Morning starts early in Kalaupapa

I was a little sore in the right hip last night from playing volleyball, so getting comfortable in a twin bed as a bit of a problem.  Nevertheless, slept well.  I was out of bed and looking at the last wisps of sunrise by 5:30.  Maria was already gone and her bed very neatly made.  A most considerate roommate, she was in the kitchen dealing with the first crisis of the day -- coffee machine plugged in but not percolating.  We relocated it to a new outlet, and proceeded onward.  It looks like the outlet died overnight, and no one could point me to a breaker box.

Slightly before 7, we both headed out.  Maria to walk and search for shells, and me to snorkel.  We encountered a  weaner on the beach from the northwest Hawaiian islands (red tag and a tattooed number).  It was playing and eating in the shallows.

I headed out for past the reef break to snorkel.  Wading out was like at the trench - walk and walk and walk and walk.  I saw Christmas wrasses, moorish idols, tons and tons of chubs, and 3 black tip reef sharks who appeared to be searching for breakfast.  I decided that it was appropriate to respect their hunt and head back inside the reef.  I took a bit of a tumble thanks to some waves, but emerged relatively unscathed.  Then it was time to get breakfast and clean off.  I had a taro malasada and mochi as part of my breakfast this morning, Filipino treats apparently, which were quite tasty!

The Kalaupapa peninsula used to be a sacred gathering place for ali`i, where they would come to meditate and gather in preparation for large decision making or meetings.  Then, in 1865, things changed.  King Kamehameha V signed the "Act to Prevent the Spread of Leprosy," a disease to which 95% of humanity has a natural immunity.  Not so native Hawaiians, Asians and other Pacific Islanders.  On January 26, 1886, the first 12 of what would become thousands were exiled to the peninsula here.  The "separating disease," Ma`i Ho`oka`awala, splintered apart families. leaving many of the residents here rejected by their families and needing to leave their bones in Kalaupapa. 

Leprosy is a devastating disease - affecting the nerves, skin, upper respiratory tract and eyes.  Patients frequently became scarred, disfigured.  In the beginning of the colonies here, being sent to the peninsula was tantamount to a death sentence.  To be here and shunned by one's family is unimaginable.

Forced isolation in Kalaupapa for sufferers of Hansen's Disease continued until 1949, after a cure was discovered.  Nonetheless, most of the patients chose to reside here.  They travelled globally, contributed to world causes, and gave of themselves, but still called this peninsula their home.  Today, only 7 patients remain, and Kalaupapa is taken care of by a combination of the Hawaii State Health Department and the National Park Service.

A large side headed to the back side of the island this morning for services.  They have come back now, and we are prepping for lunch and departure to gather salt.

Break, break

So when I heard that we were going to gather salt, I had visions of Gandhi marching down to the sea with denizens to gather gallons of water to evaporate for salt.  Not so much.  Instead, we headed down to the lava rocks (fishers came too), where we looked for pockets of salt and water. You then scoop the top layer of salt off of the water pocket and put it in your bag.  You are supposed to try to avoid getting any dirt or rocks in the salt.  I was not quite so talented as that, and got both dirt and rocks into my salt.  Not to worry, I was told, you can clean it up after you dry the salt.  So clean it up I will.

On our way we stopped at the graves of two original sponsors, Uncle Naia and Aunty Gertrude.                 

After I tired out from salt gathering, I was hanging out near the top. Maria called me over to see if I could ID a cowrie.  She had found it wedged between the dry rocks, and thought it was dead.   I knew it, but not the name. And its mantle was coming out!  Maria went back to throw it into the ocean, but it landed in the rocks. After a bit of maneuvering, I got down the side of the wall and threw it back into the water.  I wonder what tako now has a good meal...                                

We spent 3 1/2 hours out there gathering the salt!  In the meantime, a lot of fish for future meals was gathered.  A lot of people were asking me if I fished, to which I responded that I couldn't fish, especially not if they were pretty fish!  Everyone laughed.  And then tagged me to lead snorkeling tomorrow because I wasn't scared away by the three black tip sharks ...  this should be fun, I will be the sacrificial lamb.  They want me on the outside near the dropoff!

Got to meet Jessica, Maria's daughter tonight, although I'm pretty sure I met her before.  She and Shannen, the chef here at Kalaupapa for 15 years, hiked down the hill today.  Very nice girl!

Dinner was another pork laden feast, with some ceviche, fish curry, and sashimi on the side.  This is not a week to come out to lose some weight...

Well, it's time for this salt collector to fall asleep - it's been an active, sun filled day.  Aloha!