After Maria left for church, I folded and packed my bags for heading home. I think I brought about half again too much - I have to remember the packing advice of put out what you think you absolutely need, and then cut it down in half. Will have to remember that next year, so long as I am reinvited to Kalaupapa!
I will miss the tour to Kalawao, the original settlement, location of Saint Damien's original church and grave. It is ok, I did see those when we hiked down in 2006. Maybe next time. Sadly though, it was the perfect opportunity to talk about Damien and Brother Joseph Dutton. Again, more on that next year. Maria also wants to do a "treacherous" trail in the valley which takes all day to go out and back. Seems like it is double walking stick time for me should I be part of that.
We drove to the black sand beach, right next to the former slaughter house, and Maria scampered down the rocks to the beach. Me, I lumbered down. Sometimes the apple sits still on the tree. I did make it down unscathed, and stepped back to view the beach/dumping ground of the peninsula before looking for eels. Maria found one in a tide pool, so I went over and started talking to it. As I was asking the eel to come pose for a picture, it uncurled and swam a little closer to us. I think Maria turned very white under the tan while I tried to coax the eel closer. After a while, it was through posing and it left. I think Maria remains unconvinced of the lure of morays.
A quick shower and change of clothes later, and my bags were being loaded on the pickup truck. The plan was to head to the fishing hole near the airport and to look for more eels. Aunty Erma and a host of others came along for the ride so that they could fish, but it was very hurried, so most people didn't bring their appropriate rock climbing shoes/felt bottom booties. Maria clambered out over the rocks (yet again!) as I caught up. Marina, well out in front of us both, found an eel, but it disappeared back into the ocean before we made it over. By that time, it was after 9 am, and I was getting anxious about by 9:45 return flight. As it turns out, I shouldn't have been, but that's ok.
Maria and I made our way back to the truck, and took off for the airport, where I waited about 15 minutes for the plane to arrive. One passenger and the pilot got off, and I was the only one headed back to Honolulu. We had heavy cloud cover, and a very bumpy flight as we headed back, but nothing much to worry about. We landed just fine, emerging from the cloud cover to a free runway, and then it was back to my little car unscathed. I got a text from Maria saying that I was already missed at Kalaupapa, and I certainly missed our group.
I really want to thank Aunty Erma for allowing me to come, Maria for arranging my presence, and for all the group for sharing their time on the peninsula with me. We all came for different reasons, but we were all there, and it was like an extended Hawaiian `ohana, into which I was hanai.
Mahalo nui Aunty, mahalo nui Maria, mahalo nui ke Akua!