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Our Molokai Experience


December 20, 2001


Staggering out of bed to the tune of 4:00AM, as the alarm clock resounded throughout our room, we gathered our belongings (and our heads), hopped in our rental Jeep, and headed off to Kahului, where we were to catch a Paragon Air flight to Molokai.  The plane was to leave at 6:00AM, and weParagon Air knew we were supposed to be at the airport at least 1 hour early, since the security had been increased due to the Sept. 11th hijackings.  There was no traffic, of course, as all the sane people were snug in their beds.  We had decided to fly to Molokai because the ferry left too late and came back too early to have enough time to see the island.

We arrived at the commuter terminal on time, and found all the counters to be empty.  We sat and waited, worrying frantically that we were in the wrong place or that there had been some kind of mix-up with the reservations.  Five minutes before flight departure, our pilot came rambling up to the counter, and checked all four passengers in, and led the way onto the runway.  There was no ticket person, no hostess, and no flight attendant, just us and the pilot.  Kind of unusual, we thought, but a bit quaint...a bit Hawaii. 

It was still dusk as the small, single-wing, single-propeller plane bumped and rolled violently over the majestic seacliffs ofKaunakakai at Christmas Time Molokai.  The view was stupendous, even at this hour, though the lighting precluded us from taking any photos at this time.  We touched down safely into Molokai Airport, and the pilot led us off the runway.   Molokai Rentals met us at the airport, waiting with our Toyota 4-Runner that we had reserved.  The sport-utility vehicle was in excellent shape, save for some spongy brakes and a front end pull and shimmy that was evidence of roads to come.  The gas on Molokai ran over twice the price of that on the mainland, over $2.20/gallon at the time! (Washington price was $0.96/gallon).

We motored first into Kaunakakai, the only real town on Molokai (there are a few scattered villages), which was quite homey, being all decorated for Christmas.  We stopped in at a local bakery, where we had a nice greasy start to our day.  This town was such a stark contrast to the hotel-lined tourist traps of Maui... It was a cozy, quiet, and depressed town, with a few restaurants, primarily frequented by the locals.

We headed first to the east end of the island, into the dreamland of Halawa Valley.  The drive was simply enchanting, with a slight drizzle presenting us with magical rainbows lining bothThe Road to Halawa Valley sides of the streets, outlining the pristine palm-lined roadway.  It seemed so calm, so authentic...  We didn't pass another car or hotel on entire drive, just some local huts and pasture lands.  As we turned another bend, we were rewarded with cascading views of the valley, caressed with rainbows, cradled by the sea, gently rolling onto the white sand beach.  We were instantly taken with Molokai, which definitely was living up to its reputation as "The Most Hawaiian Island".

The next stop was Palaau State Park, where we hiked a short distance up to witness the famous and aptly named "Phallic Rock", as well as a towering view over the leper colony of Kalaupapa.  We didn't take the mule ride into the colony, instead opting to see the rest of the island.

We drove back to the west end of the island, heading down to the vast expanses of undisturbed sand known as Papohaku Beach.  The drive was long and boring, with the west side of the island covered with sagebrush instead of the lush ferns of the east end.  The surf was rough that day, and the beach was deserted, so we moved on to Hale O Lono Harbor, which was also deserted.  The beach here wasn't that nice, consisting mostly of rocks, and there were no boats to be seen, so we didn't stay long.  We then put the 4-Runner in 4WD, and slammed down the dirt path over to the north shore, at Moomomi Beach, where we found a rocky coastline, much like that of the Oregon coast, where waves pounded fiercely against the shore.  The spray cascaded thirty feet in the air, presenting a majestic scene.  We perched on top of the rocks and shared a snack and a couple of wine coolers, enjoying the spectacle of the surf, until we headed back down the red dirt road, making our way to the Waikolu Valley Overlook.

4-Runner after a day of 4x4!The road was for 4WD vehicles only, following 10 miles of washboard and rutted gravel with several more miles of deeply rutted, narrow mud tracks through the forest (lots of fun!).  We peeled and slid up to the overlook, where the view ended up being mostly obscured by fog.  The road was so muddy that we decided not to hike up to the Sandalwood Measuring Pit.  Instead, we flipped a 180, spit up lots of mud, and headed back down the long washboard gravel road to town.   We left the 4-Runner at the airport, and hopped back in the plane on our way to the Old Lahaina Luau!

The flight back was disappointing in that we didn't fly over the Molokai Seacliffs, but instead took another route, so we never did capture them on film.  The east side of the island was very beautiful and picturesque, while the west side was mostly scrub, very western. Overall, we were captivated by Molokai...so peaceful, so relaxed, so Hawaii...

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