A lot of gas

I turned the key in the ignition but nothing happened. I held the gear shift handle firmly with my left hand as instructed and again turned the key. Lights flashed but still there was no ignition. After several such tries, I stepped out of the elongated van, and asked the Damien Tours guide, Rick, to give it a try. He did so and immediately the engine began to purr. With a degree of trepidation, I climbed back into the driver’s seat and set off for Kalaupapa airport.

Having arrived there safely, I took a deep breath and switched off the motor. That was my first real mistake because when I tried to restart the engine, I got the same result as before. This time Amy, the head honcho of the park rangers, came to my rescue and with little trouble had my engine singing again. The following day I would be informed that this motor will only start when in neutral rather than in park. 

After collecting my Kekaula Tour pilgrims, we set off on our tour beginning with the present day Hansen’s Disease settlement in Kalaupapa township. By this time I had decided to keep the engine running at each stop until we had reached the original settlement in Kalawao on the east side of the peninsula. As we journeyed on our pilgrimage, I resolved that I would not put myself and the van in a situation where I had to reverse, as my reputation in reversing is not exactly perfect. On top of that the gear shift indicator does not function in this vehicle. I hoped that we did not run out of gas on the way since I did not trust the gas indicator either.

Of course the great Chinese philosopher and teacher once said, “He who eat plenty beans, never run out of gas.” Thankfully we made good time on the rocky road to Kalawao. On the way I managed to give a running commentary on the sights while at the same time avoiding running off the road into the brush. For that I thank the Lord, my co-pilot.

When we reached Judd Park in Kalawao, I parked the van in the shade in a relatively dry area and left the engine running. Then I invited my pilgrims to join me at the rear of the van where I would serve them a first-class lunch. As they stood around me in eager anticipation of lunch, they must have had to restrain from laughing or crying when I opened the lunch cooler that I had picked up at the airport (it was rather heavy) and discovered, not the pilgrims’ lunches, but a cooler full of someone’s groceries. I was mortified, to say the least. Evidently the lunch cooler had not been put on the plane but I had taken the only cooler that had come off the plane. The owner of the groceries did get his cooler eventually. Meantime my good pilgrims shared the snacks they had brought with them and seemed to be having a great time despite this setback.

After some time at the park, we visited St. Damien’s Church and graveyard, then Siloama Church. I left the engine running at all times and afterwards headed back to Kalaupapa town. Subsequently I safely transported my passengers to the airport as well as to the base of the Kalaupapa trail. 

It had been an eventful day for us, but I was very happy to know that on the following day I would have the sole responsibility of tour guide while Brandi would do the driving. However, as an Irishman would say, we had a lot of craic and a lot of gas on this tour.

Have a blessed Christmas season. 


Anchor columnist Father Killilea is pastor of St. Francis Parish in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.

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