|Mules getting readied for the trail|
|Every Mule had a name and as a rider it was our job to learn it|
|My my view, in general|
|Spot heads for the gate, onto the Kalaupapa Trail head.|
|A flattish, easy bit of the trail has the embedded crossbars and waffles of cement. On the steep part of the trail, they juted up and out of the soil, covered in small boulders|
The trail downhill was 3.5 miles downhill and it would take us an hour and a half. Everyone hung onto the rear of their saddle so as not to fall forward over their mule's head. Sweat poured off my nose because I couldn't hold on and wipe my face at the same time. Gradually it dawned on me, it was not hot. It was actually rather pleasant out which meant I sweat from pure nerves. So I reminded myself, the mule was an expert, and had no intention of taking us off the cliff to our deaths. Believe it or not, the sweating stopped and I settled in to enjoy my ride.
It's a miracle I got what photos I managed. There were only a couple of spots I dared to drop reins on the saddle horn, release my death grip on the saddle and dig out my iPhone for a shot. Add to that clear views through the trees on the trail did not happen often so the shot below was about all I got of the view.
|Looking down on the Kalaupapa Harbor and town|
|Hurrah, flat and no huge flippin' boulders!|
|headed for the coral|
|A look back to the forest covered cliffs we had just descended|
|Two Aussies on right are up on the mounting platform|
I wasn't the only rider with
|Our Tour guide and bus, coming around the bend|
After some chatting and a wait, we saw our bus round the bend, for our guided tour of the park. We climbed on board an ancient school bus for a nice orientation our Brit guide, whose lovely name was 'Claire'.
Now it was time for our tour of the National Historic Park. Claire gave us a talk on how Kalaupapa became the place the Hawaiian government segregated unfortunates with Hansen's Disease (leprosy) in the 1800s. Startlingly, to this day it is home to 9 patients who range in age from 73 on into their 90s. I was reminded of the novel Hawaii read ages ago, some of whose chapters explored the misery that was the 'leper's colony' of Molokai.
Let me set the stage on the location. Imagine it is the late 1889s; you live happily with your family on Oahu, and a letter arrived, informing you, your doctor decided you were 'suspected' of having leprosy, and in 7 days you will be shipped to Kalaupapa on Molokai, a different island. You will go there and never see your family again for the rest of your life. With little time to wrap your mind around what that meant, you were stuffed on a ship, then deposited on Molokai to fend for yourself. There, whether you were 9 or 90 years old, you were expected to find water, and oh yes, grow your own food. If you were female, there was the added bother of keeping men from jumping your bones. Not a nice situation to find yourself in. Yes. Welcome to beautiful Kalaupapa!
Happily, our 2015 visit to Kalaupapa was not so brutal. Our first stop on the day's touring was a little grocery run by one of the patients. We were all encouraged to purchase drinks, water, snacks and such.
Next we visited a book store - also run by a patient - where I was able to get my National Parks Passport stamped. HURRAH!
|The pretty little bookstore|
|Mother Marianne died on Molokai at 80|
|Claire told us how much mother Marianne did for the sadly|
mistreated girls in the colony at Kalaupapa
Leis on her grave are testimony. Mother Marianne's good deeds are not forgotten by those on the island.
Although we started with Mother Marianne and moved onto Father Damien - also sainted - we rather got the order backwards. Father Damien arrived on Molokai first, then he invited Mother Marianne to Molokai, in hope she would come to the island to fill in as he was by then dying. The priest got his wish and Mother Marianne came to the island, further improving conditions there.
|Entrance to lawns in front of Father Damien's Church|
Mother Marianne left, St. Francis on the right
|Saint Francis Church|
|Saint Francis is still an active church|
|The altar at St. Francis|
|St Francis is on the left, with the pier dead ahead|
|A view from the landing dock at the pier|
Cruising through tiny Kalaupapa we saw a fair bit of the town. Most of what we saw were tiny streets, amazingly people-free. I mean, we saw no one out walking or driving for that matter. One can imagine the locals lead a quite life that except for the little trucks all over the place, must be as if the clock were set back a sixty years or so.
|The market at the corner of a busy - for Kalaupapa - intersection|
|per-historic ruins, or 'Heiau' with ancient walls and terraces|
|Rickety old road with amazing surrounding scenery|
Though the cliffs on the right, Father Damien worked with patients, building an aqueduct that brought water to the town. How they accomplished getting water to move that great a distance is almost unbelievable. The man was the whole Army Corps of Engineers wrapped in kindness.
|View from Kalawao Park|
|The Church was enlarged several times|
|A placard shows how the church was remodeled over time|
|Impressive interior of the church's main building|
Within the church is this much beloved bust of Father Damien. He was a Belgium Catholic priest who came to Molokai, working his butt off to help the community and bring comfort to the patients of the leper's colony. He hugged his patients, and would sample food from their plates. That might not at first seem unusual, but remember, no one back then, would go near the ailing patients, much less touch one, for fear of catching leprosy. But Father Damien didn't care, he felt making the patients feel loved was more important that his own health. You can see from the leis lovingly placed on his bust, that his kindness is not forgotten. This man was totally a saint, long before he passed on.
|The 'side' church, the original building that existed when Father Damien first arrived|
Interesting bit we were told, is about the many holes in the wooden floor of the older section of the church (the original building). There are lots of stories on what the holes were actually for, but the predominant believe is they were sort of spittoons for the many ailing patients.
Outside the church is a huge cemetery, that holds the grave of Father Damien. The father contracted leprosy and died after devoting 16 years to the colony. Eventually his body was exhumed and returned to Belgium, but years later, his hands alone, were returned to his grave his original St Philomena grave site, where they worked so tirelessly.
|Father Damien's original resting place, where his hands now rest|
|The cemetery faces Kalawao off in the distance|
|Siloama Protestant Church|
|Inside the quiet little church|
|Remounted and ready to head back|
|Good old Spot was still just ahead|
|The ride up was shorter than the ride down - magic or 'back-to-the-barn' motivation'?|
Now, although the ride uphill was easier on us humans and faster, it was much harder on the poor mules. Koa sweat buckets and groaned a good deal on the way uphill; I was wracked with guilt. We were almost all the way uphill that I realized all the mules were sweat lathered, sides heaving a bit with some moaning. Poor babies!
Soon enough we were back at the stables, and I asked one of the Aussies to get a picture of me with Koa before my leg, absolutely magically, swung easily over that trusted sweaty neck.