Yesterday, we got up and went to Kalaupapa National Park. It’s the Northern peninsula on Moloka’i that is only accessible by hiking (or taking a mule ride) 600 meters down a cliff trail with 26 switchbacks. It’s been populated with people with Hansen’s disease since 1866 and still has 25 or so people who were cured in the fifties but still require medical care. It’s run mostly by the Hawai’i department of health, but will be totally uner the control of the national parks service when the last patients leave (some require more medical care than they can get on this peninsula and live on O’ahu).
We hiked it, and so did another 2 people, but 8 more came down on mules (pronounced moo-lays). Another 5 came by plane (there’s an airport, too) from Maui. The tour is on a rusted out school bus and because it’s a national park with people living in it, it’s restricted access and you must remain with the group and there’s a only a few buildings you’re allowed to go in. The tour guide told us that when ships used to come to drop off people with Hansen’s disease, they couldn’t dock since the water was too shallow near land, so they just tossed ’em in the water about 3 km out and they either swam in or drowned. Good thing there’s a cure now.
It was beter than I thought it would be. The hike down wasn’t long. When you’re on the peninsula, it’s very pretty to look up at the green cliffs, next to the cloudless azure sky and inviting emerald sea. The hike back up was in the hot, hot sun at 1pm, but it wasn’t too bad.
sidenote: somebody wrote a program (maemo-wordpy) for the internet tablets and that’s what I’m using right now to blog this (no laptop required).
Update 2007-06-27: Added two pictures of Kalaupapa.