Is the first sign you see when you leave the tiny plane and small airport in Kualapuu, Molokai.
This sign is also the first indication that life in general has slowed down, and it is time to let go of whatever your typical routine and expectations are for the duration of the time you are on Molokai.
Molokai is not an island that most people go to when they are in Hawaii. Oahu, Kauai, Maui, and even Lanai have high end beach resorts. They have a night life, fine dining experiences, and shopping. This is just not that kind of place. And I want to emphasize that is why we enjoyed being there so much and the people work very hard to keep new development out. When we told some of the local Hawaiians on Kauai we were going there, the most common response is- “why?”
Not because it isn’t beautiful, or like the other islands- a very special, some believe sacred and spiritual place- on the contrary, it being so undeveloped leaves even more of a mysterious and intoxicating feel than some of the neighboring more populated islands. I can only try to understand the question of “why?” as what exactly is drawing you over there? Most people who have heard about Molokai are only familiar with the story of Kalaupapa- the still existing settlement that was a place of exile for people with Leprosy- now called Hansens Disease. It is still a functioning community as well as State and National park that is home to now only 9 remaining patients who chose to live there. There is a long and fascinating as well as sad history about the people who were forced against their will to go live down on this peninsula before the vaccine for the disease was found. There is a deep respect for one of the settlements original caretakers- Belgian priest, now named Saint Father Damien. He went there at the height of the people being exiled there, and took care of them without fear or reservation. Eventually dying of the disease himself, he is remembered for his courage and selflessness in caring for people that were treated as a threat. There are thousands of grave sites of all ages and dates up until now and that really struck us when we first got there. I wont quote any more of the story or dates- as I dont remember exactly and think its much more interesting if you read about it, however, we did do the 2.4 mile hike down the side of the extremely steep sea cliff with 26 switchbacks to see this unique place. Along with just the rich history about what happened there with the patients- there are ancient Hawaiian ruins from the days long before the king banished the people with leprosy there. My cousin Kim’s boss- the principal at her school is married to a National Park ranger, and we got a little extra tour after the formal tour was done.
For us, this was not the reason we went to Molokai, however we were glad we took the time to go down there. We went because my closest first cousin and her family live over there. My cousin Kim, and her husband Ryan moved to the island just after they were married almost 10 years ago. They left behind friends, family, and colder weather in western Washington state to begin their elementary school teaching careers on Molokai. Although they often talk about returning to the mainland, this has become home for them. They have a solid group of friends, most with kids- as they also have a 2 yr old son, and steady jobs that have created a place for them in this tight community.
We stayed with Kim and Ryan and Bobby for the first week we were there. They live in one of the two main condo complexes located on the south coast of the island. The lawn view from their lanai is incredible, and just beyond the expansive lawn, pool, and bbq area is the glassy shoreline. The Saturday before Thanksgiving while we were staying there, we had a party down in the bbq area with about 15 of Kim and Ryans friends, and their kids. We made home made pizzas on the grill, and had some other potluck contributions from guests- including fresh venison kabobs from a deer that was hunted on the island that week. Everyone was friendly, welcoming, and ready to make plans to get together while we were visiting. We felt pretty honored that Ryan’s fellow PE teacher and good friend Marshall invited us over the night before Thanksgiving to build a traditional Hawaiian Imu oven. Marshall and his family live on a 40 acre Hawaiian homestead where they grow all types of fruits. Marshall is very connected to his Hawaiian heritage, and shared some super interesting legends and spiritual beliefs that come from the island. Including, the story of the staple food that is a very big part of Hawaiian tradition- the Taro root. He also just won a contest for the best honey in the state of Hawaii- honey he harvested from his own bees.
Alex was very excited that they use one of his favorite starchy food staples from growing up in Puerto Rico, the breadfruit. Along with breadfruit, pork shoulder, corned beef, and a turkey all went into the Imu for overnight steam cooking in the ground. This was both of our first time seeing something like this done, and it was really cool- and surprisingly simple. It just takes some time, patience and knowledge about the tradition. Oh, and banana trees on your property as well as some lava rocks just laying around. So essentially- is easiest done on a tropical island.
Some decent waves came through while we were there, and Alex went on a few morning missions to some uncrowded secret local spots with Kim and Ryans good friend Clint. I enjoyed the time to sleep in, cook with some of the leftover Thanksgiving food, and enjoy time with my cousin and her little guy Bobby- who never stopped impressing us and cracking us up with his dance moves and love of pop songs.
Our 2 weeks in Molokai was special to us, and it was not only due to the beauty of this understated still relatively untouched Hawaiian island- but the people we got to spend time with and were so honored to have them share their special home with us unreservedly. Specifically- Kim and Ryan, Clint and Loretta and their kids, Marshall and Hayzool and their kids. Our last night spent there was at a sunset beach cookout on the west end of the island. It was my cousin, her family, us, and the 2 other families that we got to know a little better as well as some people we met for the first time that night. It was a perfect ending to our time there, and we left understanding and appreciating Molokai so much more than we expected.
Next off to Oahu and the north shore..
And Alexs photo selections from Molokai