Thursday, November 1, 2007

Hawai'i, Part 4: The Big Island (Days 2&3)

If I could use only one hyphenated word to describe our trip to the Big Island, I would easily choose "action-packed." We did so much!

We started by checking out of Volcano House which was bathed in incredibly thick vog, or volcanic fog. It. STUNK. I found it really disturbingly noxious. But, hey, now we've experienced vog. Yay.

As we drove down Chain of Craters road, the vog cleared to reveal a beautifully sunny day. The views were absolutely stunning. The first batch of pictures here shows my fascination with bright green ferns persistently growing out of the cracks in the lava. You can tell how long ago the lava flows were by how big and plentiful the vegetation is, and in some cases you can see the border between destruction and life. Enjoy:

Pahoe'hoe lava (the awesome kind)

The trees in the distance were spared.

We didn't dare take these with us, lest we suffer the wrath of Pele.

Right here is some of the newest land on the planet, bordered by the largest ocean.

We hiked to these petroglyphs, carved by the early Hawai'ians hundreds of years ago. They may someday be covered over with fresh lava.

Lava was flowing out of here until this past July.

We left Volcanoes National Park by late morning and continued to the southern tip of the island. On the way we found something remarkable on the side of the highway: four Hawai'ian geese, also known as the nene. The nene has come back from the brink of extinction, but there are still only about 500 of these birds in the world, all in Hawai'i. I was pretty stoked to have just happened upon them.

We found the coast and a black sand beach and had to get out for pictures.

Click for a larger image.

On our way to Kailua-Kona on the west coast, we stopped at Blue Sky Kona Coffee Company and had a short tour of the plantation. Here's a picture of a coffee tree:

When we got into the town, the second largest on the Big Island, we stopped for our other favorite type of brew at the Kona Brewing Company:

We decided to go ahead and try one of each. :)

We stopped at a grocery store and bought a pound of poke for our dinner. Most things in Hawai'i are more expensive than on the mainland, but there is definitely no way we can get ahi tuna for only $6.99/lb here in Chicagoland. We also bought some frozen peas to keep it cold while we high-tailed it to Waipio Valley on the north side of the island to see the famous Pololu Lookout. We got there just as the sun went down and had enough time to snap this picture:

We had heard that the Big Island of Hawai'i is home to all but two climate types (tundra and steppe are the exceptions, I believe, but don't quote me on that), and having driven around the entire island, we definitely found that to be the case. It is just beyond fascinating to me to actually drive through so many different climates within one day in a relatively small area of the planet. We ate our poke in the dark and drove the rest of the way to Hilo, where we stayed the night in what turned out to be a pretty shady hotel. The next morning we had our helicopter tour of the island. We were nearly doomed, however, when the flight was canceled due to rain and extensive cloud cover. But very luckily, we were able to reschedule for an afternoon flight which was NOT canceled, and everything worked out well. The ride was spectacular and took us to the current lava flow site, which is only accessible by air. Unfortunately, I did not take any photos, but we did get a DVD of what we saw, and it suffices adequately. Sunday evening we flew back to O'ahu. And thus ends our Big Island adventure!

I shall leave you with a video of the nene, because I just realized that I can:

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