trike enthusiast and he was excited to have the opportunity to join us in this flight. I guess in the 30 years that Jim has been hang-gliding he has only been in the Olokele Canyon three times. Usually the weather makes it too rough or cloudy to go into it. So, he was very excited too ge the chance. We s ae this road right along a cliff edge that went into this canyon that apparently the Robinson family made to reach a tunnel that is used to get water from one side of the island to the other. The tunnel goes right through a mountain. Jim had never seen the road before. Jerry had only been in this canyon seven times and he was the one that explained why the road was there.

The last part ofo the trip was over the shore near Hanapepe. We were looking for whales, but didn't find any. We did see a number of turtles though. There were tour boats taking people snorkeling in that area a nd we buzzed the boats. The tourists excitedly waved to us. The trip ended all too quickly, but they already had people waiting their turn.

We were done by 9:30 AM and we still had all day. We went up to Grinds in Hanapepe for breakfast. This is a great place to eat breakfast. They have fresh baked bread and pastries and I ordered a potato has topped with scrambled eggs. Boy, do they give you a lot. I couldn't possibly finish what they gave me. It was really good too.
While we were at Grinds, I called up the National Botanical Gardens in Lawai to find out if they have any self-guided tours. They did have one at the McBride's Garden for $20. They have three large gardens there and they are far enough away from the visitors centers that you have to take a shuttle to get to any of them. The shuttle to McBride's runs on the hour so if you miss a shuttle, you have to wait an hour for the next one to come by. The gardens are really beautiful, full of native plants and endangered exotic tropical plants from around the world. It's not full of bright and colorful flowers, though I did find a few orchids in bloom and a few varieties of heliconias. We did see a number of unusual plants that I've never seen before such as a chocolate plant, with ripe chocolate pods and this palm tree with the strangest looking nuts about the size of a softball and hard as rock. It has all these hexagon sections with really hard points that look something like the ball on the end of a medieval weapon, the name of which escapes me right now. Of course Dave sneaked out one of each of these. Dave poor blistered feet were still hurting him so we haeded back to the cottage early so he could soak his feet.

My biggest disappointment was that I couldn't bring any cameras with me on the flight. They don't allow anything that can come loose. I bought the new video camera specifically for this flight, hoping to upload some of the flight to my travelogue. Also, I have to wait until I get home before I'll be able to do that.
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