Archive | June, 2012

Lanai – Land of No Pineapples, But Lots of Fun

29 Jun

Uninhabited until the 1500’s, Lanai was always a place of mystery even to Native Hawaiians. Legends tell the story of a challenge between kahuna (priests) that scorched the earth

Lanai and its relationship to the other Hawaiian Islands.

of Keahiakawelo (Garden of the Gods), explaining some of the otherworldly terrain of the island. Lanai was a sovereign land until King Kamehameha united the Hawaiian Islands into one royal monarchy in 1810. The ruins of Kamehameha’s favorite summer fishing retreat can still be seen.  Called Kaunolu, this sacred spot and fishing village has been registered as a National Historic Landmark. Home to Halulu heiau (religious temple) you can also find ancient petroglyphs carved into the stones here. After contact with the west, Lanai was eventually purchased and converted into a cattle ranch. The Lodge at Koele now resides in the area that was once the center of the island’s ranching operations. As a former manager of this ranch, George Munro made an indelible mark on the landscape by planting the first of what became the island’s many Cook pine trees. The Munro Trail, named after Munro, leads to Lanaihale, Lanai’s highest point.  Later, under the leadership of James Dole, Lanai became the world’s foremost grower and exporter of pineapples – a title the former “Pineapple Isle,” held for most of the 20th century. As the cost of business rose, pineapple production was moved overseas and Lanai was eventually sold to David Murdock who did away with agriculture and built two lavish resorts in an effort to build tourism income.  He consistently lost millions. Recently, 98% of Lanai (State of Hawaii owns the other 2%)was sold to Larry Ellison, a billionaire who likes to make trophy real estate purchases.  So the course of Lanai might change again.  Who knows? Throughout its history, man’s impact on the Lanai has been minimal.  Even with the two resorts, only a scant 30 miles of paved road.  The timeless landscape is largely as it was, offering a glimpse into the Lanai of another time, on an island unlike any other in Hawaii.   With some of this history in mind, it was that three intrepid explorers ventured over to Lanai, spending a glorious 3 ½ days.

Our cute little house right in downtown Lanai City

Jan, Dick and I enjoyed the voyage on the local Lahaina-Lanai ferry on a beautiful sunny day.  Upon landing, we found our

Calico Kitty posing with Dick

reserved jeep (from our house owner) and made our way to our new digs.  And were they nice!  A 2 bedroom modernized plantation style house that was just perfect.  It even came with a resident calico kitty.  She was such a nice kitty and greeted us every time we got near the door…inside or out.  Of course we got some food for her and fed her and her mom who also came by on occasion.  We left a note for the next tenants and some food to give to the kitties. We had lunch at the Blue Ginger (famous for its apple turnovers and tuna melts among other local plates), shopped for supplies at Richard’s Market and made a short trek over to the Lanai Cultural Center.

We found a total of 9 varieties of Spam in Richard’s Market and the Pine Isle Market!
(RDS Photo)

The Center has recently been remodeled and has a very nice museum displaying many photos and artifacts of the island.  Dick had contributed some of his photos taken over the years and, lo and behold!  Some of them were on display in cases outside the building and also on the inside with professionally done signs attributing the photos to him.  The volunteers in the building knew of him and were very happy to meet him in person.  It’s cool to know a celebrity!

Kalanakila O Ka Malamalama Church in God dust

After seeing Dick’s photos, we hopped into the jeep and took a ride to the north shore to see an old church being restored at Keomoku.  I found it to be very interesting because the rebuilders had to raise the church up out of the dust and basically rebuild the entire thing.  The grand re-opening was to be this month(June, 2012), I hope it went well and that it was very well attended.  Hidden in the surrounding underbrush (some of which is tricker than the briar patch that Bre’r Rabbit lived in)

Check out the surrounding brush. I half expected trolls to jump out at us.
(RDS Photo)

were the remnants of the Maunalei Sugar Company which operated from 1899 to 1901.  We were able to find a stone oven and a stone church (not part of the sugar company), but were unable to find a small locomotive.  We met two young men while looking around and they knew of Dick’s picture collection at the Cultural Center and had used them in some research they were doing with film production.  They were very impressed to meet Dick in person.  As I say, it’s cool to know a celebrity! Back in 1992, Dick found the wreck of a sailing canoe (that was once

Dick’s 1992 picture of the old sailing canoe wreck that is on display at the Cultural Center

near the ocean and now in the brush) and took pictures of it.  We found it again and took pictures of its demise in the last 20 years.  It’s amazing what the elements can do.

The same boat in 2012 (not the same quality of picture as what Dick took)

The rest of our adventure that day included visiting a Buddhist shrine honoring Japanese workers killed by a plague in 1900 and the remnants of the “Trilogy Club,” a sort of day camp that a tour group brought tourists from Maui to spend the day swimming, playing on the beach and eating treats. The next day, we treated ourselves to the Blue Ginger’s apple turnovers and rode out to Kaiolohia, aka Shipwreck Beach.  Strong trade winds are funneled between the island of

Jan adding to a sort of flotsam shrine built by passing hikers

Dick and Jan with the YOGN-42

Moloka’i and Maui, directly onto Lana’i’s north shore.  Vessels emerging from the wind shadow  in either direction encounter sudden gusts and rough seas.  The more than six mile stretch of coastline gives one an opportunity to see all kinds of flotsam and jetsam as well as actual wrecks still being pounded by the currents and waves.  We hiked about a four mile round trip and were tired from being constantly windblown.  But it was a great day and I enjoyed every minute of it!  The first actual wreck one sees is the YOGN-42, an old ferro-cement navy fuel barge, abandoned about 1950.  We don’t know the reasoning of letting it run aground in this location.  But it’s great for picture taking.  Later, we noticed a wind surfer spending a lot of time near the old barge, apparently having a great time.  We were entertained for a long time checking out old timbers, other wreckage, sea salt deposits, shells and critter tracks (such as deer and turkeys).

Dick peeking over the Blue Ginger sign

We had lunch at the Blue Ginger as it seemed to be our favorite place and, after some down time, took a drive out to

Looks surreal, doesn’t it? And you wouldn’t believe the wind was whipping around at 50 mph either. (RDS Photo)

Keahiakawelo, Lana’i’s version of Garden of the Gods.  We drove through an iron wood forest and some hills and dales to get there and found ourselves in the midst of a gale.  Jan and I didn’t even get out of the jeep, it was so strong.  But our intrepid guide/photographer did get some great shots of the collage of red rock formations that were once scorched by ancient eruptions and then carved by the elements.  Jan told me these rocks were formed by lava burps or “lava vomit.”  Whatever, it’s a unique moonscape biome right in Hawai’i.  I was impressed.

The next day, we bounced out to Kaunolu.  I say bounced because Dick had to put the jeep into 4 wheel drive when we drove down a very rugged old pineapple field road.  Man!  It was rough!  But it was worth

The very large Halulu Heiau was once a place a sacred place of refuge

it because we were able to see the ruins of King Kamehameha the Great’s favorite summer fishing retreat.  On the west bank of the valley, 200′ above the sea, stands Halulu heiau (place of worship).  It was still in use up to circa 1819.  Near the heiau was

Notice Jan and me hanging onto the rocks at Kakelili’s Leap. It was scary looking down! (RDS Photo)

Kahekili’s Leap (also known as the Warriors Leap.  It is a natural platform 63′ above the ocean and Kamehameha’s elite warriors would prove their bravery by leaping into the ocean.  Made my stomach turn to look over the edge.  But then, heights scare me.  Jan and Dick told me that Dick often gets his hair cut in novel places on some of their trips.  The new place on this trip looking out on the bay at Kaunolu with the “stacks” in the background (“stacks” being a unique volcanic structure).

Got scissors?

We left that rugged, primitive summer retreat and drove to the upscale Manele Bay Hotel/Resort that overlooks the gorgeous Hulopoe Bay to have a gourmet lunch.  For some

Hulopoe Bay
(RDS Photo)

reason, we didn’t have any problem adjusting to the cultural change.  Jan and Dick greeted Mike Carroll, a Lana’i artist they had previously met, who was painting in the lobby of the hotel.  It was fun to hear the chat.  Lunch was fantastic with a view to match.  It made the three of us feel like royalty.  We hiked around Hulopoe Bay and checked out where Bob and I had spent

Pu’upehe Cove with Sweetheart Rock in the background on the right. Technically, Pu’upehe is Sweetheart Rock, but also the name of the cove (RDS Photo)

several days basking in the sun and snorkeling when we were last there. The bay is a marine preserve and the snorkeling is excellent.  We also   went around the far point of Hulopoe to Pu’upehe Cove that is guarded by Sweetheart Rock.  It’s also a good place to snorkel.  That night, Craig, the owner of our house, came over and asked Dick to go with him on a flight around the island the next morning.  Of course, Dick said yes and was treated to Craig taking him in his own plane on a tour of Lana’i.  They flew over our house but I didn’t get a very good picture of the little Cessna.  Bummer.

The was the beginning of our last day on Lana’i.  We visited the Cultural Center to take more pictures and did some shopping in the little shops around Dole Park (the town square).  We had to have lunch one last time at the Blue Ginger to get that one last scrumptious tuna melt and then we drove back to Hulopoe Bay for more photos.  We drove over a little hill to Manele bay to return the jeep to its parking spot and then caught the ferry back to Lahaina.

Being in Lahaina for a short time and then going to Kahalui, was a culture shock for me.  It was so quiet at Kalaupapa and then on Lana’i, that it was not easy to adjust to the hustle and bustle of noise and traffic onMaui…and Maui is much slower than LA.  I knew I was back in LA in about 2 second when I heard horns blaring and kids having a melt down and saw a traffic jam at LAX.  It makes one very thankful for having the opportunity to experience the serenity of places like Lana’i and Kalaupapa and know that peace can be achieved.

Here are a few more pictures from Lana’i.

The only pineapples on Lana’i now are at the Cultural Center.

Sign from times past

Shipwreck trio
(RDS Photo)

Maintaining the workout routine with the weights!
(RDS Photo)

The tuna melts are fabulous at the Blue Ginger
(RDS Photo)

The wind surfer at Shipwreck Beach. Click on the picture to see him better

Maui – the Valley Isle and Much More!

19 Jun

Maui is shaped much like a bust with the isthmus being the neck

The island of Maui is the second-largest of the Hawaiian Island at 727.2 square miles and is the 17th largest island in the United States.  Maui is part of the state of Hawai’i and is the largest of Maui County’s four islands, Moloka’i, Lana’i, and unpopulated Kaho’alawe.  Native Hawaiian tradition gives the origin of the island’s name in the legend of Hawai’iloa, the Polynesian navigator credited with the discovery of the Hawaiian Islands.  According to that legend, Hawai’iloa named the island of Maui after his son, who in turn was named for the demigod Maui.  The island is also called the “Valley Isle” for the large isthmus between its northwestern and southeastern volcanoes and the numerous large valleys carved into both mountains. I flew to Maui the week prior to our adventure at Kalaupapa to meet my friend, Dick, photog emeritus, who I knew would give me the finest kind tour of the Valley Isle.  He didn’t disappoint me as we did an in-depth expedition of many places that I had not visited in 15 prior visits to Maui.  Bob’s and my priorities were a bit different back when we were going to the Islands…Rest, golf and little touring was Bob’s motto. The first thing Dick and I did was to meet Craig, the owner of the plantation house we were to rent on Lanai.  Dick had been trying to finish the rental agreement with him for some time but Craig was so laid back until about 10 days prior to the actual rental.  The house and our time on Lanai were outstanding, but more about that in the Lanai posting.  Then we went to lunch at Leilani’s on Kaanapali Beach.  It’s such a pleasant feeling to dine on the beach with the trade winds ruffling your hair, small birds flitting around the restaurant begging for tidbits, and receiving a lot of the Aloha spirit that the Islands offer.

Getting into the Maui Mode
(RDS Photo)

How much better can it get?
(RDS photo)

Looking toward Lana’i from our condo at daybreak

Our condo was a second floor corner unit that was about 15′ from the ocean’s edge with exquisite vistas of Moloka’i and Lana’i and sometimes when the trades were right, a view of Oahu, about 50 miles away.  With this setting, it didn’t take me long to kick off my shoes, adjust to Aloha time and the pleasant trade winds.  Within a couple hours of my arrival, a large honu (sea turtle) was grazing on the rocky reef not more than 30′ from the shore.  I didn’t get a good picture of him, but he was about 3′ long with a sort of green back.  That was the first time I’d seen a sea turtle in Maui and I really enjoyed the sighting.  I kidded Dick about arranging that sighting for me.  You can see the reef closest to shore in the left hand picture.   It was so blissful to sit on the lanai that we never ate pupus or dinner out (except when we were away from the condo at dinner time).  The dazzling sunsets provided us with so much camera fodder that I’m surprised we didn’t run out of battery power on the first day.  I bet I had 50 pictures during my first sunset and only a few of them were worth keeping.  But it was fun and SOOOOO relaxing. Dick took me to places that Bob and I had been such as Napili Sunset; beaches we had visited like Honolua Bay, Slaughterhouse Beach and Kapalua Bay; and courses we had played like  the Village and Bay Courses.  Bob so enjoyed them and I did too. It was a nostalgic drive that I wish I could have shared with Bob. The next morning, we toured Hale Pa’i (the house of printing), a small coral and timber building on the Lahainaluna (upper Lahaina) high school campus, that starting in 1834, served as the home of Hawaii’s first printing press.  The early missionaries not only learned Hawaiian, they transcribed the language and printed (after teaching students to set type and run the press) a Bible, textbooks, maps, Hawaiian culture and traditions, the first newspaper west of the Rocky Mountains (1834) as well as Hawaii’s first paper currency.  An interesting side note is that in 1844, a student was expelled for counterfeiting, causing all the paper money to be re-issued with secret marks.

Mama’s Fish House Beach

Lahainaluna High School was founded as a seminary in 1831.  It was the first school west of the Rockies and survives today as Lahaina’s public high school.  It has the distinction of being one of the few public boarding schools in the USA and accepts students from not only Lahaina but neighbor islands as well.  We happened to be there a few days before graduation and were greeted on the long road going up to the school by printed banners and bed sheets hung from fences and houses congratulating the graduating seniors.  I thought it was a fun custom. Lunch was a real treat at Mama’s Fish House,  a converted beach house in a coconut grove on a secluded white sand beach. It was voted one of the best 100 restaurants in the USA in 2011 and I can see why.  In addition to the beautiful setting, the fish was probably the best I’ve ever tasted.  Man, it was good!  The menu actually lists when, where and by whom the fish was caught.  So we knew it was very fresh and oh, so tasty. Just a bit away from Mama’s, is  Ho’okipa Beach Park, “the wind surfing beach capital’ (according to a Pa’ia web site) that was being well used.  Lots of surfers were out there trying their luck.  To me, it looks like such a demanding sport, especially on the shoulders and back.  I think it’s better for me to observe the people plying their skills than to try it.  We visited Pa’ia which is noted as a “quaint” town.  It’s supposed to be a reflection of its history as a booming sugar cane plantation town with its old plantation style wooden buildings still intact and an array of  specialty shops, boutiques, surf shops, antique stores, bakeries, and even an old fashioned tattoo parlor.  It might be a great place to browse if you like to shop.  I didn’t check it out as that’s not really my game.  We did check out Mana Foods, a ramshackle looking building with has a vast array of organic, natural, international and gourmet offerings on the inside.  I was amazed at what was inside this store.  As a matter of fact, it reminded me of Mother’s in Costa Mesa before it was remodeled.  A lot of people know about this place as there were a lot of people in its narrow aisles.  It was fun to visit.  We then drove mauka (toward the mountain or inland) to visit up country towns, Makawaoand Haiku.  Such a pretty drive seeing nice homes, some small ranches and farms, and churches.

An Ae’o in Kanaha

On the way back to our condo, we stopped at the Kanaha Wildlife Sanctuary, home of the Ae’o (black-necked stilt).  The wetland sanctuary is near the Kahului Airport and has some noise from planes as well as nearby traffic that does not seem to affect the birds.  We saw Ae’o in all stages, from little puff balls on stilts to adults wading in the shallow water.  I like these birds as they appear to be in long-legged tuxedos as they stealthily walk and stalk the shallows to catch their prey.  They are a bit territorial as we saw them arguing a bit with each other by squalking  and flying at each other.

Surfacing in Kapalua Bay in front of Kapalua condos
(RDS photo)

Thursday was snorkeling day.  We checked out Black Rock near the Sheraton at Kaanapali and Kapalua and saw many fish varieties including some eels and trumpet fish.

Trumpet fish
(RDS photo)

We followed our snorkeling excursion with lunch at the Pineapple Grill (aka Grill and Bar where Bob and I had many contented, filling meals back in the ’80s).  LaPerouse Bay was

The “Old Goat” leader

our next stop on the day’s tour.  This bay is at the end of the road on the south end of Maui and is known for two things, dolphins (which we didn’t see) and wind (which we felt).  The dolphins apparently like to rest in the bay in the morning but had left for other areas by the time we got there.  There are signs all over the place to not harass the dolphins, so I guess they really do hang out there.  The wind is ever present and tousled our hair the entire time we were there.  What we did see were wild goats, which were grazing close to the path we were on.  Dick declared that we were on the “Old Goat’s Tour.”  And tour we did, seeing a blow hole, coral beach, some black sand and remnants of the 1790 lava flow, the last eruption on Maui.  It was a good hike and I enjoyed every minute of it.

That blue vanilla is great! I’m a shave ice fan!
(RDS Photo)

On the way back to our condo, we stopped in Kihei so that I could sample for the first time, a Hawaiian delicacy know as “shave ice.”  I would have called it a snow cone, but it was much better than that.  The ice is shaved and becomes a smooth powdery snow type substance.  Much better and tastier than a regular snow cone.  I had a combination of grape and lemon-lime, much to my delight.  I noticed a flavor called blue vanilla and the lady gave me a sample of it.  Ooh!  That was good! We made it back to our condo that evening in time for another nice sunset and dinner.  Life is good!

Jan was to arrive Friday evening and we had the entire day to use to explore or goof around.  Dick knew that I’d never been on the Hana Road (Bob and I had flown in when we stayed there) and told me that it is quite a journey that everyone should see.  The guide books tell you that there are 620 curves and 46 one lane bridges (who counts these things?) on the 52 mile long “highway” from Kahului.  I put highway in quotes because the road narrows from four lanes to two to about one and a half or even one in some cases beyond ‘Ohe’o Gulch (aka Seven Sacred Pools).  Off we went from our condo about 7:30 AM (early departure) in anticipation of an exciting adventure, seeing places, things and people I’d never seen before. It was fun seeing the flora change from sugar cane waving in the breeze to very lush vegetation with ferns, bamboo, and other jungle plants  so thick that you’d be lost if you ventured more than 15’ from the highway.  It’s good to be green in this vicinity.  Sometimes we would come out of a turn espying a beautiful vista of a valley or peninsula with little houses and taro fields dotting the valley floor or be hugging the edge of a steep cliff.  Witness these two pictures.

Keanae Peninsula with houses, taro fields and the ocean in the background

Highway to Heavenly Hana. Click on the picture to better see the cut in the cliff.

Waikani Falls (aka the 3 bears) before arriving at Hana

There were not as many waterfalls as advertised in the brochures because East Maui Irrigation company (EMI) has ditches throughout the way to Hana that have diverted much of the water previously destined for the gorgeous waterfalls.  So some of them are dry or not flowing as dramatically as in previous years.  I guess it depends on the time of year or water needs as to how much water is flowing (or falling, as the case may be)  We did see several spectacular falls but the light wasn’t just right so as to duplicate what we saw.  I was still pretty impressed with the falls we saw, however. We had lunch at Tutu’s Snack Shop on the beach at Hana Bay.  It’s basically a burger joint but serves very good BBQ pork sandwiches.  I had one of the best hamburgers I’ve eaten in a long time.  So Dick and I vote for Tutu’s.  We visited Hasegawa’s General Store which features the most diverse assortment of stuff ever put together in a store.  It’s an amazing place that sells groceries, fishing equipment, clothes, galvanized pipe and you name it and it’s probably there.  I helped out their bottom line and bought a Hasegawa tee shirt.  Hana is a quiet little town that doesn’t impress you until you get out and walk around a bit and let its essence sort of creep up on you.  It’s a great place to get away from it all because “it” isn’t there.  And sometimes that’s a nice thing to do. We buzzed back to the Wai’anapanapa State Beach which has the only volcanic black sand beach on Maui.  I like this park and beach because it sported camp sites, cabins,

Pa’iloa Beach at Wai’anapanapa State Park

showers, picnic tables, freshwater caves, a sea arch, black sand beach and brown noddies (which I’ll explain in a bit).  Technically, the freshwater caves are a bit brackish according to some kids we talked to, but they looked inviting to swim in.  People were on the beach enjoying the cool water (although not in very far…it looked a bit tricky to me in terms of currents and such)

The brown noddy rookery. They forage far out to sea catching squid or fish.

A brown noddy is a bird about the size of a small sea gull (16″ long, 33″ wingspan as opposed to 18″ and 48″ for the our local gulls).  There was a noddy rookery at this beach and there were many flying around the area and resting in the rookery.  A characteristic “nodding” display between adult birds is often seen at nesting colonies, hence their name.  This was fun for me as I’d never seen a noddy before. We continued on our way, stopping at Wailua Falls for photo ops and on to ‘Ohe’o Gulch formerly known as 7 Sacred Pools.  Apparently, ‘Ohe’o Gulch is the original name of this area and 7 Sacred Pools was a monicker put out for the tourists.  What a different experience from when Bob and I were there!  Bob and I were covered in mosquitos when it wasn’t raining.  We really didn’t get to see much.  This time, the weather was perfect and there were no

Jumping at ‘Ohe’o Gulch

bugs.  Yea!  Many, many people were visiting the pools nearest the shoreline; swimming, hiking, sun bathing and just relaxing.  The pools are quite deep and lots of people like to jump from fall to fall.  Check out the guy in the red trunks who happened to jump

Ala ‘Aina grounds Could you ask for a more gorgeous view?
(Jan photo)

when I was taking pictures. Dick took me to Kipahulu and Ala ‘Aina Ocean Vista, a one bedroom B & B that he and Jan like to stay at.  It’s a beautiful place with banana trees growing all over the place.  There are many stories that Dick told me about this area, but suffice to say that it’s gorgeous and so off the beaten path, that one can totally unwind and experience culture shock just going to the little town of Hana.  It was amazing! In the little graveyard behind the small  Palapala Ho’Omau church, Kipahulu,  is the final resting place of Charles Lindbergh.  His grave is very simple in the Hawaiian style of a plot surrounded by lava rocks.  Nearby are the graves of Sam Pryor, a retired airlines executive, who had a ranch in the area.  Pryor was good friends with Lindbergh and persuaded Lindbergh to visit Maui and build a small place on his ranch.  Pryor is also remembered for his gibbon apes who he considered to be his “children.”  Their six graves are between the Pryors’ and Lindbergh graves.

Godlight looking over the Pacific Ocean

Car rental companies used to prohibit rentals from continuing on around the island on the “highway.”  I don’t know if they still do, but the road is fine (at least when we were on it).  It is a narrow, one lane dirt road for part of the way, but that aspect added to the charm of it.  It was also interesting to see the climate change almost instantly from green and lush to brown and arid.  It has to do with the wind and rainfall…which is evidently not great in this area.  We saw the top side of the two cinder cones that made the 1790 lava flow and looked down on LaPerouse Bay that we had seen the day before.  That was an interesting perspective.  The road improved to being paved and two lanes and began to climb the side of the big mountain, Haleakala.  Clouds were coming in over Haleakala and also the ocean which gave us some beautiful views.  Dick likes to call this Godlight.  We celebrated our safe return to Kahului by consuming a sumptuous Costco hot dog and then we went to pick up Jan upon her arrival from Sacramento.

Jan got up early the next day as she was still on mainland time and we went for an early morning walk.  It was so pretty to walk as the sun rose over the mountains and listen to the birds wake up with their many tunes.  I love that time of day when the world is waking up.  We also waded a bit in the ocean and saw a small eel and many little minnows. Later that day, we visited the ‘Iao Valley and Needle (A sacred burying place for chiefs and the location of Maui’s last giant

Yeow! at the ‘Iao Needle
(RDS Photo)

battle for supremacy.  The Needle itself was used as a lookout base.  It is another lush, verdant valley with a prominent point sticking up from the valley belying a violent, bloody history.  Dick’s picture shows us needling the needle.  Following our antics at ‘Iao Valley, we visited the Bailey House Museum, the house of a mid-19th century missionary.  I enjoyed this little museum and its display of Hawaiian stone tools, weapons and even a century old surfboard.  There were also exhibits from the missionary era that were very interesting.  It’s good to get some education on a vacation and be sort of well rounded.  🙂

From Maui, Jan, Dick and I went to Kalaupapa for 5 days, Lanai for 3 1/2 and then back to Maui.  We stayed at the Maui Beach Hotel, not far from the airport, to pack and readjust our thinking for future events.  I was flying home the next day and Jan and Dick were going out past Hana to the Ala ‘Aina for a few days of real Hawaiian time together.  Jan and I were walking around the hotel grounds when we happened upon a trio called “Power of Ten,” a kane singing and playing the ukelele and a kane and wahine dancing to the tune.  They were rehearsing for a show they were putting on later.  It was vigorous, beautiful and exciting.  Did you ever see such gorgeous smiles as on the “Power of Ten?”  Aloha spirit epitomized!

What a good looking group!
(RDS Photo)

The Power of 10
(RDS Photo)









The lei toss
(RDS Photo)

Sadly, it was time to say aloha to the Islands on May 30 and I was to wing my way home.  Dick and Jan took me down to the beach where they told me I had to complete the tradition of throwing a lei into the water to see if I’ll go back or not.  Yea!  The lei did so, thanks to the wind and a not so great toss (but with great form!).  I’m looking forward to the next adventure in Hawaii which I hope won’t take another 20 years to happen.

A Hawaiian adventure wouldn’t be complete without some geckos. Here they are catching their supper near a light fixture in Ala ‘Aina (Jan Photo)

Kalaupapa – Enduring Spirit, Sacred Ground

6 Jun

For several days, I have mulled over the impact of the Kalaupapa peninsula and community on me and find it difficult to express their essence in words.    I am going to attempt to recount my experience upon the peninsula even though it might not jibe or seem adequate to those who were there and saw the experience differently than I did.

First, a bit of history taken from the National Park Service’s Kalaupapa brochure.  “Surrounded mostly by ocean and cut off from the rest of Moloka’i by 1,600′ cliffs, the Kalupapa

A portion of the peninsula from our final approach to begin our adventure
(RDS Photo)

peninsula has always been one of the most remote places in Hawaii.  Native Hawaiians live here for many centuries, but in the mid-1800s Kalaupapa’s remoteness secured its role as the setting for two tragic human sagas.”  …in 1865 and again in the mid-1890s, the indigenous Hawaiian communities were displaced and the forced exile of those afflicted with or suspected of leprosy was begun.  Isolation was done because it was believed just touching a leper could cause a person to get it. The isolation policy was not officially abolished

until 1969, but forced isolation ended in 1949 when medications were made available to help patients.  Patients who still live there (about 10) are free to come and go from the settlement, but they choose to stay there as it’s more in their comfort zone.  I heard that more than 8,000 people died at the settlement which is about the same as the present-day population of Moloka’i.

Father Damien ( St. Damien since 2009) arrived at Kalaupapa in 1873 and worked tirelessly to promote the dignity of the afflicted and to improve conditions for the patients.  To see what Kalaupapa was like in those days, a good movie to watch is “Molokai,” a story of Father Damien.  It was filmed at Kalaupapa, thus giving you an idea of what the peninsula looks like and the conditions those poor folks dealt with on a daily basis.

Today, Kalaupapa National Historical Park is administered by the National Park Service in cooperation with several Hawaii state agencies.  One of the park’s primary missions is to protect the lifestyle and privacy of the aging resident community.  In accordance with residents’ wishes and State of Hawaii Department of Health regulations, Kalaupapa is a closed community.  As members of a Sierra Club Service Trip, we received special permission to stay in the community for 4 nights and 5 days…something most people will never get to do.  I felt very privileged to be a part of this endeavor.

Our group consisted of nine people (two leaders, Ruth and Lynne; one cook, the VERY able Jan; six participants, Barbara,  Elyette, Puanani and my good buddies, Jan & Dick).  We arrived mid-morning of May 21, were met at the tiny airport and after signing in at the Park office were taken to our housing for the week.  We stayed in two historic buildings that were once housed a doctor and dentist.  They weren’t very clean at the beginning, but they were cleaned after a fashion and we settled in.  Jan fixed an excellent lunch and off we went to the nursery to begin our work week.

Luana helped me to understand local culture, some history and customs as well as some of the native plants

One of the goals of the Park Service is to replace the non-native plants (of which there are many) with native plants and the

Williwilli seeds
(RDS Photo)

Rise up Wiliwili fingers! (Click on this photo to get the full effect of the fingers)

nursery is the place where this process begins.  Luana was our first boss and she taught us what to do to help her expedite her efforts to achieve her goals.  That first day, we weeded out various plants, cleaned up the nursery a bit and sanded edges of the of wiliwili seeds.  It sounds weird, but we did this to give the seeds a faster sprouting time.  Yes, the seeds were small (a bit bigger than a navy bean), difficult to grasp and tough to sand off even a small spot.  We sanded our fingers and nails, too, giving rise to many jokes and puns.  The next time we worked on the wiliwilis, we taped painter’s tape to our fingers to try to make it easier and faster.

We finished our chores early enough that some of our group walked down to the harbor to go swimming and wash off some of the dirt.  Few boats/barges arrive in the harbor, thus leaving the water very clean and refreshing.  I swam there a day or so later and really enjoyed the warm water and outstanding snorkeling.

The next day was beautiful and we were up early to get ready for our day’s tasks.  Ruth, our fearless leader, instituted a Hawaiian word of the day after breakfast to get us thinking about the spirit of the islands and why we, as Sierra Club members, were there as volunteers.  We discussed the word, its meaning and what it meant to us.  I liked that approach and I did think about the daily words often as I was working on our assigned chores.

Leimomi shared her culture as well as her knowledge about Kalupapa with us.

Our second day’s task took us to a very large cemetery (I failed to write down the name, but it was used from 1887 to 1920 and had many unmarked graves) surrounded by a

Puanani, who knows much about local and native plants and their uses and shared her knowledge with us. I learned a great deal from Pua.

rock wall.  Other crews had been in to clear lantana bushes and other brush and stacked them in large piles.  It was our job to move the brush to outside the rock walls so that “the boys” (a crew of two could take it to the dump in dump truck)  We also raked leaves and cleared a lot of weeds and thistles.  Leimomi (aka Momi) was our boss for the day and led us very ably.  She worked right with us and got just as dirty and sweaty as we did. Before we even stepped inside the cemetery, we had a blessing to assure the spirits we meant no harm and that we wanted to please them by cleaning up their resting place.  One of our group, Puanani, a Hawaiian from Maui, sang a Hawaiian blessing with a rich, powerful voice.  Her singing really moved me.  After her blessing, the Doxology was sung in Hawaiian.

The air and mood seemed clearer as we moved into the cemetery to begin our work.  I thought at first that this was going to be a piece of cake… just putting brush on tarps and carrying it outside the cemetery and raking and weeding some.  I mean, after all, we working in teams, right?  Well, I got a sweaty education that morning.  Stacking, tromping, lifting, carrying and pushing all take a toll on one’s older body after a bit.  But we were pleased that the cemetery floor looked clearer than when we started and I think the spirits were pleased with our efforts.

Placing brush on a tarp

Haul it day

Carrying brush outside the cemetery to a wood pile in an area that used to be a dairy.

We had lunch at the Kalawao Lookout where the original Hansen’s Disease settlement was begun.  We raked up leaves and

Our group plus Luana and 2 of the “boys” around the skip loader used to put trash & leaves into the dump truck (RDS Photo)

At Kalawao Lookout

a bit of debris in the park that surrounds the lookout and sanded some more wiliwilis but had time to take at look at some of

Looking down into the Kauhako Crater with the pond in the bottom

the ruins and artifacts from that era.  We could also see places where boat would bring in new people to join the settlement.  Sometimes the boat captains would take them ashore in a small boat and other times they would force the people to swim for the shore.  I saw how rough that coastline and water could be and I don’t know how any able bodied person could make it ashore, much less a sick person with poorly functioning hands and feet.

The flat, leaf-like Kalaupapa peninsula of today was created by an offshore volcanic eruption at Pu’u ‘Uao that resulted in the remnant Kauhako Crater.  We had the opportunity to visit the crater after we finished our clean up job at Kalawao.  Wow!  It was stunning!  It’s a relatively small crater overgrown with thick vegetation and trees and with a pond at the bottom of it.  Someone told us that the pond’s bottom had not been found and I read later that it was more than 800’ deep.  Don’t know as I didn’t hike down to the water.  There were stone graves on the rim of the crater which must be wind blown every day and will some day be blown into gravel.  I was knocked off balance several times by the STRONG, gusty wind as I was gazing into the crater.  It was hard to hold the camera with the wind knocking me around.

Our third day saw us going to what I would call the Lighthouse Beach as it was a bit windward from the tallest lighthouse in the Pacific. (More about that later)  We were charged

The monk seals

with picking up as much trash and junk that we could as this particular beach is in the way of a lot of floating stuff.

Portuguese Man-o-War – so small but, oh so venomous
(RDS Photo)


Even some type of light bulb was found on the beach

found ropes, bottles, baskets, broken glass, light bulbs, boxes,  and much more.  I found a Portuguese Man of War jelly fish clinging to a rock.  I thought they were large critters, but this one was about and inch and a half long and was told they don’t get much bigger in the Islands.  I’m pretty sure it was dead as it was out of water, but was careful not to touch the tentacles.

Is that a hangman’s noose? Check out the white stuff. That is broken coral that will some day be white sand (RDS Photo)

I reveled in this day as I was at the beach enjoying the surf pounding on the black lava rocks, the wind was blowing my hair and the rain was spritzing on us…and yet it wasn’t cold.  I loved being out there picking up the stuff.  We filled the bed of a large pick up with the junk we picked up.  On the way back to our houses, we stopped by another beach to see a mother monk seal and her “baby.”  The baby was at least half or two-thirds the size of its mom.  but they were lazing on the beach enjoying the afternoon sun. A day or so later, a black tipped shark was seen cruising the little bay checking out the monk seals.  They make good meals for the sharks.

Later that day, I went swimming and snorkeled some.  The water was perfect and the colorful fish were abundant.  It was like being in my own little world with no cares to think about.  All of us went to the local volleyball court to play some games with the locals…those being mostly park employees who

The volleyball game

play every Wednesday afternoon.  Ruth and I played some but the wind (the ever present wind) was blowing so hard that it misdirected the ball a lot and we felt silly missing it or not making a good play.  Some of also visited the local bar to get a beer or soda.  We would call it a hole in the wall at home, but I really enjoyed going there to chat with the folks in there as well as to have a $3 Heineken.  I think that’s the cheapest beer on any island or even at home!

The local (and only) bar at Kalaupapa

Dick, Jan and I chatted with Edwin, a patient who had been at Kalaupapa for 70 years.  We had seen him before when he drove his white pickup with the dashboard filled with little stuffed animals.  We always waved to each other and felt a comradeship.  He served as the referee for the volleyball games and confessed to us that he cheated sometimes to help teams.  He was quite a character.  Rain was threatening as we trooped back to our houses and received a big surprise.   Leimomi came over and shortly after, Moke, another Park Service employee came with his ukulele.  He played and

Moke and his ukelele. What a sweet voice he had

sang with a beautiful sweet voice.  We sometimes joined in and even beat out some rhythm on some makeshift percussion instruments.  The aloha spirit and camaraderie was so strong that it brought tears to my eyes.  It was a grand evening.

Thursday’s word of the day was “kokua” meaning to help.  That was certainly apropos for our week as we were trying to help the settlement as much as possible.  Ruth had asked us to think about what we expected from our time at Kalaupapa and I had said something about spreading aloha spirit…thinking about giving.  But I didn’t really expect to receive as much as I did.  I truly believe that I received and learned much more than I gave.  This feeling is very difficult for me to express adequately.

We were given a tour of the new archives building just across the park from our houses.  This was a real treat as we got to see many artifacts, hear more stories and see more old

The noni fruit

photos.  We also got to see a PowerPoint presentation on grave restoration.  Many of the gravestones need to be repaired and/or restored and our presenter (whose name I can’t remember) was the one who did that work.  He also had several stories and many pictures to show us his work.  We were also able to see more of it when we walked through the cemetery later.  We then worked outside the building weeding and making it look a lot nicer.  Puanani got stung by a yellow jacket just as we were finishing up our chores.  She asked us to get some noni fruit and leaves from its tree to help take the sting and swelling down.  She had been telling us about this tree and that many natives use it as a medicine cabinet to help cure many things.  That night, she and Lynne wrapped my knee (that was sore that day) with heated noni leaves and then wrapped it in plastic for the night.  It did help relieve the soreness, but it kind of stunk like tobacco.

The doctor’s house where 6 of our team stayed

Speaking of our houses, here are a couple of pictures of them.  The white gate is a symbol of a hedge and fence that prohibited

The dentist’s house where we stayed. I’m not sure what Jan’s doing here. Maybe she saw the mongoose that lived under our house.

patients from just knocking on the door of a staff member.  They had to ring a bell and ask for permission to enter.  The gate and fence were the same at all staff houses. Our rooms were pretty Spartan with just a mattress and springs on the floor with not much light available.  We all had to wear red Visitor’s tags to identify us to the patients and employees that we had permission to be walking around the settlement.  There were no problems and it wasn’t a big deal to wear the tag.

My quarters. Plain but it was closest to the bathroom 🙂

The red tag ready for the next adventure

Luana and the “boys,”  Rick and Albert, took us out to where part of the original settlement was at Kalawao so that we could see where the patients had to “swim for it.”  Part of this

Looking out to the rough sea. Click on the picture to enlarge it and check out the billowing pants and shirts

area was also where the “Moloka’i” film was made.  So rugged and unprotected from the wind that I wonder how people survived, especially when they were sick.  We saw two turtles (honu) off the coast and it seemed to me that even they were having troubles negotiating the rough water.  We then made our way over a rocky trail to the “Old Ladies” cave.  We were told that people lived in the cave (a lava tube) that opened out to the ocean and served as lookouts for strange canoes and/or

Looking out from “Old Ladies” cave

sailing ships.  It used to be a very long tube going back to the Kauhako crater that we had visited on Tuesday, but part of it caved in when the US Navy used that part of Kalupapa for target practice during WWII.  I wondered how much more indignity could these people handle?  I guess no one was hurt but it just seems to me that it would have been a bit too close for comfort for me.

We continued our rocky ride around the north side of the island to the beach that we cleaned up a couple of days before.  We picked some acai (not sure of spelling or even the name)berries for Luana to transplant to other parts of the peninsula.  I felt sort of like a bear looking for food to eat.

Picking the acai berries about 50 yards from the beach that we cleaned up

Up close and personal with the berries

The Moloka’i Light Station…all 133′ of it

From the beach, we turned around and saw the Moloka’i Light Station towering 133′ above us.  It is the tallest lighthouse in the Pacific Ocean and is now 102 years old.  Actually we didn’t just turn around…it was very obvious that it was there.  We were all very excited to get to clamber up the stairs to the top of it to see what we could see.  It was a stupendous view of pretty much the entire peninsula and the pali.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get any good pictures from that vantage point because I couldn’t hold the camera steady enough.  I think the wind was blowing about 70 mph up at the top where we went outside.  Lynne’s watch blew off her wrist and Dick’s glasses blew out of his vest.  So it was an expensive trek up those stairs.  I felt good about going around the top without getting too scared but once I got back inside where the light was, my stomach began doing flip flops.  So I decided that I ought to descend to the ground once again.  It was very exciting for me to do that knowing that I have some acrophobia and that I conquered it to some degree.  I was proud of everyone else as they did it too.

Several of us swam in the harbor that afternoon and enjoyed the array of fish one more time.  It was great!  Then we went home to a great dinner of chicken, rice, green beans and 2 kinds of ice cream!  Yum!

Our last morning saw us going back to the nursery where we helped Luana tidy up the nursery a bit more.  Tables were moved, equipment

Helping at the nursery

was stacked neatly, weeds were pulled and more mangos picked up.  It was just enough work to get us pretty hot and sweaty again.  After lunch, I trekked with Ruth and Elyette up the Kalaupapa trail.  I don’t know how far we went, but that climb gets to one’s knees after a while…particularly going back down.  The Moloka’i mule train had left just before we began our hike and, of course, left evidence of its

This trail is how many of the Park Service employees get to work Monday mornings. They usually stay and then go home up topside on Fridays.

passing.  I discovered that I’m allergic to the mixture of dust and dung, that it makes a rash on my ankles.  Such a bummer, but it didn’t itch, just looked bad.  That’s another reason not to hike that trail.  We saw and hear a white-rumped shama, a member of the thrush family that sounded like a mockingbird to me.  He had such pretty songs.

The white-rumped shama

We had just enough time left for a short swim in the harbor before dashing up to the house to shower, change clothes and finish packing for our flight back to Maui.  I’ve talked about the ever present wind, sometimes like a gale, oftentimes not.  I grew to embrace it because it blew allergens out of the air and I had practically no nose-blowing for the entire week.  That was a gift!  We all enjoyed the quiet of Kalaupapa.  The two primary sounds I remember were birds and the wind.  I liked that sense of peace.

None of us wanted to leave this beautiful, idyllic place filled with so many stories and so much adversity, strength and courage as we had all enjoyed our brief time at Kalaupapa.  Robert Louis Stevenson said Kalaupapa is a land of “beauty springing from the breast of pain.”  I think it was fitting that our little airplane took off into a double rainbow which to some represents a transformation or something wondrous or amazing.  Such feelings were abundant in my head as I bid my farewell to Kalaupapa.

My priceless room
(RDS Photo)

Ruth and me playing volleyball in gale force wind. Not easily done.
(RDS Photo)

Our group at the last night’s dinner table
(RDS Photo)