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Published: September 15th 2007
On Sunday morning we flew to The Big Island of Hawaii for a few days (the island is actually called Hawai’i but is known as the Big Island because it is the largest of the Hawaiian Islands and avoids confusion between Hawaiʻi Island and Hawaiʻi State). It was just a short flight and gave us great views of Maui and the other surrounding islands. We could really see the huge differences in the landscapes between the islands. Bruce was particularly impressed with the view of Mauna Kea on the Big Island (measured from its base at the sea floor to its highest peak Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the world - even taller than Mount Everest, according to the Guinness Book of Records) so we added that to our list of must-dos.
Upon landing in Hilo we set off for Rainbow Falls. The waterfall is a big tourist attraction and Chris and Morgan had recommended we go to it. It was quite pretty but we figured we did not get there early enough to see it in its full glory - the sun in the morning creates rainbows through the water haze. We drove up the road
a bit to the Boiling Pots and this was a pretty cool place. So called because of the effect the waterfalls have on the pools of water. It was also a very fitting name for us as it was boiling hot too. We had to negotiate old lava rocks (which were roasting because of the sun not lava!) and swim through a few pools of water to access the waterfalls at the back. Bruce took his camera with him in his dry bag which made the swim much harder for him, which I was constantly reminded about! I was pretty impressed with my ability to swim across the ponds considering my dodgy swimming style! It was worth it as it was great fun being under the waterfall.
We then decided to head up to Mauna Kea as we were unsure of the conditions there and what to expect road wise. After driving up the highway, we got closer to it and the sheer size of the mountain was pretty amazing (it stands at 13,796 feet above sea level and to the ocean floor it is 32,000 feet). Finding the turn off for the Observatory road (at 9,000 ft) was
a big relief as it was a paved two lane road so I was very happy as this meant it was not going to be a crazy drive to the top. First thing we noticed on arriving at the Visitor’s Centre was the distinct lack of heat - luckily we were prepared (off with the board shorts on with the fleeces!) We discussed our options with the rangers inside and Bruce felt very deflated as it seemed that a normal car would be too dangerous to drive up the further distance to the summit. The real danger is coming back down. It is such a steep road that your brakes can overheat and fail - a man went over the cliff a few weeks ago (Bruce didn’t tell me this initially of course!)
The ranger said there would be a lot of people going up for sunset so we could try to hitch a ride the rest of the way up. So Bruce hung around the car park for a while making assessments of people who drove in - you know what he’s like! He spotted a couple in a Jeep and decided he would ask them. We could
not have been luckier as Tom and Christina agreed to take us to the summit and bring us back. They were a lovely couple from Texas and were so nice especially seeing as we were gate crashing their honeymoon! It was great chatting to them and they had lived on Oahu previously so we had lots to chat about. It was a pretty steep climb up to the summit so we were glad that we did not risk the car. The summit was pretty cool and when the sun started to drop the view was amazing but it just got colder and colder. It honestly felt like we were on the moon - it was so weird. After watching the sun dip down we headed back down to the observatory to star gaze through the telescopes they had set up. We just slept in the car as we had our sleeping bags and it gave us the chance to watch the sunrise from above the clouds too.
We then headed off for our day at the volcano park hoping to see some lava. Most of the park is very desolate and run over by lava flows and there are
some nice rainforests but Bruce was not going to be happy til he saw hot boiling lava! We did a lot of walking over hardened lava flows and steam vents and were advised that if we wanted to see red lava we’d have to do a night walk - fun! So we did get to see lava that evening as we did a night hike and saw the amazing spectacle of molten lava. Even although it was about 8 miles away it looked pretty good from where we were. We also saw other things like a scary feral pig that decided to scare us on our way. We camped the tent on the most unlikely camp area ever - basically gravel - with rocks holding our pegs in. Not the best start to our camping episodes but it surely can’t get worse!
The next day we spent having a look around the surrounding area and some areas which have been destroyed by recent lava flows. Hilo is a nice little town - most memorable for our meal at Ken’s House of Pancakes! We had a good adventure but were glad to return to sandy Oahu!
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