Sunday, April 13, 2014

Our Trip to Moloka'i - An Adventure to Remember

Several years ago, when moving to Hawaii was still a dream for my husband and me, we read the novel “Moloka’i” by Alan Brennert.  The book enthralled us both, and the story of Moloka’i’s rich and fascinating history as a leper colony moved us deeply.  It was the book that inspired us to make Molokai our very first vacation destination after moving to Maui.

We chose the Moloka’i Ferry rather than plane travel to Moloka’i because we wanted to experience the ocean trip between the islands.  We had read many reviews of rough passages, seasickness, and tales of the primitiveness of this ferry.  None of those warnings proved to be true.  The two hour trip in each direction was a calm, beautiful voyage.  While the ferry was certainly not a luxury liner, it was comfortable and pleasant.  We made the trip in mid February, and were treated to literally dozens of whales spouting and breaching alongside the ferry!

For our five day stay, we chose a condo rental on the west side of Moloka’i.  Ours was in the Ke Nani Kai complex, which we chose because it had a beautiful, large heated pool.  The condo was not luxurious, but it was clean and adequate.  A two bedroom two bath condo rented for $100/night (with some negotiations).  It should be noted that the condo complexes are 18 miles from the main town, so one must gather supplies before heading “home”.  Adjacent to the condo were long stretches of magnificent beaches.  Beach walking was amazing as we saw only six other people during several hours of walking on the beach. In the winter, surf on the west side beaches is very high.  Swimming is very dangerous.  We saw only two very experienced surfers in the water. 

Moloka’i has only a few restaurants…a burger place, a pizza place, and one small picnic style restaurant with a very limited menu.  (When we stopped for lunch they were out of several items including all salads.)  We knew that groceries were very expensive, so we brought a cooler full of adequate supplies for our five days.  The foodie’s bright spot was the produce.  We stopped daily at Kumu Farms.  They feature their wonderful papayas (shipped everywhere including Whole Foods} but they also sold an abundance of fresh picked herbs and produce from their own and neighboring farms.

Moloka’I is definitely a place to come and relax.  There is no entertainment, and very few places to visit.  We spent about 45 minutes at a small macadamia nut farm, and about an hour walking through all the stores, which mostly stocked Costco items divided into small packages. The one shop not to be missed is the Big Wind Kite Factory in the tiny town of Maunaloa on the west end.  It’s a high end kite, gift, book, bali imported clothing, and treasure shop with a delightful owner!!   The local bakery is a prominent attraction as the locals gather at the back door at 10 PM for warm bread.  The bread was white and plain and doughy. 

The highlight of our trip was the mule ride down to Kalaupapa, location of the former leper colony, and now a U.S. Historic National Park.  Kalaupapa is located on a ten square mile peninsula that juts into the Pacific below the world’s highest sea cliffs. The trail to Kalaupapa is three miles long, and includes 26 switchbacks descending the nearly perpendicular 1780 ft. cliffs.  One can hike this trail, but it is steep and treacherous. 

Happy on her mule
The mule ride was exciting but frightening for the first half hour or so of riding straight down a cliff on a rocky foot wide trail.  Once we felt secure that the mules were sure footed and we were not going to fall off, we could relax a bit and take in the breathtaking views of Kalaupapa far below.  The trip took about two hours.  We felt victorious, proud, and sore when we boarded the school buses at the bottom of the trail for our excellent and informative tour of Kalaupapa. 

Father Damien's memorial

The tour, which comes with the price of the mule ride (about $200/person)  includes stories, anecdotes, rich history, and a very simple bag lunch of a ham sandwich, water, and chips.  By the time we boarded our mules for the trip back up, we were less sore, and the trip up was far less scary though we felt so sorry for the mules!   

At the top of the trail we were presented with certificates of our accomplishment for “having faced the obstacles, precipices, and hazards of this treacherous trail and endured the vicissitudes of the narrow passage between rim and destination”.  Indeed we were proud, and will long remember the mule ride as one of our most memorable excursions ever!!

Many Mahalos to my friend Harriet Lefton ("Happy") for sharing this very interesting account of her excursion to Molokai which she took with her husband Robert this past February.