By Chris Millikan
Kauai’s idyllic tropical surroundings provide for a wide variety of outdoor adventures, from the mildly energetic to wildly adventurous. On a day trip from Poipu, my husband Rick and I join six fellow enthusiasts for a unique bicycle ride from the top of a famed mountain park to an ocean side village.
Our guide drives us inland to Waimea Canyon. Here, we survey legendary grandeur from a viewpoint atop a bluff. Its rusty red, grey and black lava walls drip with brilliant green vegetation. In the distance Waipo’o Falls cascades 250-meters into the serpentine Waimea River below. Lucas explains how Mount Wai’ale’ale’s excessive torrents of rain helped carved this geologic marvel, which Mark Twain dubbed Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Through drifting early morning mists, we spot snow-white tropic birds swooping effortlessly in this spectacular expanse…
Then, with helmets firmly buckled we mount sturdy bikes and begin our own swoop down to the coast. Rolling on smooth, winding pavement past groves of feathery bamboo and towering mahogany, I quickly gain confidence, easily handling sharp corners on my favourite kind of ride… DOWNHILL!
Soon, guide Lucas waves us all off the road, quipping, “This isn’t just any bike ride… it’s a nature walk on wheels!” He points out the endemic Koa trees once used to carve outrigger canoes… and now utilized to craft fine island furniture!
Steadily snaking downward, delicate wildflowers and unusual trees flaunting pink, orange and yellow blossoms catch our eye. Another roadside stop reveals plants introduced into Hawaii after Captain Cook landed. We sniff fragrant paper-bark eucalyptus leaves, chew mint plants and savour sweet, yellow pineapple guavas.
Switch-backing onward, distant views of Kauai’s western shore and Nihau Island flash by. Coasting into arid cattle country past tall grasses, lacy acacia and spiny cacti, this breathtaking 19-kilometer ride ends with a easy leisurely pedal into Kekaha.
After browsing the local general store, we grab pungent local coffees, return to the van and travel back to our beach side base. All agree that this pedal in paradise offers an exuberant experience and great perspective on the fourth largest and oldest island in the Hawaiian chain.
About the Author:
Chris Millikan is a freelance writer/photographer living near Vancouver, BC. As a former teacher and elementary school principal, Chris now presents articles as an inviting ‘curriculum’ depicting the joys of travel. Many BC community newspapers, Open Road Driver Magazine and Senior Living Magazine regularly publish her articles; In-flight Magazines, the Vancouver Sun and Province have also featured her stories. As BC Association of Travel Writers Vice President, she supports colleagues’ aspirations. And traveling off the beaten track with writer/photographer partner and hubby Rick, their published tales reflect great adventures. In 2009 they were honoured with the Kalama Award, acknowledging an array of their stories that reflected the rich culture of Maui, Molokai and Lanai.