Tag Archives: hawaii

American Travelers

After staggering back from the lava flows, sun-burnt and exhausted, we were elated to spend the night on a mattress with access to hot running water and a continental breakfast waiting for us the next morning.

We crashed at a Hostel in Hilo, where the owner exclaimed to us, “American Travelers!  We don’t get many American travelers…”  Initially baffled, we later reasoned that most of the occupants of the hostel were foreigners, and the fact that we opted to spend our vacation hopping mostly between campsites and hostels must have set us apart from the run of the mill tourist.  I was secretly a little bit proud of this distinction. Anyway, after enjoying our continental breakfast, we embarked upon just about the most run-of-the-mill-touristy day of the entire trip.  We hopped in the car and rode around to see some sights.  In truth, after all of the hiking, biking, diving, camping, kayaking and cold showers, sightseeing was pretty much all we had left in us.  We started in Puna and skipped our way back toward Kona where we would stop at the Kona Brewing company for some post-vacation victory beers and pizzas, before starting the long flight home.  Here’s what we saw along the way. read more

Lava!

For our final big day in Hawaii we endeavored to see some real, live, oozing, flowing lava!  Unfortunately we couldn’t find any, but the trip was amazing nonetheless.  At the time of our visit, Pu’u O’o was erupting (in fact it is still erupting at the time of this writing – you can read about it in the news).  The recommended approach is from the North – you drive through some neighborhoods, park near a trail head, formerly used by geologists, hike through the jungle and pop out near the volcano.  This would have been a modest hike along a reasonably well traveled trail for most of the way, and then some off-roading if we wanted to go look for some lava.  Unfortunately, the damn trade winds were still not in our favor, and we were forced to approach from the South – further round trip, uphill and off road the entire way… read more

Volcano!

After spending two days SCUBA diving (and two glorious nights sleeping indoors in real beds at the Hilton – we hadn’t slept indoors in nearly a week!) we turned our interest toward lava hunting!  Our biggest motivator in visiting the Big Island, after diving, was the active volcano. Once done with our second day of SCUBA, we departed Kona and skirted the coast toward our next campsite.  We plotted a course which would bring us no higher than 2000′ in elevation to avoid decompression sickness – we actually had to make a last minute change in plans from a campground at 4000′ to one at sea level.  This oversight turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  We chose to camp at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, which is more or less on the way from Kona to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.  It was difficult to find in the dark, and upon arrival we encountered some locals semi-permanently camped not far from us.  The place seemed kind of run down, but sleepiness got the best of us and we settled for the present situation.  The tent sweltered as we dozed off in the dark. When we awoke we were pleasantly surprised.  For starters there were no roosters (the big island seemingly does not have same rooster plight that Kauai does).  But the real win was the serenely beautiful scenery surrounding us which previously had been hidden from us by the dark.  We strolled along the shore, spotting turtle tracks in the dark sand and taking in a stellar sunrise – it was around 75% cloud cover but the interplay between light and cloud made things that much more dazzling. After taking our fill of the view, we packed up our camp and set off for higher elevations.  As the trip wore on, we grew less and less excited about breakfasts of peanut butter and rice cakes in our tent.  We caved in to temptation and dug into the breakfast buffet at the National Park Visitor Center.  The visitor center is situated by edge of the Pu’u O’o crater offering exceptional views.  A spectacular gaping maw rips through the earth, miles wide.  Very little life exists at the floor of the crater – only a variety of stunted shrubs seem to grow down there.  Steam wafts up from various fissures in and around the crater.  Toward the center of the devastation an ominous pit seethes with steam and sulphurous fume – we can’t see it from here, but a lava lake burns at the bottom of this acrid, smoldering hole in the earth. We had planned to circumnavigate the entire crater region, stopping at the various points of interest along the way.  As it turns out the prevailing wind was pushing the noxious gases North-Northwest and those quadrants of the park were closed.  The fumes are toxic in large enough quantities – and there seems to be an endless supply.  We were forced to loop around the crater in a clockwise fashion and were unable to get as close to the devastation as we had hoped.  As it turned out, the ‘left overs’ were plenty stunning… We started our sightseeing at the sulfur banks.  These oddities seem to litter the landscape, but are apparently best seen from a concentration of them near the visitors center.  The seismic activity causes moisture in the ground to evaporate and as the sulfur eats away at the earth, a vent slowly opens up.  A stinky haze rises out of the vents, and evidence of them can be seen all over the region.  We got a few up and personal views. read more

Scrub-a-dub-dub, There’s Sharks In My Tub!

Before getting  carried away, I must provide a brief disclaimer: there are no pictures of sharks in this post!    It’s a long story; we’ll get into it below…

Our first adventures on the Big Island would be SCUBA diving.  Kelly convinced my that the ability to swim around underwater and ‘look at crazy fish and stuff’ would be worth the investment of time and money, and she hasn’t led me astray so far (MTB, cyclocross) so I decided to give it a whirl.  We completed our classroom and pool work with Rick from the Boston Scuba Academy, and planned to complete our open water dives in Hawaii with Jack’s Diving Locker.  Both turned out to be great choices for novices to the sport.  With a bit of homework and more than a bit of cash, you can quickly learn enough to enjoy the sport, which subsequently turned out to be way more fun that I had imagined. read more