Destination USA: Los Angeles, Florida, Hawaii, May 6 – June 6, 2008

Kathy and Bruce

Whew, we are just a few weeks back from our month-long overseas US trip and what a trip it was! Three destinations, 14 airplane legs, five airlines (Jet Star, United, Mesa, Delta, Continental), 23,000 air miles flown, and epic long journeys with long layovers to get to each destination, all in the name of fun and love to share a few weeks with family and friends.

And what a trip it was. Our first destination: Los Angeles. It only took us 48 hours to get there with layovers in Sydney (10 hours) and Honolulu (14 hours), and a little extra side trip to San Francisco, before connecting on the last leg to Los Angeles. Thankfully, both the Sydney-Honolulu and Honolulu-San Francisco flights were overnighters, so we were able to sleep through most of each flight and, bonus, we got to enjoy a day each in Sydney (okay, just the airport, but I absolutely love airports) and Honolulu (we managed to get a day room at a nearby hotel). So, all in all, it was an easy flight and we adjusted to the time zone change in Los Angeles quite easily.

The GirlsKathy & Joy againBruce & Laura

The actual destination in Los Angeles was Bruce’s brother Stuart’s and his wife Laura’s place in Venice, about two miles from Venice beach. Not a bad place to park ourselves for 10 days. We were there for Stuart’s 40th birthday celebration. Not that we needed an excuse to visit them as we love them dearly and always, always have a good time when there. It was perfect. The spring weather was gorgeous. We mainly sat in their lovely back yard, complete with Asian-styled fountain and gas fireplace, and talked and talked and talked and bbq’d and played board games. Stuart’s party was a lot of fun with about 40 people in attendance, many of whom we’ve known and seen over the years. We fielded a lot of questions about life in New Zealand, why we’re there, what we’re doing, how long we’re staying; and we had many interesting and thought-provoking conversations centered around the state of the world and the future: water quality, biodynamics, economics, composting, food growing, meat consumption, and American-consumerism. The latter engendered much discussion, for Bruce and I stockpiled treasures to bring back to New Zealand from some of our favorite stores and e-sellers: Ebay, Amazon, Trader Joes, Victoria Secret, Target, Walgreens, Home Depot. Books, clothes, shoes, kitchen items, tools. Items that are sometimes twice as expensive to purchase in New Zealand. Yes, you can take the American out of America but you can’t take the shopper out of the American. I’m actually kidding, because we do not spend a lot of time shopping in New Zealand, although this would not be evident to those who saw us opening all our packages in LA. We definitely don’t consume as much as when we lived in the States as we have no need for the many things we used to buy. So we have chiseled away at our indulgent shopping behaviours and the ‘shopping trip’ in the States was considered part of our annual spree.

Kathy & JoyAll of us againThe Boys

My sister Joy and her husband David flew down from San Francisco for the weekend and the six of us had a great time continuing on with the chatting, eating, drinking, and game playing. We did manage to leave the house once or twice to foray down to the beach for a few hours of people-watching and beach sitting. Thank you Joy & David for making the effort to see us.

Mom & DadMom & Dad againMom & Kathy

In the midst of the LA part of the trip, I jettisoned off to Florida for a few days to see my mom and dad and to assist with a few things surrounding gran’s passing. I got to go to grans house and go through some of her things. I feel blessed to have one of her necklaces that she wore often these last few years and I now have some of her beautiful old china dishes which I hand carried in my backpack carryon over 10,000 miles all the way back to New Zealand! Mostly though, I hung out with my mom and talked about my grandma. We sat at the pool and talked and reviewed the circumstances of grans last few weeks and cried and grieved. My mom misses her mom – who wouldn’t? And I got some quality time in with my dad too. It was a short trip but so worthwhile. I’m glad I had the opportunity to go.

Tahiti NuiPrinceville GangGaming

The next leg of our journey took us to Kauai for two weeks, a place where I used to own a vacation rental and a place that Bruce and I have been to at least a dozen times. The first week was spent on ‘honeymoon’ with our good friends and newlyweds Andrew and Kat, and five other friends, all from the Bay Area. We were a total of nine and rented a multi-unit house right in the heart of Hanalei, the Hanalei Vacation House, within walking distance to the quaint village of the same name and to the beach at Hanalei Bay.

Mike & MaryHoneymooners.jpgBlue Room

The north shore of Kauai is stunningly beautiful. An outdoor enthusiast’s slice of paradise. We had an incredibly fun week with our friends Kat, Andrew, Darek, Christina, Ken, Mary, and Mike. We were silly, we were fun, we were serious. We were familiar and easily slid into comfortable routines and conversations. We snorkeled at Ke’e Beach and Queens Bath, swam several times in the Blue Room – a sort of freshwater ‘lake’ inside a big cave which one must hike up to and in to, karaoke’d and got silly at Tahiti Nui, skinny-dipped by moonlight in Hanalei Bay, celebrated Mary’s birthday at the fancy Princeville Hotel, and put on a beautiful wedding ceremony for Drew and Kat complete with limericks and haikus, all so that they could have their alternate-reality island dream wedding. We made and drank lots of fruity rum drinks, we cooked delicious meals with amazing fresh fish from The Hanalei Dolphin Fish Market, we went to the farmers market and drank milk from coconuts. We played games, we danced, we had champagne and cake and Bubba’s burgers. We went to yoga and napped in the hot afternoons. It was great. We have traveled with this group of friends in the past and they are the best travel mates anyone could ask for. We love them dearly and both Bruce & I look forward to the next destination rendezvous!

Dan & Bruce Kalihiwai FallsAll of usKathy & Manny

The second week in Kauai was spent with one of my longest-standing friends from California, my good friend Pammy and her husband Dan, and their 5 year-old son, Manny. I met Pam in 1990, shortly after my move to California (from New York), and we became best friends and have holidayed together for many, many years. Pam & I first ‘discovered’ Kauai in 1992 and its beauty left an imprint in our hearts. We have been to Kauai on several subsequent trips but it had been some years since we had done so. We rented a very nice 3-bedroom house in Princeville named Kalika Hale. Princeville is more suburban and ‘sterile’ than Hanalei (and you have to get in the car to go anywhere), but the price was right and it is conveniently located to make trips down to the East and South shores more easy. I had a great week with them, albeit more mellow, but no less fun since having a 5 year old around keeps you on your toes, on the go, and easily entertained. We experienced a few new things: an afternoon kayak up the Kalihiwai River (less than 1 hour) which culminated in a bush/river walk upstream to get to a series of waterfalls. We met a few people on their way out and so we arrived at the waterfall alone and had an amazing private waterfall experience with Dan and Bruce bathing in its magnificence; we also managed to get to Hideaways Beach, which is near the Princeville Hotel, and in which one must navigate a very steep and harrowing half-eroded, half cement, half-wooden and dirt staircase/path to get down to the small sandy beach. The draw is the coral fingered-like reef and we got some good snorkeling in and I saw some fish which I’d not seen before. Pam & I went to yoga a few times, we puttered in Hanalei and got shave ice, we spent many hours at Hanalei Beach, boogie-boarding in the small waves and teaching Manny how to ride the board. I had so much fun with him and feel blessed to have had a week of Manny-time which was very precious to me. Thank you Pam, Dan, and Manny for making your holiday work with ours!

MonasteryHindu MonasteryIraivan Temple

Another new thing that Bruce & I did was to go to the Hindu Monastery in Kapaa and take a tour of the botanical gardens and temples. Located inland about 5 miles from Kapaa, the monastery is situated on 458 acres. The monk who founded this monastery, Guru Deva, bought the land in the 1970’s and the monks have worked the land for the last 30 years, turning it into a really spectacular property with amazing gardens and grounds complete with statues including the Hindu Gods Ganesh and Siva. They’ve been in the process of building their main temple, named Iraivan, for many years now. The stone is from Bangalore, India and is hand carved by stonemasons there; the temple pieces are shipped in containers to Kauai, and then additional Indian masons put the finishing touches on the pieces and then erect them into place. It is a marvelous piece of work and will be a spectacular place to worship once completed. There is also an existing smaller temple, Kadavul Temple, on site, no less special, and we were able to go in and do a short meditation. I totally enjoyed my visit to the monastery and came away with lots of ideas for our Wainui property.

Kathy & Judith

We also had a chance to connect with some friends on the island, folks who had worked with me when I had my vacation rental. Keith and Acacia Morrison, my former all around handyman and on-site island contact, live in Haena, not far from the old house. I had a chance to catch up on news of their extended families and on all the gossip and changes surrounding the vacation rental market up on the north shore. Things had changed and the house I had owned, along with several other houses in Haena, are no longer allowed to be vacation rentals due to some unique law about conservation land (which the house is built on) and the politics surrounding the locals vs the absentee-owners which had always been controversial in this little hamlet. I am fortunate to have been able to sell the property before the government crackdown occurred. We also saw my former housekeeper and gardener, Judith and Joey Eggert, and spent an awesome evening at their house, together with their 19 year old son, Makana, bbq’ing and talking about local food politics, world food issues, spirituality, and a host of other interesting topics. Makana works at a local taro plantation which makes poi, a pudding-like sticky paste, which is near and dear to the islanders. A tourist will typically encounter their first poi experience at a luau, and I have to say, it is often unpalatable. Makana brought home several large bags of freshly made poi of which we were treated to a small taste and both of us thought that ‘real’ poi is much, much different and much tastier! There’s been some noise about introducing GM-modified taro into Kauai (which supplies most of Hawaii’s taro & poi) all under the guise of combating the apple snail, a pest which attacks the taro plant, and Makana has been involved in fighting the Monsanto giants and has gone to Honolulu to protest. Food sovereignty is his cause and we found him to be quite an engaging, knowledgeable young man and enjoyed several hours of conversation with him and Judith and Joey.

Alas, our trip came to an end and we began the long journey home. We had to fly to Honolulu and overnight there so we could catch our early morning flight which would take us home via Sydney again. We stayed at the Pacific Marina Inn on Monday night enjoying our last mai tais. Arriving at the airport on Tuesday morning, we found out that our flight was delayed for 2 1/2 hours and so we spent four hours in the airport before enduring the 10-hour flight to Sydney. The delay caused us to miss our connecting flight to Christchurch, so Jet Star kindly put us up at the Mercure Hotel, complete with a very nice room, dinner, and breakfast. Thank you Rowan from Qantas (Jet Star affiliate) who helped us with our predicament and saw to it that we were taken care of. The next morning (now Thursday since we crossed the international date line) we caught our three hour flight to Christchurch and made it home, safe and sound, by late afternoon.

Kathy & Bruce 3

So here we are, home, in the midst of winter. We’re experiencing a bit of an emotional shift as we adjust to the season, now having to pile on several layers of clothes which is a big change from the bathing suit/sarong attire of Kauai, but we are home and we are happy. Another successful family/friend adventure is behind us, and so we move forward, till the next comes our way.

Manny ILU