The Hawaiian island of Molokai is 31 miles long and 10 miles wide. Driving through the main street of Kaunakakai (the only town) at 8:00 pm, one might think they’d taken a turn to the wrong decade or century and were transported into an American western town. It’s deserted, old-looking, and silent. But its natural surroundings are spectacular.
Molokai is a place where transitions from modern to old ways happen instantaneously. Stepping off the plane, I saw wild goats grazing 100-yards away at the runway’s end. The airport consists of one building with two gates.
Count the stoplights if you’d like, the number is zero, and much of the island is an electronic dead zone but a vital natural-living zone. If anyone listens carefully walking through the rain forest, they could hear large groups of honey bees cooling their wings in a soft hum, or wild boars grinding their tusks. Forget about shopping mauls and your café latte. They do not exist. In Molokai, you’d grow old waiting for change.
Molokai is one of the rare Hawaiian Islands that has not been modernized or Californicated; but since 1996 -and maybe earlier – the National Parks have been exerting pressure to take away land and turn some historic sites into tourist traps. Sound familiar?
Top speed in Molokai is 45 MPH, and then for only a short stretch on its southern route 450 to the east end. I went in April, the slow time. During a 40 minute drive from my VRBO condo to the lush eastern valley where the road ends, I met 6 cars.
Controversies are not about politics or money and they don’t want to hear about yours. The islanders are far beyond empathy to anyone else’s perceived slights or negativity. Their interests and passions are about the proper way to interpret Hawaiian language, fishing rights, or questions over traditions and land use.
The word Molokai actually comes from the conflation of two Hawaiian words – a common development in turning Hawaiian language in to English – molo from twisting and kai from sea. It’s because the Pacific waters surrounding this central island create one of the most dangerous water channels in the world.
Residents accept what is because they understand self-reliance. Their island is considered part of Maui County, but with the county seat on Maui, they are often overlooked. They don’t complain about this, it’s stated as fact and left alone. But they joke about their step-child status.
I thought of Cinderella and her natural beauty as the object of envy, and I tried imagining how the island came to be a dumping ground for lepers in the 19th and into the 20th Century. The island of twisted seas became the only refuge for those of twisted limbs.
Molokai is “the friendly island,” according to tourist information, and sure it’s friendly. But if you’re in a hurry, rude, demanding, or laying your issues on the residents, they will shut you down with the stink-eye and a broad shoulder.
If you visit, learn how to post up a proper shaka as a bare minimum or forget about anyone in Molokai acting friendly to you. On Molokai, your bank account is irrelevant and probably irreverent. Stepping back in time to Molokai, you’ll find most of your money is insufficient and borders on obscene.
Leave your baggage behind when visiting Molokai.
They don’t need it.
WHO YOU ARE sans baggage is all you need.