August 4, 2014 | Posted in:Hawaii
Our final two days on Kaua’i were spent at the Kaua’i Beach Hostel getting our shit together. I left my wallet on the bus, like a buffoon, so I was frantically trying to locate that and coordinate getting my passport overnighted in case the wallet didn’t come through so I could get on the damn plane*. All this between runs to the bathroom as I was also fighting off some douchebag bug that lodged itself in my duodenum. Everything turned around by the second day as the wallet reappeared at the police station, tummy rumbles subsided and we spent the afternoon hanging out by the sea listening to Lotus with some kids Brandy met in the park. We ended our visit with a sweet open mic night at a coffee shop across the way.
Our small plane “did the hula,” as one local put it, and dropped us onto Moloka’i late Saturday afternoon. Our plan was to hitchhike into town where our rented bicycles would be combo locked at the bike shop. We could then ride the three miles out to One Ali’i Park to camp. We hadn’t walked out of the parking lot before the first vehicle by stopped to see if we needed a ride. It was a U-Haul driven by Joe from Big Island who was in town working on installing fiber lines to the Hawaiian Homelands properties.
Hawaiian Homelands is land held in trust by the government on behalf of people of Native Hawaiian descent who can lease the land for a below market value price for homesteading. This can help Hawaiians stay on the islands even as property values skyrocket. However, the act that created the Homelands requires leaseholders to be at least 50% Native Hawaiian so many are critical that as time goes on, more and more Hawaiians are excluded from the land.
Joe dropped us off in town and as we cannot seem to go a day without at least one superficial wound, Brandy gashed the hell out of her knee getting out of the van. Once that bloody mess was taken care of, we finally grabbed the bikes. The price was right, and the bikes were… well, these:
We finally rolled into One Ali’i Park just before sunset and pitched the tent in the waning light. The Trade Winds were blasting and turning the hammock rain fly Brandy made into a giant sail. Would we ever get to use the hammocks?? There was a party going late on the other side of the park, but we were tired enough that even the horrific karaoke couldn’t disturb us too much.
We’d hoped to get an early start to beat the Trades, but they were in force by the time we got up. The ride was hot and into the wind. It was only 16 miles, but it was tough on me. The scenery was beautiful though.
At one water break at a random overgrown field entrance I looked down and noticed a green pill bottle. I’m not one to check out every piece of garbage, but I had a feeling about this one. Sure enough, inside was a huge fresh J of super dank. It turns out this should be no surprise. Bud is common all over the islands, but Moloka’i seems to be bursting with it. A LOT of people grow it because there is just so much land where nobody goes with plenty of water. Unfortunately it sounds like the state has been sending helicopters to bust gardens of late, rather than taking care of the very real problem that haunts these and really any rural places: meth.
We showed up at Mike’s a couple hours early for the weekly volleyball game we had been invited to, as mentioned in our previous post, so we dropped our stuff and went off to explore the east end. I had already broken the first of what would be three broken spokes on my bike.
Wow! What a ridiculously awesome place to ride! Allow me to paint a little picture of the island. Moloka’i is shaped like a huge candy bar 45 miles east-west and 10 miles north-south. The north shore of the eastern half of the island is dominated by massive cliffs that drop straight down into the sea. In fact, these are the highest sea cliffs in the world and they are simply badass. The southern side of these cliffs slopes down to the south coast, more gently, but still fairly steeply. The western end of the island is relatively flat in comparison. The Trade Winds come from the east/northeast, so the cliffs, the mountaintops and the east end are lush rainforest whereas the west and most of the south are in the arid rain shadow. The main town of the island, Kaunakakai, is more or less in the south center with one main road extending to either end. There are no traffic signals on Moloka’i; it is quite the contrast from its densely populated neighbor to the west. Hence, traffic is light even on the main road and it all but disappears when you get to the east end. The road east of Kaunakakai passes mainly through ranch land with occasional beach access roads, but at about mile 19.5 the road begins to abut the coast. Quickly it narrows down and begins its dance with the rocks and surf, passing a series of tiny beaches and dashing in and out of small coves and over rocky heads for 2-3 miles before climbing into the sky for another couple miles. The entire way you can watch the clouds forming, dispersing, reforming over Maui’s western mountain in the distance.
As the road climbs from the coast you pass through green grazing land before topping out in a thick mixed forest. There is a ranch at mile 25 signaling the top. You quickly drop into a deceptive valley that tricks you with a steep downhill before another big climb that hits you right around a sharp corner with no time to shift into the appropriate gear. After that climb, it’s a long, winding downhill with stunning views to the end of the road in Halawa Valley. We climbed to the top but left the valley for another day as we did not want to have to climb back out in the hot afternoon sun.
As I mentioned in my previous post, we met some people at volleyball who would host us for the remainder of our time on Moloka’i. We finally got to use our hammocks over at John and Hannah’s place where we spent two nights looking out across the strait at Maui. It was such a relaxing view that inspired contemplation that we spent the entire day we arrived lounging around staring at the huge cloud around the Maui summit, watching puffy white clouds march across the sky between the islands to the soft rustling of the breeze through the tall, dry grass, punctuated by chirping birds and the sounds of the sea crashing below. It was my one-month anniversary of my last day at work, so it seemed appropriate to do nothing.
We finally drank this airplane bottle of vodka we’ve been carrying around for years. I could say that our guava vodka drinks were in celebration of the anniversary, but really they were predicated on the need to transfer our rubbing alcohol to a bottle that didn’t leak. I only left the property once to bike down to the store to pick up supplies for dinner with our hosts.
Did I mention that Moloka’i is small town? It’s so small that after two days on the island I already ran into someone I knew at the store! Everyone out here drives a clunky pickup truck with the family loaded up sitting on plastic deck chairs in the back. The residents want to prevent the fate that has befallen the other islands and fight hard against any sort of development. There are “No Cruise Ship” signs in yards all over the island. There have been clashes between residents and officials who want to bring in cruise ships. One ship was blocked from entering the bay by a flotilla of locals in fishing boats and on paddle boards or whatever sort of craft they could haul out there. The next time a ship came to port it was accompanied by the National Guard, but only encountered a few old guys with signs. The passengers were unhindered to take their excursion to Halawa Valley, but alas, through some brazen act of god, a giant tree had fallen and totally blocked the one road out to the east end. Also a few years back a developer attempted to build an exclusive luxury housing complex. They were finally forced to pull out after losing so much money to destroyed equipment and materials.
On our middle day at J & H’s we woke early to make the ride out to Halawa. Again we twisted our way through the almost unbearably quaint coves spotted with cute homes immediately alongside the road with colorful gardens and dewy webs gleaming in the morning light. A cool morning breeze and essential shade helped us conquer the hill with little effort and we spent the morning hanging out on the beach painting, reading and watching the rock crabs scurry around.
After gathering our things from John and Hannah’s place and taking a jungle hike up the next valley, we rolled over to the farm we had been invited on Sunday and were met by Charles, a really friendly guy in his 70s who runs the place. Charles had lived out there briefly about 30 years ago and had always wanted to come back. Raising a family and other bits of life prevented his return until after retirement. He came back in 2007 and worked as a flower grower for a few years before taking over the farm. There wasn’t a whole lot for us to do there, so I mowed the yard and picked fresh veggies to make a salad in the outdoor kitchen. The hens actually lay their eggs in a box right on the kitchen counter!
The farm itself is actually on top of an old filled in pond. The pond still exists beneath the edges of the planted area. The Java plum trees that have taken over the space actually grow a thick tangle of roots above the water. As leaves fall and matt over the roots an artificial ground is created. If you drop a large stone on the verge of the lawn you can feel the whole thing tremble.
Jonny, the guy who invited us, came by later with a couple of the others we met at volleyball. Donovan (who happens to be the one I ran into at the store) had scored a couple giant Samoan crabs and an ahi tuna from a local fisherman and we all cooked up an insane dinner that also included the fresh salad, hummus, quesadillas and shrimp. We stayed up late playing shithead with Jonny and Donovan before going to bed in the sweet beach house in the spooky mangrove forest.
The next morning Jonny made an incredible breakfast and we sat around chatting all morning before taking advantage of the tailing Trades to blaze it back to town and return the bikes before ALL the spokes on mine broke.
We were treated to one final piece of Moloka’i luck. Thanks to the good times we were having, we didn’t go anywhere near the legendary sea cliffs or the old leper colony on the north side. Fortunately our little puddle jumper took us around the north side with grand views of the entire coast as we flew to Maui.
* Note, you can get on a plane without ID. Tell the TSA make-worker that you lost your wallet and they will take you for additional screening. You will be asked a bunch of questions from public databases and presumably receive a full cavity search or whatever. Show up early though because some agents will harass you long enough to miss your flight.