A‘ole Nā Malihini ‘Āina - ‘Ekahi
Moloka‘i is one of the lesser known Hawaiian islands, almost due east of O‘ahu across a 26-mile wide channel. It's billed in all the travel literature as the "Friendly Isle", although I'm not convinced the residents would refer to themselves with such a marketing term! Tuesday before last, we took a vacation within-a-vacation by packing two backpacks and heading out to the airport to get on an interisland commuter flight.
Not a lot of people go back and forth from O‘ahu to Moloka‘i, apparently. We took the bus out to the airport, and after a lacksadaisical security check, were were ushered onto the tarmac and out to the plane by a young man who turned out to be the pilot, the flight attendant, the baggage handler, the safety officer, and probably the mechanic too (OK, just kidding on that last one.)
The pilot gave us and the three other passengers the safety spiel, and then, casting his eye over the interior of the plane, pronounced his satisfaction with the weight distribution - something that's actually important in a Cessna. Then he started up the single propeller and tore around that big international airport like he owned the place. Within 5 minutes we were in the air and heading almost due east over the city on a half hour flight. Thankfully, he kept the cockpit door open and I had fun watching all the dials and the GPS.
We arrived at the Ho‘olehua airport with no mishaps, and fifteen minutes later we were in a rental car heading towards town. Kaunakakai, that is - the main town on the island (there are a few smaller ones, too.) We stopped for a half hour or so to walk the main street in Kaunakakai and get to know the local business - two groceries, two gas stations, the bakery, the hardware store, three restaurants, a couple of gift shops... but the proportion of tourist-oriented businesses wasn't very high. I had planned on making our own meals most of the time, so the hours on the grocery store (and the local liquor store) were of particular interest.
We headed another four and a half miles east of town, missed the turnoff, turned around and missed it again, and finally found our place for the next week - the Bamboo Paradise.
The place is owned by a retired great-grandmother named Carol; she lives in the downstairs and rents out the upstairs to folks like us. The two-room apartment is beautiful. I was also impressed by the fact that her house is nearly 100% off the grid. There's a little shed next to the house that has a set of solar panels on the roof and an array of a dozen lead-acid batteries for storage. She told us that under normal conditions (that probably means, without any power-hungry residents upstairs) she's often able to break-even. The whole week we were here, I made an effort to shut off lights when we didn't need them, and generally tried to keep our electric load down. But it was hard with the electronics we brought; my computer, my camera, and our phones all needed periodic recharging.
She also recycles glass, plastic, and cardboard, and composts her food waste. It feels just like it was when we were growing up! Although I should point out that the state of reduce-reuse-recycle is pretty pathetic in Hawaii - even Honolulu is ignorant of the benefits of regular scheduled recycling pickup. On Moloka‘i, the local solid waste facility does offer recycling, but residents are responsible for bringing their own.
So finally, what's with the title of the post? "A‘ole Nā Malihini ‘Āina" is Hawai‘ian for "Dis ain't da mainland." It's one of the songs on Lono's latest album, Old Style V. He's a local musician from Maui who spent time on Moloka‘i while growing up and has written some gorgeous songs about the island. This is the only song he has a preview for, unfortunately:
(Go to lonomusic.com to browse or order a CD - it seems he's not on iTunes yet. It's totally worth it!)
Coming soon - the first day of exploring the island! With photos, of course.