Moloka’i and Father Damian

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Moloka’i, the friendly island and the island of belgian Father Damian. We arrive after a smooth ferry ride from Lahaina, Maui. Along the way we even spotted some humpback whales jumping or just swimming. We have rented a car via some local rental agency suggested by the hotel. They never really confirmed until yesterday evening. The car should be waiting for us in the harbour, with the keys under the mat. Well, let’s see…  And of course it is there. Probably the car of grandma. An old Toyota Yaris sedan, with some funny seat covers and very basic equipped. The doors open with key only. Hihi… well, it is a small island. We get in, I start the car and push the gas. We both are pushed back in our seats. This old guy has power!

Of to the hotel. We notice a difference in scene compared to the other islands. It looks more native, old houses, old cars, less hawi (negative name for white people). The hotel is really nice, and we can even still have a breakfast. Yes, getting up early gives long days. We head west, to the nicest beaches of Moloka’i. We drive through dry landscape. Was this the green island? We get to the most western town of the island. Mauna Loa… and that is it. Empty streets, cinema closed long time ago, grocery is lovely and they even have a kite shop (?) We proceed west and get to the end of the road and a lovely beach. Almost empty, just a handfull of people here. After a while we head back. We need to buy some breakfast and lunch for tomorrow. We are going on a Father Damian tour like real tourists.

Father Damian was a priest, send on a mission to Hawaii end of the 1800’s. He heard about the Kalaupapa peninsula, glued to the steep cliffs of Moloka’i, which housed a large number of people with Hansen’s disease (leprosy). They where quarantined (basically exiled), forced to live in bad conditions until they died. He wanted to help the people by buildding a church and care for them, physically and spiritually. Until, after 16 years, he died of the Hansen’s disease himself. The people worshipped him, he became a saint and there even is an official Father Damian day on April 15th. The colony was officially closed in 1969, giving the remaining inhabitants the choise to stay or leave. Most of the people stayed and now after so many years only 8 former patients remain, the youngest being over 70 years old. The other people now living on the peninsula are state workers who take care of the National Historical Park. In total more than 8500 people have been quarantined here in the 103 years of existence of the colony. The stories are very sad. Our guide was friends with one of the former patients for more than 30 years and could give these patients a face during the tour. Impressive.

Impessive is also the hike downhil and up again. 26 switchbacks, 530m down, 3.6km long. We are pepared for the worst after reading all the reviews on the internet. We start early, in the rain. No clear views, but cool conditions. That is a plus as well. After 1 hour and 15 minutes we are down. One hour too early for the bus pick-up. Like I said, we booked a tourist tour. You can only enter after an invitation of one of the inhabitants, or through a tour, which is limited to one a day. Which is absolutely fine. The way up at the end of the tour is feared most by the reviewers. One hour and 30 minutes later we are back at the car… walk in the park for us.

The last day we spend driving to the east side of the island. A nice drive, with sunshine and rain. Looking at the green vegetation it is clear where the rain falls usually. The end point is Halawa beach park. A beautiful valley with a black beach with… no one on it. As the weather is stormy and cloudy we just enjoy the views a bit and head back to the hotel. We need to take the ferry at 5pm… looking at the rough seas I fear for the worst. We take our motion sickness pills in time this time. And for the good, as the way back (normally about 1hr and 15min) takes 2 hours and feels like a very rough rollercoaster ride. Wind will be something like 6-7 bft, swell a few meter. I close my eyes, taking the advise of my friend. It takes very long, but I do not get really sick. Until we eat something and drive to our next hotel. I feel nauseous. Tomorrow better. We are back on Maui. Moloka’i was nice, but we felt like white people in a native society. Not 100% comfortable. Nothing really happend, but we were defenitely intruding. Sorry, the people of Moloka’i have a nice island, maybe because of that somewhat distant attitude.

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