Molokai - Oct 7-9
Oct 9, 2011
|October 7, 2011
This afternoon we were heading out of Oahu and taking a short flight to Molokai. We were grateful of the midday checkout as we were able to get up slowly, take our time and enjoy the last few moments of air con! We checked out and hung down around the hotel lobby while we waited for our bus. We’d had food in the room which we’d eaten for breakfast and we weren’t hungry so we decided to wait until we got to the airport, or even Molokai, for lunch/dinner. By the time our airport shuttle came at 1.15pm we were both getting hungry so as soon as we’d checked in and gotten rid of our bags, we headed straight for the restaurant. We were flying with an airline called Go Mokulele and the flights took off from a small terminal away from the main area which meant our lunch options were limited to the wonderfully named and beautifully misleading “Cocktail Lounge”. It was a bar. Which had a limited food menu. And pictures of cocktails on the walls! We shared a portion of nachos and that quickly settled us for the flight ahead.
The flight was only half an hour, probably less, and the airline was certainly small. The guy who checked us in earlier was the guy loading the luggage. He was also the guy checking our boarding passes and the guy holding the orange sticks waving the plane the right way. The plane was tiny, with just 8 seats, and we were soon on the way. The advantage of such a small plane is that you get to leave once everyone is there and on this occasion we were well on our way before our expected take-off time. The flight was a little bumpy but we got some great views over Oahu and once we were across the small channel between the islands we were crossing Molokai towards the airport. The island was really barren and the soil very red and wasn’t how I’d imagined it at all. I was expecting a lush, green island but this was very bare and looked very dry.
We collected our bags direct from the plane and walked out to meet Cheryl, our host for the next few days. She was ready and waiting for us and walked us across to pick up our hire car before leading the way to Ke Hale Mala, the name of her homestay. It hadn’t really been described as a homestay but that was pretty much what it was. The house was split into two levels and Cheryl lived on the upper level. Downstairs, we had a nice big living room, large kitchen and private bedroom and bathrooms. The whole area was surrounded by lots of lovely, brightly coloured plants and flowers and felt really secluded. After a quick change out of our big boots, we went and sat upstairs with Cheryl as she gave us an extended rundown on the things to do on the island. We had a day of diving booked and a day doing a tour to the national park so we really only had one full day to spare but Cheryl gave us a long list of things to squeeze in after diving and even suggested we should do some stuff before we fly out on our final day. She certainly gave us lots of good ideas!
By the time we had sat and chatted with her and then gotten ourselves settled in, we were starting to feel a little hungry. We had learnt that one of the local bakeries sells its freshly cooked bread every evening from 8.30 so decided to head out just before 8 to go to the grocery store and finish up with some fresh bread. We bought some stuff to make spaghetti Bolognese and some drinks but we decided tonight we’d just have some bread… The bakery was easy to find by following the smell and the crowds and it wasn’t difficult to decide to get a loaf with cream cheese and cinnamon, especially after trying the free samples! We got a plain loaf too for our lunches this week but we were looking forward to tucking into our massive loaf for dinner! As it turned out, the loaves were pretty big and Elizabeth and I struggled to eat our portions but it was very, very yummy. We didn’t stay up too late tonight as we had diving tomorrow morning and we had to be at the wharf for 7am! Despite the early start, Cheryl said she would have breakfast ready for us at 6am so we didn’t have much time to sleep!
October 8, 2011
The early start wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been although Cheryl was much too bright and awake for such an unearthly hour! The breakfast consisted of fresh fruit and some lovely homemade bread and jam and was just enough to get us ready for diving. I hate eating first thing in the morning and if I’ve not been up about an hour then it makes me feel quite sick, too. When we dive though, I generally force something down me but this was good and it was nice to have a variety of fresh fruit, something definitely deficient in our diets!
The drive to the wharf was only about 10 minutes or so and we easily found our boat and our dive guide, Gabe. He was just waiting for the boat captain, Tim, to arrive with our gear and then we could go. There was supposed to be another person diving with us but they had cancelled last night and so we had the big boat to ourselves. Cheryl had said the ride to the dive sites was only about 10 minutes but given it was the only the two of us we ended up going a bit further along the coast, about a 40 minute ride. The water was a bit rough but once we were in it and descending it wasn’t too bad. The current near the surface was a bit of an annoyance but once we’d descended far enough it was barely noticeable. This was lucky for Elizabeth as her fins didn’t fit her feet very well and if she’d had to have kicked much against the current, she might have lost them completely! The dive was good and we saw some really interesting coral shapes, with lots of sand “paths” winding between the coral heads. We also went into a cave but there was not much to see other than the sand that Gabe kicked up when he first went in! The fish life was not as visible as I’d imagined but we saw some really cool shells and sea urchins. Gabe picked up one of the urchins and handed it to me. As you held it, you could feel the urchin gripping to your hand and as I felt it tightening its grip on my hand I passed it on to Elizabeth. She obviously didn’t feel the grip as much as me and when she tried to put the urchin down it was stuck to her hand! As we were about to ascend, Gabe and I caught sight of an octopus hiding in the reef but by the time I’d fought the current to get in position to photograph it, it had disappeared into its hole.
Whilst on the surface in between dives, we saw some rays in the water, probably eagle rays and it was obvious there was a lot of larger sea life under the water somewhere! The second dive site was back towards the wharf. The wind was picking up and the surface swells and currents were getting worse so Tim wanted to get us closer to home. The second dive site was called Turtle Hotel and was known as a place where turtles slept as well as a place where you often saw sharks. The current was bad so we descended holding the mooring line and as soon as we reached the bottom we saw a white-tip reef shark. As it saw us it bolted away but as we swam across the sandy bottom it came back towards us and I got a great picture of it swimming right in front of Gabe, doing a little swim around for us before disappearing off. Gabe seemed as excited to see it as we were! Almost immediately afterwards we saw a massive moray eel. I managed to get a nice close up of it and when I tried to get a different side angle, the moray was having none of it, following me closely with its beady eyes. Gabe even said later that he thought I was brave sticking my hand and the camera so close to it! Again, there wasn’t a huge amount of fish life and we didn’t see any turtles but the dive was a lot of fun and we were both relaxed and enjoying ourselves. We had recently bought a dive computer and I had worn it on the first dive and Elizabeth had it on the second one so we could both learn how to use it and what it was telling us. Obviously, during the second dive it was telling us something we didn’t properly understand but we made sure we ascended slowly and did longer than normal safety stops just to make sure we were being conservative. Almost as soon as we reached the boat and took our equipment off, Tim spotted a group of turtles at the surface. It was great to see them and from the top of the boat we got a nice view. It was a real shame we hadn’t seen them while we were in the water but you can’t have everything! When we were coming back into the wharf we saw some more, really close to the boat, and then as we entered the wharf we saw more eagle rays – talk about unlucky! They were obviously around, and visible, just not to us under the water! I want more turtles!
We decided that rather than go back and sleep, we would stay out and drive around. We went into the main town to visit the dive shop as they had a voucher for us for our national park tour and we also walked around the little farmer’s market, with nothing in particular catching our interest. We stopped at Molokai Burger for lunch and had some good ol’ fashioned fast food. In fact, it was actually freshly cooked to order and was edible, unlike your normal fast food burger fare. After lunch we headed back for showers and hung out for a while before tackling some more of the island.
We were pretty central on the island and had one of two ways to go – west or east. There seemed like more to do going east so we headed west, saving the busier day for tomorrow. There were a number of beaches along the western part of the island but only a few were safe for you to swim in. that didn’t bother us though as we’d spent most of the day in the water anyway so we were more driving around for the views and scenery. This end of the island was the drier, barren end and our white hire car was soon covered in red dust as we tackled some of the side roads and dirt roads off the main route. We first tried to visit the Macadamia Nut farm but this was closing just as we arrived. Cheryl had told us it closed at 3 but it was closing today at 2 as this weekend was a special weekend in Molokai.
Annually, there is a canoe race between Molokai and Oahu where teams of 6 people paddle across the channel as fast as possible. The race was being held tomorrow and as a result many of the teams had arrived on the island today and were setting up. The owner of the mac nut farm just happened to be helping one of the teams. We decided to head down to the beach to see the canoes and this was where we hit the unpaved dirt tracks and the accompanying red dirt! The road down to the beach was about 8 miles of uneven dirt track and the hire car certainly took a hammering! At the end of the road there were loads of people parked and camped out and a whole peninsula full of canoes, all ready to go. A couple were out on the water, with some teams testing the conditions and getting some practice in. There were so many cool looking canoes around and it must’ve cost a fair amount to enter them into the race, having to transport them over to Molokai as well as all of the crews.
Elizabeth was feeling hot so she got a shaved ice to accompany her on the dusty drive back to the main road and onto our next destination. The GPS kept telling us to turn off the dirt road onto even smaller roads but we resisted the urge to take the scenic, cross-country route and continued back to the “highway”. Our next stop was some of the beaches at the very western tip of the island, including one called Dixie Maru. Dixie Maru was in a more sheltered cove and was better protected for swimming in the water. Of course, this also meant there were a lot more people there and even at the time we were there, late afternoon, the beach was still busy, mostly with drunk locals! We stopped at another beach called Three Mile Beach which is supposedly the longest continuous stretch of beach in the entire US and it was really pretty… even if I’m not sure the length claim is very true.
From there we started back towards the apartment, the drive seeming like it took forever with the low speed limits and rubbish local drivers. When we got back, we were both quite hungry so I cooked up the spaghetti and we sat down in front of the TV and watched Dark Knight and enjoyed some home-cooked food!
October 9, 2011
Today we decided to drive east and explore that part of the island. We started the day with breakfast with Cheryl and today we had a hot dish to accompany our fruit and toast and it was a lovely baked egg and vegetable dish with a spicy tomato salsa on top. It was quite big for breakfast but it was a really filling way to start the day! We weren’t in a big rush to get out and part of that was my fault. Given the timezone here I was able to catch one of the early NFL matches and was able to see my first live games for quite a while, even though I did have to get up at 7 to watch it!
We drove right to the far end tip of the island to begin with and then worked our way back. The road was really picturesque but very narrow and winding so any oncoming traffic was quite a problem! This end of the island is completely different to the west, with lush, green hillsides and vibrant flora. The stark contrast to the dry, barren western side could not have been greater and truly demonstrated the way weather patterns can affect an area even as small as Molokai. At the end of the road, at Cape Halawa, we had some great views back into the Halawa Valley and also out to see. We could see the waterfalls at the end of the valley but weren’t able to walk to them as the trail crosses private land. To prove how expensive all the tours are on Molokai, this hike to the falls costs $85 per person, a price we weren’t willing to pay. Back at the small car park, we had the delight of running into a wild horse who had got himself a little excited. Thankfully he decided to follow a woman down to the beach and we made a swift getaway!
The mile markers along the road indicated many of the places to stop and from the end of the island we went back to the beach at the 20 mile marker where we were told it was good for snorkeling. We got changed and waded down the beach where we snorkeled for about 20 minutes. There wasn’t much around and the water was really too shallow and murky to see very much so we quickly gave up. The masks and snorkels that we’d borrowed were also leaking a fair bit so that didn’t help but we at least saw a pufferfish hiding beneath one small piece of coral. We dried off and had lunch in the car, looking out over the ocean and the waves before working our way further back along the coastal road.
We stopped at two churches built by Father Damien; St Joseph’s and Our Lady of Sorrows. Father Damien was the man who had come to Molokai to tend to the patients at Kalaupapa and has since been beatified and his memory lives long in the history of this island in particular. Both the churches were quite small but very picturesque and wonderfully set on this beautiful part of the island.
We stopped briefly back at the house for Elizabeth to use the toilet and then carried on going. We had basically driven the length of the island by now having gone west yesterday and east today and were keen to try and find more things to see. The peninsula of Kalaupapa on the northern side of the island is set way down beneath some of the tallest sea cliffs in the world and we decided to visit the lookout to check out the views. We were heading to Kalaupapa itself tomorrow so we thought it would be good to get some views. We weren’t disappointed as the peninsula and surrounding sea cliffs provided a wonderful vista over the Pacific. Also at the lookout area is a rock known for its, er, shape and, er, power. Cheryl had described it as a fertility stone, the site described it as a phallic stone and I christened it cock rock. A short hike took us to the rock and it was, of course, penis-shaped. Kind of, if you used your imagination. I told Elizabeth in no uncertain terms that she was not to get too close and under no circumstances should she even consider touching it.
One of the things that Cheryl had mentioned to us repeatedly was the “aunties” who played at Coffees of Hawai’i every Sunday. I wasn’t that bothered about going and neither was Elizabeth to begin with but given how many times Cheryl had reminded us about it, we thought we should at least see what was going on. We were a bit early for the 3pm start so we had a look around the gift shop and grabbed a drink while we waited for them to set up. I tried an iced coffee made of locally grown coffee beans and Elizabeth had a fresh fruit smoothie, marginally healthier than mine except for the mass of ice cream in it! Finally, the “aunties” were ready to go and go they went. The group was in fact two woman and three men playing a variety of instruments including regular guitars, ukuleles and some pipe/bamboo instrument. It seemed really amateur to start with as no-one could hear anything that was going on and the sound guy didn’t have a clue what was happening. We had thought this would be a bit of a tourist trap but given Molokai is hardly buzzing, there aren’t many tourists on the entire island, let alone right here, right now, on a Sunday afternoon. The tables and chairs were filling up quickly with locals and many of them even had their own ukuleles that they brought with them to play along. This was certainly an audience participation thing and even we were given a song book. I thought the whole thing was really dorky but Elizabeth really got into it and we ended up staying for the entire two hour show. Some of the songs came complete with hula dancers and this was quite cool, particularly one younger girl who we both agreed looked very relaxed and natural doing the dances whilst the older two women looked like they were almost forcing the moves and were too worried about making a mistake rather than getting into the flow. Elizabeth described it as jerky movements and pained faces, deep in concentration! Thankfully, some other tourists did arrive nearer the end but I still felt like I was invading some weirdo cult and their weekly bonding session. This feeling wasn’t dampened at all by the final act – everyone stood and linked hands in a big circle and sang a song called Aloha Hawai’i. I really thought that it couldn’t get much worse but seeing so many of the locals singing along, swaying along with their EYES CLOSED made me wonder if we were ever going to get out alive and whether they’d drugged my coffee. I couldn’t decide whether it was a wannabe hippy commune or a poorly led cult. Either way, I was glad when they were finally done singing and we could leave… but oh, no, not so fast. Before you could leave you had to hug your “new” friends standing either side of you. I’d never been so grateful to be stood between Elizabeth and a tourist, and she looked as perplexed and out of place as I did. Elizabeth got a hug AND a kiss from the old guy next to her though. For a moment I thought I’d lost her to the dark side…
Back at the apartment we were glad Cheryl wasn’t around and I didn’t have to discuss my ordeal with her. After hanging out for a while we decided to go and get some dinner and decided to try another local place, the Molokai Drive-In, supposedly the oldest restaurant on the island. We both got beef stew plate lunches. Plate lunches and dinners seem to be a Hawaiian speciality and invariably means some normal dish with a couple of sides, in this case rice and mac and cheese. I don’t really like mac and cheese so was glad when it turned out to be more of a normal pasta salad but this still seemed like a stupid thing to have with a beef stew. Where were the potatoes and veggies? After dinner we went and grabbed some more hot bread, this time with strawberry and cinnamon. We had half when we got back to the apartment and saved half for tomorrow!