On our first day we had in mind simply driving the few roads on Molokai to get an overall feel for the entire island, with the thought that the rest of our time here could be more focused. As it turned out, we only made it 15 miles to the east end of the Island and back. So we we had a less ambitious goal for today: Just get to the west end of the Island and back. Short story: We didn’t make that goal either...
We spent a bit of time this morning exploring “downtown” Kuanakakai, with its very authentic old architecture. Everything moves at a slow pace here, and it would have been an even more perfect picture if the cars parked along the main avenue had been vintage 1940s and 1950s. That said, there was a fairly good representation of older model cars here. And 4wd is always preferable. Stephanie saw an ad for an old Jeep -- “runs good, no rust, 4WD. The perfect Molokai car”.
Our first stop beyond town was the tiny village of Kualapu’u, which has a few small shops, a general store, and is home base for Coffees of Hawaii. We’d seen rows of small trees as we neared the town, and it turns out these are in fact the source of the coffee beans that are grown on Molokai. Like almost everything else we’ve seen here this is a very unassuming looking older building with a modest size outdoor wooden deck with a few patrons sipping a cup of the local brew and enjoying a pastry of some type. One very authentic looking Hawaiian gentleman was quietly playing his ukelele, apparently in the process of learning the words to a new Hawaiian song. There’s a small inside coffee bar where visitors can sample the various coffees produced here. The favorite among the locals, we were told, is “Muleskinner”.
The larger old building next door looked a bit like a semi-open barn. Here is where the coffee beans are processed and roasted. The coffees produced here are shipped around the world, and of course there is an online catalogue from which to choose.
Here's where we first met up with a group of about ten visitors in a white van who had taken the Maui to Molokai ferry this morning, and were now taking the tour bus package to see the sights of Molokai. They had a very gregarious tour leader who had obviously made this trip hundreds of times before, but enjoyed interacting with his guests. His little group sampled the various coffee offerings, were given a bit of time to purchase a cup of their liking and enjoy it on the deck overlooking the coffee plantation.
We overheard the tour driver describe their next stop: the nearby macadamia nut farm “behind the high school”. We departed continuing to head west, and in about a quarter mile found we were at the high school. However, there were no signs pointing to a macadamia nut farm. This scene reminded us of our prior day’s experience in finding Kumu Farms, despite the type of signage one might expect elsewhere. So we decided we’d just drive behind the high school to have a closer look. Sure enough, there was a dirt driveway with a small hand-made sign: Purdy’s Macadamia Farm. The sign instructed visitors to park outside (there was no parking up the driveway). A second handmade sign had a series of arrows pointing in the air, and warned of falling coconuts!
We walked up the driveway under a heavy canopy of shade trees, and were greeted by Tuddie Purdy, the farm owner. We were about to get our own personal tour! Dressed in casual Hawaiian local style, and carrying a long stick he’d use in his “presentation”, Tuddie proceeded to give us a lesson about growing macadamia nuts. His farm is all of one acre, and he has 50 macadamia nut trees. We learned these produce year round. We noted that under the trees the ground had been carefully raked. That’s because the way one harvests macadamia nuts is to simply let them fall on the ground, where they are collected daily. Each tree will produce approximately 250 pounds of nuts per year. Macadamia nuts apparently are unique in having little or no “bad” characteristics, such as oils and cholesterol. Tuddie prides himself on the fact that “his” product (which can also be purchased online) after being shelled and processed are not treated with oils and preservatives as are those offered by the major commercial producers.
Just as we were about half way through his presentation we spied the arrival of -- you guessed it -- a small white van. Our 10 visiting tourists had caught up with us again! So we enjoyed the presentation one more time. At the conclusion of the “lesson”, each visitor was invited to take one of the recently collected raw nuts, and use one of a couple of different tools to break and peel off the tough outer shell. Inside would be the prize -- a completely unprocessed macadamia nut. They were absolutely tasty -- much like commercially produced versions we’ve all had before -- but perfect right out of the shell with absolutely no processing. This was the “real thing”.
After the lecture and sampling process, of course everyone had the opportunity to purchase a supply of the finished product from Purdy’s Farm. And most did.
The day was nearly half gone, and we were still some distance from the west end of the island. So we followed the same road due west, purposely disregarding a couple of signs that were attempting to direct us to what was more likely to be the “main route” to the west end. That turned out to be a mistake (but only sort of), because a few miles west the paved surface stopped, and some small signs with unknown Molokai destinations pointed down a narrow dirt road. But there was another car there too. A person from a nearby house was chatting with a friend in the turn around area, and when she saw us came over to find if she could help with directions. She affirmed that the narrow dirt road would indeed take us to one of the west end beaches, but because of recent rains the road was really not passable at the moment without four wheel drive. We chatted for a few moments about what we’d find at the other end of the road, but of course in our standard fare rental car it was not to be for us today. What was, however, was yet another friendly local person we’ll remember.
This was the way to Mo’momai beach, one of the areas of Molokai we probably will be unable to visit. It doesn’t matter that the road is dirt, deeply rutted, and with the recent rains, impassible to all but hardy souls with 4wd -- rental car agencies don’t look kindly on their customers getting stuck in deep Molokai clay!
We had no other way to go than back -- several miles to where a sign was directing us to the main route (Highway 460) that connects Kuanakakai with the west end beaches. When we got there we turned left, thinking we were headed west. (It’s easy to get confused on Molokai, since its orientation is east/west. Stephanie is always thinking we should turn one way; Tom the other) Anyway, we were only a few miles outside of Kuanakakai when we realized our mistake. However, it was now early afternoon -- and maybe we should cut out daily exploration short for the day. Perhaps it would be better to find a place to have lunch and then head back to our cozy condo. We were now only about 5 minutes west of Kuanakakai, the island’s town center. And if we continued west it would likely be very late afternoon before we’d make it back “home”. So back to town we went. We’d have lunch at one of the landmarks we’d likely not otherwise see on our trip here, the Molokai Hotel.
With a beautiful yet informal outdoor (under cover) dining area right on the water, this was a perfect place for a late lunch. And just as we were seated, we saw a group of 10 persons departing -- for their white van!
After lunch we realized that once we’d picked up a few items in town and driven back to our condo 13 miles east, we’d be past mid-afternoon. There were of course some pix and videos to download, a page or two of comments to write, and some laps to swim in the pool.
Maybe tomorrow we’ll make it all the way to the west end!