Moloka`i trip, part 3: Halawa Valley hike

September 19th, 2014
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Molokai’s East End provided the cultural lesson of the day for our Pacific Century Fellows group of friends for nearly a full day. We left the hotel at 8 am for a windy, beautiful one hour drive to the Halawa Valley.

Mooula Falls

Mooula Falls

There are several tour groups, and we were amused to later learn that there is no cell phone connection in the valley, so our guide has to drive six miles out from his house daily to check his messages and confirm his bookings. It should be said we didn't have a problem making the reservation or communicating with him.

Our hike started with a historical debrief, complete with a binder of photos passed around to illustrate his points. Then, we hiked three miles into this gorgeous, ancient valley to get a glimpse of Hawaii back in time. According to our guide, ancient Polynesians settled in this valley as early as 650 AD.

Molokai_Mooula waterfall group

Diane & Ina

Diane & Ina

It's not hard to believe. We passed many hidden heiau on our way to the 250-foot Mo`oula Falls, before finally arriving and taking a dip into the refreshingly cool waters. There were a lot of locals enjoying same, but the area is large enough to accommodate many.

Molokai_Halawa hike group

The hike is relatively flat and easy, though it does cross several streams, so I advise you wear Tevas, or wear sneakers and then switch to slippers for the crossing. I easily did the hike in slippers, but nearly lost a slipper in the stream because it had just rained and the water was a little forceful. The rocks are also slippery.

Molokai_Halawa stream

The mosquitos are relentless. We had repellent, but if I had to do it again, I would have worn pants and a long sleeved shirt. Mosquitos love me.

We stopped a few times along the way for the guide to point out native plants and landmarks. My favorite was about the kukui, which we know is the state tree, and whose nuts are used as candles. What I didn't know was that a lei of kukui nuts symbolically represents a reminder for the wearer to stay in the spiritual light. Beautiful!

If you go, the only way to explore the area is with a guide, since the trail crosses private property. You can check our Hawaii Tourism Authority's website for a list of guides, at http://www.gohawaii.com/molokai/regions-neighborhoods/east-end/halawa-valley.

Moloka`i trip, part 2: Kalaupapa hike and tour

September 17th, 2014
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If a strenuous six mile hike down and then back up a 1,600 foot descent is your idea of fun, then the hike from Topside down into Kalaupapa is for you! My Pacific Century Fellows friends and I certainly enjoyed it.

Trail head. Photo by Ryan Kawamoto.

Trail head. Photo by Ryan Kawamoto.

Our day started at 8:20 a.m. at the trailhead. There are 26 switchbacks, and while the trail is well-maintained with steps, it's hard on the knees. I might be getting old. Halfway down, my knee started hurting. A walking stick is helpful - for going down as well as up.

Photo by Ryan Kawamoto.

Photo by Ryan Kawamoto.

It took 90 minutes down and it was not strenuous otherwise. We got lucky - it was drizzling part of the way, so the trail was not hot. Most of the trail is covered with a canopy of trees, anyway.

Photo by Ryan Kawamoto.

Photo by Ryan Kawamoto.

Photo by Ryan Kawamoto.

Photo by Ryan Kawamoto.

 

The views are incredible!

You may have to pull over to the side now and then to let the groups on the mules pass. Surprisingly, the mules took just as long as we walkers. I'm actually glad we walked. I liked the exercise.

Once down, we booked a tour with Father Damien Tours. We met the guide and rode around the island with a knowledgeable guide who showed us the main street, the harbor, the old slaughterhouse, several churches, a bookstore, and a shady spot for lunch in Kalawao Valley. Naturally, Father Damien's church and grave played a big role. The tour took four hours. It was worth it.

Photo by Ryan Kawamoto.

Photo by Ryan Kawamoto.

Photo by Ryan Kawamoto.

Photo by Ryan Kawamoto.

 

Kalawao. Photo by Ryan Kawamoto.

Kalawao. Photo by Ryan Kawamoto.

Photo by Ryan Kawamoto.

Photo by Ryan Kawamoto.

Kalaupapa Peninsula. Photo by Ryan Kawamoto.

Kalaupapa Peninsula. Photo by Ryan Kawamoto.

 

 

Photo by Ryan Kawamoto.

Photo by Ryan Kawamoto.

The walk back up looks intimidating when viewed from the ground up, but it's really not that bad. It only took us 80 minutes, and since we were so close, we drove over to see the Phallic Rock at Pala'au State Park. It is immense. It's supposed to bring fertility, so I gave it a wide berth because I'm all done having children.

Molokai_Phallic Rock

All in all, it's a lovely way to spend a day, and left us all feeling more connected to the island and the history of such a tumultuous time in Hawaii's past.

Moloka`i trip, part 1

September 15th, 2014
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I haven't logged much time in Moloka`i recently. I've been there a few times for work when I was at KHNL, and previous to that, I spent spring break with the Kamehameha Schools Bishop Choir singing our way around churches on Topside.

From the beach at Hotel Moloka`i. Photo by Ryan Kawamoto.

From the beach at Hotel Moloka`i. Photo by Ryan Kawamoto.

Sunset from hotel. Photo by Ryan Kawamoto.

Sunset from hotel. Photo by Ryan Kawamoto.

 

It was about time to revisit the Friendly Isle, so when my group of friends from Pacific Century Fellows (we are all in the current class) wanted to plan a trip, I was all for it.

We stayed for three nights and four days at Hotel Moloka`i, while venturing around just about all parts of the island except the west side.

With houseman Diamond.

With houseman Diamond.

One of the trip highlights was Friday evening entertainment at the hotel. There's a Na Kupuna Aloha Friday jam session in which various members of the community just come over and kanikapila - and this is truly an organic effort, with the occasional server stopping to dance hula for the crowd.

Hotel Molokai: Ina, Ryan, Steph, Tyler, me, Leslie, Tyler, Kalani. Photo by: Ryan Kawamoto

Hotel Molokai: Ina, Ryan, Steph, Tyler, me, Leslie, Tyler, Kalani. Photo by Ryan Kawamoto

What I found lovely about it is the very small-town feel it imparts on visitors - not just those from other states, but even for those from Honolulu. Most music events in Oahu are produced to at least some degree so things billed as kanikapila are not as authentic as the original backyard jam.

My group might have had too much fun because I ended up accidentally getting briefly married to one of the other fellows. But... what happens in Moloka`i can stay in Moloka`i! Ha ha! Love you, Bully!

Diane Dos Santos Tam.

Diane Dos Santos Tam.

Another watering hole so nice we visited it twice was Paddlers Inn, with live entertainment and billiards. Of course, it could be that it's the only bar on the island...

The stars shine brightly on the island, so if you're into stargazing, this is a great place to take in the heavens.

Lest you think all we did was play - and you would be forgiven for thinking so - we also stopped at Ka Honua Momona for a tour of this ancient fishpond. Caretakers explained the difficulty of managing this resource but also talked about the joys and benefits of keeping a cultural touchstone alive.

 

The fishpond.

The fishpond.

Ka Honua Momona's mission is to be a model of sustainability mauka a makai (from the mountains to the sea). It seeks to foster connections between all aspects of the island ecosystem, including the people and culture, and firmly believes that Molokai can again return to abundance and become a self-sufficient model for others.

Dr. Emmett Aluli.

Dr. Emmett Aluli.

Dr. Emmett Aluli, Co-Medical Executive Director of Moloka`i General Hospital, was kind enough to give us a tour of the facility and to talk about the challenges and positives of rural healthcare. Most interesting - there are only three doctors on the island, so if one needs specialized care, one needs to fly to Oahu. I've long been aware of this issue, but being there and hearing it drove the point home.

Rob Stephenson from the Moloka`i Chamber of Commerce - and a PCF alumnus - graced us with his presence for a couple days, and set up a business panel for us to hear from community leaders on the particularities of doing business on the island. The concerns are extremely different from those one might hear in Honolulu or a larger island.

Tyler, excited for wi fi.

Tyler, excited for wi fi.

One other thing: internet connection (wireless or otherwise) is sketchy, so any visit to Coffees of Hawaii generated much excitement for the group. It may take us longer than a four day trip to want to disconnect from our electronic umbilical cords.

That, and if you think gas is expensive on Oahu, look at what it costs on Moloka`i:

Molokai_gas

Team Moloka`i! Ina, Leslie, Ryan, Kalani, Tyler, me, Ina

Team Moloka`i! Ina, Leslie, Ryan, Kalani, Tyler, me, Ina. Photo by Steph Hsu.

Those are just some of the recaps of the quick visit - and in the blogs ahead, I'll detail some of the more extensive day trips we took - which you might enjoy, too.

KHON2 Wake Up 2Day's Kelly Simek

September 12th, 2014
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Since August, Hawaii viewers have been graced with a new presence in the morning: Kelly Simek, KHON2's morning weather anchor. She's fun, she's bubbly, and her radiant smile is the perfect way for many to start their day.

Wake Up 2Day: Taizo, Di, Jai, Ron, Kelly

Wake Up 2Day: Taizo, Di, Jai, Ron, Kelly

"It's so nice that I can inform people how to prepare for their day. I love outdoor activities and I'm honored that people actually plan their day around my forecast," she told me. She's one of the five person Wake Up 2Day on air team that includes Ron Mizutani, Taizo Braden, Jai Cunningham, and me.

Kelly's debut on air

Kelly's debut on air

If Kelly looks familiar to you already, it's because she's been a key part of the University of Hawaii at Manoa's athletics program for the past three years. "I came to UH Manoa as a freshman because I got a scholarship to twirl baton for the band." We're lucky - she probably would have stayed on the mainland if not.

Kelly twirling for UH Manoa

Kelly twirling for UH Manoa.

Photo courtesy: Kelly Simek

Kelly graduated this past spring - in just three years- with a Bachelor's degree of Arts in Interdiciplinary Studies, which combined broadcasting and meteorology. "I initially thought I wanted to be a newscaster, but I really like math and science, so I gravitated towards this after taking a meteorology course early in my college career. I loved it," she explains. Kelly credits her teacher and advisor Dr. Gary Barnes with providing the right mentorship to help her make this choice.

She still, however, will be twirling through the 2014-2015 school year. You can catch her at all UH football games, as well as basketball and volleyball this season. Kelly does this while juggling a new courseload as a UH Manoa graduate student (major currently undeclared.)

"I love twirling. It's a big part of my life. I have the best memories. The band members were my first friends when I moved to Hawaii, and I appreciate that I got to spend four seasons cementing these friendships," Kelly reminisces.

Kelly began twirling baton at age six - and shortly thereafter, at age ten, began competing. "My mother's a twirler, too, and the training was intense. At its peak I would train two to three hours a day. I was even homeschooled during junior high school so that I could dedicate time to training," reveals Kelly.

The work paid off. In her senior year at La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad, California, Kelly was selected to twirl for San Diego State. "I love when I can catch a big trick and hear the crowd go wild," she says. She's so talented, she holds national titles in twirling.

Twirling has taken her across the world. Besides a coveted scholarship to UH, Kelly twirled at the Queen's New Year's Parade in London and represented the US as a Goodwill Ambassador. In her personal time, she has also journeyed around Europe.

Kelly parlayed her looks, intelligence, and talent into beauty pageant success. She garnered a Miss East Oahu title, then ran and placed fourth runner up in Miss Hawaii in 2014. As one would guess, she twirled for her talent.

kelly miss hi

Photo courtesy: Kelly Simek

Will she run again? "I don't rule it out," she hints.

For now, KHON2 is her life. Her 3 a.m. - 11 a.m. schedule is demanding (I know!), and after work, it's "nap, band practice (for twirling) and dinner."

kelly headshot

On weekends, she likes "anything outdoors - hiking, swimming, body boarding." She just got certified in SCUBA over the weekend, so she can add that to the list of weekend fun!

We enjoy the sunny demeanor Kelly brings to our morning show family - and are sure you do, too, as you start your day with Wake Up 2Day!

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Local non-profit sends books to Micronesia

September 10th, 2014
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A Hawaii non-profit organization is working to help those less fortunate in Micronesia. REPAC, an acronym for Reach Out Pacific, was founded by State Senator Glenn Wakai (D- 15).

Recently, REPAC filled a container of surplus books and shipped it to Pohnpei, Micronesia. "In Micronesia, communities are lucky to have a library. If they do, the government only provides the building and staff. Everything inside is donated. They often get a bunch of romance novels and not much else. Over the years, REPAC has sent more than a hundred thousand dollars worth of book shelves and library books to the region," explained Senator Wakai, who is also the Honorary Consul for Palau, which is part of the island group of Micronesia.

Volunteers assembling donated bookshelves. Courtesy: REPAC

Volunteers assembling donated bookshelves. Courtesy: REPAC

The books are headed to the Pohnpei Library. In June, UH Manoa's William S. Richardon School of Law donated book shelves. "Our shipment will put thousands of books on those shelves," said Wakai.

Bookshelves in Pohnepi Library. Courtesy: REPAC

Bookshelves in Pohnepi Library. Courtesy: REPAC

REPAC sends out a container every other month. If you would like to donate gently used books, please contact  reachoutpacific@gmail.com.