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Hawai'i: February 2019


Molokai (310 km and 3 days) 

The only way to get to Moloka’i nowadays is flying, and from Maui there are only small planes going there directly. 

Not far away from the International Kahului Airport with its big jets, we walk to a small shack: it’s the commuter airport. We take off aboard a small, 9-passenger Cessna Grand Caravan … this reminds us a bit when we were in New Caledonia and Vanuatu. We fly down the NW coast of Maui and then along the entire length of the rough Molokai’s North coast. The Cessna flies just a few hundred meters from the 1000m high cliffs … a spectacular flight.

Moloka’i remains true to its roots, with its population continuing to preserve their rural lifestyle. The 7000 inhabitants are determined in keeping their island as it was in the days of old Hawai’i. As a result of protests by activists, the island's largest employer, Molokai Ranch (hotels, restaurants and golf course), decided to shut down all resort operations in 2008 and dismiss 120 workers. Moloka’i has Hawaii's highest unemployment rate and one third of its residents depends on food stamps with many homeless families living in tents on the beaches. Nowadays, the largest industry on the island is related to Monsanto and Bayer GMO activities.

Our first day on Moloka’i is also our first rainy day since we arrived to Hawai’i. We collect our rental car, check in into our condo in Kaunakakai and then take a tour along the small island. First stop is at Papohaku Beach, an impressive 3 km stretch of wild yellow sand beach. During the winter months, it’s better to avoid swimming here due to the heavy shorebreakers. The nearby Dixie Maru Beach is very small and disappointing.
Our next stop is the PalaʻAu State Park with a good lookout of Kalaupapa and the high cliffs. Kalaupapa was once a quarantine site for people infected by leprosy. In total, more than 8500 people coming from all the Hawaiian islands were exiled to this isolated and nearly inaccessible place. Some former patients are still living there.
From there, we walk to Kaule O Nanahoa (the phallus of Nanahoa): the legend says that if a woman goes to Kaule O Nanahoa with offerings and spends the night there, she will return home pregnant...
One of the greatest Polynesian's innovations was the use of aquaculture. Moloka’i has many well-preserved fishponds located along its Southern coast, most built 700-800 years ago. The semicircular walls of the ponds were made from lava boulders and coral. The fishponds had wooden gates that would allow fish to swim in but not swimming back. On Google satellite map, you can discover about 30 fishponds of different sizes. The public access to the shoreline is granted by State law, however, this is clearly not recognized on Moloka’i! We tried to see many different fishponds but without success: private property, no trespassing, pay a fee … the only fishponds we could access were: Kupeke Fishpond because it’s directly at the Highway and the one at the George Murphy Beach Park with some by-passing ...
Halawa Valley is Molokai’s East End. This valley offers beautiful vistas and towering waterfalls and is the island's most historic area. Today, only a few folks make this beautiful but remote valley home, raising tropical flowers and taro. It’s a single lane winding road that stops not far from the shore and continues to Halawa as a dirt road.

The sun is finally out on our second day! So, we return to the wild Papohaku Beach, this time with the sun and walk along its full 3.2 km. It’s an impressive walk in the sand, with strong winds, the roaring shore breakers and you’re alone. It reminds us the deserted kilometers long beaches in Australia. Surely, one of the most beautiful beaches in Hawai’i.

Our last day in Moloka’i is the worst day we had so far on the islands. It’s raining cats and dogs, it’s foggy and it’s cold. Not much to do apart from going early to the airport...


Maui (350 km and 14 days) 

Back in Maui, we go to our third Whale Watching, again with Pacific Whale Foundation starting from Maʻalaea. The weather is fine: sunshine, breezy and little waves. There are quite a few humpback whales between Kaho’olawe, Lanai and Lahaina but our captain ignores all the sighted whales and continues steering ahead like a ferry to Lanai. Well, we arrive in front of Lahaina in a record time with no whales seen at a decent distance … the nearest whale is at more than 1 km … while it’s allowed to be at 90 m! 
In Australia, we could see at a glance more humpbacks and the captains there were able to safely approach the whales most of the time at 150-200 m. Well, we don’t know if we should try a 4th whale watching here or if our unforgettable first whale watching in Maui was just pure luck ...

The weather continues to be unstable with windy and rainy days. After more than one week, the conditions for snorkeling are nearly ideal with finally warmer temperatures, no shore breakers, light winds and an acceptable visibility. So, we go to our best snorkeling spot we found so far in Hawai’i: Poolenalena Beach. However, we’re not alone there … fortunately, low tide is around noon today, so we can wait until all people leave for lunch to get in the water. We have 9 turtles just for us and we swim with them as we like, no stress as we’re alone with them and we’re not scaring them. A couple of turtles are swimming a nice ballet, getting near each other and circling together. Green turtles are loners that only come together during the mating season. Are we witnessing a courtship dance? It’s magnificent to see those huge creatures undisturbed in their natural habitat. Another fantastic snorkeling at Poolenalena Beach!

Unfortunately, the weather has turned again to wind and rain. After a couple of days of heavy rain, we visit Hookipa Beach to see the high surf there. At the end of the beach, only nine turtles this time … quite a difference compared to the 74 seen during our first visit!
The weather remains stormy and we stay at home, hoping for some sunshine. Finally, a windy but partly sunny day … and we see that Haleakala is snow covered! Snow on Haleakala on Maui is rare but it happens about every five years. What was unusual this time, was that snow fell at such a low elevation: down to 1800m. This is the lowest-elevation snowfall ever recorded in the state of Hawaii. The summit area of Haleakala National Park is closed because of winter conditions until further notice.
We returned to Hookipa Beach to see the high-surf. We saw that the small turtle beach completely disappeared … the strong shore-breakers have dumped tens of heavy rocks on the sand. Only 5 giant turtles made it over the large rocks. It’s unbelievable how the beach-scape changed after the last sea storm.

With the bad weather, we were not able to return to majestic Haleakala nor drive the route to Hana… Never mind, we had a great time in Maui, the “Valley Isle”… 

Molokai - Maui - Oahu

O’ahu (7 days)
We’re back in boring Waikiki and this time with rain … making it even more boring and cheerless. Since we have to wait for the beach weather to come back, we visit today downtown Honolulu. Surprisingly, the bus network is well developed, although the coaches outside of Waikiki are in poor conditions and shabby. Bus doors to open by hand push, seats worn-out and to request a stop you have to pull down a cable hanging along the windows: I remember this technology in Switzerland in the early 60’s.
The visit of Honolulu can be very short as there are only few highlights: Chinatown, the Iolani palace and the headquarters of Hawaii Five-0 (Ali'iolani Hale).
Honolulu’s Chinatown is notorious for drugs and other out-of-the-law activities. We had a fun afternoon walking from the King Kamehameha Statue to Chinatown and exploring all of the vendors that were selling T-shirts, Asian kitchenware, Chinese medicinal herbs, fresh fruits and vegetables, meat and fish. The booths with meat and fish look particularly unhygienic and the smells were a pungent mixture of unappetizing odors. The homeless population is high in Chinatown but not more than in Waikiki. Here, you notice them less than in Waikiki where people in Prada and Gucci are walking among them … can you imagine people in bikini next to people wrapped in plastic bags and pushing shopping carts? Chinatown is quite rundown with streets in filthy conditions … still a lot of people are living there and more are driving there for the many shops and restaurants. We were unable even to consider tasting anything here …

At last, we have sunshine today, we take bus number 2 from Waikiki to Diamond Head, Honolulu’s most recognizable landmark. Once at the destination bus stop, you have unfortunately to walk along the highway up to the visitor’s center: no separate pedestrian access! Walking in the dark and narrow car tunnel without a footpath is quite hazardous ... Welcome to the US, the country where walking is nearly considered a crime ... correct people always drive a car! 
From the Diamond Head summit, you have a fantastic view of Honolulu.
After another long boring day under the rain in Waikiki, the sun is out and it’s a beautiful day for our last day in Hawai’i. We have the choice to return to Chinatown to take some picture of the putrid-smelling market … or to be the perfect tourist and go lie down on packed Waikiki beach. Well, the choice is easy, it will be our last opportunity to have a swim … So, Waikiki beach it is! Not a treat – the beach is awfully crowded as well as the sea, missing the beaches in Polynesia and Australia ...

We would gladly return to all places we visited on our 2 year long journey but not to Hawaii. It was a big waste of time. There are only 4 noticeable highlights: the green turtles, the Haleakala, the Napali Coast and the Mauna Kea.

We’re very happy to leave these islands after 3 months ...


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