Hawaii- Island of Molokai- to the west
Trip Start Jul 24, 2008
13Trip End Aug 25, 2008
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Where I stayed
Apart from the island of Lanai, where some you will remember a conference at Koele Lodge a few years back, Molokai must be the least visited non private island in the group. Usually described as the Friendly Isle, it might better be described as the quiet isle, or Hawaii 50 years ago. It reputedly has 7000 to 8000 residents, but we could only find 500 of them at most, they are so well scattered. The ten or so tourists were easier to find, as we kept bumping into them wherever we went.
The scenery here varies according to where you are. On the dry west coast where we are staying, the most beautiful (but reputedly sometimes dangerous) cream coloured beaches sit prettily between black or red volcanic headlands, but away from the beach it's mainly rather ugly scrub covered hillsides of volcanic rock and red soil
By way of contrast, the wetter eastern half of the island is far more lush and tropical, as is the case with all these islands, and the scenery is mountainous and breathtaking with huge sea cliffs to the north east and little sandy coves for excellent snorkelling to the south east.
In the middle a vast fairly flat area of red soil given over to agriculture, but needing irrigation to grow stuff.
While the northern coast is ragged and wild, the southern coast is mainly edged by Hawaii's longest coral reef,
which sounds nice except that the water is too shallow (and muddy looking in an onshore wind) to form a proper lagoon for swimming and boating. It looks as though the reef has been dynamited in the past to form the few harbours in the reef.
Let's look more closely at the west end where we are staying. This third of the island seems to be owned by Molokai Ranch, under Japanese ownership we are told, although the owners used to be (would you believe it) NZ's own Brierley Investments
The once very pleasant but no wmostly closed down small town of Maunaloa with it's big hotel, shops, restaurants and even a cinema, is set alongside a nice park, and down the road a huge coastal resort area with various low rise condominium resorts, housing plots and hotel developments, around a once nice golf course and alongside the very pretty local beach.
A massive amount was obviously spent a long time ago on infrastructure like underground power and a nice network of sealed (but falling to bits) roads, two hotels and the beachside golf course, but the tourists apparently didn't come in sufficient numbers, as the local people say that the ranch has struggled with losses since it started building.
Some developments like the very nice Ke Nani Kai resort we are staying in seem to be fully sold and operating self sufficiently, but earlier this year the Ranch closed almost everything else down, including both hotels and the golf course, and they are now partly boarded up and slowly becoming derelict.
This action came about in April because the Ranch, sick of losing money, wanted to get permission to sell off plots of sea front land on La'ua point to provide capital to restore the hotels and provide a cash injection to finish off the development, but there was obviously huge opposition from islanders not wanting more change, and not wanting more water price rises or shortages caused by new development
One has also to ask first if the Ranch would in fact be able to sell more plots with their history of closures, and secondly, would the Ranch actually reinvest the money from selling land or just walk away with the extra cash....
The Ranch said that if they couldn't get permission (and water supplies) for the new development they would close everything down with massive loss of jobs for the island. I guess that those in opposition called their bluff and then found they were not bluffing- everything was shut down, and then there were not enough tourists to support all those local jobs.
The closing down sign in the photo of the front of the cinema says it all about the frustration of the owner now presumably out of work and very poor, like many others running businesses here. "Thanks, Molokai"
Very sad, especially as the islanders are now very much divided among themselves for and against tourism and development
Then the real crunch came recently when the Ranch said they would no longer supply water to this end of the island, and everyone panicked and ran to the council for help. Action has been staved off for a while, and we would hope that the state government will take over, as these developments will become worthless ghost towns without utilities. What a shame for the people who brought property here to enjoy all the area's facilities like the now closed golf course, shops and restaurants!
In the photo out from where we are staying you can see the now brown golf course over the road.
Meanwhile, we have been very happy with our week here- the townhouse is just perfect and all we could possibly want in a holiday home- spacious, well equipped, light and with good views, and we have eaten every meal on the sheltered and large terrace. Each day starts with tennis at about 8am, followed by, for me, 13 laps of the pool to make up my quarter of a km, followed by a soak in the huge spa pool. (No, Chris does not do 13 laps- she is usually back in the shower while I finish swimming!) Then breakfast.
We find that the very much increased exercise on holiday offsets the extra food we want to eat
And then around ten we head out exploring. Once back at around four we head for the pool again. Drinks at five, dinner on the terrace (lanai) at 7ish after going down to the beach to watch the sun set.
I have divided the photos into three sections of the island. West (where we are staying), central, and east.
Most of the photos of this end of the island speak for themselves- great beaches for our lunchtime picnics, but many a bit rough for swimming with waves crashing on steeply sloping sand.