Mar 272007

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Big Island, Hawai’i, 5th Day. This was the most eventful day of the trip and the longest day as well as we left the hotel early after breakfast and came back after midnight. Before going we checked the weather report which showed a 50% chance of rain at the Kilauea Volcano but since this was the day before last in our vacation and I wanted one more try to see the volcano we decided to take our chances and go. And it turned out better than two days before, at least in the beginning of the day. We were able to stop at many waterfalls on the way to Hilo and this time the “scattered showers” were for real. We started with the gorgeous multi-tiered Umauma falls for which we had to pay an entrance fee because the access road was part of the grounds of the World Botanical Gardens. Nothing seemed to come cheap on Big Island. After seeing the falls we took a walk through the garden and I think it was worth the money. The garden had a lot of exotic flowers and trees that I’ve never seen before and some that I thought I knew but turned out to look different that what I was expecting. They had some bug spray at the counter but we ignored it, something we started to regret as soon as we got deep enough within the garden to be too lazy to return just for getting sprayed. We left the gardens in some sort of dancebreak movements, and I kept on scratching until we reached our next stop: the Akaka and Kahuna Falls. It was our third attempt to see these falls, the previous times it was raining so hard that we stayed in the car and decided to return another day. To get to the falls we walked a short path through the rain forest. With so much rain, the vegetation was living life to the maximum, everything seemed so green and lush.

Afterwards Cris decided he’s seen enough waterfalls for one day so we drove to the Kilauea Volcano. We passed by the visitor center and found out where we can see lava flowing. We drove the park loop, stopped and walked through a light rain to different craters, passing the time until dark. I liked the bleak, desolated landscape, the fumes rising up from the black earth, a lone rainbow shining through. About an hour before sunset we drove down towards the ocean to the end of Chain of Craters road. We parked a looong way from the end of the road, passed by numerous warning signs – “Extreme danger beyond this point” – and started walking on the lava. There were two paths marked by the rangers, one to a viewing point very close to the end of the road. It was difficult to see the lava from that point so we took the other path and continued passed the markings. At some point we found the remains of the old road, complete with a bent “No parking” sign caught in the lava field. We kept on walking until it got so dark we were afraid we’ll have problems returning. We were pretty deep inside the lava field at that moment and we could see the lava shining in the night at many points ahead of us. It was a great sight and we stood and watched for some time. After that we subjected our knees to some more suffering – it’s not an easy job to walk on lava – got back to the car, had dinner at the Volcano Lodge and started on the 3 hours drive back to the hotel. The people at the Volcano Lodge deserve my recognition. First they told us we have to wait half an hour to be seated but when they heard that we have a 3 hours drive ahead of us they took pity and fed us right away.

The Umauma Falls

At the World Botanical Garden

Akaka Falls Park

Kilauea Volcano

That’s me in the middle of the road

Mar 222007

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Big Island, Hawai’i 4th day. On the fourth day on Big Island Cris demanded that we keep his part of the bargain and go snorkeling. Leafing through the travel guide to find a good place to snorkel, I found that one of the best places according to the guide’s authors was very close to a Hawaiian temple. This was the beach I picked, thinking that we can do both activities, see the temple and go snorkeling afterwards. This time we drove south keeping to the west side of the island, passing again by fields of lava sprinkled with white stone messages and past the airport and the resort of Kailua. As soon as we left the highway the road started to descend towards the ocean. The Hawaiian temple that I wanted to visit had the long name of Pu’uhonua o Honaunau or Place of Refuge at Honaunau. From what I’ve read this place was a sort of an extreme form of “get out of jail free”, or rather “get out of trouble alive” meaning that if those accused of a crime could manage to get here they would get absolved. In ancient Hawaii the society was regulated by the”kapu” system of laws and according to the kapu the crime that one can be accused of and executed for could be as ridiculous as “one’s shadow touching the shadow of a leader” or “walking the same path as the chief” or “men and women eating together”. It was believed that the violation of these laws will bring god’s anger in the form of famine, lava flows, high tide and earthquakes so the violators were hunted down and killed. Their only chance was to reach this place of refuge and once inside the priests will perform ceremonies to absolve them and they could return home. It wasn’t easy to reach the place of refuge because the well defended royal grounds full of warriors were adjacent to the pu’uhonua. Today this place is a neatly organized national park and the quiet and beautiful grounds really feel like a place of refuge. There are some reconstructed Hawaiian huts, the wall that separated the place of refuge from the royal grounds and a reconstructed thatched temple that used to contain the bones of 23 chiefs. The small cove was full of green turtles basking in the sun. We walked around the place, following the lava all the way to the ocean. After the visit Cris finally got his wish, we went snorkeling at the beach just north of the place of refuge. The travel guide was right, it was a good place to snorkel with plenty of fish. On the way home we stopped by the St. Benedict’s Painted Church, a small catholic church whose walls were painted in Biblical scenes in 1899 by a Father John, a catholic priest who came to Hawaii all the way from Belgium. He’s done a beautiful job with the painting.