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North America » United States » Hawaii » Big Island » Hilo
June 21st 2012
Published: June 25th 2012
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21st continued…

Once again it’s raining! But not to be deterred we arrive at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and called at the visitor’s centre, looked at the exhibits and picked up a map of the crater drives and look outs. We also found out that due to volcanic activity you cannot drive right the way round the Kilauea Volcano anymore, but the lookouts were still open so off we went to find them.

Our first stop was at the end of the road, at the Jaggar Museum which has fabulous views over the Kilauea Caldera. This is a vast area of old lava flows and the Halema’uma’u crater which was smoking away. It was a great site, not as impressive as Mt. Bromo on Java, but great never the less. It had also stopped raining, hooray!

The Jaggar Museum was really interesting, full of photos of old eruptions and old photos of groups of people posing by the active volcano – back in the day before they knew better or health and safety took hold! There were also lots of seismograph machines showing the levels of activity in the various volcanoes on the island. There were also paintings of Pele the goddess of fire and the legends about her and the volcanoes which were wonderful. The following words accompany the photo of the picture I have up loaded onto the blog, by the artist Herb Kawainui Kane:

She is Pele-honua-mea, Pele of the sacred land. She is Pele-‘ai-honua, Pele the eater of land, whe she devours the land with her flame. She rules the volcanoes of Hawai’I, and Mankind has no power to resist her.

Marvellous!

Tearing ourselves away from the awesome sight of Halema’uma’u at this angle, we followed the road back stopping at the Kilauea overlook for another view and then onto the Steam Vents – which were just what the name implies, it was kind of spooky to see all these plumes of steam leaking out of the ground and sides of the caldera.

Afterwards we followed the rim drive down east site of the caldera and around the Kilauea Iki Crater here we intended tomorrow to do a 4 mile hike which crossed the crater bottom and around the top rim. It looked a lot further than 4 miles I have to say! From here you could also go to the Thurston Lava Tube (Nahuku). We followed a trail through the rainforest until we reached a staircase going down and then into the lava tube. It was gloomy inside but as there was so many people walking through, not very atmospheric. At the end was another cave which we gathered you could normally go in but, as is the story of our trip to Hawaii, it was closed! Climbing up and out there was a large family in front of us, all jabbering away about how awesome the closed cave was and suddenly the dad farted! All the kids were horrified and shouting at him, Howard just called out ‘well better than doing it back in there’, we were laughing, the family went silent and then burst out laughing!

By now it was raining yet again and all the views were being covered in a drizzly mist so we decided to head for the Volcano Village and check out possible eating places for the evening. Volcano Village is really just a collection of a few roads with very little else there. There was a post office, a couple of general stores (which were very expensive) and 3 eating
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Jaggar Museum - Pelehonuamea
places.

We were staying at Holo Holo Hostel which was along one of the roads leading into the woods, so we drove around and eventually spotted the tiny little single track lane we needed. The hostel was a rambling wooden house surrounded by rainforest which did not look promising from the outside. However we were met by the lovely Japanese owner and shown around and our room was great! There was also a large kitchen with free tea, coffee and hot chocolate and outside they even had a bench under eaves where you could smoke.

By now Howard was feeling very rough so he just slept for an hour before we went out to eat. After the meal we decided to drive back up to the volcano park to go and see the volcano by night. It was quite creepy driving up the road in the pitch black, with just the odd car coming in the opposite direction. Once we reached the Jaggar Museum again there were quite a few cars parked there and as we stumbled around (we forgot to bring a torch!) we suddenly spotted this eerie reddy pink glow – god it was exciting! We made our way to the viewing area and it was amazing!!! From the same spot that during the day we saw all the steam coming out, it was now all shades of red, orange and pink with wispy white bits at the sides. We tried to take pictures of it but none of them did it justice – our camera is just no good at night shots.

After watching for a while, during which time the glow grew and faded and grew again, it started to rain more heavily so we left. It made a real impression on us though!

22nd June ’12 Volcanoe National Park

We awoke to the sound of rain!!! Aaaaaarrrrrgggghhhhh! All you could see was grey mist and rain! Not to be deterred though and remembering how the rain stopped up at the volcano we decided to carry on with our original plan – to do the hike.

However by the time we reached the Kilauea Iki Crater the smoggy mist – known as voggy!, was so thick you couldn’t see anything, the rain was driving and there was absolutely no point in attempting to get out of the car, never mind
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Kilauea Iki Crater (where we were supposed to have done a hike)
hike (was I secretly relieved???....).

So we drove the Chain of Craters Road which lead down form the Kilauea Caldera to the coast. There were lots of stops along the 36 mile road and we got out to look at several of the Pit Craters that were close to the road, some of which were now completely full of trees and others still young enough to be seen very clearly.

The road wound through the black lava fields and at various points there were signs which told you what year the particular lava flow was from. The lava was different to lava we had seen in the past, a lot of it was very smooth and shiny and formed strange patterns and then suddenly it would be butted up against the sharp, cindery lava we were more familiar with.

The weather kept changing from horrendous to suddenly dry, so the level of visibility determined whether we bothered to stop or not.

When we got down to the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs Trail the weather was great so we did the 1 12 mile hike out over the lava fields to see them and I’m glad we did. This was one of the few chances we have had to see a historical cultural site.

The petroglyphs were protected by a boardwalk, but once you saw them and started looking around you could spot them carved into the lava for a long way around the area. The pictures were very simple – figures of people, patterns and dots. There was a board that explained that the ancient Hawaiians didn’t have a written language, so the petroglyphs are very important as they gave a glimpse into the early life of the people.

The single dots were where the umbilical cord (piku) of a newborn child was buried, this was in order to seek the blessings of Pu’uloa (the hill of long life) for a long and prosperous life and to root the child to it’s ancestral lands. There are over 23,000 carvings and 16,000 of them are piku related – showing the importance of Pu’uloa (the spiritual guiding energy) and the family (‘ohana). I thought it was great!

We then carried on down to ‘The End of The Road’, there was a small ranger station with a few photos and information about the lava flows. From here
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Kilauea Caldera Steam Vents
it was about a ½ mile walk to reach the literal end of the road – you couldn’t follow it any further as it was buried under tons of lava!! This was as a result of an eruption in the 70s and was a pretty impressive sight!

There was also a massive rock arch that could be viewed from behind a wall on the cliff top (unlike Tonga!!), with views along the coast which was being pounded by the surf.

Once again it started raining so we headed back up the Chain of Craters Road, a quick glance at the Iki trail showed us it was a complete white out now, so with a couple of hours to kill before we could get back in the hostel we headed to Hilo’s Walmart which was about 20 miles away. You may be thinking I have developed a ‘thing’ for Walmart, all I can say is you may be right! After a good mooch round the clothes we picked up a few groceries and headed back to the hostel.

All over Hawaii elections are taking place and the roadsides are full of campaign posters. There seems to be elections coming up for senate, council, prosecutor and who knows what else, but the funniest election campaigning I have ever seen occurred on our drive back. By the side of the road, next to his board stood one of the candidates (Hawaiian) waving to the cars as they went by, we were just getting over the shock of this when we came across a whole family (white) in matching election t shirts stood by their board, this time doing a special hand signal – kind of like the ‘horns’ but using the thumb instead of first finger and making a kind of sideways rocking motion – possibly like a wave. They all had these huge inane grins on their faces as they did it and with their other hands were making beeping horn gestures. We laughed nearly the whole 20 miles back!!

Tonight we made our tea – a tin of chilli for Howard and a tin of corned beef hash for me. We then decided to go back up to see the Halema’uma’u Crater in the dark one last time. Because of the lousy weather we didn’t expect there to be much of a show tonight but in reality
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Howard in a lava field
it was better than yesterday!! The red glowing smoke was rising higher and undulating and making weird shapes and the whole of the crater was visible in the glow, so we were so glad we had come up again. Once more we were gutted our camera couldn’t catch it properly!

23rd June ’12 Volcanoes Park to Kailua-Kona via Hilo

Once more we woke up to the sound of rain! Once more we headed into Hilo but this time no election campaigners and no Walmart. By the time we arrived it had stopped raining and we parked up along the sea front and walked into the small town. It is a really lovely place, all the buildings have a wild west style frontage complete with dates – mainly early 1900s, there are loads of second hand book shops and antiquey type shops. There was a lovely little Farmer’s Market going on, complete with craft stalls and people doing massages. The whole place had a great laid back feel, I would have loved to have stayed here. As it was we spent an hour or so looking around before rain stopped play.

We had two choices when it came
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Lava flows down to the ocean
to the route to Kona – where we are staying for the next 4 nights and opted for the longer one as despite the rain, it was the way that led past the 2 gigantic volcanoes – Mona Kea (the highest mountain on earth when measured from seabed to summit) and Mona Loa, we probably wouldn’t get a chance to do this journey otherwise. So the Saddle Road it was and it wound and twisted away for a million miles!!

We had a quick stop off to look at a couple of wet, dark and slippery caves in a small dry gap and managed to get caught in a torrential downpour on the way back to the car! From then on it was just rain and white voggy stuff, I am sure on a clear day the views would have been immense. As it was I fell asleep and Howard woke me up saying ‘it’s clear’, which would have been great but you still couldn’t see the volcanoes only more lava fields!


Additional photos below
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Chain of Craters Road

Pu'u Loa Petroglyphs
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Chain of Craters Road

Swept away as usual!
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Chain of Craters Road

The end of the road - literally!!
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Hilo

I really liked this town


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