Saturday, July 21

Kalaupapa....part 1

If you are ever fortunate to visit the Hawaiian Islands I encourage you to take time to visit the island of Molokai and in particular the peninsula of Kalaupapa.  This small land mass is packed with an amazing history.  Most notably it's the place where those suffering from Hansen's Disease, aka- Leprosy were exiled to live out their remaining days.  At the present time there are approximately 120 people that inhabit the area, with the majority of people being National Park and Dept. of Health employees. There are 6-8 patients that still reside in the settlement. Once leprosy was cured years ago with sulfur drugs the patients were given the choice to leave Kalaupapa , but most stayed, as Kalaupapa was now their home.   Access to the peninsula is highly restricted. There are only two ways to the settlement--taking an organized tour via mule/hiking, or flying from Ho`olehua airport (known as topside) enjoying a 5-7 minute flight of some of the most beautiful scenery in one of the shortest scheduled flights available. Please note that you can only enter the settlement if you are on a tour or by  being sponsored by one of the residents or employees. 

I have been to the settlement a number of times, my most recent trip was to observe a momma seal and her 1 week old seal pup. Many thanks to my friend Julie for sponsoring me for the day. 

 I began my trek to the settlement at 8 a.m. hoping to "beat" the mule riders down to the bottom...and I did!!
The trail head begins at Pala`au Park and is rough, steep and often times slippery, a good pair of shoes is a must.
 A somewhat level area before reaching the actual entrance to the trail 

If you look closely between the two signs you will see the area that I am headed for to observe the seals, you can also see the tiny airstrip.

 Some areas have fence barricades  to prevent you from dropping off the edge.

 a small shrine  

 This tree is said to be one that Saint Damien would rest under 
during his many trips upand down  the pali.

 I am about half way down in this shot...hard to believe this  beautiful shot is a place that was once 
so full of physical suffering and pain. At one time there were nearly 8000 people living here.

The sign that greets you, reminding you that you will have to return to the top...
and that means 26 switchbacks, 1664 ft in elevation and 3 miles.

Look at the middle of the photo, you will see a tiny zigzag line, this is the trail.
 The black sand beach that sits at the bottom of the trail--
`Awahua Beach, at one time this area was full of sharks!!

 the road to town...

 The lighthouse at Kalaupapa

 This is `Iliopi`i Beach, where I spent 5 hours observing mom and pup

Late in the day...behind me are 1000's of graves of those
 that died from Hansen's Disease.

I consider myself to be in fairly good shape,
 but I gotta tell ya this trek beat my butt this time.
 I was so happy to be at the top I was indeed
 grateful that I survived the Kalaupapa Trail. 

Next time I'll tell you more about this little one!!


  1. wow. a colony of 8,000 lepers. i cannot imagine the hopelessness they must have had. it looks like a rugged and beautiful place to visit with a deep history.

  2. Hi Val, I don't think I've shared that my parents had a good friend who was an Irish Catholic priest who lived among the people for many many years. I remember his stories and how touching they were. Thanks for sharing-girl you are in great shape to do the trek.
    Hugs, Noreen

  3. Very interesting Val. Such a beautiful place and these are gorgeous photos! I don't know if I could survive the plane trip to Hawaii. I'm not thrilled about planes. LOL! The last photo is my favorite!

  4. That's some great information and nice photos to go with it. I didn't know that about Moloka'i. The beach where the sharks used to be looks fantastic.

    You must be in a lot better shape than me, I could make the trip down but I think I would have to take the plane ride back! LOL


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