Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Adventures in Paradise II

Yesterday was truly an amazing day. Not only did my sister and I have the opportunity to fly into and tour beautiful Kalaupapa Peninsula, home of the former Hansen’s (Leprosy) Colony and some of the most stunning scenery we’ve ever encountered, but afterward, I was lucky enough to get to sit in the front seat, next to Rob, the pilot of our 9-seater Piper airplane as we took off from the peninsula, circled back over for a bird’s eye view of the volcanic crater, cruised along the stunningly gorgeous pali (cliffs) of Molokai’s north shore, and then Hawala Valley, at the island’s eastern edge. From there we headed over to Maui and down her resort-lined western shore, made a big u-turn just south of Kaanapali, landing at Kapalua Airport to drop off three of our passengers. We then took off again (me still in the front, YES!), crossing the channel between Lana’i and Moloka’i, returning along Molokai’s south shore, flying over where I kayaked a couple of weeks ago, over fishponds and Father Damien’s “topside” churches, over the town and harbor of Kaunakaikai (where I helped watch KP2 just a week ago), and finally returning to Moloka’i Airport.

Not only not bad for a former aviophobic, but absolutely magical, and pretty much one of the greatest thrills of my lifetime. Not to mention truly a milestone. I was not nervous for one second of the trip, not on either of the takeoffs and landings, not even when we banked so steeply and pretty much buzzed the peninsula so that we could see nearly all the way down to the emerald green lake far below inside the crater. Not only not nervous, but like a kid in Disneyland for the first time, giddy, and yet at the same time, hyper aware and centered, quietly marveling—one, simply at being there, and two, at the grandeur of what we were witnessing.

It had poured rain for about forty-five minutes of our tour. Luckily it came just as we were finishing up and getting ready to eat lunch at the covered outdoor pavilion. The drops were huge, and we got soaked just walking from the bus to the eating area (I hadn’t realized the tour included a wet t-shirt contest!) It was fun and refreshing and came with a big bonus—falls running as we flew by afterward that wouldn’t otherwise have been running. Delicate fingers of lace cascading gently down the sides of the green pali into the deep blue sea below.

Simply outstanding.

I notice the temptation to feel angry at all that fear has kept me from for such a big part of my life. And yet, had these things been everyday occurrences, it would not have felt as miraculous, as adventurous, as other-worldly. Without the thrill of dancing on the razor's edge, it could not have knocked my socks off the way it did. And having one’s socks knocked off adds a whole other dimension. Besides the fact of flying and gorgeous scenery, it adds the magic. The magic that, hours and hours later continued to buzz inside me as I lay down to sleep, the experience coursing through my veins, a part of me still in that tiny cockpit, with the roar of engines, the amazing buoyancy and feeling of flight, the incredible scenery, and Rob’s confident and knowledgeable voice as he pointed things out and told me about them.

Here are the pictures that I took (except the one of me, of course!) from inside the cockpit. I hope you enjoy them even a fraction of the amount I enjoyed taking them! Next up I will write about Kalaupapa itself, far more important, far more touching, a far more enduring human story than Debby’s Great and Marvelous Adventure ever will be. And yet, it is my story... personal, profound, and life-altering...

Captain Rob

Me, in the cockpit, rainy day hair

The crater of the volcano that formed the peninsula

Out to the ocean...

Truly stunning scenery...

Tiny beautiful falls

Banking... exhilarating!

Landing on Maui - Kapalua airstrip

South Shore, Moloka'i

Returning home

A huge thanks for Rob at Pacific Air Charters for an amazing experience!

With Aloha, from Moloka'i

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