My last day at INRS was on June 23, 2001. I am retired as of Sept. 1, 2001, but am beginning my retirement with a 6 month visit, as an Erskine Fellow, to the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. This has been long put off until the conditions were right.
On the way, I wanted to return to Molokai. I have not been there since 1969 during our honeymoon. Since my friends, Nan and Steve Jackson, were going to be on the mainland, I had to put my ticket arrangements together, over the Internet, the week before I left. The only flights that I could find, via Pacific Wings, get me into Molokai at 5:30pm and leaves at 8:00am in the morning. They are based on Maui so their last flights end up there. I discovered that Island Air does have flights when I wanted them, but now it is too late.
I am woefully overweight, carrying my bike, books, two computers, and winter clothes. Rather than my ``normal'' 150lbs, I think I have about 200lbs. My first night in Hawaii was at a ``Backpacker's Hostel'', via a free shuttle, in Waikiki.
I left early in the morning for the airport to look for a place to stash my third bag, which weighed in at 45lbs. That bag, on the front of my bike, made it barely controllable. I was very glad when I made it, and even more glad, when I was able to leave it with Pacific Wings to pick up when I come back on Friday.
I arrived at 5:30pm without any food or camp fuel. Except for Kaunakakai, everything on the island was closed. I can burn almost anything, but apparently the only gas stations open are also in Kaunakakai. I had intended to camp near the Kalaupapa, the old leper colony, but it was at least 1000' (300m) uphill, without any supplies, and Kaunakakai was downhill, with the possibility of supplies, made the correct decision obvious.
At 8:00pm when I arrived in Kaunakakai, the grocery stores, both of them, were still open. I got all my necessary supplies, a UofH map of Molokai, of the same type that I had on the Big Island (Hawaii), and confirmation that One Alii Beach Park (``One'' is really ``onay'', not 1) really did exist to the east on HI450, just beyond the Hotel Molokai, where Virginia and I stayed in 1969.
In 1969, Kaunakakai had one real street. Now the main highways bypass that one street and it is even possible to get lost. The Hotel Molokai has expanded from a small cluster in the middle of a field to a very crowded large, for Molokai, hotel. One Alii was indeed ``just'' beyond the Hotel Molokai, and I discovered it as I was starting to get worried about the length of ``just''.
I camped discretely, - I of course, do not have the requisite permit - behind the picnic pavilion, looking out a the beach. The ranger, made a circle of the parking lot as I was walking across to the bathroom, but obviously considered anyone, with no obvious means of transportation, quite harmless. There is no one else here.
Everyone in Hawaii seems to want to move somewhere else, in Hawaii. This morning I had a long conversation with the groundskeeper when he arrived just after dawn, and before he went to work at his real job, about his dreams and dismays. He wanted to buy a boat, to be free of banks and the crowds. Failing that, he wants to move to the Big Island, where he can be both free of crowds, and be able to drive to buy dog food, instead of having to fly to Maui. One of his mayor complaints was the trashiness, and lack of responsibility of his fellow citizens. He said that he was a member of the Pepsi generation, but the current one is the Pilau (rotten) generation - beer cans, cigarettes, and spreading shit all over the bathrooms. I wished him luck on his dreams as he left.
For nostalgia reasons, I went back to the Hotel Molokai to see if it was really the one where Virginia and I stayed in 1969. Somehow it didn't look quite right, and none of the people there were around in 1969, nor were they even sure when it was built. Finally they settled on 1968, which seemed right - it was brand new when we arrived. The real clincher that it was the right place was when I mentioned that we were entertained by the Molokai Trio. The trio was indeed here, but two of the aunties) are now dead. They were especially delighted that I had an autographed copy of their LP - possibly the only one around. There have been additions, and the whole place was recently renovated - possibly when they became a Castle & Cooke Hotel, but the major problem for me was the crowded residential development all around. I remember it all by itself out in the country. I will have to look carefully at the album cover, and possibly my old slides, when I get home, in December.
The second objective for today was the campground in Halawa Valley, at the eastern tip of Molokai. In 1969, it was at the end of a dirt track, which was Hawaii State Highway, 235?. This is the mountain end of Molokai, with the inaccessible 5000' mountains hugging the north shore. The dirt track is now a one lane paved road, but the real change was the complete 25 miles of residential housing, with the occasional low rise resort or condominium project.
When the road narrowed, the coastline suddenly became interesting.
To get to Halawa, the road winds up the ridge separating it from the south shore. This ridge defeated me - my legs gave out1. .
The flatland up to here was not easy either - the head on tradewinds were ferocious. My real worry though, was that I would get to the top, and the road on the other side down to the valley would be so steep that I couldn't afford to go down. Halawa is not like Waipio on the Big Island - there will probably not be any early morning traffic at all I arrived back at One Alii, with minimal strain, thanks to the ferocious tradewinds at my back, to find three extended families, of about 10 adults plus 20 to 30 kids, setting up for a barbecue. The used large barbecues burning keawe - incredibly fragrant. When I got back from Kaunakakai with my bananas, they were just finishing up.
Today was again a short 82km (51m) and a climb, mostly in one place of 840m (2900').
The 4:00am activity at the dumpster and the cars parked at the entrance was, apparently, an early morning (late night?) exercise club. They were there until dawn when they dispersed.
I stopped in Kaunakakai to get a permit for tonight at Papohaku Beach Park, and had an early morning donut, no malasadas, at the Kanemitsu Bakery with a 70+ tourist bicyclist that I met coming in to town. Then it was back up the hill that was so nicely down when I came in on Monday.
This time it was all the way up to Palaau State Park at the Kalaupapa Lookout. This turned out to be a 640m (2300') climb - not all that steep, but steady. A typical comment when I got to the top was ``You came all the way up with all that - cool!''. One reason for the climb was to see if it would be possible to get to the airport, mostly downhill, for my 8:00am plane. It may be possible to get down, but I don't think I will have the energy in the afternoon, tomorrow to get up - I think I will spend overnight at the airport.
There is an abrupt change from desert shrub to grass, and eventually cattle as you get to the top. The rain caught on the 600m (2000') pali at the end of the Kalapaupa Peninsula spills over the top, but not down too far.
Kalapaupa, an old leper colony, is only accessible by boat, airplane, and tourist carrying mules. Although it not still active, all people entering must have a permit.
After lunch in an ironwood grove,
I went up a little, and then mostly down to the airport, where I refilled my water bottles. From Kalapaupa, I saw a ridge that seemed to cross the entire width of the island.
Indeed it did - another 220m (800') climb. There is heavy erosion here, but evidently no place to catch the water. Irrigation was, perhaps a hopeful wish. The field had 10/12in (25/30cm) pipes with pumps, but no sign of growth.
After that I went along the plateau, and the down, a very rough road, 300m (1000') to Papohaku. This park is considered the finest camping park in Hawaii by Let's Go. It does have a huge beach,
but the signs warn about rough seas, and dangerous currents.
The picnic area is pleasant enough, but the camping area is really quite spartan.
The only compensation were curious Brazilian and Carolina Cardinals, some chickens, a mother black cat with 3 very wary kittens, and rainbows.
Again I was alone - so much for needing a permit. I miss the camper's camaraderie. It was a short 62km (37m) with a total climb of 1022m (3400') of up.
After communing again with the Cardinals, I started up the Kahluakoi road. The Kahluakoi resort was originally managed by Sheraton but they were replaced, and the resort essentially went bankrupt. An indication of the problems is dried out golf course. It is not at all clear that mere money can redeem the situation. The major mountains, and hence the water, are inaccessible in West Molokai.
This is where they use their water.
After an hour and a half, and 400m (1300'), I arrived at the top of Kahluakoi Road. I then continued out towards Mauna Loa. In 1969, this was a tiny plantation town, with a dirt main street, and an almost daily amateur rodeo. I had intended to spend the rest of the day here, but the town has changed. The old town was bulldozed, with a few buildings being preserved, and replaced by a new housing development. There is no charm left. The new Mauna Loa also has destroyed another Molokai claim to fame - there is now a KFC - the no fast food is now gone.
I left after asking several people questions about their town, and left for Kaunakakai. The headwind was ferocious, and I arrived at about 4:00pm.
The library had Internet access, apparently, the only public access in town, so I had forgo checking my mail. There is really nothing to sustain interest in Kaunakakai, so I left to spend the few hours before I rode back up to the airport, for One Alii. There I met Gerald, a native Hawaiian, who used to live in Mauna Loa, in the 70s and was equally as dismayed as I that developers had destroyed the character of the town. The rents also increased so high that natives like him were forced to leave. He now lives on Hawaiian Homelands near the airport - closer to the land in a modern sense - municipal water, but all electricity and such generated by solar panels and a small windmill. He was the one who told me about the problems of Kahluakoi, and also the possibility of imminent bankruptcy of the Molokai Ranch, now owned by a New Zealand investment firm - all very sad.
At about midnight, I was awakened by a woman having a private argument on the park pay phone. She was not camping - just walked in to use the phone.
I rolled up my foam pad, put it and my camp pillow back on the bike, and rode off towards the airport at about 12:30am. This was a nice time to ride - no wind, traffic, or sun. I rode slowly, enjoying the quiet and the stars.
At about 3:00am, I arrived and started to unload my bike, only to be visited by the security guard who politely told me that the airport was closed and that no one was allowed on the grounds until 5:30am. He left. Where was I to go? I started to repack my bike when he came back and said that I could stay as long as I stayed where I was - don't be conspicuous.
At 7:25am, I left on my 20min Pacific Wings flight to Honolulu.
comment of my groundskeeper friend the following morning when I told him
- No way!.