July 5: Day 9

We woke up knowing that a long day lied ahead. Today our focus would be the sole reason we ventured to the Big Island—the volcano!

After a tasty complimentary breakfast in the same dining room we ate dinner last night (no Higgins sightings), we drove back to Hilo for our helicopter ride over the volcano. Hilo seems to be one of those places where the weather is NEVER nice. Despite the sunny skies in Volcano Village, fog and rain started to dominate by the time we got back to the coast.

Liz had been visibly nervous about the whole thing from the second we booked the trip, and yesterday’s miniature plane ride didn’t help matters. We got to the small terminal and had to immediately weigh in so that we could be assigned seats that would weight balance the chopper. We also had to put on a life preserver vest in case the chopper crashed into the ocean (as if we’d live from the impact). As it turned out three other people would be joining us and we went through the safety speech while the pilot decided if the weather would allow us to still fly.

After the safety speech we got our boarding numbers. Out of 5, Liz was given number 4 and I was given 5. The woman told us that the back seat would board first—so I knew something Liz wouldn’t like—that she’d be sitting next to the pilot. This only made her more nervous.

So we got the word that we’d be taking off and went outside to lineup by the chopper. The three people from the other family loaded in and Liz clenched my hand. I think she said something to me but it was so loud I couldn’t hear her. Then we were called over she got in first—sitting next to the pilot as I thought—and I followed with the door closing behind me. We were given BOSE noise canceling headphones to hear the pilot and suddenly the loud noise was gone (those things really DO work!)

After a brief introduction we were off, swooping over the Hilo airport like a carnival ride. After we got into the air, Liz seemed less tense. She later said that the little tiny chopper, felt like it was in more control than the plane. It took us about 20 minutes to get to the volcano and the clouds and rain blocked most of the view along the way. But once we got there, it was spectacular.

The conditions at the volcano change daily. In fact, lava hadn’t been visible from the sky or ground for at least six months prior to our trip. But on our trip we had lava! By the excitement in the pilot’s voice, we were really lucky since there had been nothing visible for so long. (A later investigation of the USGA Volcano Observatory website would confirm that he wasn’t saying that just to make the trip seem better)

Here’s a few pictures of breakouts and the point where the lava enters the ocean…

Seeing the sheer magnitude of devastation from the sky was awe inspiring. An entire town was destroyed by the lava in the early 90s—but amongst the destruction there would be a house or structure or tree that had been spared for reasons that defy logic.

The chopper ride ended with a flyby of rainbow falls (still saw no rainbow) and we headed back to Hilo. Liz had a huge grin on her face when we got off. It wasn’t THAT bad!

On our way back to Volcano Village, we stopped at the Mona Loa macadamian factory expecting it to be a real factory tour like you find at a brewery or coca cola or, well anything that has a billion advertisements urging you to go. WRONG. The “tour” was an extremely cheesy video with a window into only one part of the factory. And the only real thing to visit was the store that sells the nuts. They did sell some decent macadamian nut ice cream though.

Back at Volcano Village we grabbed some lunch and headed into the national park. Once we accepted the fact that there would be tourbuses everywhere carrying inappropriately dressed tourists from the resorts and cruiseships, we allowed ourself to fully take in the awesomely stark, harsh, and mostly dead landscape that is Kilauea Volcano. Pictures really don’t capture it well because it’s just so vast.

Crater as seen from Volcano House:

Steam Vents:

The crater:

About 50 years ago, this entire crater was filled with a lake of lava--complete with waves that have since frozen into rock. There’s a picture of a 90-year old man smoking a cigar from the porch of the Volcano House hotel as the world is being built violently in front of him.

Despite seeing the sign below, we saw countless people getting off tourbuses with very young babies in their arms. I had trouble breathing by the crater and it would only get worse at the coast.

Don't feed nene!

After circling and exploring the entire crater, we began the drive down to the coast to explore the same area that we had flown over hours earlier. Since the lava is currently several miles from the point where the road ends, visiting at night is the only way to really see it. Of course, this involves challenges. The first being the need to scramble over several miles of lava rock formed less than five years ago—meaning that it’s sharp, uneven, and difficult. The second is the gas that forms where the lava enters the ocean. It’s similar to the gas we had been warned about at the crater but this is of a much thicker consistency. The ranger who was working at the nearby station wore a full facial gas mask to protect herself. A signed warned us that the conditions were “extremely unhealthy”. She told us that it’s basically a combination of hydrochloric acid and glass particles. Lovely.

So we began hiking out—carrying a few bottles of water and ponchos incase the rains returned. I couldn’t imagine trying to do it in the hot sun since the black rock and the hot sun were an extreme combination even at 5PM as we set out.

The journey begins by walking down the last bit of exposed roadway before the point where lava destroyed it a few years ago. (Why couldn’t we visit then—when it was EASY to see the stuff!?).

Then, you continue by scrambling over 2/3 mile of lava on a trail marked with little white reflectors attached to the rock.

A road sign on the destroyed road:

Then the trail ends and for the next three miles until the point where the lava enters the ocean, there’s a beacon light every 1/3 mile. The warnings were no joke—this is tough. It wasn’t our plan to go all the way to the lava as it was far too distant for a round trip. But we did venture nearly two miles out and found a nice spot to sit and watch it all.

The combination of the volcanic fumes and threatening rain clouds made for a spectacular sunset.

sunset by a beacon light:

The experience is quite different from the ground, but it’s no less amazing. Unfortunately, our camera isn’t really great enough to accurately capture the red distant glow. Even from a distance, seeing a river of lava flowing down a hill is like nothing I’d ever seen before.

So we eventually headed back in the darkness—praying that we wouldn’t be one of the countless people that twists an ankle here every day. Our eyes adjusted to the dark and we never really needed the flashlights loaned to us from the lodge.

Of course, to bring a perfect end to the night, the skies decided to open up and the rain started to pour when we were still about a mile from the car.

Back at the Village Liz picked up some food at a diner and I got take out from this Thai restaurant that despite the unexpected location, lived up to the best Thai I’d had elsewhere. We lit the fire in the room, opened some wine, and fell asleep exhausted from our long, long day at the Volcano.



I know, I know, it has been way too long since the last honeymoon blog entry. We've been preoccupied with finding a new place to live. Yesterday we did that, so now we can focus on other things again :o)


July 4: Day 8

On Independence Day, James and I left Maui for the "Big Island" of Hawaii. When we arrived at the airport back in Airport Town, we went straight to the commuter terminal to find Pacific Wings.

We checked in without hassle, which was surprising since every single one of our bags was overweight. Thankfully, the people working at the ticket counter were laidback and didn't charge us.

Everything went smoothly until we went to board the plane. That's when I saw how very, very small it was. I suppose I should have been suspicious upon realizing that, aside from James and I, there was just one other passenger. James, and the pilot were amused by my stricken expression. Then the pilot must have started to worry about me, and informed me that the "Aloha Bags" were in the seat pocket in front of me.

The flight there wasn't that bad, once we were in the air. Unfortunately, taking off and ascending were so terrifying that I couldn't enjoy the ride. The only way I survived the flight was by reading the book I had bought the day before at Borders Express. Every now and then, James would tap me to show me something amazing and beautiful, which I would glance at quickly before going back to reading so that I could pretend we weren't in a toy airplane that was about to plummet into the Pacific.

As you can see, the view was spectacular.

And of course, we arrived safely into Hilo, much to my surprise and relief.
The climate was completely different; very humid, wet, and rainy. We drove around a bit and stopped in to see Rainbow Falls. Then we made our way to Volcano Village, and checked into our hotel, the Kilauea Lodge. We ate an unbelievable gourmet dinner in their homey restaurant that night. The highlight was a baked brie covered in toasted coconut and drizzled with honey, served with freshly baked warm Hawaiian sweet bread. Heaven when we ate it, but it wreaked havoc later. Sooooo much cheese.

Trivia about the Kilauea Lodge:
Everyone remembers Magnum, P.I., right? It was filmed on Hawaii, and was on the air from 1980-1988. When the show ended, the show's main makeup artist decided he couldn't possibly leave Hawaii. Obviously, there wasn't much need for a man of his talents on the islands, so he bought the Kilauea Lodge. He studied cooking in Paris and became the restaurant's acclaimed head chef.

Well, during dinner that first night at the Lodge, all of a sudden an idea popped into my head that I couldn't shake. I kept imagining that the chef in the kitchen was actually Higgins from the show, and that he was back there cooking. When James demanded to know my amusing secret, we both had an uncontrollable laughing fit. It would end, then one of us would just say "Higgins," and then it would start all over again. Higgins was said in the same voice as "Christians," and became the joke of the Big Island.


July 3: Day 7

Today was to be our big adventure on the high seas. We booked a snorkel trip to the crater of Molokini--home to some of the clearest snorkeling in all of Hawai'i. It was a morning trip and the boat was leaving at 730. Of course the marina was also 30 mins from our hotel, so this meant getting up at 530AM.

So we gathered all the supplies..towels, sunscreen, snacks and packed into the car.

Unfortunately, all was not well.

Liz hadn't been feeling hot since we woke up (perhaps because of this the night before) and despite hopes that it would pass before we got to the boat, that didn't happen. Rather than risk getting on a boat and feel awful for six hours, we aborted the mission as soon as we got to the marina.

Liz looked legitimately ill, so they were kind enough to refund the non-refundable $150 we had already paid in advance.

After eating a moderately OK breakfast at Hecocks in Lahaina, Liz was starting to feel better.

Still feeling the itch to snorkel we rented equipment from Snorkel Bob and hit the rocky outpost near our hotel. Sure, it wasn't superclear like Molokini, but four a pair of newlyweds that rarely sticks their toes in the water, it was really fun and there were plenty of fish.

It was incredible to see the tiny fish that would hang out right by the beach. These fish would literally ride the waves all the way in and then float back out. I couldn't believe the little things weren't left stranded on the sand.

Despite the rumors of a turtle or two calling Black Rock home, we never saw one. "Turtle Town" remained elusive.

We hung out into the afternoon at the beach and watched the cliff diving ceremony and the sunset behind blackrock. There's a dude jumping into the water here...you'll just have to trust us since you'd never know from the picture.

This very very drunk older couple was sitting near us and the husband took this picture. Based on their conversation with the waitress I think they had been there since morning. Not a bad picture considering the photographer...

After sunset we went back up to the room to get ready for a sushi dinner at a highly recommended restaurant a bit up the coast from Ka'anapali. On the way out we stopped at a Long's drug to get another disposable underwater camera.

It was here that the day went sour when I tried to pay and realized I lost my wallet. After needing the hotel key to get out of the parking garage, I left my wallet on my lap. When we got to the store it must have fallen when I got out of the car. We searched the whole place, we talked to security, we searched the car from top to bottom. The wallet seemed to be gone.

There would be no sushi on this night.

We went back to the hotel and began the ritual of cancelling credit cards.

Here's what was lost:
  • A Coach wallet Liz had given me.
  • A "lucky" 2 dollar bill. (or maybe it was unlucky)
  • Two personal notes from Liz.
  • $110 in cash. (Only hours earlier I had taken $100 from the wallet so this could have been worse)
  • Driver's license
  • ATM card
  • Several credit/store cards
  • A $50 National Parks non-replacable annual pass purchased the day we went to Haleakala.
For a brief time we had a huge freakout because we thought access would be lost to all our money with five days remaining in the trip. Fortunately Liz's personal account is with the same bank as our joint account (and the lost ATM card) so we were able to go online and transfer cash to her account and still have a card to pay for hotels, car rentals, etc.

So that was a big relief. The other major luck-out was that I happened to have a passport in my carry on bag. This meant I could actually get on the plane to the Big Island the next afternoon. (And still drink--they carded everywhere in Maui!)

So in the end, knowing how much worse my stupidity could have been, we were happy that things would be OK and our trip wasn't ruined. After about an hour of panic followed by damage control, we walked over the Westin and had some dinner.

All in all it wasn't a bad day, because we had loads of fun snorkelling. It did start out and end on an off note, but in Hawai'i it's hard for anything to actually be ruined.

Postscript: 12 days later I recieved a call from National Car Rental in Maui. They found my wallet in the rental car we returned the day after losing the wallet! So National shipped it back to me (on my expense those cheap bastards). By the time I got it back I already had a new ID and credit cards, but it was nice to have the wallet, the notes, and the National Parks Pass wish is good for another 11 months. There was $50 cash missing--odd since it came back still holding a $50 bill, a $10 bill, and the apparently still lucky $2 bill. I'll just consider that a tax on my mistake. I was just glad to get it all back. We seriously searched that car for over an hour so I don't have the slightest clue how we never found the wallet!