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Thursday, November 6, 2014

The "Flying High Above Kauai: Part I" Story

Collage taken from the advertisement of
Sunshine Helicopter. 
It was an ordinary day.  Carol and I are on the final leg of our helicopter ride flying high across the vast expanse known as Kauai.  We have toured most of the island by car during our two vacations to this beautifully green island, but since 80% of the island is inaccessible by foot or driving, we decided it was time to see the splendor of Kauai by the aerial route.  We made reservations a few days ago with Sunshine Helicopters for a 1:00 PM flight.  Decided we wanted the front seats in the copter so we paid the extra.  Got to the reservation desk about an hour early and shortly after were driven to the heliport at Lihue Airport.  
Carol moving into position in the front seat of the copter.
 Sat in our assigned seats near the tarmac until we were called to walk towards the copter.  Carol and I were placed in the helicopter last with her entering first and siting next to the pilot and me last sitting in the side seat.  We were fastened in place and fitted with a headset.  The huge expanse in front of us guaranteed a great view.  Below me was a big bubble window which allowed me to see straight down.  This was our second helicopter tour of the Hawaiian islands so we knew what to expect during the tour.  
Off on our tour of Kauai.  Our pilot is on the right.
 After an introduction by the young pilot, we lifted off the tarmac and headed across the Lihue Airport terminal heading toward the south, then northwest toward the Manawaiopuna Jurassic Falls.  From the air, the huge falls, which look so overpowering from ground level, seem so small in size.  This is the area of the island where the films Jurassic Park I, II, and III were filmed years ago. 
The Manawaiopuna Jurassic Falls.
Other movies filmed in Kauai were "The Descendants, Pirates of the Caribbean, King Kong, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Six Days Seven Nights and South Pacific.  As we lower down to get a better view of the falls we can see other helicopters keeping pace with us.   We head toward the top of the falls and after reaching the peak immediately head over the cliffs and drop back down again on the other side of the mountains.  Thrilling feeling to have all this directly in front of us.  Shortly we are within the Waialeale Crater and all the lush valleys and waterfalls that surround it.  Next destination is Waimea Canyon.  This canyon is "Flyignicknamed the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific" and it easy to see why.  
The Waimea Canyon.
 The massive canyon provides stunning views of Kauai's biggest attractions.  The lush valleys and tropical canopies open in front of us; all in technicolor.  On some of the highest plains we can see wild goats eating and then scurrying for cover as they hear the copter approaching.  
The Napali Coast.
 Next we approach the Magestic Napali Coast.  The mountains which feature brilliant colors and deep indentations are unbelievable.  The peaks of the mountains soar 3,000 feet above the turquoise sea below them and we are witnessing every wave crashing onto the shore and every shadow as it changes with the helicopters' positioning.  There aren't many times in my life that I can't put my camera in front of my face to snap a photo, but this is one of them.  Can't imagine what the Hawaiians who inhabited this land years ago must have felt as they approached the shore in their canoes.  The beautiful white sand beaches are all uninhabited as we pass from one to another.  The copter pilot is flying us into some of the most remote areas on earth as we fly close to the mountain walls then soar to the top to see the next gorgeous mountain.  At the north end of Napali Coast we reach Haena Beach Park which marks the end point of the Kuhio Highway.  This park provides access to beaches, trails and several ancient Hawaiian sites, including sea caves estimated to be more than 4,000 years old.  No problem for us as we have just seen many of these sights.  Hanalei Bay comes into sight where we get to see the large fields of taro and other Hawaiian crops as they pass by, all in perfect triangles of space. 
Mount Waialeale, the wettest spot on earth. 
 Finally, one of my favorite sites, Mount Waialeale which is considered the wettest spot on earth.  Our pilot said that over 450 inches of rain falls on the mountain top every year.  Two years ago a spot in India topped that, but last year Waialeale yielded over 600 inches and took the title back once again.  You can't see the top of the mountain as we approach due to the clouds.  We fly well below the clouds then the pilot soars up the side of the mountain directly towards the clouds.  Wow, better than most amusement rides and it is all happening right in front of me.  We never saw the top of the mountain because of rain and cloud cover, but it was still thrilling.  We headed around to the other side for one last photo of Waialeale then back to the airport.  Fascinating one hour of my life had just ended and I just loved it.  Did get some good photos, but my camera was in my lap for quite a bit of the trip.  I have added some of my favorite photos throughout the story so you can experience what I did, but unless you take the trip yourself, you will never have the thrill of flying high above Kauai. Tomorrow I will post 20 or so more photos to give you an idea how the island of Kauai appears from the sky.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

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