In the 1860s Hawaii had a problem. The spread of Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy). The answer to leprosy in the day was to send those afflicted to exile in the kalaupapa peninsular on Molokai, part of the Maui County islands. This little area, only accessable by a very steep mule track from the rest of Molokai became famous for endurance, unfathonable human kindness from individuals, and especially a priest, now a Saint. Father Damien.
Traversing Down The Cliffs
There is now an airport on the peninsular, but many, like us chose to take the mule track down. 2 hours, Totally downhill, sheer drops to the side. A very unique experience indeed. The mules know exactly what they are doing, they know every step. Hold on tight! The views out over the peninsular below you are amazing, plus when you get to the bottom you get to wonder as all do as you look back up the cliff and think…. Really!? Did we really just come down there, by mule?
Don’t forget these are some of the highest cliffs in the world, at points rising up 610 m (2000 feet). What an experience to get down them this way.
Kalaupapa Leprosy Colony
At the bottom of the cliffs you are met with a very calm signs of civilisation. Albeit very eerie in the sense of all that has happened here in the past. There are no live cases of the disease here now but many many many former patients, whom were treated after a cure was found chose to now live their lives in this remote town.
In 1866, little was understood about leprosy. And a law was passed stating that serious cases should come to this place and be quarantined. When, in 1969 the mandatory quarantine ended, many of the residents, cured still chose to stay there, it was their home. Another fact was that they had been isolated so long it would be hard for them to go into a normal social society elsewhere.
A Tour of Kalaupapa
The tour you are given takes you through the history, the sacredness, the people, the way of life back then and of course the amazing work of Father Damien. His churches survive, his legacy lives on. This man whom gave his life to caring for the people stranded here, giving them care and hope in isolation. He gave their lives meaning and allowed others whom followed in his steps to help and care for these people for instance Mother Marianne Cope.
The whole fascinating story is incredible and to experience it on the ground itself make it very real and brings it to you. A day I learnt lots and a day I shan’t forget.
There is more. Awaiting you at the other end of the peninsular are the said highest sea cliffs in the world! Spectacular sight in the paradise. A view you stand and look at in awe. Leaving you ready to get back on the back of a mule for the twists on turns back up the cliff.
Molokai is a special island. This little corner of it really opened my eyes and the longing to explore more was there inside me.