Jul 16, 2014

Hawaii's Big Island - An Ethereal Feel

A mind that is stretched by a new experience 
Can never go back to its old dimensions.
Oliver Wendell Holmes 

Roses of Siam from the ginger family - Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, a must see
Our favorite of the three Hawaiian islands we visited: folks thinking and living outside the box and in constant uncertainty due to active volcanoes…

The very nature of having active volcanoes at your doorstep gives the Big Island a completely different feel.  The insecurity that this brings to everyday life means people live more in the moment, enjoying what is there right now for it may not be there tomorrow.  

We visited a small town that lost many of its homes and the world’s longest black sand beach to hot lava in 1990.  We were able to speak with some of the ‘survivors’ who stated it was the slowest natural disaster.  They were able to walk alongside the hot red lava engulfing everything giving them time to think how bad it will be once over unlike a rapid tornado. 
Volcanic rock arch
Sheer volcanic coastline
Another thing of interest in such a disaster is that home insurance covers the structure but not the access to the structure.  This means if your house is intact but you have lava surrounding it, you will not get a penny from the insurance company yet you no longer have access to your home or land…  Since it can take several decades for lava to cool off you are left with nothing.  Best would be to burn the structure down before calling the insurance adjusters.  You still own the land that can now be located 75-100 feet below where it used to be but the Hawaiian government owns all NEW land created by the volcano near the coastline. 

The youngest of the islands at a mere 800,000 years it is not only the largest of the Hawaiian Islands, it is the largest island in the US.  It is nearly twice as large as all other Hawaiian Islands combined.  Although it is 7 times larger than Oahu, Oahu has 5 times the population!  So large in fact that all growing zones are found in the many micro-climates created here.  On the west side you’ll barely get 5 inches of rain while the east side can receive over 130.

Gigantic (see cars to left) monkeypod tree
Day gecko - brightly colored
Playing hide and seek
Bat Plant - very unusual flower
Vine with blue flowers - - - yes this blue - amazing
Hanging lobster claws
More orchids
Orange beauty
Dreaded snails that eat your gardens/flowers, etc
Another beautiful banyan tree
Mini-mini pineapples
Gorgeous colors...
... and designs
Onomea waterfalls - part of botanical garden
Cannonball trees - Closer one in bloom, flowers on trunk!
Farther one covered with cannonballs the size of grapefruits
This island is built from five separate volcanoes (oldest to youngest): Kohala (extinct), Mauna Kea (dormant), Hualāli (active), Mauna Loa (active) and Kilauea (active and has been erupting continuously since 1983).  Since some volcanoes are still active, the Big Island is getting bigger every year.  About 22 miles SE lies an undersea volcano called Loihi.  Erupting regularly and still over 3,000 feet below sea level, the Big Island will have a sister island popping over the watery horizon sometime in the next 10,000 to 100,000 years. 

Mauna Kea is the tallest sea mountain in the world, with a summit that stands 13,796 feet above sea level, and rises over 32,000 feet from its base on the ocean floor, making it taller than Mt Everest.  It is the most massive mountain in the world, covering half the island.  The Big Island is home to the southernmost point in the US (Ka Lae) as well as the southernmost bar in the US.

Akaka Falls 442 feet
Rock 'egg' coming out of red clay along road 
These signs are seen in many locations - Another reminder of life on the 'edge'
From a distance, Kilauea Caldera
Halema'uma'u Crater - smoke - can only see red colors at dark
So moonscape-like Kilauea Iki Crater - Smoke puff in center
In the crater
Ohi'a Lehua tree prevails in Hawaii's volcanic soil
Close up of flowers - all stages at once (bloom, bud, etc)
In the plant kingdom - Ferns are first to come back
Thurston lava tube - nowhere as exciting as Tahiti's
To the east side of the island one will find nearly the cleanest air in the world for there is nothing in front of it for over 2,000 miles and the wind mostly comes from that direction.  Breathe in and take pleasure in it.

Although our dream was to see lava flowing into the sea we didn’t get the opportunity.  The lava hasn’t reached the ocean for about 10 months now (although several companies still offer that 'tour').  Things are always in flux with active volcanoes and right now the lava is following a different, non-reachable, path.

The Big Island is also home to one of the largest ranches (Parker Ranch at 175,000 acres or 11% of the island) in the US.  Today the ranch is a Foundation Trust committed to the betterment of the community of Waimea (Hawaiian cowboy town) as well as providing perpetual support for beneficiaries engaged in healthcare, education and charitable support.

Pu'uloa Petroglyphs, a few of the 23,000!
Road Closed - what's your first clue?
Inevitable migration over the road to the ocean
Mike in the midst of lava swirls, ocean waves, sky clouds
Since this picture was taken, more lava has flown towards Puna/Hilo and this road will be reopened as back-up
Lava 'mushrooms' created by lava flowing around tree trunks
Same phenomenon in the woods - Lava Tree State Park
Macadamia nuts and coffee are the agricultural fares that bring the most money to the island along with the regular tropical and temperate fruits, flowers and vegetables.

The island is known for its astronomy and although very controversial with the natives, numerous telescopes are operated on the summit of Mauna Kea, where atmospheric clarity is excellent and there is little light pollution.  They even make you go down the hill 30 minutes before sundown so your car headlights don’t mess with their telescopes.

Although tourism is a great source of income, they focus more on sustainable tourism here than on the other islands.

Twenty percent of its electricity comes from the clean heat emerging from mother earth below.  Some people are fighting the expansion of such projects opting rather for not so clean diesel consuming generators…  Not sure that one makes sense in an environment like this beautiful island.

Some banyan trees lining Banyan Tree Road near the ocean’s east side were planted by people like Richard and Pat Nixon, Amelia Earhart, Babe Ruth, and Franklin Roosevelt.

Tough to grow in black sand - Replanting near black sand beach
This church had to be moved twice to stay away from the encroaching lava - it was saved!
Quaint inside
The very nice Lyman Museum’s Missionary House was also visited by a known person, namely Mark Twain.  This house is the oldest standing wood structure on the island and was just about demolished when a new road was going to be built where it was standing.  The owner had the house cut in ½, rotated 90 degrees and moved away from the road for safekeeping. 

Visiting the various stores around town looking for locally made items we see a store that sells bags, rugs, and hats that look very much like what they make in Rurutu.  We check it out and it turns out that they are from Rurutu – what is amazing however is that the lady who owns the store sells these items for 10 times what we paid in Rurutu.  She says she’s helping them keep their art alive – I say she’s helping her wallet a lot…

Kapoho Tide-Pools - great for snorkeling
 Liliuokalani Japanese Gardens, Hilo
Reflection -  Liliuokalani Japanese Gardens
Much like in French Polynesia, there used to be a lot of sandalwood on the islands and there is a movement to bring it back.  It is very time consuming for all saplings have to be protected from the wild goats, pigs, moles, rats, and sheep around the island.  Each plant needs a companion plant to grow well so much trial and error is part of this lengthy process.  

One of the things that may help keep sandalwood trees from being cut down are the nuts they produce.  They are supposedly delicious tasting like a combination of coconut and macadamia nut.  If they could get money for the nuts while the trees reach maturity to be cut for wood they probably could make a go of it.

Another important tree to that region is the Koa tree and very few remain.  Seeds are eaten by non-native species of animals (in this case mostly cattle) and birds making it nearly impossible to germinate on their own, needing the intervention of man…  It is similar in strength to walnut but it is also a tone wood meaning it sounds very good when turned into a string instrument like a ukulele or a guitar.

Kaumana Tunnel - yep the ground is that red
View of Mauna Loa from Mauna Kea
One of the many smaller craters along the way
Offering on top of a hill overlooking Mauna Loa
Wild sheep crossing lava field
Nearly 200 of them
Tiny blue and white church by ocean
We have toured the whole island and want you to enjoy the pictures that best show what we saw.


Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Park (Place of Refuge)
Place of Refuge 'totems'
Place of Refuge wood sculptures
Ranger helping with fishing the old way = A long line braided with pandanu leaves to float ahead
of people forming a circle to push the fish and some turtles to beach
Probably 400 feet of line cast off
Line is all in the water
Closing in on the fish
Bringing it back to land
In the ever diminishing circle yellow tinged water
Final product - all caught were safely returned to the ocean
Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site
Double-canoe pirogue to take people on tour of bay = Exact replica of ones used by natives in the past
Pu'ukohola Park - Mailekini Heiau Temple
Said that rocks were hand-carried from 30 miles away in 1790
Same park - offerings over the ocean
Lapakahi State Historical ParkGolden wheat to black volcanic rocks to blue ocean
Reconstruction of original dwelling
Well preserved for being nearly 100 years old
View from our room in Puna. We stayed at an intentional community
The ocean is 4.3 miles away!

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