Sunday 11 December 2016

Not cruising on UnCruise

The UnCruise difference began for us with a bit of the same. Not their fault: had we read the itinerary more closely, we would have known that the first day of the cruise was actually land-based, showing us Molokai. Specifically, the Halawa Valley which we drove to with so much carping yesterday (driver over-compensation for driving on the other side of the road can be terrifying for the passenger when that road is very narrow, with huge drop-offs).
Hans knew the road, so that was good. We stopped at the high look-out before descending to the valley, and announced our arrival to the inhabitants below by shell-phone: a conch resoundingly blown by Alex. Down at the end of the road, we were welcomed in traditional style by Pilipo Solatorio and his son Greg, both in sarongs and leafy headdresses, with a formal challenge, gift and hongi ceremony. This is the sort of thing that UnCruise specialises in - close contact with local people and a peep-hole into their lives. And they certainly shared.
Pilipo, while telling us about the history of the valley (dating back to AD650, it's the oldest settlement in Hawaii) gave us a candid and personal account of his own life there, his upbringing and beliefs. He pulled no punches, and was so genuine that he was several times brought to tears, which elicited the same response in many of his audience (not me, obviously). He gave a vivid account of the 1946 tsunami, 111 feet high, that swept more than a mile and a half up the valley and wiped out the settlement - there was a huge sucking sound, he said, and the noise of boulders banging together, and, watching safely from the hill, "nothing we could do but cry".
We were to have walked up the valley to the waterfall - Dai Mar's 'extreme mud hike' - but official anxiety about the river crossings after the heavy rain, and less openly acknowledged fear by the landowners about possible litigation risks despite the waivers we'd signed, meant that we were confined to barracks. Pretty much literally: it came on to rain so hard, and for so long, that we couldn't even go down to the beach for the fishing demonstration, and instead spent most of the time under the tin roof of the shelter, sitting around long tables while Pilipo, Greg and their families improvised to entertain us. 
This they did effortlessly, demonstrating food preparation, including turning tasteless cooked taro into po'i, shiny and glutinous and equally tasteless (though they ate it eagerly) which Greg did admit also worked well as a depilatory wax. There was singing, making flowers from palm leaves, more history and culture, lots of laughter and a few more tears, and then we made our way back again to the boat.
But wait! There's more! We headed out that night to the museum, where more locals had laid on a great feast for us, which was thoroughly delicious, especially the initially unprepossessing creamed taro leaf and squid dish. It made someone at my table almost weep in appreciation, truly. Then there was graceful hula dancing by a beautiful lady, some singing and drumming, and a musical instrument demonstration by another man who, talking about his culture, also ended up in tears, along with some of the cruise passengers (not me, obviously). To experience such openness, passion and sincerity really was quite affecting, though, and one of my fellow cruisers said in wonder, "Well, that was a lot more than I expected," as we filed out at the end to return to the Safari Explorer.

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