As I write this, the sun has recently set and I’m sitting in the house Kate and I rented today. Our landlord will soon return to Seattle, but for now, he’s our quazi-roommate staying in the separate studio attached to the house. He’ll be finishing up a few house work tasks before eventually returning to Seattle. Nice guy, interesting guy. Apparently he’s a lawyer by trade, but has spent some time working in Denali National Park. At some point, he bought this house out here on the most remote of the publicly accessible Hawaiian Islands and clearly enjoys all the great nature activities here. He has two large lockers of camping and snorkeling gear in the garage collecting dust that he has encouraged us to use, so that’s a real bonus with this short-term rental. There’s also a mountain bike thrown into the deal that he spent part of yesterday afternoon fixing-up, JACKPOT! I’m sure we’ll get some more stories out of him before this is all over. Before getting on island here yesterday morning, we spent 5 days hiking, camping, and relaxing on Maui. My visits to Maui in the past have always been short, usually over a long-weekend from Honolulu, and usually packed with as much activity on as much of the island as possible. This time around, we concentrated the trip on two main areas of the island with a few days at each place, and we were really able to soak it in and relax. In coming from the Big Island, Maui was actually an increase in pace. More cars, more traffic, more busy, more tourists – my disdain for tourists is really quite impressive considering my living the vast majority of each year as a tourist in various tourist towns. I fear for my reintroduction to the mainland in 3 months – if Maui’s pace is too fast for me, I can only imagine the shock a city or metropolitan airport would bring.
I’ve grown used to the small 9-seater planes we have been taking between islands. This trip to Maui was the 4th time flying by small plane in the last several months. To sweeten the deal on Mokulele Airlines, legs between islands are $50 flat rate and free from TSA searches and waiting in a line of any kind. It’s definitely flying with all the airport hassle removed. Yesterday, however, we did not fly, we took a ferry boat over to Molokai from Maui early in the morning. We rushed off to look at the house and then were able to quickly and truly settle back into relaxation-mode. Maui is slower paced than Oahu, the Big Island is slower than Maui, and Molokai is the slowest by far. The past 36 hours here have already been an experience. Afternoons have been filled with empty beaches and sleepy, small-town diners and bars. The land here is dramatic and beautiful. This afternoon, we took a walk up a small dirt path from the beach we were on. We knew the dusty red path would lead us to some secluded beaches down the shoreline that are inaccessible by car. During a short walk down the path, we saw wild turkeys and a bunch of deer. The deer here are cool to see, but are not-native and highly damaging to the vegetation. The damage to vegetation ultimately leads to a whole other chain of erosion events and has big negative affect on water quality and sea-life. Luckily, these deer are tasty, so local hunters are able to put a significant dent in their population. Our beach-stroll turned nature-walk got really interesting when it opened up to an abandoned beach formerly occupied by a resort company that used to run this part of the island. As Kate and I strolled down the beach looking at the decaying buildings set a ways back from the water, incredible views in every direction, and crystal clear water breaking over shallow jet-black lava rocks, we somehow both failed to see the 500 lbs monk seal sleeping in the sun that we were literally about to trip over (when I say “literally,” I mean it). Kate was about 3 feet from the huge monk seal and his partner when in an instant we and the seals all realized the others were there. The huge seals rolled over and Kate and I did a super-speed reflexive sprint about 10 yards up the beach. I’m not sure about the true ferociousness of a monk seal, but I know they can move faster than you’d think and can pack a wallop with their teeth or tusks or whatever it is they have. As we cautiously circled to the other side of the seals at a distance, we watched the seals, they watched us, and it seemed like everyone understood that all four parties involved were equally surprised. There’s only about 1,100 of this species left, and here we are just running into two of them on a day at the beach… crazy. We continued a short distance down the beach and saw some fish and an eel swimming in a tide pool – nearby, there was a “lahge lobstah” shell dried out on the beach. This beach, departed only a short distance from humans was just totally saturated with life. Kate and I had been in the sun long enough, and headed back to the car. As we passed the seals, the huge one let out a bark at us, I think just to see how fast we could move again.
I can’t believe we haven’t been here two days yet. We’ve experienced a lot in our short time here. It will be a wild 13 weeks for sure. Work starts tomorrow morning! But for now the night is pretty quiet except for the roosters I can hear clucking around the neighborhood. More updates and pictures to come soon – I can’t believe I didn’t bring a camera on that walk today. Oh well, next time.