A Travellerspoint blog

Relaxing at South Point

...and just a manta ray dive!

sunny 28 °C

We pull out of the Namakanipaio campsite where we ended up camping again last night. This fine day we are heading to South Point, the southern most part of the United States. Julie wants to check out sea turtles at a black sand beach, so that is our first stop. There are a couple resting on the beach and more eating along the shore, so we quietly snap a few pics, trying not to disturb them. More and more people keep arriving and getting really close to the turtles. The law is to stay at least 20 feet from these endangered turtles. Julie can't believe how many tourist disrespect the law just to get a photo. Luckily we have a zoom lens which helped us capture the photos below. This beach is an important breeding area for the turtles, and there is even an active boat launch here. Locals inform us that Hawaii needs help with protecting these endangered turtles as the Department of Natural Land and Resources doesn't do much.

Green Sea Turtle Taking a Breath

Green Sea Turtle Taking a Breath

Green Sea Turtles on Punalu'u

Green Sea Turtles on Punalu'u

We continue to South Point on the road winding down to ocean level. When we arrive we notice how the winds howl from the east continuously causing all the trees to grow horizontal to the ground, pointing west. Our plan was to hike two miles to the green sands beach, but instead we back the van up to a small patch of beach, open the back hatch and take in the sights and sounds.

Horizontal Trees on South Point

Horizontal Trees on South Point


Southern most point in US

Southern most point in US

Later in the day we arrive at the marina near Kona for our manta ray night dive with Neptune Charlie's. They are very thorough with safety which puts Julie's mind at ease. We had never done at night dive and didn't really know what to expect. Our dive master, Roger, goes over every detail of our equipment, the dive, and how to use the lighting equipment they provide. The sun sets, and it is time to take the plunge off the back of the boat and descend to ocean floor about 30 feet below. After a short swim along the reef, we arrive at the “campfire”, where lights had been placed on the ocean floor shinning upwards. Everyone knelt around the campfire, holding our personal lights high above our heads, pointing to the surface. The light attracts plankton, which attracts the huge manta rays (weighing thousands of pounds). They warned us prior to the dive that we might not see any mantas, but we really lucked out, there are between 15 and 20 mantas gliding all around us. The graceful mantas swoop right over our flash lights. They are within inches of our heads, so close that before the dive we were told we had to leave our snorkels in the boat so the mantas wouldn't knock them off our heads. Once in a while we crouch down to avoid a manta running into our heads. Julie holds a large rock tightly in her lap to keep her stable on the bottom as the current caused by the mantas is strong enough to knock you over. They are so close you can see right into their gills. We both watch in awe, until it was time to head back to the boat.

Manta Ray near Kona

Manta Ray near Kona

After a short drive to the outskirts of Kona, we arrive at Alicia's home, our couch surfing accommodations for our last two nights on the Big Island. It's late and we are spent from a busy day, so we chat briefly before she shows us to our room. The house seems remote and the only sounds from the heavy tropical growth that surrounds it is from wild pigs snorting and scratching at the ground looking for food.

Posted by ontarions 15:25 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Big Puna Hits

...and everything volcano.

sunny 27 °C

Gordon is waiting with a massive breakfast spread at 7 am sharp. We stuff ourselves full of fresh fruits and homemade breads, before heading on our way to the Puna Region. Our first stop is snorkeling in the calm tidal pools at the Waiopae Marine Conserve. Julie find another octopus hiding beneath rocks. The pools are full of life, but impact from development and septic beds is taking its toll.

Nate Snorkeling in Tidepools

Nate Snorkeling in Tidepools

We stop for a quick soak in the spring fed thermal pond at Isaac Hale Beach Park. It's amazing that we are sitting in water warmed by magma. We don't stay too long since the water is just warm and we were hoping it was going to be hot.

Our next stop is the natural lava steam rooms. We pull off the side of the road, and hike past the “No Trespassing” signs and onto the property. The trails are very over grown, burrs scrape Julie's legs along the way, but we know it'll be worth it when we get to the caves. As we search for the perfect steam room we run into Melanie, we met her when we hitched a ride with to the top of Mauna Kea. Very strange to cross paths on this vast island again. Through the maze of trails, we find a cave that suits us. The cave is small and there is just enough space for 2 people to have a seat on the old bench inside. It is very warm, and the cave is dripping wet. As we sit on the bench we feel the steam on our backs, it comes in puffs, as if the Goddess Pele (the legendary volcano goddess) is breathing. The steam comes from deep within the earth.... Our bodies are dripping wet ... I'll stop there....that sounds too x-rated for this blog. After about 40 minutes of complete relaxation and amazement that we are in a natural steam room we decide to head to see the lava. We are rejuvenated and feel fabulous.

The final stop on our days tour of the area where everything seems to be influenced by volcanoes is the island's highlight, piping hot lava pouring into the ocean. We start hiking across young lava flow, about 10 years old. It's very scary to witness the result of the mass destruction of the lava's path. But the odd house still stands in the midst of this lava, either the lava travelled around them, or people are already rebuilding! I should explain, that the pictures from the previous day at Halema'uma'u Crater are at the summit of the Kilauea volcano and the source of the lava pouring into the ocean is from that same volcano. There is no lava flowing out of the Halema'uma'u Crater, just steam leaving the crater. The lava flows underground by the crater, and then through a lava tube, coming through the surface at the Thanksgiving Eve Breakout (TEB) vent. It came through the TEB vent to the surface in 2007 and the red hot lava has been slowly flowing along land from this vent to the ocean 700 m (2300 ft) away. Destroying anything in its path. Just recently the lava reached the ocean and as a result of it cooling on contact it is making the island bigger in size.

Evening Lava Flow from Kilauea Volcano

Evening Lava Flow from Kilauea Volcano

So for the entire hike, which takes about an hour, we could see the steam barrelling from the lava tube to the heavens. When we reach the safe viewing point with about 6 other people, we watch in awe at the hot lava emptying into the Pacific. Night sets in fast and the show intensifies. The fiery hot lava, sometimes boiling at 2,100 degrees, collides with cold sea water exploding like a grenade. Watch the uploaded video for full affect.

Evening Lava Flow from Kilauea Volcano

Evening Lava Flow from Kilauea Volcano

Evening Lava Flow from Kilauea Volcano

Evening Lava Flow from Kilauea Volcano

I get adventurous and poke around closer and closer to the flow with a couple other guys. We find fresh lava right under our feet! The cracks are glowing bright red and insanely hot. More people keep creeping up to the hot spot, some with marshmallows! It is one crazy sight. I drag Julie to the lava site, but one look at the red glow, and see bolts back to her comfort zone. We call it a night and make the long trek back to the van in the moonlight. That is the most powerful spectacle of nature that we have every seen. Incredible.

Posted by ontarions 15:01 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Volcano National Park

magma.

semi-overcast 26 °C

We arrive at My Island B&B to spurge on a nights accommodations. It's the old cottage like home of Gordon Morse who is 84 years old. His daughter Kii helps by cooking wonderful baked goods for the breakfast and tending to the coming and going guests. Gordon give us a briefing on everything “volcano” related in the area and other hot spots to pass the time.

My Island Bed and Breakfast

My Island Bed and Breakfast

Out the door we go, on our way to an awesome hike through Kilauea Iki Crater. The hike starts and ends in lush rainforest, but the middle consists of crossing the entire length of the crater floor. The floor is covered with Pahoehoe (smooth) lava and is easy going and still hot to the touch. The lava floor is 360 ft thick, but the bottom 120 ft is still fluid. We pass a couple steam vents that are supposedly great for wiener roasting, if only I had a wiener.

Halema'uma'u Crater

Halema'uma'u Crater

Kilauea Iki Crater

Kilauea Iki Crater

Nate in Kilauea Iki Crater

Nate in Kilauea Iki Crater

ohi'a lehua in Kilauea Iki Crater

ohi'a lehua in Kilauea Iki Crater

Our next mission is the Chain of Craters Road. The road passes through past lava flows and cinder cones on its way to the newest flow (1983-present) that caused a permanent barricade in the road. Along the way we check out some tree molds, a very cool lava formation where a tree dies as a result of lava flow, leaving a hole in the lava after rotting away.

Tree Mold

Tree Mold

We also stop at the Pu'u Loa Petroglyphs, a series of pictures etched into a lava flow about 500-700 years ago. This area remains a very sacred place for Hawaiians. After reaching the end of the road and seeing the steam rising up from the current lava flow off in the distance we head back to the inn.

Minivan on Chain of Craters Rd.

Minivan on Chain of Craters Rd.

Old Lava Flows Toward Ocean

Old Lava Flows Toward Ocean

Petroglyphs

Petroglyphs

End of Chain of Craters Rd.

End of Chain of Craters Rd.

After darkness falls, we return to Halema'uma'u Crater to see the active craters deathly red glow at night. During the day, the smoke looks thick and colorless, but at night the mass of smoke over the 130 m wide crater is lit up to bright reds and oranges from the flowing lava below. The lava does not emerge here but flows through a lava tube which enters the ocean near Kalapana (foreshadowing).

Kilauea Caldera

Kilauea Caldera

Posted by ontarions 23:32 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Rainbow Falls

...wow.

sunny 28 °C

We get up, and a bird had shit all over our tent. Too many shitty encounters these last two days. After packing up Julie climbs on my back to pick some huge starfruit off the tree at Arnott's. We push on to Rainbow Falls. Waterfalls are starting to get annoying at this point, especially the ones with tour buses lined up out front. It's amazing how easily you take things for granted after repeated exposure, whether is be nature or your partner. We are learning our lesson. Anyways, we take a few pics, and head up stream to another waterfall that required a small hike to reach. It's super hot so we really want swim at the base of the waterfall. We pick the wrong trail, and it leads to the top. Even better, we find a series of pools with a series of smaller falls.

Julie Cooling Off

Julie Cooling Off


Nate Taking the Plunge

Nate Taking the Plunge

Waterfall

Waterfall

The water is cool and just what we were looking for. After contemplating a jump off the large main waterfall, Julie talks me down, and we roll out. We stop at Hawaii Volcano National Park to get details on what is closed off due to high levels of sulphur dioxide coming from the active Halema'uma'u Crater in Kilauea volcano. There are a couple road and campsite closures, but nothing major. We head to our campsite, Namakanipaio, for a quiet night of blogging, reading and relaxing.

Steam Vents

Steam Vents

Halema'uma'u Caldera

Halema'uma'u Caldera

Posted by ontarions 23:16 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Waipio Valley to Hilo

sunny 29 °C

We are on the road to the north-eastern part of the Big Island to check out Waipio Valley. We park at entrance to the valley and the view is breathtaking but something smells. Dog poo...on Julie's shoe. Nice.

Entering Tsunami Zone with Poo Poo

Entering Tsunami Zone with Poo Poo


Waipio Valley

Waipio Valley

Waipio Valley

Waipio Valley

We start walking down the insanely steep road. At a 25% average grade, with steeper grades in sections, this paved public road is open only to 4 wheel drive vehicles. If classified as a road, it would be the steepest road of its length in the United States and possibly the world. So, we hang out our thumbs and quickly hitch a ride in the back of a pick-up with a local.

Mangled car at the bottom of cliff

Mangled car at the bottom of cliff

Several large waterfalls tumble into the valley to feed the river that we ford to reach the black sandy beach. Fording this river was a new experience as your body was tugged in opposite directions. The freshwater in the river tugged at your body towards the ocean, and the ocean waves pushed your body up the river.

Waipio Valley River

Waipio Valley River


Julie Crossing Stream

Julie Crossing Stream

We head straight across the valley floor just to ascend up the opposite side. The hike up long switchbacks is a sweaty one with the sun beating down on us. A decision is made based on advice from our hiking book to stop at the end of 4th switchback, as the view is spectacular.

Waipio Valley

Waipio Valley

Black Sand Beach in Waipio Valley

Black Sand Beach in Waipio Valley


Stone Recliners

Stone Recliners

After snapping some panoramics and breathing in the beauty, we head back down to the valley and across to the road. We have no luck hitching a ride with anyone, as vehicles heading up the road are reluctant to stop due to its steep gradient, so we slowly hike our way to the top.

After reaching the van, Nate savours a Kona beer before we head of to the Hilo market. The market is bustling with street musicians and all sorts of goodies to munch on. Hilo is very busy city, with a cruise ship docked in the bay. We haven't been exposed to city in weeks, luckily our accomodations, Arnnott's Lodge, is on the outside of town. We pitch our tent for super cheap and have a kitchen and wi-fi available for use. This is luxury camping!

Posted by ontarions 00:45 Archived in USA Comments (1)

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