Today we’d try to accomplish that which we’d fail to accomplish yesterday: We’d finally get to the west end of Molokai. That’s only a distance of some 20 miles from the Island’s town center in Kuanakakai, but yesterday we failed to reach it. Today would be different.
We were aware that it had rained overnight, which is not something uncommon to the tropics. But we were a bit surprised when, in route to town this morning we came to a low point in the road that we’d passed before, and which warned of flooding conditions in the event of rain. We’d seen sign on earlier passes along this route, but hadn’t thought too much about it. However when we saw the virtual river rushing across the road in the same spot following a rainy night, we have a better understanding of the need to be alert to weather conditions when traveling the roads of Molokai!
With a short stop in town for breakfast on our trek west, we found ourselves following Highway 460 to the fabled pristine beaches. As we neared what appeared to be the end of the island however, Highway 460 made a sharp left turn into the tiny town of Maunaloa. And there the highway ended. Perhaps that’s why the only other car we’d seen on Highway 460 this morning had turned off to the right about a mile before town. However, since we were there, surely we’d have to look around just a bit.
A small community of a few hundred residents, it was dotted with modest homes that were distinguished by well manicured colorful floral plantings. There was a post office (like all things Molokai, old Hawaiian style with tin roof), a “kite factory”, which a small shop of perhaps 500 square feet, and a “gallery” with some artistic offerings, but also a collection of miscellaneous clothing and jewelry. Of note was the distinct aroma of incense that gave it a strangely oriental feeling. The town’s general store was across the street, offering basic staples. Perhaps noteworthy, a gallon of milk here would be valued at $9.99.
After snapping a few pix, we retraced our route to the branch road that led north, taking us from our plateau of around 1,000 feet down to sea level. Here we discovered the “West End Resorts”, a handful of condominium complexes that were likely situated here not only because of the attractive nearby beaches, but because of the island’s only golf course. One problem, however, was that the golf course was abandoned some years ago, and the brush and weeds have fully reclaimed their space. Only an occasional glimpse of the cart path provided a clue to where the course once was. The few condominium complexes in the area were generally modest, but nicely maintained. They are mostly situated well back from the ocean, with pleasant tropical views out to the water.
What we were really looking for, however, was a long stretch of wide sandy beach that reportedly has few visitors along its three mile length. As the road made its way down to the beach area, we could see there were private homes that must have fronted on the beach along this stretch of roadway. There were several mostly unmarked roads that led off in the direction of the beach, and if one looked closely you could find a small sign that said “public beach access”. I believe there were four of these in total, and we ventured down each one to see what we might find.
Mostly we would find a small parking area, and a quite overgrown path through the tall grass leading to a very inviting broad expanse of white sand, with waves crashing in the background. In only one of these access areas did we find other cars parked. I guess that must be the most popular of the access sites.
We did manage to venture out onto this pristine beach in a couple of different places. It has a reputation for not being very swimmer-friendly. And it’s easy to see why: The waves crash virtually right on the beach. And these aren’t just gentle waves that you might dodge your way through. Should you be in the path of one you’d likely be squashed flat, and thoroughly sandblasted. One can only imagine the strength of the undertow. We took a few pix and a video clip, but one really has to be there and see it to fully appreciate just how powerful these waves are as they hit the beach.
Swimming conditions to the contrary notwithstanding, this is an incredibly spectacular oceanfront area, where you could walk literally for miles with only a slim chance of seeing another human being in the area. I can report however that on one lonely beach access lane we spotted a very large and colorful wild turkey and some playful little creatures we believe were mongoose (hence mongeese?).
Having finally accomplished our goal of getting to the West end of Molokai, we will be content to spend the balance of our time nearer the center of the Island, and towards the east end where our own rental unit is situated. We’re quite glad that we made the choice of locations we did in choosing to be east of town.
Tomorrow, weather permitting, will be perhaps the highlight of our trip here. We’ll be flying in a small 4 passenger plane to the Kalaupapa Peninsula, and having a guided tour of what was once the very isolated leper colony there. Part of the tour involves some sightseeing by air along the steep cliffs that isolate the peninsula from the rest of the island. Likely this will be a fun opportunity for some pix and clips.