<< Papohaku Beach
Mo'omomi Preserve >>

Kalaupapa

The Hansen's Disease Settlement

Probably the best-known fact about Moloka'i is its history as a colony for patients suffering from leprosy (now know as Hansen's Disease). From 1866 until 1969 sufferers of this debilitating disease were forced against their will into exile on Moloka'i's isolated north coast. The geography of the Kalaupapa peninsula made escape virtually impossible, as the only accesses (even to this day) are via boat or up the steep trail which winds 2000 ft up the sea cliffs.

In 1873 Joseph De Veuster, better known as Father Damien, arrived in Kalaupapa and spent the rest of his life improving the welfare of the patients there with the help of Mother Marianne Cope and others from the Order of St. Francis and the Brothers of the Sacred Heart. In 1889 Father Damien succumbed to Hansen's Disease and was buried at his St. Philomena Church on the peninsula. Damien's remains have since been returned to Belgium but in 1995 a relic (his right hand) was returned to his original grave. No matter where he now rests, the work he did to bring about the start of a better life for leprosy patients remains.

Although patients and former patients have been free to leave since 1969, many have remained on the peninsula, choosing to live out their lives among the community they built in isolation. Because patients continue to live and work in Kalaupapa (now a National Park) today, access is restricted for visitors to those on tours. While it is possible to fly into Kalaupapa's small airport, most people either hike down the trail or take the extremely popular mule ride. I highly recommend the mule ride; it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Despite feeling like you are likely to go flying right off the edge of the cliffs at every switchback the mules are incredibly surefooted and it's a fun trek down (and up). At the bottom you'll take the bus tour which allows you to see many of Kalaupapa's historic sites without disturbing the residents.

A few things to mention - book well in advance, the tours fill up fast. Wear closed shoes! Even if it is a hot day, you won't want to wear sandals because the trail is narrow, and often has rocks pointing out, and your mule might not be paying 100% attention to where YOUR feet are considering that HE has to climb 2000 ft down and up those steps! Also be sure to wear comfortable trousers or long long long shorts that don't chafe. Have your camera out before you head to the trail so that you aren't fumbling around to get a good shot - the views from the trail are spectacular. Don't plan on anything too strenuous later in the day because you WILL be sore afterwards unless you ride horses for a living. Don't forget to thank your mule for doing all the work! P.S. if you are assigned to ride "Baluga" give yourself room between you and other mules. He's rather belligerent...



View over the Hansen's Disease settlement
Kalaupapa, Moloka'i (May 11th, '08)



View from the cliff trail
Kalaupapa, Moloka'i (May 6th, '08)



Riding our surefooted mules down the steep cliff trail
Kalaupapa, Moloka'i (May 6th, '08)



The steep cliffs of Kalaupapa
Kalaupapa, Moloka'i (May 6th, '08)



Our bus for our guided tour of the settlement
Kalaupapa, Moloka'i (May 6th, '08)



The coastline at the Hansen's Disease settlement
Kalaupapa, Moloka'i (May 6th, '08)



The shore where patients were sometimes pushed off the boat to swim to the settlement
Kalaupapa, Moloka'i (May 6th, '08)



An old Model-T in a resident's yard
Kalaupapa, Moloka'i (May 6th, '08)



Ruins of settlement buildings
Kalaupapa, Moloka'i (May 6th, '08)



Father Damien's St. Philomena Church
Kalaupapa, Moloka'i (May 6th, '08)



Holes cut in the church floor by Father Damien to allow patients to get rid of excess saliva
Kalaupapa, Moloka'i (May 6th, '08)



A feral cat miaows for food
Kalaupapa, Moloka'i (May 6th, '08)



Father Damien's grave
Kalaupapa, Moloka'i (May 6th, '08)



Gravestones at St. Philomena Church
Kalaupapa, Moloka'i (May 6th, '08)



Coming back up the steps from the settlement
Kalaupapa, Moloka'i (May 6th, '08)



Me and my mule Baluga after our trek to the Kalaupapa Hansen's Disease settlement
Kalaupapa, Moloka'i (May 6th, '08)

Before or after your tour I recommend taking the short trail to the Phallic Rock. It's supposed to be a source of fertility for young women. Hm.... on second thought.....



The Phallic Rock above Kalaupapa
Kalaupapa, Moloka'i (May 6th, '08)

<< Papohaku Beach
Mo'omomi Preserve >>


2008 hilojen.orangellous.com
All text, graphics, and photographs are the property of www.orangellous.com and may not be reproduced in any form.

Blog software and design by Orangellous