My footprint on the black sand beach
This is the place I have wanted to visit for over 10 years. Several years ago my sister and I planned a two week visit, a week on the Kona side and a week here in Hilo, however medical issues prevented us from coming. I have wanted to walk on the black sand beach and view the volcano areas of this island.
Black sand beach
It is too bad we couldn’t have made that trip. You could walk all along Kilauea’s crater and see the boiling pot of lava below. I think it was 2007 when the volcano erupted and shattered one side of the crater, so no longer can you get near the actual volcano. Our tour today was called “Pele: Goddess of Fire Volcano Exploration.” Our bus left the pier just after nine and the brochure said this would be a 2 1/2 hour tour. Our guide today was from Michigan, as blonde as blonde can be…no native Hawaiian today. Leroy however has adopted this island as home and could not be a better spokesman if his ancestors were born here. The entire tour he told stories and gave the history of the area and instead of 2 & 1/2 hours, our tour took 4 & 1/2.
Our first stop was not far away. Here in Hilo they have a black sand beach very close to the pier. I thought the sand ( of crushed lava rock)may feel different than regular sand ( made of crushed coral) but it was just as soft. All over the beach you can find smooth pieces of rounded lava rock and I pocketed a piece to bring home. Another item to tick off my bucket list – I have walked on a black sand beach ( I have a rather boring bucket list.)
After leaving the city ( of 40,000) we head upwards towards ( 4,300 feet) to Hawaii Volcano National Park.
Sulfurous smoke coming from the crater floor
From Hilo you pass through coastal lowlands, through forests, misty areas of giant ferns and native Ohia trees. Our first stop was Kilauea Volcano overlook. It now appears to have a crater within a crater. It is very plain to see the part that was blown away several years ago. Kilauea continues to send up steam and sulfur gas from it’s vent and at night may emit an orange glow. After some time the park rangers came out and told us to return to the bus or get inside the building as the wind had changed and the sulfur laden smoke was heading our way. The visitor center here has great displays, one of which is a real time seismic recorder. I stood there watching it for some time then all of a sudden it moved off center. They display each days’ activity and this movement is very common. We had a guide show us through the exhibit, detailing the various kinds of volcanic output and had displays of each..which you could touch.
photo of lava covered plants
He also explained while much research has been done, man still cannot predict when a volcano will erupt. There are very active spots around the island and in places the molten lava is close to the surface and all it needs is a bit of pressure and a weak point in the crust. Although not visible to us today, the underground lava tubes continue to spill lava into the sea. Apparently it’s a magnificent sight to see at night from the water. Kilauea has been flowing,flying, oozing,creeping,destroying and creating continuously since 1983.
We left and hit the road to the Thurston Lava tube. These tubes are formed when the lava
Inside the lava tube
quits flowing and the the molten lava drains, leaving tubes or cave like structures. This is a bit of a hike to go through the tube. You have a steep walk down through lush greenery before you enter the tube. Inside it’s dimly lit ( artificial) and the walls and floors are damp and wet ( rain water oozes through the porous lava rock) so it was a challenging little walk through the tube. Once out of the tube you gently climb up again through the dense foliage alive with birds of all types…but well hidden little things.
We finished our tour of this area with a stop at the Thomas A Jagger Museum. The museum has a theatre that runs a movie showing how the lava flows and has devoured homes and towns in it’s recent past. In some areas it moved steadily but slowly and one homeowner took his house part and moved it out of harms way, while others just left their homes for the lava to claim.
As we descended down to sea level our driver explained how sparsely inhabited the region was.
New life growing among the lava
He explained that due to the unpredictability of volcanoes and the fact that several on the island are “overdo” to erupt, many people shy away from buying on this island. This part of the island is also very wet and they seldom have bright sunny days as we had today. I believe he said the average rainfall was 145 inches annually, so people prefer a sunnier region that this part of the island. It also sounded like a bit of a struggle, unless you live in the city. Telephone, electricity, sewer and water is not that common in the out lying areas where our driver lives. His water ( except drinking water) all comes from stored rain water. He has to travel to the city for his mail, so no mail service in the boonies either.
Before taking us back to our ship, he toured us around the waterfront area pointing out the stunning Liliuokalani Gardens – a Japanese style garden, and the Pacific Tsunami Museum.
The Shinmachi Memorial was erected in honor of the Hilo residents who were lost in the 1960 tsunami that devastated this part of Hilo. The area once covered with businesses and homes, destroyed in 1960 has been turned into a park. Should another tsunami come and destroy an area, no one is allowed to build again in the affected area.
We has a great tour today and as I mentioned our driver/guide gave an in depth explanation of the area and had done his homework when it came to volcanoes.
Lava rock – do not remove!
He spoke very precisely and rhythmic…to the extend that on occasion we were lulled into a little closed eye time. It was during this time he explained to those on the bus, anyone collecting any lava rock should get rid of it. Having a bit of a nap, I didn’t pay any attention, but was pretty sure, it likely was illegal. After getting off the bus, before going through security, many people were tossing their collected rocks into the garbage. I had a small one, so pretty sure I could get it past security, which I did successfully. As we board the ship I asked Brian what the drive had said about taking a lava rock. Apparently it’s very bad luck…not illegal, and people who have taken them, have actually sent the rocks back..hoping to end their bad luck. After some time thinking about this, I realized I had enough Irish in me, to be too superstitious, and chucked the rock overboard before leaving harbour.
During our various cruises it is obvious the ship tries to provide entertainment to suit the majority of it’s on board population. I may have mentioned before this cruise has many
Sign of the day
very senior seniors, lots with walking aids and scooters. During our 2001 cruise, the music was that of the 40s and 50s. Tonight the music was a Beatles tribute by a band called “ Paperback Writer” and almost all of the passengers were heartily singing along. It came as quite a shock to see the group I now belonged to.
It was be a few days before hit see land again as we head south and east, across the equator. The posts for the next few days will likely be lumped together as the onboard activities are pretty standard. The outside temperatures have improved with Hilo getting to 85 F (29C) today, so I’m hoping to catch some rays and see if I can’t find my tan again.
Hotel Zone Hilo, Hawaii