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Published: November 5th 2014
A 5am wakeup call might sound early to some but with the help of jet lag it was a walk in the park for us. We were the first hotel pick up, luckily there were not many others to pick up on the way to the airport. By the time we checked in and got a coffee it was time to board the plane and after only a 45 minute flight we were in Hilo, also known as Hawaii Island or Big Island.
Since I was a teenager, visiting Big Island had been a dream after I first read about Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano. It has been continuously erupting since January 3rd
1983, almost my exact birth date.
I remember reading that you could book a trip to cycle alongside molten lava as it flows down the volcano. To be that close to ‘the red stuff’ has been a dream ever since.
As our trip to Big Island was only a day trip I tried to cram in as much as possible. We started by going to, what is now a garden built by the Japanese but was once Hilo
downtown, after a tsunami more than 40” high and travelling at 100 miles per hour hit the former downtown it was decided not to build houses or buildings so close to the sea again, limiting future devastation caused by another tsunami.
Next stop, Rainbow Falls. There is a story to accompany this waterfall. Original inhabitants to this island believe that the goddess Hina once lived here and got tired of living in the crowd so decided to flee to the moon. If you look at the falls for around 10 seconds then look at the rocks around the falls it appears as though the rocks, or ‘something’ beside the falls, is making its way upwards towards the sky. Ancient locals believe this is Hina fleeing to the moon.
A stop at a macadamia nut factory….
What organised excursion, in any country in the world, wouldn’t be complete without a stop at some form of shop or market….
These stops are the low point of all trips in my opinion.
After 30 minutes of my life was wasted at a macadamia
nut factory we then moved on to the bit I was looking forward to the most, Hawaii Volcano National Park and more importantly Kilauea. We made our way to the top of the park to the caldera.
You used to be able to go on an optional excursion closer in to the caldera, however one night many years ago an eruption that caused a huge area to collapse into the caldera meant this was no longer a safe excursion, just my luck.
From the top you can take in the enormous size of the caldera and see the smoke coming from the lava deep within its lowest point. Unfortunately you cannot see the lava from the designated stop for tourists, looks like I wouldn’t be chasing the red stuff here. The best vantage point for the caldera is located next to the Jagger Museum, a museum documenting the known events in Kilauea’s history.
In Hawaii, volcanoes are known as women as the lava they spew, once solidified, makes new ground and eventually over time this will create more land for people to live on. Volcanoes create life.
think they are also known as women as they are volatile and can explode without warning lol.
After leaving the Jagger Museum we stopped at a few different vents that pump out hot air and sulphur, in safe amounts for humans to breathe in of course, they do advise people with respiratory problems and pregnant women not to go near the vents though.
As we continued to drive around Volcano National Park we stopped at various points to see where there had been eruptions or flows in the past. It is quite awe inspiring to not only see the destruction caused by these events but also to see exactly what it looked like when the lava finally lost enough heat to become solid.
The rock that is formed, once solidified, has not been touched. You can still see the exact moment in time when it stopped moving. You can see small thin pieces of lava, big jagged bits, some bits are almost smooth, like some sort of food mixture that has been cooked in an oven. Lava contains all known minerals including gold and silver, this is very clear to see
when you look closely at the rocks. Some of the most beautiful patterns adorn these rocks, some look like fine works of art others look like crystals embedded in rock. I wish my photography skills were good enough to show case the beauty my eyes were able to see.
When lava flows over trees and plants it creates different shapes to flowing over concrete. Over plants, the moisture within the plants causes the lava to flow up over a blanket of gas. When this lava hardens it then has a void underneath and when walked on can become brittle and break. When lava flows over trees it either creates lava trees, small tree trunks covered in lava, or it petrifies the tree, killing it instantly but also preserving it and also preserving the exact spot it was taken from.
There are many roads that lead to nowhere on Big Island, this is because they used to lead to places but past lava flows meant villages and roads were destroyed.
Updating your sat nav is more important here than anywhere else in the world!
At one point you used
to be able to book a boat trip to see lava flowing into the ocean on this island, however this no longer happens. Over a year ago the lava began flowing in a different direction, away from the ocean, inland.
This meant my pursuit of the red stuff was over before it began.
As it is now flowing inland, at a very slow rate, it will eventually destroy everything in its path. Currently on that path is a village that will began to get destroyed in about 2 weeks’ time and will quite literally get destroyed in slow motion as the lava is moving slower than walking pace.
Understandably, as the local people are going to have their homes destroyed, tourists, in their droves, are not allowed near the current lava flow out of respect of these people due to have their homes taken from them.
Would you want coach loads of happy, smiling tourists taking pictures, saying “That’s amazing” whilst something slowly destroys your home.
To finish our day we went to the Thurston
lava tube, a tube that is created when the outside crust of a lava flow solidifies whilst the contents continue to flow, eventually the contents empty much like water travelling through a hose pipe, leaving the hollow tube still remaining.
At the end of a very long day I thought about everything I had seen.
The park made after a tsunami had devastated downtown Hilo, it was nice.
Rainbow Falls, had no rainbow and was quite small but was nice to see despite that.
Volcano National Park, it was cool to see the home of Kilauea and to see how lava looks once it stops in its tracks, the steam vents were ok. Overall, not seeing ‘the red stuff’ was a huge disappointment which would have been made a little less disappointing had everything else been amazing but everything else was….
I didn’t dislike Big Island but it was far from amazing.
Would I recommend going?
As a traveller I’d say everywhere in the world should be experienced at some point but what I would
say is, maybe don’t make Big Island high up on your bucket list.
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