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Sunday, January 02, 2011

Molokai Touring

We have had the very good fortune to be given the use of a car, and we spent the last day of 2010 and the first of 2011 touring the island. Friday started off with the disappointment of finding the library closed until Monday. But the rest of the town was bustling after the arrival of a full to capacity Molokai Princess, the small ferry boat which runs between Kaunakakai and Lahaina on Maui. Along with the day or weekend trippers, locals were out in force doing their shopping before everything closed for the weekend. We found The Friendly Market to be better stocked than the smaller grocery store we saw on our first visit to town with Chuck. The doors were open at Kanemitsu's Bakery and Cafe where we bought bread and apple fritters (no malasadas). A limited amount of local produce was being sold from a few small sidewalk vendors. Loaded down with our purchases we bought coffee and sat at one of the outdoor tables in the covered business area across the street from the library. We had both computers with us and I used a Hele stick (Mobi service) borrowed from Infini, while John picked up a free Wi-Fi signal from a nearby video store.

We got a call from Jamie, a Pacific Seafarers Net HAM operator, who let us use his Molokai mailing address to receive some boat parts we've been waiting for. To our great surprise he and his wife, Kim, offered us their old beater car which they've replaced with a new one for their use. As soon as John picked up the car we drove back to the Port to take all of our stuff out to the boat so we could go touring unencumbered. But when we jumped into the car again to begin our adventure, it wouldn't start! We were parked in a 30 minute waiting zone so John pushed us to the main parking lot and raised the hood. After fiddling with it for some time he got through to Jamie who gave him the magic instructions to get it running again.

With great trepidation (I thought we'd be sure to get stuck out in some remote area where the car would refuse to start for good!) we headed off down Hwy 450 East. We passed condos, parks, hotels, and houses and drove 20 miles before the road really narrowed and we decided to turn around (this was after we'd already passed two signs indicating "Road Narrows"). We stopped at a couple of old fish ponds where rock walls had been built to trap and catch fish. At one public beach access road we snooped on a perfect, human-enhanced cove, clearly marked "Private Lagoon" at the entrance from the ocean. Throughout the drive we were both reminded of Huahine or Moorea by the lush tropical woods, fragrant flowers, the same type of hedge fences, and very similar architecture of the houses. The major difference is that in French Polynesia you rarely see homes surrounded by collections of junk like the ones we saw everywhere. Not to mention the For Sale signs which abound here.

We made a last stop at the Kamoi Snack-n-Go for some Dave's Hawaiian Ice Cream which was ono (delicious). We parked the car for the night and took cold showers in the public restrooms next to the harbor master's office. It costs .10/foot for the boat plus $2/person per day to anchor out here so we wanted to get our money's worth out of it, cold water or not! I can't think of another state which charges money for boats anchored in public waterways, but maybe it helps the State prevent permanent liveaboards from choking Hawaiian waters.

Today we drove 17 miles out Hwy 460 West to Maunaloa (but not the additional five miles down the dirt road to Lono Harbor). We circled through and drove a few of the residential streets, and it was a bit reminiscent of Waimea/Kamuela on the Big Island. Only instead of the booming Parker Ranch, here the Molokai Ranch has closed and so has most of the town along with it (the Lodge, restaurants, and the movie theater). In fact this entire end of the island was completely different from the east side, with grassy rolling hills and mostly cleared land. The paved roads are red from the deep red soil. It's a beautiful bright green now, but there's a real problem with drought during the rest of the year.

On the way back we stopped to see Papohaku which is a big, white sand beach with huge winter surf breaking on a reef at the edge of the water. Down the same road we found the Ke Nani Kai which is a top end condo resort, the Kepuhi Beach Resort which looked like it had been turned into apartments for locals (by the looks of the cars in both the long and short term parking areas), and the Kaluakoi Golf Club and Resort which was boarded up. Driving back out to the highway we scared up a flock of half a dozen wild turkeys crossing the road. By this time we were pretty hungry and had the good fortune to stumble upon the Kualapu'u Cookhouse on a side road back to town. We ordered chicken katsu (John's fave) and the roast pork special, and both reminded us of the plate lunches we enjoyed at the Big Island Grill in Kona. Portions were large and we took a lot of both entrees home with us.

The weather has been predictably calm in the mornings until about 9 AM. The wind picks up and it can be very breezy in the afternoons, but then it usually calms down again by 5 PM and remains so during the night. Some afternoons are windier than others, but it's been very pleasant to have a little of both types of conditions each day.

Oh, and we spent a very quiet NY's Eve on Nakia. The fireworks and firecrackers were sporadic beginning after sunset with peaks at the top of each hour (to celebrate different time zones?). We went to bed at 10 PM and heard them going off until 12:30 AM. Fortunately a local law prohibited anything from being fired off after 1 AM, but there was a small party on the causeway which managed to keep the music playing until sunrise. Ziggy did very well, and I think it helped that they were intermittent rather than a concentrated crescendo of noise.

We've had fun playing tourist and it's made our stay here much more memorable than it otherwise would have been. We can't thank Jamie and Kim enough for their generosity. Sunday we'll probably take a break from all the fun and get back to business by taking a drive to the laundromat...

In a bit of local news, Maui County is going to be the first in the State to stop using plastic grocery bags beginning January 11!

Happy New Year to all our friends and family!