Kauai: Indy style




It was winter, 2009, and my wife had just informed me that her next conference would be held in Hawaii. After the initial twinges of jealousy wore off, I didn't think much more about it; but, as the days wore on, it dawned on us that with her half of the trip paid for, the opportunity presented a perfect chance to visit the islands. Of course, my mind went back to the days of working with David West Reynolds on site write-ups, and the Kauai locations for the opening of Raiders of the Lost Ark. And, as plans started to develop, I threw out that while we were there, we would simply have to visit the Indy locales and find "Paramount Mountain."

One of the first obstacles we faced with our scenario was that my wife's conference was on Oahu, in Waikiki—which put a whole lot of water between us and Kauai. We toyed with the idea of taking a puddle jumper, but then came across a Norweigan Cruise that would take us to five stops, including an overnight stay in Kauai. We reasoned that, since it was our first time in Hawaii, and we'd never been on a cruise, that would be the best way to see and do as much as possible in the week before my wife had to go to "work" in paradise.

I have to say travel via cruise ship was a pretty neat experience. We traveled by night; so, each morning we awoke in a different port. We had stops in Hilo, Maui, and Kailua-Kona, where we enjoyed exploring the lava flows and black sand beaches, snorkeling, and lounging on the beaches, among other things. I reveled in all of the beauty of these islands, soaking it in, but in the back of my mind, I couldn’t stop thinking about "the Garden Island," and what it would be like to stand in the areas where my favorite adventure movie was filmed. Before too much longer, that day finally came!

In planning our full day on Kauai, I gleaned some information from IndyGear's forum regarding various tours offered on the island. After researching a couple, I decided that Kipu Ranch Adventures would be the one to take us to the most locales. I remember telling my wife which locations they would be taking us to, including the river jump to Jock's plane, and she stated, “Well, you’ll just have to take your hat and go for a plunge.” The tour group featured several different tour times, but one led to more Indy sites than the other— we decided on an afternoon tour so we could scout the island first for a good shot of "Paramount Peak."

paramount mountain

Kalalea Mountain, used for the famous dissolve from the Paramount logo to Indy's guide point to the Chachapoyan temple, was immediately visible in profile from the airport where we picked up our rental car for the day. Unfortunately, they only had a convertible left in our class, so, we had to do the unthinkable and suffer through a day in paradise with the top down…I only wish it had been a Magnum P.I. Ferrari!

From the airport, we traveled north along the eastern shore of Kauai, keeping our eyes trained on the summit. As we approached Anahola, we knew we were close and looked for an area that could have served as the base for filming. It has often been said that it was filmed right off the road, so at first I was looking for a spot from the main highway; but, I quickly realized it was too far back from the road. I found an intersection and realized we were on the right track. The road curved at the base of Kalalea, and I found a pull-off to compare to screen grabs I had brought with me. While walking the road a bit, dogs from a neighboring lot started barking, which caused the owner to come walking out to find the cause of the commotion. I waved and wondered what he thought of a fedora/khaki shirt clad tourist wandering the road. But he only gave me a distracted look and turned back to his abode. I guessed it was either something he'd seen before or didn't want to be bothered.

dogs and road pic

The place we found to pull off still wasn't quite right, so we started driving back down the road until I found a spot that more closely matched the screen grabs. Luckily, the street wasn't heavily traveled, so our slow progress wasn't impeding anyone. Being in the general area, I realized it was still a bit off to the side. There was a driveway with a white gate that seemed to be perfect. I went as far as the gate and snapped some pictures that I thought were close to dead on. I probably could've been exact, but didn't want to trespass on private land.

kalalea mountain

Having located Kalalea Mountain much sooner than expected, we decided to continue exploring the island, first driving down to the beaches below the peak, then continuing north, eventually ending up at the Kilauea lighthouse. Making our way back around, I realized that this profile of the peak was also in another Harrison Ford film, Six Days Seven Nights. You can catch a quick glimpse of it as Quinn lands his plane on the island strip. We made a few more stops in the towns along the road (my wife found a fantastic fabric shop, where she bought a bolt of fabric that would eventually make perfect sun dresses for her and our daughter), but soon we noticed that the time for the guided tour was drawing near. We decided to pass on our initial desire for an authentic island restaurant and settled for a real Kauaiian McDonalds. The plan at that point was that, since we skimped on lunch and had no specific time we needed to be back on the boat, we'd go someplace nice for dinner.

Following the directions to the rendezvous with the tour, we entered Kipu Ranch down a long, tree-lined drive. Turning off that, we met with the company, paid our way, and went out to pick our vehicles. The wife wasn't too comfortable driving her own 4-wheeler, so we opted for the Rhino 2-seater. As we'd have to wear helmets for the driving portion of the trip, the ol' Adventurebilt went into a bag with a few other belongings in the back of the Rhino. After a few instructions, and a quick test to see that all could drive our vehicles, we were off on our tour!

Our first stop was a vast set of pastures—cow pastures, to be exact. It was in this area that they filmed Indy running from the Hovitos on his way to Jock's plane (Hope he didn't have any missteps!). It also shared fame with another of Spielberg's movies, Jurassic Park, being the site of half of the Gallimimus stampede (the other half was shot on Oahu). While there, I kept scanning the area for that distinctive "V" shaped tree in the foreground of a long shot as Indy runs from the Hovitos. Unfortunately, I didn't come across it; but, at the next stop, our guide told us that we drove right through the shot location. My wife thought she might've seen it, but as the roads were a bit rough, I didn't get much time for my gaze to wander.

Field Road

dino stampede

standing in the pasture

We made our way through more beautiful country side, witnessing a wild pig run out in front of us at one point, all the while, making our way lower in the valley until we came to the spot where Indy makes a jump for Jock's plane. As folks gathered around to hear the guide's speech, I grabbed my trusty Adventurebilt out of our bag and made my way down to check out the terrain. There was a plank buried in the ground, which was the launching point for Indy's vine swing. According to the guide, it was placed there because Harrison and the stuntmen kept losing their footing on the bank. There's a rope swing for adventuresome tour goers set up about 10 feet to the right from where the original rope was tied. The original rope had long rotted out, but there were still some remnants of it tied around the original branch.

views up and down the stream

jump platform

stream bank 1980

stream bank 2009

original rope

I couldn't believe how the area looked—it had hardly changed since the day Indy swung out over the river and fell in—and was easily recognizable from nearly every angle. As I was taking pictures of the area, the guide demonstrated the rope swing and asked if anyone was willing to take a plunge. No one came forward, but I stated that it was my sole purpose to fulfill my wife’s dare to "go in with the hat." We handed our video camera to one of the guides, and my wife stood ready with her Nikon, as I swung back and then out over the river. My first thought at the apex of the swing was, “Whoa, this seems higher than I thought,” but, then I let go and down I went. The water, being a mixture of fresh and salt waters, was layered both cold and warm depending on how deeply you plunged. It was really quite thrilling! I had a hand on top of my fedora as I hit the surface to be sure I wouldn't be swimming downstream to retrieve it, and it stayed on like a champ! In fact, it hardly lost its shape! There was quite a bit of water that rolled off the beaver felt as I tilted my head and swam back to the shoreline. Soaking wet and grinning from ear to ear, I made my way up the shore to the applause from the other tourists.

swing out

swing montage

up for air and swim

wet hat

The guide asked if anyone else wanted to give it a shot, but there were still no other takers. He asked if I'd like to do it again…so off I went. It was just as fun as the first attempt, if not more so, since I’d gotten over my initial nervousness. It turned out to be a little tougher getting back to shore the second time. Although, I hadn't counted on my clothes (Noel Howard Raiders shirt, cargo shorts and hiking shoes) being soaked and weighed down by the water from the first swim, it was still worth it!

swing 2

dropping in again

After my second swim in the Hule'ia Stream, dripping wet and loving every minute of it, we headed back out for a few more stops. On one of the last, I ate a pomegranate right from the tree and gazed down on another location from Six Days Seven Nights—the beach where the plane crashed and Quinn and Robin camped. Unfortunately, this site was on private land, so we only saw it from a distance at the top of a peak. Back at base camp, I realized just how much red dirt I'd picked up on the way back after being soaked. It really gave my Noel Howard a rugged Indy-esque look—a look it still has today, as the red dirt doesn't come out! Not ready for the day to be over, I asked the guides about the waterfalls from the opening scenes. While not a part of the Ranch proper, they're just off the property and actually a public park. The guide told us what to look out for to find the falls…a "path just past a few trash cans."


We headed out, with towels on the seats because I was still very damp, and almost immediately saw a slight indentation in some sugar cane next to some trash cans. At first, we passed them and went a little further because the indentation just didn’t look like the start to “a path." Down the road, we found something that looked like it might have been a path, but it only went about 5 feet into the cane fields. Sure enough, when we made our way back to the trash cans, we found that the indent really was what we were looking for. The "path" turned out to be a worn down foot trail from all the traffic through the sugar cane over the years. The cane grew over our heads, all around us, and my wife wondered if it really was where we were supposed to be; but, in short order, we started to hear rushing water in the distance and started to spy a stream through breaks in the cane off to the right.

path to the falls

After a few more steps, the path stopped, but a rocky outcropping lead off to the right, emptying out right at the top of the waterfall. The whole scene was a bit much to take in. The minute we walked out onto the rocks, we witnessed some guy jumping off the edge! Off to the right (looking over the waterfall) there was a rope swing, barely visible in the tree line, and a ladder leading back up from the pool underneath. I remember thinking that if that had been there during filming, it would've been in the shadows behind Satipo as he's watching Indy open the Chachapoyan map. I approached the edge to survey the area below while my wife, who has from a fear of heights, stayed back and let me do my thing. I looked down and across the pool to the banks where I knew filming must have taken place, and wondered how feasible it was to get down there. I ventured off to the right towards the rope swing first, but that didn't seem too promising; and as it was getting late in the day, I knew I didn't want to spend too much time trying that route since I'd have to still cross where the stream exits the pool on the right.

falls entrance

top of the falls

I retraced my steps, heading back to the left, and decided to see if I could venture on through the sugar cane. That attempt ended in a wire fence. I back-tracked again, and in a minute or so, decided to blaze a path of my own through the woods, even though the grade was much steeper. Making my way, holding vines and trees for footing, I thought this might prove the most likely path…and, I was right. A few minutes’ trek brought me to the banks where Indy stood to study his map, fend off Barranca, and head up the hill into the temple. I paused to take pictures of the area, which was considerably more overgrown than when the film was made. There were logs jammed up at the shore, and some tell-tale rocks that marked areas of scenes; but being lower than the top of the falls, and situated underneath the thick canopy of growth from the trees, it was getting pretty dark and hard to judge just the right path taken up towards the crew-built temple entrance.

falls filming location

looking up to the entrance

looking down the slope


Taking a few more shots and giving the area one last survey, I headed back to the top of the falls. When I emerged, I was surprised how much brighter it actually was up there. The heat seemed more intense down below as well, and I had sweated through my shirt pretty well by the time I was back. I was tempted to jump the falls as others had, but as I was still carrying extra weight from soggy clothes, I decided against it. Even though my wife would've liked to have gone down to the lower banks, with the light fading, we decided it might be best to start heading back out. We vowed that if we ever had a chance to get back, we'd go earlier in the day, both make all the excursions, and I would simply have to do the dive off the falls. I did manage a shot lower on the falls, finding a way to climb down the sides of them a bit. As we made our way back to the car, we realized with the sweat and grime that now covered me that we probably wouldn't be admitted to a nice dinner. We made our way back to the rental office and back to the ship to end our excursion.

falls ledge

Indy locales aside, we both decided that Kauai was our favorite of the islands we visited. We found it to be the most lush, and least developed and “touristy.” On Kauai, they have an ordinance forbidding construction any higher than the tree lines, which really keeps the beauty of the "garden isle" intact. We very much want to go back and visit…or possibly someday retire there!! Hey, a guy can dream, can't he?!

I soon had to leave my wife behind in Hawaii while she stayed on to "work," and, I found myself going back the mainland through 4 airports and a much longer journey home than we took going out; but that was by design.

Having spent the previous year getting to know Tony Nowak since his making the Crystal Skull jacket, I arranged a quick layover in Los Angeles for a Sunday morning visit with him. I had finally saved up enough money to purchase a Raiders hero jacket, and after meeting with Tony and getting a grand tour of his shop, I was measured and placed the order for my jacket. Unfortunately the camera stayed back in Hawaii with the wife, so I didn't get any shots of my short stay, but the memories of our departed friend will last and be remembered fondly each time I put on #612 of 888. Godspeed, Tony. You are still missed.


During this piece’s development and composition, it was good to go back through the pictures from our vacation, and reminisce about the very brief amount of time we spent there. It was nice to be able to review and admire once again the beauty of the places we visited. But something just as special, if not more so, was a very special memento I acquired to celebrate my Indy experience of Hawaii in a most imaginative way.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was also good in that it created a friendship with an artist whom I've come to admire greatly, Mark Raats. From the moment I first saw his CS advanced poster concept, I was in awe of his talent. I started communicating with him through the boards and through email, seeking artistic advice and mostly shooting the breeze. I had been toying with the idea of using some photos I'd taken in Kauai to create an artistic piece, basing poses for Indy on shots that I had taken. Thinking it might be beyond my scope, given that my art in recent years has all been computer-generated, the thought occurred to me to see if it might be something Mark would take on as a commissioned piece.

I wanted the piece to be as much of a celebration of Hawaii as it would be about Indy, so I asked for it to be done in blues and greens to give it an “island” feel. This initially made Mark a bit apprehensive concerning how it would turn out considering the fact that Indy's signature color pallet incorporates mostly "hot" colors—oranges, reds, and earth tones. Since the Kauai scenes were the basis of the opening of Raiders, I wanted all the elements to reflect that. I asked that we use my photos of the waterfalls, and that the piece include a pose for Indy based on my river jump. My thinking on it was that while it wouldn't be true to the movie Indy, it'd be cool to think of Indy as me. Another prospect that gave Mark some trepidation was depicting the falls as he hadn't done water before…though I believe the thought of it intrigued him.

So, Mark thought about the piece for a bit…and I waited anxiously. He came back saying that he'd do the piece, but he wanted to make the subject on the rope swing ME instead of making it Indy! He felt doing it that way made the piece more about me and my journey than just another Indy piece. Although I felt a bit self-conscious, I was far more eager at his explanation; I agreed and wondered about what the next steps would be.


In the months that followed, I found myself amazed time and time again with the progress pictures Mark would send. It was inspiring to see what he was doing with the piece and I even found myself getting out my pencils from time to time…something I want to get back in to as time allows. It’s always been a side of my art I've missed as paying jobs have taken me away from traditional practices.

The day finally came when Mark was ready to send the work to me, and I frantically rushed home each night hoping to see it on my porch as I turned in the driveway. The day it finally showed up, I couldn't open it fast enough! The sample photos Mark had sent me all along simply had not done the work justice. I was amazed at the richness of colors; and having it in-hand and a tactile reality was simply amazing.

I have since framed and hung the painting and admire it almost daily. Looking at it now, my amazement has only grown. I absolutely love the juxtaposition of the cool and warm colors. I think they perfectly blend the feel of Hawaii and the traditional Indy. Nearly all the work’s elements reflect either the setting or the portion of the movie portrayed. The main image, while also being the basis for the original Amsel painting, was shot at the Kipu Falls location. The artifacts up the right side reflect the Chachapoyan temple, the images of me and the waterfalls, taken directly from my trip pictures, and the surprise element of Jock and his plane, are all welcome additions and personalize the work in ways I didn’t anticipate. It’s a grand reminder of a treasured trip, an awe-inspiring process, and, most importantly, of someone I consider a friend.

Thanks Mark.

Indy Painting

P.S. Mark has since taken a print of the painting with him on a trip to Lucasfilm where it got rave reviews….and he had to continually explain why Indy is wearing shorts.