Monday, July 15, 2019

Kauai Day #2: Shave Ice, Sugarcane Ditches, and Strangers Dispensing Good Advice about Rum

One of the best and most important things about Kauai, in my opinion, is its huge population of feral chickens everywhere.

Really, can you think of anything that the kids and I would like better in a travel destination than feral chickens?!?

Well, we were pretty enamored of the feral horses on Assateague, and Syd was obsessed with (although desperately sad about) all the feral cats in Greece, but still. Chickens.


Now, when I say that there are feral chickens everywhere on Kauai, I don't think that you understand what I mean. You think that I saw a few chickens, don't you? Maybe a chicken scratching around the dumpster at the back end of a parking lot? Or a small flock of chickens pecking around under a tree in the park?

There were chickens in those places, for sure, but also chickens outside the airport. A hen and her chicks in the bushes by the rental car parking lot. Chickens in every yard we passed. Chickens on the side of every road. Chickens outside of every business. Chickens near all outdoor seating. Chickens in the shade of the trees near every beach. Chickens at the top of Waimea Canyon. Chickens along a dirt road two miles into a private former sugar plantation.

Every time we drove anywhere, we played a game called "Chicken." The game consisted of people looking out the windows as we drove, and calling out "Chicken!" for every chicken that we saw.

The kids befriended a couple of chickens, but mostly the chickens were contentedly wild, neither frightened of nor particularly interested in people, although they'd certainly take whatever food you were able to sneakily toss them while sitting directly underneath the sign that read "DO NOT FEED THE CHICKENS."

On our first morning in Kauai, the kids and I explored the grounds of the resort. Okay, primarily we were stalking the chickens:

This mother hen and her six babies browsed on the lawn behind our condo every morning. She was usually plagued at some point by this one horrible little Red Jungle Fowl-looking rooster that wanted to chase her but didn't quite know what to do with her when he got her, so he'd do things like hauling her around with one of her wings in his beak while she hollered and flailed. It was ridiculous and the girls and I hated him.

I took to drinking my coffee on the balcony every morning, looking out at the ocean, sure, but also watching for my hen and chicks to come by. As soon as I saw them I'd count the chicks to make sure there were still six, but when I mentioned that to Will she was horrified and said, "Mom! You cannot count the chicks!" Because, you know, if you count them then you know how many there should be, and if there aren't that many one morning, well...

Every morning, there were always six chicks!

Our resort met the edge of the ocean in cliffs, which made for good views of the water. Incidentally, earlier that morning I'd been on another walk with Syd but let her explore on while I stopped to chat with the grandparents. I'd expected her to come back to me but when she never did, I eventually excused myself and went to look for her. And didn't find her. I walked the entire resort twice, looking in all the lovely, hidden spots, until I was forced to narrow down Syd's location to two possibilities:

1) She'd been abducted, and was at that moment tied up inside a white, paneled van headed who knows where.
2) She'd fallen off of the cliff and her dead, broken body was at that moment being lapped at by the tide against the rocks below.

Syd was also the one who had our room key, so when I finally gave up and went back I had to pound on the door and hope that everyone else was up. Fortunately, Matt was puttering in the condo's kitchen and Will answered the door after just a few seconds. I brushed past her and shouted, "Have you seen Syd?"

Will said no. Matt said he thought that she was with me. I told him that I'd lost her and then started to sob. And then Syd's voice came from the kids' loft upstairs, "I'm up here!"

Oh, my gosh, you guys. Syd is not usually my kid who's thoughtless and inconsiderate, but this teenager business has stolen several of her brain cells. Apparently what happened is that she'd explored for a bit, as I'd thought, and then gotten bored, as I'd thought, but instead of coming back and getting me, as I'd expected, she'd decided to simply go back to the condo, quietly let herself in, and go snuggle back up in bed and listen to audiobooks. She could not explain why on earth it hadn't occurred to her to tell me where she'd gone--because when has that ever NOT BEEN THE RULE?!?--nor how on earth she thought I'd simply know where she'd gone, nor how she thought I'd get back in without the key card, nor why she didn't tell any of the other residents of the condo that she'd come back, much less alone.

I kid you not that I had to lie down with a cold, wet washcloth on my forehead, I was that distraught. I have never been more certain that one of my kids was dead, nor have I more deeply desired to actually make them that way when I found out that they weren't.

Oh, here's a picture of one of the cliffs that I thought that my child had fallen from. Isn't it pretty?

And here is Hawaii's state bird, the ne-ne, hanging out at the edge of one of the cliffs, perfectly situated for a distracted child to attempt to sneakily approach and be so focused on her goal that she slips and falls off of the cliff:

I don't even know why, but after all this I still took her to the freaking pool:

Our big plan for the day was a trip that the grandparents booked for all of us to inner tube down the irrigation ditches through a former sugarcane plantation, but on the way we had a little beach time and then the event that the children have been looking for the most:

Welcome to this vacation's first shave ice!

Shave ice is the kids' FAVORITE thing and so we bought it every day--once we bought it twice, ahem. A weeks' worth of shave ice turns out to be approximately the same amount of money as a months' worth of groceries in Indiana, so July back home is basically made out of Pizza Rolls and cheese sandwiches, but it was worth it because the shave ice was delicious:

And as big as my head, right?!? Delicious!

Thoroughly amped up on sugar, we suited up in hard hats with headlamps and headed out for inner tubing down former sugarcane irrigation ditches.

The history of sugarcane farming on Hawaii is so interesting, politically fraught, and of very dubious ethics. At one point in the 1800s, the vast majority of privately-held land on the Hawaiian islands was owned by sugar cane plantations, and the price of sugar, and Hawaii's vulnerability to tariffs, is one of the main reasons why the United States forcibly annexed it soon afterwards. There's also a lot of weird and ugly wheeling and dealing that was done by the descendants of former missionaries, who'd also done plenty of wheeling and dealing themselves.

The only really "good" thing that this particular sugar industry had going for it is that unlike the way it was done in other parts of the world, it didn't rely on the labor of enslaved or indentured people. Instead, the plantation owners recruited immigrants from Asia and just treated them terribly and paid them a pittance. Like, it was so bad that one of of the rival sugarcane plantations could make a name for itself by, you know, NOT treating its workers horribly.

Another thing about sugarcane is that it takes a ton of water to grow it--just about literally, because that's how much water it took to get a pound of finished sugar. Of COURSE plantation owners diverted water from other sources and had their workers dig--by hand, with pickaxes--ditches and tunnels to irrigate the sugarcane.

And that's what we rode down in inner tubes!

These are the gates where the tubing company can physically control the amount of water funneled into the ditches. The guides told us that the water ends up in the community's water supply.
Even Syd, our pickiest traveler by far, LOVED this activity:

Will affects a demeanor of nonchalance (remember our adventure outside CN Tower last year?), but she absolutely adored it, too:

As I bet you could have guessed, there are a LOT of invasive plants in Hawaii, including these bamboo groves.

Here's what much of the irrigation ditches look like. I missed getting photos of the false-step fern, called that because it lures mountain hikers to their deaths. In some places we could see it growing out in a tangled mat several whole feet out from the edge of a cliff above us; the idea is that you're walking on this mat of ferns on top of the ground, and then the ground is gone but you don't know it because you're still walking on top of a mat of ferns... until they give way and you fall to your death.

Sometimes the ditches turn into tunnels, some of them quite long, all of them also hand-cut by workers not paid enough money. You can still see the marks of individual pick-axes:

Most of the ditch is a gentle incline, giving your ride the feel of a lazy river. But there are some spots for adventure!

The guide told us about the photographer so that people could smile at her. Some of us forgot, though...

It was SO FUN.

On the way back, the tour company took us to a beautiful picnic spot, still on the plantation property, still miles away from the nearest town. You know what we saw?

Several chickens. And a cat, to whom Syd gave all the meat in her sandwich, just like she did in Greece.

It was late afternoon by the time we got back to town, and so before we drove back up the coast to our reservation we stopped at Costco to buy enough groceries to feed six people for the rest of the week. And, you know, enough mai tai mix for four people. And the dark rum to put on top of it.

So we've got a giant bottle of mai tai mix in the cart, and a giant bottle of dark rum, and we're cruising around the bakery area contemplating buying a massive amount of giant muffins (we totally ended up buying them, obviously), when a random woman also cruising around the bakery stopped to compliment our taste in alcohol. I mean, I know, right? But THEN she said that instead of putting dark rum on top of her mai tai, which is what you're supposed to do and why we had a giant bottle of dark rum in our cart, she uses coconut rum, because it's delicious and makes the whole cocktail taste more tropical.

So of course we went back to the alcohol section and put back the dark rum and got coconut rum instead. And coconut rum is now my new favorite alcohol.

P.S. Want to see more photos of the adventures we take and the weird stuff we do? Follow Craft Knife on Facebook! There are also a bunch of photos of our chickens and cats there, so, you know, there's that...

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