Honouliwai Restoration: Kalo Lo’i on Moloka’i

molokai small (1)In my second year of law school, I was playing on the school’s female flag football team. I was on outside linebacker, and for some reason, I got tasked with sacking the quarterback. Our quarterback at the time was a girl in the class below me, who I didn’t really know outside of the football, but we got to know each other real quick after she realized what I was up to. Breezy and I became fast friends, but we didn’t really know each other when spring break rolled around and she asked if I’d be interested in spending it on Molokai doing restoration work on a kalo lo’i (taro farm) deep in the country. She didn’t need to ask me twice, I was in.

For those of you who don’t know, kalo is the Hawaiian word for taro, which is a starchy veggie that locals harvest to make poi. I had worked in a lo’i before, but never on this level. We’d be spending the entire week working on the farm, doing everything from planting to cutting down trees. molokai small (2)

I’ve been to Molokai a few times before, but this was my first time staying with locals from the island. There were a bunch of us that flew over, so our host, Marshall, and his family set up a big campsite for us in the backyard. molokai small (3)

Their house was right up the road from the lo’i, so we prepped everything at the house and just walked to work every day.molokai small (4)

This is the view walking up to the lo’i. Me and Bri and actually got there a day or two after everyone else, so they had cleared out and leveled most of the lot before we got there.molokai small (5)

Bri and I were two of only three girls that had flown in for this trip, so we were cruising with the boys all week. It was beyond fun.molokai small (11)

This is Blaine and he is just the coolest. He and I were the unofficial trip documentarians. He had his video cam and I had my Nikon, and we called each other “shooter.” molokai small (10)

I admit, when Breezy invited me to the lo’i, I really had no clue what I was getting myself into. But she and I both shed any expectations at the door and jumped in to help. Being part-Hawaiian, I really enjoyed the experience of participating in something that my ancestors used to do. Here’s Breezy going all in.

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In this pic they’re digging around in the lo’i to remove any big rocks and stems.molokai small (8)

Seeing these pics really makes me miss this trip and the lo’i and the people and the whole experience. Marshall, if you’re reading this, Bri and I would love to come check out the farm and see what it’s looking like today!!molokai small (7)

I shot this pic early on when we were cutting down the big trees and clearing out the area. This was probably the hardest work of all. molokai small (6)

This is P-Nut, the only other girl on the trip besides me and Bri. She is awesome and although I don’t see her nearly often enough, we are pretty active on Facebook 😉 Hi P-Nut!!molokai small (13)

Now, you’re not gonna fly all the way to Molokai and be all work & no play!! Every day after work, we would have the moloka’i style of pau hana, which usually involved all of us hopping in the trucks and going on excursions. molokai small (14)

On one ride we saw a bunch of nene geese, the official state bird of Hawaii.molokai small (12)

One day we headed over to a friend of Marshall’s to check out his ‘awa farm. ‘Awa is a plant that is more commonly known as kava. It’s got a lot of traditional medicinal uses, and I like it for the numbing effect it leaves in your mouth. If you ever get a chance to try kava, give it a go. molokai small (15)

After the ‘awa farm we headed to this magical place. The Halawa Valley.molokai small (16)

This was our crew for the day. I put my Joby Gorillapod on top of Marshall’s truck to fire off this fun group shot. molokai small (17)

This is a view of the mouth of the valley from the same spot. molokai small (18)

We drove down to the bottom of the valley, where there happened to be a fun-sized small swell. molokai small (19)

The boys caught some fun ones while me and Bri went for a swim and picked shells. molokai small (20)

Play Hard, Pay Hard. molokai small (21)

And in the morning we’d wake up and get back to work. One of the benefits of owning a kalo farm is all you can eat poi!! On this day, we cleaned off the taro and prepped it to make fresh poi.molokai small (22)

This is what the root of the taro looks like. The white ones up top are the ones we had already peeled to get ready for pounding. molokai small (23)

This uncle had a captive audience as he talked to us about how to properly pound poi, and told us stories about the region.molokai small (24)

This guy’s poi pounding technique was on point. molokai small (25)

We all got a chance to pound poi, as there was a lot of it to make for our upcoming luau. Breezy looks like a natural, doesn’t she 😉

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The semi-finished product!molokai small (27)

Me and Breezy, just enjoying living the life. molokai small (28)

One of the days the boys went spear fishing at this private little beach that we had all to ourselves. molokai small (29)

There are probably dozens of empty beaches just like this on Molokai.molokai small (30)

We caught a stellar sunset as well. molokai small (31)

We were really, really living off the land that week. It was awesome.molokai small (32)

You’d think this sign points out the obvious, but a lot of people come to Hawaii and aren’t familiar with the ocean. So you kind of need to point it out to them. I would add to this sign, “Do Not Stand or Put Any of Your Body Parts Above the Blowhole.”

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Molokai is also famous for its deer hunting. So the boys did that as well.

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I’ll skip the gory photos that I took, but suffice it to say, we were around quite a bit of dead deer. Bri and I never actually went hunting with the boys, but they did wake us up a couple times in the middle of the night to take pictures of their catch.

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Breezy’s foot became really really swollen one day, but Michael was studying traditional herbal medicine, so he whipped her up a concoction that helped relieve the pain and swelling.molokai small (36)

We checked out Kalaupapa and Phallic Rock one day. It was gorg.molokai small (37)

We also stopped by Marshall’s other house in “town.” molokai small (38)

The funny thing about that day is that – just like everything else on Molokai – there aren’t a lot of gas stations and they close early. So we didn’t have enough gas to make it back to Honouliwai and had to stay in town one night. We made the most of the situation by doing things like light graffiti. molokai small (39)

And getting hot bread at the famous Molokai Hot Bread spot.

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Our Molokai Hot Bread crew!molokai small (40)

The guy who lived next door to Marshall had this flourishing collection of glass bottles on his perimeter wall. molokai small (42)

Aloha thank you for coming.

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This is a shot of the boys planting the kalo stalks.molokai small (44)

In this pic we’re combing through the mud to remove the large rocks.molokai small (45)

The boys taking a well-deserved mango break. molokai small (46)

Dirty work. molokai small (47)

Mud masking it up!molokai small (48)

There were some areas of the lo’i that were already thriving.molokai small (49)

Quincy was the master tree cutter. molokai small (50)

Like I said, we were living off the land. I don’t think we ate a single thing the entire week that we didn’t pick, catch, or grow. It’s the way nature intended.

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The boys threw net and we scooped! molokai small (52)

Breezy, counting up the bounty.molokai small (53)

Yup, a nice catch.molokai small (54)

We didn’t eat goat, but there were a few on the pig farm that we went to. molokai small (55)

Yup, I said pig farm. We went down to pick out the unlucky guy who would be the main course at our luau the next night. molokai small (56)

Uncle went out to do the duty. I will spare you the photos of the actual kill. molokai small (57)

Haha look at Bri’s face as she checks out our dinner. I’ll warn you now, if you are grossed out by this sort of thing, may want to skip through the next couple of photos. molokai small (58)

Here he is, all prepped for cooking.molokai small (59)

We didn’t imu him, but instead slow roasted him out in the open for several hours. molokai small (60)

We also went torching. I can’t really remember specifically how this work, but I think the fire and light from the torches would funnel fish into certain areas at which point they could be caught. I also have a haunting suspicion that I’m wrong about that, in which case I apologize! molokai small (61)

Hand held shots weren’t exactly doing it for me this night. molokai small (62)

This was the little beach right out in front of our  house. molokai small (63)

This is a different view of the little beach.molokai small (65)

We also picked fresh coconuts, which the boys husked for us.

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This is Marshall’s family and friends. We really appreciate the aloha they showered us with on their home island. Mahalo nui =)molokai small (67)

On the last day, the uncles called over a couple of their friends who sold some of their arts and crafts. molokai small (68)

This guy had some really great opihi shell jewelry. And he was just a really nice guy.molokai small (69)

He hand made all of these with shells picked from the island. molokai small (70)

He gifted me and Bri with some cherry opihi shell necklaces. He kept calling us “sistahz,” which, kind of we are.molokai small (71)

I found some of my own opihis on the beach right up the road. molokai small (72)

How much would you want to run into these guys at the grocery store? Haha ….

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Blaine, pondering. molokai small (74)

Someone picked this fruit for us. I think it’s called an egg fruit. And I couldn’t believe it, but it tasted exactly like an egg  yolk. Which is to say that I did not care for it very much. molokai small (75)

And then on the last day we prepped our pig for the luau. molokai small (76)

We ended up with a lot of meat. molokai small (77)

And this.Haha

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So yeah, that about sums up the Molokai trip where Breezy and I sealed in our lifelong friendship. Cuz Molokai Mo Bettah.molokai small (79)

Mahalo to all you guys, this was (and always will be) one of my best trips ever. Aloha =) molokai small (80)

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