I think it’s ironic that when you live in an area, you have all these things that you ‘will do’ and never get around to it. In California, I had all these plans for a winter Yosemite trip and between kids, work, and life . . . . it’s still on my bucket list. When we lived in Japan, it was traveling abroad more and not taking advantage of that is one of the biggest regrets of my life. I love the fact that my parents started thinking about these ‘bucket list’ activities and with that in mind, they arranged a family service trip to Kalaupapa for us. The idea was that every year, we’d do a ‘service oriented’ activity as a family so this year, the plan was to get to the LDS Chapel on the Peninsula and help take care of some of the landscape cleanup.
My last trip to Molokai was in 1993 when I went for a volleyball match. Bragging rights – it was Molokai High’s last game of the season and they were undefeated and a lock for conference champs . . . .we ended up beating them on Sr. Night in some of the most intense games of my short lived volleyball career. Molokai is a small community and volleyball is ‘the sport’ in the fall and the gym was packed. Plus, it’s not like there’s a ton of visiting fans since nobody really makes the inter island trips for high school volleyball games.
Our volleyball team flew on a small inter island plane and as we took off from Kahului airport, I saw a huge turtle in the surf . . . I thought I was imagining it until our setter Corey saw it as well . . . . . something we still talk about when we see each other. Flights to Molokai are tough for me . . .my freshmen year in high school, the Molokai volleyball teams were flying back when they crashed into a cliff and all the passengers were killed. I think there were a dozen students on the plane, one of them being a good friend of mine named Jared Elia. A tragedy like that is tough in any community, but imagine being a 10,000 person community on a small island . . . Even almost 25 years later, I think about him all the time. (Check out this article related to the crash).
Anyway, my dad chartered a plane to take us to Molokai and we were off ~ interesting to ride such a small plane and having to seat in specific seats again to balance the plane out by weight with the “white knuckler” having a certain seat as well (I still don’t know if my mom knows that she was the ‘white knuckler’). Pretty neat flying so low between islands, checking out the waterfalls on the cliffs, and the views in general. The pilot had moved from the mainland and does a few flights a day. In between flights, he runs back to his house that he was remodeling and getting ready to flip (height of the real estate boom in HI). Not a bad life.
Anyway, a friend picked us up, drove us to the switchback and we hiked down the cliffs. Aunty Ku’ulei picked us up at the bottom and drove us in her truck to the church grounds. She had lived in Kalaupapa her entire life and would tell us stories about everything going on. A few months ago, I was talking with a friend who lived on Molokai 30 years ago and he remembers Aunty. She passed away a little while back.
We visited with the two members of the LDS congregation at the settlement. It was neat to hear how LDS members from the other areas on Molokai will hike down the switchback every Sunday to conduct and participate in Sunday services with these two faithful ladies. My family and I had an opportunity to participate in a short meeting with them and then . . . off to work!
We had a great time working and cleaning up. We met a mother / son couple from Oahu that had made it a tradition to come together to Kalaupapa to help with some of the cleanup a few times a month. . . . talk about fantastic individuals. We capped off the day (well, those of us that remembered our swim suits) jumping off the pier and swimming around watching the dolphins. Talk about a fantastic day.
Instead of hiking back out, our pilot picked us up at the Kalaupapa airport and we headed back to Maui. It’s been a few years (7-8) years since this trip and I hope we get the chance to do it again. Now that my kids are older, it would be fun to do an ‘extended’ family trip and take some of the grandchildren who are old enough to help with some of those chores. Glad I was able to go ~ hope you are able to get to the peninsula as well.