Hawaii Big Island

New lava flowing over old lava

My second weekend in the Hawaiian Islands was spent on the largest of the island chain, known as the Big Island. This is the home of lush rainforests, lava flows, earthquakes, Kona coffee, and the largest island mountain in the world.

We flew from Honolulu to the Big Island on Friday 8th May, landing five hours after a minor earthquake shook the island. A quick trip up the coast from Hilo led us to some beautiful lush jungle and coastlines. We then drove up to the Volcano National Park where we were staying for the next two nights, minutes from the rim of the crater.

Saturday morning was an early start as we headed up the coast to the home of the Kona Coffee that I love so much. I managed to sample a cup of 100% pure Kona, which was a lot smoother than the 10% blend I’ve enjoyed previously. Anywhere that looked interesting on the way, we stopped to check out: Black Sands Beach, Green Sands Beach, South Point (the most southern part of the United States), Captain Cook’s Monument, The Painted Church, The Kona Coffee Museum, and anywhere the scenery was breathtaking. Which was often.

We returned back to the cabin to change out to jeans and covered boots for our lava viewing extravaganza that night. We made our way to Kalapana, which was outside the Volcano National Park, and parked the car. It was a short trek out over lava fields to the site, and in the distance we could see steam rising from the ground where the laval flow travelled. There were quite a few people in the viewing area, and I found a spot where I could set up my camera. I used my bag as an improvised tripod, set up my 400mm lens, and using the new camera’s live view, framed my shot. The live view saved me trying to lean down and look through the eye piece to frame shots. I attached the remote shutter release, and then just watched to lava hit the water, pressing the button anytime I saw something spectacular. I pressed that button a lot.

While there I got talking tot he couple next to me, giving them a few tips on how to use their Canon DSLR. I even lent them my 24-105mm to make shooting a bit easier. They were still using the kit lens with the camera, so the one I gave them was a welcome temporary upgrade. Nearby someone overheard our conversation, and asked where I was from in Australia. I discovered he had been at the same ANZAC Day dawn service as I just two weeks before, and had also been out at South Point earlier that day, remembering my bright green and gold shirt. He is also going to be in Washington DC at the same time as I will be in a week. Small world.

Once I had my fill of night time lava, we drove back to the Halema Umau crater to view the open crater at night. I took a number of long exposure shots before the rain set in. I had the imperssion of a blacksmith’s furnace looking at this phenomenon at night.

Chain Of Craters lavaOur last day was going to involve a lot of driving and walking. We drove down Chain Of Craters Road towards the coast. There were a number of stops along the way showing recent lava fields and craters, as well as older craters well covered with vegetation. At the edge of the cliff face a magnificent vista spread out before us (through the vog – volcanic fog), and the flows of lava could be clearly seen below like black rivers leading to the ocean. We drove to the end of Chain Of Craters Road where the flow of lava covered the road ahead (see pic right). A trek over the flow revealed an alien and interesting landscape, before we reached the end and had to turn around.

PetroglyphsThere was also a walk out to a collection of petroglyphs about a kilometre off the road. These were markings engraved into the hardened lava rock by native Hawaiians, and it was amazing to see how far from anywhere they were. Looking around all that could be seen for miles was rock, and it made me wonder what made the natives come here to this one spot to leave their mark. This was our last stop in the Volcano National Park, and from here we headed back up the road to the park entrance, and on to Hilo to see the local waterfalls. We stopped at Akaka Falls firstly, which was an amazing waterfall simply due to the height of it. Our last location was Rainbow Falls in Hilo itself, as well as the Boiling Pots nearby. After climbing over the rocks, it was time to head to the airport, and back to Oahu.

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