Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Molokai Blessings

     Just got back from a four-day trip to the most beautiful of the Hawaiian islands. About four years ago, we'd gone, and the people were super friendly—the most friendly group of locals I'd ever met and Molokai really lived up to its Friendly Isle nickname. Not as much this time, though the island itself was perhaps even more warm and inviting.
     For the first time ever as a parent, I went without an itinerary.  I'm a detailed planner so each day is usually laid out on paper with nearly every waking hour accounted for—the where's, when's, and what's to hit, drives to take, things to see and do, etc. But I wanted to take it easy this go around with no stress, no rush, no set schedules, and so settled for skeletal plans for each day. Can't get lost on Molokai. Just go with the flow and enjoy, was the plan.  Perhaps by my being more open than usual, God blessed our Molokai trip with wonderful surprises:
     Day one: We rented a fishing rod and reel and purchased a seven-foot bamboo pole and went fishing on the state's longest wharf. Last time round there were plenty of small fish, but none bit. This time the fish were plentiful and biting—mostly manini and everyone (except me) caught two or three. Time went by, fun and exciting, and we had nice chats with friendly locals and tourists. Then Jaren said, “I see an eel!” pointing below his feet at a huge head of an emerging moray that was attracted by stray pieces of bait shrimp submerged near the entrance to its lair. “Do you want to catch it?” I asked. “Yes!” he said.
     I'd brought along heavy tackle (20 lb. test line and large sturdy hooks) and had him fetch a thick piece of drift wood nearby—something easy to hold onto while tugging out the muscular eel that can wedge tight in crevices.
     With the hook baited and line secured to the middle of an eighteen inch long stick, he lowered the bait to the hole's opening while crouched on the rock above.
     Almost immediately, out came the eel, jaws agape, which seized the bait, and retracted back quick as a turtle's head into its shell.
     “Hold tight!” I said.
     Jaren fought the tug with steady pressure and out popped the hook, sans eel and bait.
     “I felt him! I had him!” he cried.
     Because there was nary a fight, I knew the eel had taken only the bait, and not the hook.
     I let Braden try next.
     This time the puhi (eel) did not emerge. There were numerous crevices nearby, so Braden laid the bait down near one further out. He got a hit!
     “Hold tight!” I shouted.
     He giggled as with one hand he fought the tug and tried to get a better footing on the downward sloping, uneven rocks.
     Splash! His foot lost hold and his left side slipped down. He caught his balance but the line went slack. Deanne fussed over scrapes on his shin, foot, and hand while he said, “I'm fine,” with don't-baby-me impatience.
     Jaren and the others later tried, each getting two strikes each—one resulting in a bent hook (that eel was tough!) When they ran out of bait shrimp, they used as bait the manini they'd caught. And Jaren discovered two smaller zebra eels in holes nearby. The kids were all so excited that we had to pull them away for lunch with promises that we could return to try again later.
     Day two: After spending time at Mauna Loa Kite Factory gift shop where I finally solved a pyramid puzzle after ten minutes (that “Duh!” people can solve in three—so said the label) and shopping for knick-knacks, we followed the public access road to Kepuhi Beach and had lunch while watching the surfers on the consistently excellent waves. There was a bluff at the beach's far end with a trail that led toward its wind swept and grassy point. Nearer, pebbles framed the sandy shore where a monk seal basked on its belly.
     We'd seen a seal during our prior Molokai trip at Dixie Maru beach, so this was nothing new, but nice nonetheless. We later took a a wide berth around it (as required by law) and made for the bluff which gave a beautiful vantage toward the sandy coast to the south. Northward were worn lava rock shores with a tide pool table and in the distance, a steep, high outcropping—remnants of an ancient lava flow terminus. Most striking of all, mid-distance was a sandy cove set back from the rough Kaiwi channel waters' incessant pounding surf—sheltered at its highest reaches by stands of drought-resistant Keawe—green, rough, and airy. The weather was hot, dry, breezy, and clear. I explained to the kids that this is as beautiful a beach as any on Earth. People spend thousands of dollars to travel to Greece to see a beach that is no more beautiful than this. And what makes it so special is its isolation. There's no paved road here. You have to walk or catch a boat. I'm glad. Too many people will spoil it. (I later researched this hidden gem and learned its Pohakumauliuli Beach name.)
     We spent a few hours on the sand, exploring, and hanging wih the locals. And was I ever glad I'd brought my DSLR camera instead of relying solely on Braden's point-and-shoot.
     Day three: After visiting a couple of old churches (Father Damien's Saint Joseph and Our Mother of Seven Sorrows) and taking peeks inside, we dropped by Murphy's Beach. A friendly, well behaved dog paid us a visit, which the kids loved since we have no pets. After lunch, Jaren in mask and snorkel, and supervising Braden, went to the far end of the beach where it was safest while I stood and watched from a distance. A high school-looking Caucasian girl told me that straight out from where we were were lots of fish by the rocks protruding above the surface—about twenty-five yards out. Her mother with her was friendly, too, and the dog that had visited us now lounged at home beside them.
     When the boys got back soon because of “nothing to see”—I told Braden, who looked bored, to go talk to the two who'd talked to me. “They're friendly. Ask them, What's the dog's name?”
     He hesitated, but went. And stayed talking with them (mostly listening) for the next twenty minutes. Pene, who'd been playing in the sand, joined him after awhile. They discovered the dog didn't belong to them. This socializing with strangers was big for Braden who's chronically shy.
     Then at Halawa Beach—another of the most beautiful beaches in the world, we had both sides all to ourselves. The right side, just off the parking lot at the foot of the steep nearside pali (cliffs) had huge natural boulder breakers worn smooth by the surf and a sandy crescent shore that waves pounded incessant. It was raw, wild, natural, and peaceful.
     To its left, a shallow stream fed from a ribbon falls about a mile up-valley. Across was the second beach lined with coconut trees and salt-resistant thick-leaved foliage. We forded the knee-deep stream and hung out at the flour-soft gray sand beach (all to ourselves) where I lay back, hat over face, to relax, praise God, and enjoy it—the warmth, beauty, isolation, wonderful weather, restored health, natural quiet, kids playing. I had felt apprehensive about going this far, but it had gone very well.
     Jaren picked up various pieces of driftwood to thump a hole in the sand, then tried to knock a fresh coconut down out of a tree (futile). Braded, to my surprise, was able to husk a dried coconut by pounding its end with a stick and peeling. We later brought it back to Oahu to consume and its liquid and flesh were tasty and fresh. He even succeeded, again to my surprise, in knocking down a fresh green coconut using Jaren's long drift wood on his first try.
     On our way back to our car, there was a mermaid-like lady lounging in the stream upon a low wall of slippery rocks. She looked so content, legs dangling beneath the surface, dark workout suit wet like a seal's coat. She later stripped to a bikini, submerged to her neck, and paddled about, reminding me of an otter.
     Day four: With not much planned except a Macadamia Nut Farm tour after lunch (Braden's idea), we followed a sign to a store with furniture and knick-knacks. Outside, a friendly dog greeted us. The store owner explained that it was Angel the school dog. While browsing the interesting merchandise, Jaren asked if we could give money to a cat sanctuary advertised on a donation box. I suggested maybe we could visit it? The owner said it was across the gravel parking lot and that the owner was in the back and could give us a tour.
     We looked from outside the chain link fence into the enclosure that housed over a score of beautiful, healthy, and clean cats of multiple varieties, sizes, and colors walking freely among low wooden box-like apartment shelters, the entire area covered by a low wire mesh ceiling. We asked to enter and were ushering in and told that the cats were previously owned, none were former strays, and thus, very friendly. One named Bat Man was blind, but friendly (until he got tired, in which case he batted a claw at you), and one named Mr. Black jumped into our laps and couldn't get enough thouch and affection. He reminded me of my two childhood cats that like him, were black except for a single spot of white. His and Inky's were on their throats, Tomo's was on his thigh. We all loved the cats and Jaren requested to stay another hour as he tantalized his favorites with a chase toy. We left a small donation but felt bad about its minuteness when the owner mentioned veterinary bills were their number one cost. His example was Mr. Black's who had cost $2,500 to chaperone to Maui, pay for surgery and several night's observation at the clinic, and chaperone back. When I was kid my parents made clear that pets were pets and not humans and we weren't rich enough to pay for exorbitant pet bills. I explained this to our kids and that every family is different; I was happy that they saved Mr. Black, but that we would not have likely paid such big bills for a pet—not when college bills, retirement, and other expenses were looming so near and large.

     It'd been a wonderful experience to go traveling sans schedule. Deanne appreciated not having to rush to prepare our lunches each morning before departure and that we could sleep in, relax, or do nothing. The kids were even super-excited to visit the rather small public library.  Just our sort of vacation—slow, casual, and easy. We even returned to Honolulu better refreshed than when we'd left!