Exploring & Unwinding In Molokai, Hawaii

12th Jun 2014


Photo of Exploring & Unwinding In Molokai, Hawaii by Sandi McKenna

Lovely Beach at Molokai

Photo of Exploring & Unwinding In Molokai, Hawaii by Sandi McKenna
Photo of Exploring & Unwinding In Molokai, Hawaii by Sandi McKenna

A trip to Molokai is an elixir for your mind, body and spirit. It is a great stress reliever, a delicious departure from day to day life, an escape to the extraordinary. It is a place to experience new things, challenge your limits, come face to face with your fears, soak in tradition and history, bask in the the sunlight, meditate in the mist, learn about local culture, breathe in the beauty of the island and its people, soul search or simply relax.

Molokai, is 25 minute puddle-jumping commute from Oahu, with breathtaking views from the air. As always, we approached this trip with two completely different views. Rick, his adrenaline pumping from the start, excited to greet every challenge. Sandi on the other hand, not so much. Afraid of flying, afraid of heights and fearful of everything else in between and allowing fear get in the way of her experiencing something new has become a way of life.

Molokai is one of the most beautiful and spiritual places we’ve ever visited. It has the highest sea cliffs in the world, lush tropical vegetation, a fascinating history and a population of beautiful souls.  There is nothing touristy about Molokai. It is authentic, genuine and unpretentious. Molokai will forever hold a special place in our hearts.

When we heard about Molokai’s Kalaupapa Guided Mule Tour, Rick was ecstatic! The great outdoors, wild animals, the highest sea cliffs in the world, and a leper colony all were the makings of a great adventure. Sandi said “I can’t do it. It’s too high up, too dangerous, there are big animals involved, I’m scared, and I’ll just wait for you back at the barn.” With a little coaxing and the promise of a cold beer at the Hotel Molokai after the ride, Rick convinced Sandi to give it a try. Mule skinner, Hawaiian cowboy and co-owner of the Molokai Mule Ride, Buzzy Sproat matched us up with what he felt were mules that suited us perfectly. We were confident in his choices after he reassured us that he’d never seen a suicidal mule. In fact, he has expertly trained and matched mules to riders for over 30 years. From the cliff hugging 2.9 mile ride down the highest sea cliffs in the world to the extraordinary afternoon we spent learning about Kalaupapa, Father Damian and the struggles and courage of the people banished to the leper colony, we took off on what was one of our most spectacular adventures to date.
Photo of Kalaupap4a Mule Tour, Molo4kai, Kalae Highway, Kalaupapa, HI, United States by Sandi McKenna
Kalaupapa National Historical Park is bittersweet, not the kind of place you travel to buy souvenirs. It is the kind of place from which you bring back lasting memories. Novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer, Robert Louis Stevenson described it as a prison fortified by nature. It is not easy to get to but so worth the effort. On the Hawaiian island of Molokai, it is surrounded by the crashing waves of the pacific ocean on three sides and 1,700 ft high sea cliffs on the other. There is to say the least, limited access to the peninsula. You can fly in by small plane, hike or ride on mule back down the 2.9 mile steep trail with 26 switchbacks and the most breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Unless you are a guest of one of the few residents, the only way to visit is with Damien Tours. Very exclusive, only 100 people are permitted to enter daily, and that includes resident’s guests.
Photo of Kalaupapa National Historical Park, Kalaupapa, HI, United States by Sandi McKenna
After a 90 minute mule ride down the steep cliffs, we arrived on the beach that could have easily been a movie location. We parted company with our mules, leaving them in a shaded corral with our mule skinners (guides) and boarded a yellow school bus. The bus traveled on the single lane road on the leeward side of settlement and as we rolled along we saw no other vehicles. We made stops at the bookstore, a place to get a cold drink and Mother Marianne Cope’s burial site. After Father Damien was diagnosed with leprosy, it was Mother Marianne who ran the Bishop Home which housed 103 girls. She remained on the island until 1918 when she died at the age of 80.We drove past meticulously tended resident homes, a grocery store and the peninsula’s one and only gas station. It was eerily peaceful. We stopped at St. Francis Catholic Church where we were introduced to Father Patrick Killilea, a native of Ireland, who told us he felt he was destined to serve as pastor of St. Francis after a brief visit in 2004. His destiny was fulfilled in 2012. He holds service every Sunday, for 20+ parishioners of which about a half of a dozen are patient residents. Their presence is evident by the hand written notes they leave in pews for visitors requesting they not touch or use their bibles and hymnals.
We boarded the bus again heading to Kalawao on the windward side of the island. The ride is bumpy and dusty. We molokai Kalaupapastopped in front of St. Philomena’s church which Father Damien built, and to which his gravesite is adjacent. It is the only remaining building from the early settlement of Kalawao.
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