Despite some misconceptions, this was not our first trip to Kauai. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..ok its 2012 and we decided to go to Kauai for a two day trip from the Big Island. The plan was to hang out in Kauai on day one as a family. On the second day, DW flew to Honolulu to visit Pearl Harbor with my older daughter while I explored Kauai with my younger daughter and my buddy Alex. (My little guy was not yet born). We were scheduled to meet up at HNL for our flight back to the Big Island on the evening of day two. For the first time ever, I rented a Jeep Wrangler on both the Big Island and on Kauai.
Originally I intended to hang out with Alex in Kauai but he immediately took off for a last minute solo hike of the Kalalau trail. Therefore, on day two I decided to drive with my younger daughter to Polihale Beach and explore the surrounding area. Not expecting to hear back from Alex until later that day, I was quite surprised when he called and said wanna go hang out at Polihale? I said - ok-but aren't you supposed to be hiking Kalalau???
Part 1 - Alex's Kalalau Experience (As written by Alex with my comments in bold)
The first 2 miles feel like 10. Yes, you are really are that tired after just the first 2. And then it gets worse. Much worse. There is no safety net... Certain areas are doubly slippery, and... if you slip, you fall 1000 feet off the mountain. It's an amazing hike... though not sure I'm ever doing it again.
On mile 7-9 somewhereish (is that a real word
), met a fellow hiker (the description of this individual as a "hiker" should be loosely interpreted
), who, after a short conversation, offered me a puff out of a glass pipe... after he hook a whiff out of it. Not sure what that was (crack? meth?), (It was definitely Meth as Hawaii has a problem with that
) but... I suddenly decided not to camp outside in my hammock there at night. Then other hikers casually asked me if I had any papers to make joints... my guess, this is a great place to get away from the world and get high.
Anyways, it's getting dark, and I'm barely reaching the end. My initial plan was to spend the night there. However, after encounters with other fellow hikers, my plan was to rest for a few hours and turn back around 3am-ish time frame. Instead, when I reached the end, I decided to turn around walk back immediately (after taking a few pictures of course... in the dark though).
Surprisingly it felt safer to walk those cliffs at night, 'cause... you can't see the bottom. So you don't know how far you'd fall if you slipped. E.g. safer!
Slipped and one leg went off the cliff, and landed on knee on 2nd leg. Meh. Good thing for friction, I guess. (What you can't see can't hurt you and ignorance is bliss.
So I'm walking in total darkness (well, headlamp) in the jungle, and I hear grunting noises of something big in the bushes. Then it's louder. There are MANY big things in the bushes. I'm a bit concerned that these are bears....though there shouldn't be bears in Hawaii.... should there? (I figure Alex was hallucinating at this point. And no, there are no bears in Hawaii.
) A bit later, it turned out to be a bunch of wild hogs. And throughout the night, I ended up having a dozen or so encounters with them. You don't see them during the day, but at night, they make use of the trail... so I had to stomp and talk to myself (and them) to scare them off [they're not really afraid of humans... it turns out].
Then there were frogs. Stupid frogs who sit on the trail, and make absolutely no reaction to anything. You stomp you foot near them, and they just continue on sitting. You shine light on them, and they just sit there. You nudge them with your foot, and they just push over, right themselves, and continue on sitting there. It took great effort not to step on any of them during the night.
This walk back was torture. It was hot, long, tiring, my backpack was super heavy (I carried 3 gallons of water with me, since I forgot my water filter at home, and had to load up on water). I also stupidly carried all my "warm" clothing with me, thinking that it might be cold at night (nights on Big Island near Volcano Village get pretty chilly).
About 22 miles later, with no breaks, at 3:30-am-ish, 14 hours later (~7 hours each way), I arrived back at the car. I really think I'm the only crazy person to do that hike in one day. Ruined my feet big time, and could barely walk. Blisters on top of blisters. (He couldn't walk for days after
So anyways, on the highway after the hike, the road is *covered* in frogs (or toads, whatever). Anyways, they're literally every few feet. Thousands of them. So I try honking, and flashing my lights at them, and they don't move. So slowly, I roll the car, and... they don't move... and then I hear "squish"... "squish"... I speed up, and hear "squish, squish, squish, squish..." Yep, them stupid frogs. I really feel sorry about that... my car wasn't the first one there---there were tracks of dead frogs on the road... but it still feels wrong and weird to just drive over living things like that. Even if they are stupidly just sitting there.
And then all the roosters went off in the morning... ALL of them! Everywhere.
Part 2 - Who knew that Jeeps had a tendency to catch fire?
I met up with Alex at the road to Polihale. He jumped into my Jeep and off we went. Except for a few surfers, we had the entire beach to ourselves.Polihale Beach, Kauai, Hawaii
by P Bryan
, on Flickr
After Polihale, our intention was to visit Koke'e State Park, but that didn't happen because of this:Kauai, Hawaii
by P Bryan
, on FlickrKauai, Hawaii
by P Bryan
, on Flickr
Alex's Version of Events:
So here I am, driving on a hill in Waimea behind my friend's 4-door Jeep, when I notice a bit of yellow under his car. Then that yellow gets a bit big... and smoky. I honk and flash brights... the Jeep dies, and a minute or two later, is engulfed in flames. Luckily my friend and his kid got out of the Jeep just in time, with a few seconds to grab most of the belongings. The Jeep became an inferno, and cremated a teddy bear! Tires blew one by one, and other parts kept popping out with small explosions.
As luck would have it, a tourist bus was passing, and was able to call the police/fire department (cellphone reception in that area sucks). After about 10 minutes, the fire department arrived, and in pouring rain, doused the car with water, and then some white foam.
All the while I was running around barefoot with a camera (I couldn't wear any footwear due to blisters from the hike).
It was a miracle nobody got hurt.
So there you have it... one day, you're driving along enjoying your vacation, the next minute you're jumping out of a flaming jeep, lucky to be alive.
My Version of Events:
Driving along in Waimea and all of a sudden I am stepping on the gas pedal but the Jeep doesn't seem to be accelerating anymore. Smoke immediately begins to fill the cabin through the vents (as I had the AC on) and I see flames shooting out from the right side of the engine. My thoughts at this very moment - I can't believe this is happening to me. Stuff like this never happens to me. I then hear Alex honking his horn and screaming at me to get out. He seemed more frantic than me.
Luckily for me, I was driving uphill rather than downhill when this happened or I could have easily found myself driving off a cliff - going downhill on a curvy canyon road without power brakes would have been disastrous.
I put the Jeep into park and instinctively pull out the keys. Luckily the electrical system was still operational and the doors unlocked automatically when I pulled out the keys. I opened the rear door, grabbed my 4 year old out of the back seat, and put her into Alex's car as it was cold and rainy. I then opened the back of the Jeep and started throwing our luggage onto the highway (the fire was initially contained to the front of the Jeep). We then notice Alex's car begin to roll downhill a bit while my daughter was in it. In his frenzy, Alex left his car in neutral with the parking brake on. Alex quickly jumps in and puts his car into park.
While I'm screaming at Alex to help me with my luggage, he is busily taking pictures and video. Shortly afterwards, a tour bus pulls up and the driver jumps out with a tiny fire extinguisher and incredibly begins running toward the burning Jeep. I screamed at her to get back and thankfully she retreated and realized that her tiny little fire extinguisher would not have put out this fire.
After putting all our luggage into the trunk of Alex's car, we had nothing to do but wait. The fire department and police showed up shortly after and it took the fire department a while to put out the fire. In the end, just the shell of a Jeep remained. The police finally let us go (after telling them that we had a flight to catch) and off we went to LIH.
We arrived at the rental counter in LIH and I slapped down the keys on the counter and said - Here's your Jeep. The manager came out and had me fill out an incident report and he then left. The manager also made a comment that they had a problem with some Jeeps catching fire a few years back. The counter person then asks - So, will you be paying for this rental with the credit card we have on file? I thought to myself, I can't friggin believe this but: (i) If I don't pay for the rental then I won't get the collision coverage from my UA card (I was wrong on that count anyways) and; (ii) I just didn't feel like arguing with the lady at this point. And off we were back to the Big Island.
Since we had a Jeep waiting for us on the Big Island, DW was concerned this one would also spontaneously combust but I figured what are the odds that two Jeeps would combust on me in one trip? We decided to take advantage and drive to the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park Kahuku Unit (which can only be done with a 4WD vehicle). I deliberately took it easy going slow but, after a short time, the hot oil dashboard light turned on. Not wanting to press my luck, I turned off the Jeep and let it cool off for a bit. We then decided to turn around and head back.
After returning home, I received a call from the car rental company subrogation department asking if I had insurance to cover the Jeep. Chase refused to cover the damage to the Jeep saying it was a "mechanical issue." At this point, I felt as I'd had enough and decided to write a letter to the president of the car rental company. Two days later, I received a phone call - Mr. PBaruch - we would like to resolve this claim with you today. Shortly thereafter, the claim was resolved and my Hawaii vacation was paid for.
Since there are no coincidences in life, I benched gomel and made a nice kiddush in shul.
PS: I should note that Alex's Hawaii near death experience came later on:https://www.nps.gov/havo/learn/news/sverdlov.htm