3. Being There - Hawaii, The Big Island
Day 1, Sunday 14th June
Big Island is Hawaii - that is, Hawaii is the big island. It is confusing for some. They think of Hawaii as Honolulu (for some reason), but it is the entire state. Hawaii, though, is Big Island. Got it? Anyway, we were going there. Today.
We rolled our luggage over the road and along a bit, to underneath the flags of the Ilikai Hotel, as our pick-up point for Roberts shuttle. It sure was hot. Right on time (9:30am) the bus arrived and picked us and a couple of girls up. I was afraid that they might make a trip all over Waikiki, picking people up - but the friendly little driver only stopped at two other hotels and then we headed straight for the airport. There was a woman yapping nonsense. Firstly, she said her hair had grown 'a whole lot' in a week and secondly, she stated, categorically, that there were no pineapples grown on Oahu. Then she gave us a family history and told us (or, rather, the Japanese family sitting in front of us) all about Sydney's after school activities. We were first off the bus, at the Hawaiian Airlines terminal.
I had booked our return flights (in, Hilo - out, Kona) with Travelocity, because, for reasons only known to themselves, Hawaiian Airlines do not accept British credit cards on their website ... I was a little worried that my printed out receipt wouldn't be adequate - but it was and the kindly man allowed us 4 bags for no charge (they're meant to charge $17 for any bags over 1 each). We went outside for a quick smoke and then make our way through security, to departures. It's a really nice, modern terminal, with plenty of seating, but it is ccccold! The air-conditioning units seem to point right onto you, wherever you sit. We watched the luggage being loaded onto our plane. Ours didn't appear to be with it. The flight was nice. The pilot didn't hang around - no small talk, just onto the runway and off. The stewardesses wore flowers in their hair and we had a few nuts and a glass of oj handed out to us. That was all there was time for! In no time at all, we were landing at Hilo Airport, having flown across much of the north east of the island, with views of Mauna Loa, Waipio Valley and the many waterfalls along the coastline.
Hilo airport is sweet. It is a bunch of interconnected huts, really. All the car rental offices were lined up outside and we made our way down to the Alamo one and sat on the wall (lava).
'It's another Impala,' moaned Paul, although what exactly was wrong with that? And it was a classy white number!
We were going to be spending 3 nights on this side of the island - the tropical part, close to the volcano - and another 4 nights on the other side of the island, where it was much dryer. The owner of our rental for our 3 nights here, Lagoon Shangrila, had sent excellent driving instructions, along with a note that, as the house was so remote, we should shop at Safeway en route. We missed it and ended up at the Malama Market, Pahoa. It was OK, but I was in a bit of a moody, having missed Safeway, and everything inside the store was inferior!! The ice-cream was iced up too much - the bread was hard - they didn't have the right soft drinks - they didn't have cheesecake (well, they did, but it didn't look drooly enough) etc. We didn't get much.
We arrived at Lagoon Shangrila via a long road, lined with dwarf palms. I was expecting to see the Taj Mahal at the end! We were reminded of the tsunami threat at every turn.
Lagoon Shangrila was disappointing. I mean, it was as it showed in the pictures, but it was unbearably HOT! I had discovered, only a few days before we left, that the house had no A/C and I had hoped it wouldn't matter - but it did. Even with all fans blasting, the bedrooms never got below 86 deg F for the whole of the time we were there. It was a pity, as it could've been lovely. There was a large lounge/dining area/kitchen with a wall of windows, which opened out onto the deck. There was a computer in the corner (it didn't work, along with its wifi - another disappointment) and a washer/dryer, which I utilised almost immediately. There were three bedrooms, each with their own bathrooms. All very clean and comfortable. If it weren't for the heat. The steps leading down to the tidal pond were broken.
'I won't be going in there,' I sulked.
There was a gecko on the television. We named him Damian. We put him out several times, but he kept on coming back in.
The bumph had promised 2 minutes walk to the tidal pools. Had to get some air! The walk was more like 15 minutes, and it was hot. I continued to sulk, despite the beauty of the surroundings. What a wretch!
I ventured asking whether there was time to drive down to see the lava entering the ocean. I wasn't sure if that was a good idea or not. However, all seemed keen, so we stocked up on flashlights (which were conveniently dotted around the house on chargers), jeans and trainers and off we went, along the 137 road to Kalapana (which no longer exists, having been gobbled up by 1990 lava from Pu'u O'o) towards the parking spot. It sure was a rollercoaster of a very narrow road! You could see two huge plumes of steam, rising up into the air, from a long way off and, by the time we had parked, I had no hesitation in walking, across the lava field, to the viewing spot. There were warning signs of what to look out for (explosions, innundation by the ocean etc) but we hadn't come all this way to worry about such little things!
OK, so the going was tough and rough - if you didn't watch your step, you'd easily fall and break a few bones. And, even then, we were still half a mile away from the lava entering the Pacific. But it was such a STAGGERING thing to watch. I only wish that we had better cameras as our photos cannot do justice to the spectacle. No camera, no matter how good, could actually ever convey the feeling of privilege of actually standing there watching new land being created. Special. Wow.
And it got better. As night fell and the lava showed itself as orange and red glows, it was amazing. Everybody oohed and aahed, like they do at a firework display - but this was something else.
The walk back was, indeed, tricky in the dark. You had to walk very slowly, with your flashlight trained on the ground. But we had a bonus! Something we hadn't expected! You could see the lava flowing down the hillside - all glowing and orange. It was absolutely wonderful! And we all made it safely back to the car (although we briefly lost Paul as he had walked right past, after stopping to buy some fabulous photographs).
We rumbled back to our hot-house. And what did we discover? Cockroaches. Huge ones. OK, so they were outside, but they were gross and I refused to stand close to the house for a smoke. Every time we had a cigarette, I gripped hold of the back of T's shirt and closed my eyes as we walked outside to the road. And there were frogs. Billions of them. Tree frogs. Coqui. What a racket they made! Hey, we were in the jungle!
We thought about leaving. We would've thought even harder about leaving had we internet access on which to check things. But we didn't, did we.