Things That Spew

Good morning fair reader, thank you for tuning in yet again for another chapter in the adventures of the Sibson family in Hawaii. And adventures we've had.  Yes, the Sibson family had a big day yesterday. We started our morning once again swimming in Kailua Bay with multi-colored fish nibbling at coral and eager triathletes stretching out their arms.  The Kailua Pier, from which the Ironman will start on Saturday, divides the bay from a smaller, quiet swimming area that sits in front of the King Kamehameha hotel or King Kam for short.  The kids and I favor the quiet area unless we are swimming with Tom, who gives us cred. So this is where Tom found us after his morning bike ride:

Spur of the moment, Tom and I decided that it would be the perfect day to explore Volcanoes National Park. So after a brief visit to the condo for dry clothes, snacks and water, we headed out on the 2.5 hour drive down the south coast of the Big Island and then up to the volcano area.  A word about long drives in Hawaii for all of you northeasterners out there.  Driving 2.5 hours on the Hawaii Beltway is not, as you might assume, 150 miles of straight, fast driving on a fat highway.  No. The drive was about 90 miles on a two-lane road through coffee and macademia nut farms with parts of it curvy enough to cause a mild case of nausea.  The drive to Volcano, as the town is called, allowed us to see the real Big Island. Away from the tiny, bayside stores hawking shark tooth necklaces, palm frond sculpture and carved sea turtles, we saw patchwork houses with corrugated tin roofs and million dollar views; Kona coffee sold roadside; and vast expanses of lava punctuated by strange trees bent and angled like so many ancient men leaning on canes.  The landscape was not the only dramatic change during our drive. We watched as clouds grew thick and we drove through spatters of rain. By the time we arrived at Volcanoes National Park, it was nearly 15 degrees cooler than Kona and foggy with volcanic smog or 'vog'.  

Upon finding out that nearly half the 11 mile Crater Rim Drive was closed due to high levels of sulfer dioxide, we asked about the road leading to lava flow.  Armed with water and flashlights, we'd planned for an afternoon hike down to the lava flow in time for sunset.  Alas, since the printing of my Fodor's the tricky lava had changed course somewhat and would require another 42 mile drive.  I suspect that Tom may have been relieved by this realization, though he only grinned when I suggested it.  Ever a good sport, Tom agreed to this trip but I knew he was wary of staying too long and getting home past midnight.  In the end, we opted for the more sedate but by no means boring walk through the sulfer desposits and steam vents.  In order to adequately bring to mind what we saw, I have only two words for you: Star Trek.  Seriously, as we walked through the otherworldly landscape, a place that my imagination could not create on its own, it brought to mind the strange and unearthly lands visited by Captain Kirk and his faithful crew. Beam me up, Scottie.


And then, out of nowhere, you see a delicate orchid growing against all common sense.

Further on, we were treated to steam pluming from unseen cracks in the earth and in the distance, the Halema'uma'u Crater.  It seems that Kilauea, the volcano were were exploring, collapsed on itself decades ago leaving behind a crater of dramatic proportions.  Deep below the earth, magma still chortles, pushing up the sulpher and steam through cracks and vents in the earth's surface.  The steam can be as hot as 200 degrees close to the source, which kept us dutifully on the path (for the most part). 

The short hike back to the car treated us to an entirely new landscape causing Tom and I to feel that we were extras on 'Lost'. 

After a quick and delicious dinner at Kiawe Kitchen, a tiny brick-oven pizzaria in Volcano Village, we were headed back to our condo. Darkness falls fast on the island and the roads are largely unlit, giving our long drive home an eerie, displaced feeling.  Just outside our windows, the headlights were no match for the darkness that enveloped the car and yet just above our heads, the stars seemed within reach.

At this moment, the sun is hitting the waves just so and the great outdoors beckon.  Today, perhaps some snorkeling and, most importantly, Tom picks up his race packet!  More tomorrow.