A weekend in Hilo, Puna, and Kilauea

Stephanie, Cori and I drove north to Hilo Saturday morning stopping along the way at a waterfall of undisclosed location.  The waterfall was a short but arduous hike through dense forest along a narrow muddy overgrown path.  I wore the worst shoes imaginable and therefore took an almost graceful tumble on the trail.  By the time we reached the stream at the base of the waterfall, I was smeared with mud from the knees down.  We had a nice swim in the cold freshwater, feeling the force of the waterfall pushing as you swam as hard as you could towards it.

We stopped at Stephanie’s daughter’s home in Hilo to clean ourselves up and met some friends of Cori’s downtown at Casa de Luna for dinner.  We stayed there several hours talking and drinking.  By the time we left the farmer’s market nearby was closing down and the block party was starting to pick up.  There were a couple blocks shut down for the festivities which consisted of three music stages connected by a street of vendors selling everything from food, cheap jewelry and flashing light gadgets.  None of us felt too inspired to stay there while it was just getting started so we walked along the water towards the hotels and found ourselves at the Liliuokalani Park and Gardens.  The sun was receding as we meandered along the Japanese-styled garden filled with stone pagodas and statues, lumbering ironwood trees and arched foot bridges weaved among the shallow fish ponds.  The park was mostly still except the distant sound of a few people on the rocks near the water. A man and woman filled the air with their guitar and violin respectively.  Softly adding a pensive soundtrack to the quietness of the evening.

The walk back to the party was long; we decided not to stay.  We returned to the house, drank champagne and played Scattergories until we were too silly to comprehend playing further.  In Hilo the coqui frog population is far more dramatic so we went to sleep with our heads (somewhat pleasantly) filled by their piercing songs.

We drove back to Kona today, taking our time to stop in a few places along the way.  We started with the farmer’s market in Puna which had all sorts of different vendors from traditional flea market style antiques to landscaping plants and produce, homemade food and handmade jewelry.  Cori had one of the infamous crepes and I engorged myself on a falafel pita.

Goddess Pele, painting by Arthur Johnsen

The main purpose for going through Puna was to go to the Ahalanui Hot Ponds, an area on the coast where the cold salt water of the ocean mingles with the natural fresh water heated by volcanic sources below.  It’s a rather small pond so going when it’s very busy sounds awful but the crowd was fairly mild and manageable.  The water felt so warm and soothing and was calm enough to float effortlessly on your back. I moved my body in circles slowly dragging one arm through the water, stared into the sky and felt the water holding me as I whirled slowly on the surface.  There were a few inquisitive fish that found themselves drawn to the wounds on my leg from the tumble the day before in the forest.  Usually I find nibbling fish quite endearing and welcome but these ones were a bit too excitable and distracting.

Afterwards, we drove over to Volcano National Park.  Cori and Stephanie had seen the area several times so I very much appreciated them taking me.  I spent some time getting acquainted with the area at the Kilauea Visitor Center and the Art Center next door.  We walked along a forest trail covered in tree ferns and through the Thurston Lava Tube, which was formed by a steady stream of molten lava.  The tube itself felt rather short but considering how tall and large it was, one imagine the force it took for the earth to create being pretty spectacular.

Kilauea Caldera

Before returning to Kona, we stopped at the Kilauea Caldera Outlook. Kilauea is said to be one of the most active volcanoes in the world and standing at 56,000 ft as the world’s largest.  The exhibit at the outlook was really informative.  They had specimens of all the different types of lava rock that formed in the area, including a hair-like glassy strand specimen that forms from the actual explosion of liquid rock.  This is also the volcano said to house Pele, the goddess of volcanoes.  A beautiful depiction by Arthur Johnsen hangs at the Visitor Center.

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