The Jeep was all ours for one day to explore the beautiful isle of Lanai. We were somewhat perturbed by the fact that it had been torrentially raining all night, probably rendering many of the red dirt tracks unpassable. This also meant that there was a possibility that we wouldn't make it to The Garden of The Gods. This place had been on our radar for years and was the main reason that we were visiting Lanai. Additionally, if our jeep were to sink, we could be washed into a gulch, never to be seen again. If that didn't happen, we may just have to pay $250.00 to be hauled out by the only tow truck on the island.
Jeanne, who had rented the jeep to us, tried to cheer us up. She told us there was still hope. Although the island was small, it could be raining in one area, yet sunny a couple of miles down the road.
We decided to heed her advice and head for the beach first, the dry and sunny side of the island. She was quite right - when we arrived at Hulopoe Beach, the sun was shining and the sky was blue apart from a few fluffy clouds on the horizon. I took a dip, but the waves were pretty big and apart from myself, it was mainly surfers out there. I'd heard the snorkelling was good here, but it seemed a little rough. We climbed up some volcanic cliffs on the east side of the bay and surveyed the waves crashing against the cliffs. Looking down, we could see fish swimming in the rock pools. The vibrant ochre earth against the turquoise ocean made a stunning contrast.
Our next destination was Shipwreck Bay. The road down to the beach was a twister, offering incredible views. We could see the vastness of the ocean and see the ship 'Liberty' which was stranded on the coral reef far below us. At ground level, we drove along a bumpy track, but were unable to locate Shipwreck Bay. There is not much tourist infrastructure on the island and signposts were rare, especially on the unpaved roads. It was lonely and remote and clearly not many people ventured out this way. When we came across a rather sinister looking and dilapidated shack, we decided to turn back. At least the views on the way down had made the trip worthwhile. And so to The Garden of the Gods.......hopefully!
We followed another track through what we thought had been pineapple plantations back in the day. We finally came across a sign which was so small that I had to jump out of the jeep to read it. Yay! We were on the right track! Better still, everything looked dry, so our chances of making it were good.
The Garden of the Gods lived up to expectations. An array of rocks and boulders scattered against the landscape of red and orange hues. The warm wind was excessively strong. I felt as if I had landed on a distant planet. There was nobody there but us. It was exactly the kind of landscape that I love and I could have stayed for hours immersing myself in the sublime surroundings. Unfortunately, we had to hit the road - we had some cats to visit!
Lanai Cat Sanctuary is a very special place. The sanctuary is home to around five hundred feral cats from all over the island. The cats are cared for lovingly by the staff. Not only are the cat in a secure, safe and happy environment, but the native birds are protected.
When we arrived, several of the tamer cats greeted us, clearly enjoying the strokes and affection received from visitors. The open air sanctuary is full of wooden structures including a kitten-garten, a cat-fur-teria (where meals are served), a cat spa and accommodation ranging from small cottages to apartments for the furry residents. There are a selection of toys for the cats to play with and a playground, complete with barrels for them to run through. I had never seen so many cats lounging, romping and playing.
Ariel, the friendly guy who worked there, enthusiastically gave us a tour, explaining that visitors often found it difficult to leave this cat heaven. Some of the cats are available for adoption, but it is difficult to imagine them being happier anywhere else!
We rounded the day off with pizza at 'Pele's Other Garden' in town. Lanai is the least visited of the Hawaiian Islands and it made a refreshing change of pace after the buzz of Waikiki. This lovely island, with its friendly locals and fabulous scenery is without doubt, worth going off the beaten track to experience.
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