And so we meet again, Tiny Airplane.
(Click here to start the soundtrack for this post. Trust me. It’ll improve the photo viewing experience 100%)
It’s been a whole year since I’ve flown in a small aircraft. If you’ve read the story of my Kenyan aviation incident, you’d understand why I’ve been a bit reluctant to climb back onboard in the past 12 months.
The passage of time has emboldened me I guess, because my nerves were surprisingly calm as I checked in at Wings Over Kauai in Lihue.
It helped that at the very last minute, they were able to accommodate my brother, a big old Patrick Swayze-looking scaredy cat. Immediately, any trepidation I felt dried up as I took on the role of tough big sister.
I couldn’t be afraid when I had someone “smaller” to be brave for.
Alex was just supposed to drop me at the airport for my flight, but when Wings Over Kauai offered up an empty seat, we (!?) eagerly accepted their offer.
Actually, he first attempted to escape, making a beeline for our rented Jeep Compass, but when I told him about all the things I’ve done over the past two years that I didn’t necessarily want to do, but I did for the experience, he agreed to come along.
Once aboard, Captain Josh shared all the details of the G8 AirVan and we popped our individual headsets on. Alex remarked that his truck back home may actually be bigger than the plane, but what does that have to do with anything?
Can a Dodge Ram 1500 fly you over Waimea Canyon, beautiful waterfalls and the Na Pali Coast? Nope.
Everyone has access to a window and a headset, so we were able to chat with Captain Josh throughout the flight. He told us just about everything there is to know about Kauai – from the Alaka’i Swamp to the Na Pali Coast to Puff the Magic Dragon. (Haven’t been able to get that song out of my head since!)
After a very smooth takeoff, Alex relaxed. Neither of us stopped smiling during the entire 65-minute flight.
You know I’m a sucker for movie locations and movie scores, so when we soared over the waterfall from the first Jurassic Park film while the iconic score played in our headsets – I was two seconds from real, emotional tears.
I don’t know why a film about treacherous velociraptors and ever-so-smug Jeff Goldblum could move me so, but somehow the nostalgia of it all coupled with the wonder of being a few thousand feet over some of the world’s most beautiful scenery just makes me a little sappy. (I get the same way every time I visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando. Something about that John Williams…)
Having already taken a spectacular helicopter ride during my first visit to Kauai in 2004, I wondered if my Wings Over Kauai tour of the island would be old hat. I’m happy, and a little relieved, to say it was just as breathtaking and awe-inspiring as the first time, if not more so considering how much I’ve grown to adore this place.
Did you know that Mt. Wai’ale’ale, in the center of the island, happens to be the wettest spot on earth with more than 444 inches of rain every year? As you can imagine, the 5,000-ft.+ peak is almost always covered in weeping clouds… except for a couple of days a year when the wind blows just the right way and those clouds evaporate.
We had just one of those one-in-a-million days.
And even though I’d already been to the Na Pali Coast the week before with Kauai Sea Tours, there’s nothing quite like seeing it the way the birds do.
Everything about the experience was as picture perfect as you could hope for: smooth takeoff, one-in-a-million weather, gorgeous scenery, movie scores playing in the headphones, a knowledgeable, helpful, conveniently handsome pilot, Chimes ginger candy – that’s a lot of my favorite stuff all wrapped up into one brilliant adventure.
And what did scaredy cat little brother say when we safely landed back at Lihue?
“That was one of the best things I’ve ever done! Amazing!”
Isn’t that always how it works?
Thanks to the Kauai Visitors Bureau and Ellen & Bruce at Wings Over Kauai for the fabulous flight. All opinions and happy tears are authentically mine.