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a VirtualTourist member from Seattle


Mule Ride on Molokai

Hi! I have some questions or maybe just need some reassuring on the mule ride to Kalaupapa on Molokai.

BlueCollar, I read your reply on my other post that the mule tour is excellent. I know that if I don't do it I'll regret it as I've wanted to visit Kalaupapa for a while now and have read a couple of books on the settlement and Father Damien. Everyone says the mules is the way to do it. I'm just afraid of horses and heights so this is a little unnerving for me. I know you can fly in to Kalaupapa but I really don't want to have regrets about not doing the mule tour.

Any reassuring comments about the experience you can offer?

11 Answers

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Ocoee

You can always close your eyes during the descent. :)

As a matter of fact, our guide recommended that procedure if you begin to get a panic attack while on the trail. That was because he told us that once we started down, there was no turning back.

A reassuring aspect? Hmmm... No mule has ever gone over the edge there. Their sure-footedness is unparalleled and their usually calm demeanor prevents easy "spooking". That's why they use them.

They use mules in the Grand Canyon, too. I'm not sure of the fatality rate of them there, but I would believe that since I have never heard of any series of catastrophies there that they must be relatively safe.

Did you see my video on YouTube regarding the ride? If not, go check it out.

It may give you a better idea of that with which you are faced.

I will have to say that the muleride is much like "The Road to Hana" over on Maui: It's the trip there that is the attraction and not necessarily the actual destination.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Seattle

Oh good grief! Close your eyes? Panic attack? No turning back? The mention of the word fatalities? BCT, I'm not sure I feel better after reading your reply!! Ha ha!! Seriously, thank you for the information. You've been very helpful. Your video was really cool. Except for about 1:15 into it where you point out the shear drop! I was laughing and crying all at once. My husband walked into the room and said, "Holy %@&(!" and gave me one of those 'what have you gotten us into now' looks. I think I've got him as freaked out as I am. Kudos to you for being brave enough to film while on mule back down the highest sea cliffs in the world! Goodness.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Oyster

Pretty amazing video Bluecollar!

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Ocoee

Thank you, jelw. I try to keep them interesting. Once VT starts to allow video posting, I'll be adding plenty here. However, they may not be as detailed as that one as all that timing of video/pics to the music is very time consuming to produce.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Seattle

BLUECOLLAR!!! Just had to write and let you know that we just got back from Molokai and wanted to let you know that we survived the mule ride to Kalaupapa!! WOW, I must give you MAJOR props for the fact that you actually video taped your experience. I had a death grip on the horn and reigns the ENTIRE way down. In a word it was TERRIFYING (me with my fear of horses and heights). But, I am so glad I did it. Being able to visit Kalaupapa was an honor and something I won't ever forget.

Going back up to topside Molokai was a little bit easier as I knew what to expect and learned to trust my mule (Poele..which I think translates to edge walker) but it was still pretty scary. Those switchbacks are CRAZY. My mule kept trying to cut the others off in the most precarious areas.

The brochure and website really doesn't indicate how narrow the trail is. I was thinking it would be steps most of the way....not the huge rocks and rough terrain that the mules had to maneuver around.

Anyway, thanks again for the info you provided before we left. I have a whole new appreciation for your video, too!

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Ocoee


That’s so awesome! You faced a fear and ruled over it! Do you realize that most people in this big world of ours are so shackled by their fears that they actually let it hold them back from experiencing life? There are many who would never do what you did. There are many who would have insisted on turning back or would have been so terrified that it would have forced them and everyone around them to have a horrible time. But not you. I commend you.

However, I have one question. Towards the beginning of the descent, where you were faced with that drop-off you noticed when you first viewed my video, did you look down the length of your leg and study the shoreline below you? :)

As you noticed, it is difficult to impart upon a viewer of a videoclip – or even a picture – the steepness of the drop-off or the squeeze of a narrow trail with a long drop-off. On my last trip to Kaua‘i back in Oct. ’06, I tried my hardest to capture it in a photo from the Kalalau Trail. I could not unless I backed way off, but then I lost the detail of my initial objective. It works with the pairing of multiple photos from different angles and then diagramming them. However, you will soon bore the viewer.

That’s why I try to be descriptive when I write and just flat out tell people that you have to do it in order to realize and understand it. And that’s exactly what you did.

BTW, in my trusty Hawaiian Dictionary, I have found a meaningful description of Poele, which could possibly translate or slightly transform into the meaning you quoted:

pō‘ele: nvs. black, dark, night. Figuratively: ignorant, benighted.

However, I believe it could be pōhele, which, when broken down into its two main forms, is dark (pō) walker (hele). However, that formation does not follow proper Hawaiian grammar, which would dictate it to be helepō.

One thing is for sure, when you try to translate the Hawaiian language, there are usually no literal translations. Because I am new to learning it, it is that much more difficult. However, one could gather from the mule’s name that it infers a dark side, which, when considering the arena in which it operates, translates to an edge-walker.

Thanks for the reply. It is always nice to see that somebody else enjoyed a recommendation. So often I wonder if others have found the same things interesting. Now I know. Thanks again and…

Aloha ā hui hou aku,


answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Ocoee


VT's servers do not display vowels with macrons over them. Well, it's not all their fault and the problem is deeper than that, but I do not have this problem on most other websites. Anyway, those strange characters in that post are supposed to be vowels with the long bar over them. I write in MS Word and have it set to include proper Hawaiian spelling. I then copy-and-paste here and post. But I forgot to remove the macrons before I posted. Sorry.

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Seattle

No worries ~ I've experienced the same thing when I've copied/pasted from Word.

Yes, I faced my fears! I can't say that I overcame them but at least I faced them. I really am proud of myself. It really was very important for me to get down to Kalaupapa. I wanted to see the actual settlement and walk the areas that Father Damien and Mother Marianne (and all the others) had. Such a horrific and tragic time in history. I feel it's been overlooked. I had read a few books, watched the movie "Molokai" (which is EXCELLENT by the stars Chris Christopherson and Peter O'Toole) and for some reason I can't explain had something inside me telling me I needed to go there myself.

You are so right, the pictures do not do justice or even come close to capturing the real 'experience'. I'll tell ya, I had thoughts of bailing as we made that first step onto the actual trailhead. My husband was about 6-8 mules ahead of me and I knew what he was thinking. I know in the end he was happy he did it too. He felt the tour was very sobering.

I made the mistake of taking my camera out and looping it around my wrist thinking I was going to be able to take pictures on the way down. I was thinking if BlueCollar can videotape this thing surely I can snap a few photos. I think it was after that first real JOLTING step down the pali did I realize there was no way I was going to take any pictures. I had a death grip like you wouldn't believe. Unfortunately there wasn't an opportune time to put the camera away. I was so afraid that as soon as I took it off my wrist, Poele would stumble (as she did) and there would go my camera.

After the wonderful tour of Kalaupapa and Kalawao, I decided I would try and get a few shots on the way up. Feeling a little more comfortable I managed to snap a few. One of my favorites is of Poele on a switchback. I have the back of her head peering off the side of the cliff looking down towards the penisula. Still, until you've actually experienced that, it probably won't have the impact on others. We told our story to many friends and they all say, "There's no way I would do that". They really don't have a clue to what we actually did. You really have to live it.

My husband and I had joked for weeks about what our mules names would be. He would say, "You'll probably have something like Sweet Honu, or Plumeria and I'll have Tourist Killer." Ha ha!! It seems like most had Hawaiian names but his was "Elvira". We were kind of scratching our heads (and laughing) over that one! I was told that Poele means "Twighlight" so your translation was certainly close!

I will try and post some pictures here in the next week or so!

Peweli (that's my name in Hawaiian.....can you translate?....I'll let you know if you nailed it.)

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Ocoee

Peweli. Broken into its two main parts, I see "Pe" and "weli".

"Pe" is Like or Resembling as a prefix.

"Weli" has several meanings. However, considering your explanation of your feeling during the ride, I will go with fear, dread, terror or fearful.

Therefore, I would go with fearful-like -- as in real fearful-like. A state of shock, maybe? :)

Your husband should have photographed that look on your face. :)

Was I close?

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Seattle

Well that certainly describes my look the entire time!

Peweli is Hawaiian for Beverly :)

answered by
a VirtualTourist member from Ocoee

Sorry... I did not think of proper names. Proper names are subject to discussion because they are conjured based on relational syllable structure.

But I find it interesting that the parts broke down the way they did and have the meaning that they do.

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