VIDEO: Woman Embraces Off-Grid Maui Jungle Lifestyle

October 11, 2011, 1:03 PM HST
* Updated October 13, 10:47 AM
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By Madeline Ziecker

[flashvideo file=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kiLlriJ9pgc /] In 1984, Claire and her daughter Elise moved to Maui from France, eventually settling in Haiku about 1o years ago in the self-named UA’OA Valley, or “Valley of Mists.”

Claire has lived alone in the valley self-sustained (with no running water, internet, or electricity) for seven years. She spends her days managing her shop at the Haiku Cannery, Haiku Style, where she sells Haiku-made honey, Noni products, oils, paintings, Hawaiian instruments, jewelry, and several other locally-made crafts.

Entrance to UA'OA Valley in Haiku. Photo by Madeline Ziecker.

Life can be hard in the jungle, but Claire and Elise (who since moved) took up the challenge with zeal.

“We didn’t think about how it would be in the winter time, when it was raining. We thought ‘Oh well, we’ll make it.’ Now we’re making it.”

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Claire is an example of someone who has successfully adapted to a jungle lifestyle, along with all of the obstacles. She has a tented kitchen where  she prepares food and warms water for bathing. When rains are steady in the valley, she places a bucket under the edge of the kitchen tent which eventually fills with rainwater to be later used for her shower. During dry spells, Claire uses water from the fresh spring that runs a stream through the valley.

Claire in the tent kitchen nook. Photo by Madeline Ziecker.

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Catching one of the wild boars that runs through the valley is an enormous undertaking, so Claire relies on other food sources from the land. She has planted patches of dry-land taro,wet-land taro, pumpkin, sweet potato, and kava, which she dries and makes tea powder with. She has also planted papaya, guava, lilikoi, and banana trees. Pohole ferns for salads and coconut trees grow naturally in the valley.

In addition to sacrificing a life of modern comfort to live in the valley, she has also had to undergo years of legal stress from others threatening to infringe upon her land, she says. As a woman living alone in such isolation, Claire spent many years fighting the fear of others trespassing. Now, she is out of the woods, so to speak.

In the future, Claire plans to finish re-furnishing her Balinese house, install a water-catchment-operated outdoor shower, and turn the kitchen tent into a storage unit. She also plans to continue living in her jungle paradise.

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Photo by Madeline Ziecker.

Kitchen area. Photo by Madeline Ziecker.

The small house where Claire currently sleeps. Photo by Madeline Ziecker.

A Polynesian-style coconut opener. Photo by Madeline Ziecker.

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