What’s a trip to Hawaii without checking out a volcano or two. In order to fulfill the requisite volcano quota, spent yesterday traipsing around the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Upon arriving, the National Park Service provides a handout that begins with a visitor alert – “high amounts of dangerous sulfur dioxide gas may be present in the park” – a sure sign of great things to come. As volcanoes go, Kilauea, which means “much spreading” in Hawaiian, is one hot volcano. It is the most active of the five volcanoes that altogether form the Big Island. In the day, the Halemaʻumaʻu crater, a pit crater located within the much larger summit caldera, spews white plumes of sulphur dioxide, and at night, the flow from the lava lake at the bottom is clearly visible. Hawaiians believe that this crater is the home of Pelehonuamea, the Hawaiian goddess of fire and volcanoes, and strewn on the ground are offerings made to her. Around the park, vents emit steam from the ground. Particularly intriguing is the six-kilometre or so hike through a native rainforest down into a crater and across a lava lake, still steaming from an eruption from 1959. More reminiscent of moonscape than landscape, the experience of walking through huge ferns only to find oneself standing in the middle of a near barren crater with steam rising from the ground makes for a fascinating hike.
I thought I would hate Waikiki beach. Unfortunately, I liked it. From sipping mai tais and watching the stars at night, to sitting on the sand and watching the surfers and swimmers in the day, this beach fronting the cool blue-green Pacific ocean was a great place to hang out in Honolulu despite its fame.
Peering down into the wreck that is the USS Arizona was a poignant memory from the last visit to Hawaii about 20 years ago. Visiting the USS Arizona Memorial again, the event that signaled the entry of the United States into World War II and the heavy cost of war weighed heavy on my mind. The USS Arizona is still leaking oil on a daily basis, and the smell and sight of the leaking oil seemed to act as a reminder that 1941 was not so long ago.
Looking out of one side of this memorial and past the shadow of the wreck that can be seen just below the water, the USS Missouri is docked facing the USS Arizona, a significant gesture as the battleships were always docked facing the open sea. This is the battleship upon which the Japanese surrendered, and as much as the USS Arizona signifies the beginning of World War II for the United States, the USS Missouri is intended to be a symbol of the end of World War II. Interestingly, this battleship was chosen to be the site of the surrender as a nod to Harry Truman, the President at that time, whose home state was Missouri.
These battleships are also a reminder of what war used to look like. World War II also signified the end of the era of the battleship and the beginning of the dominance of the aircraft carrier.
Went on the hike up to the crater rim of Diamond Head yesterday, the volcanic tuff cone that is probably emblematic of Hawaii’s volcanic geography, and a State Monument.
Diamond Head was named by British sailors in the 19th century, who mistook the embedded calcite crystals in the rocks as diamonds. About 200,000 years old, this tuff cone was formed by an eruption from the Koʻolau volcano that took place long after the volcano formed and had gone dormant, and is a young ‘un compared to the volcanic mountain range on which Honolulu sits, which is about 2.6 million years old.
This short hike (only about one kilometre in length and beginning from inside the crater) is what one would probably classify as not much work for much reward. From the edge of the crater rim, the view is spectacular, stretching the entire shoreline along Waikiki beach and the Waikiki neighbourhood, Honolulu’s residential neighbourhoods that are located on the leeward slopes and valleys of the Koʻolau volcano, and the Pacific Ocean for as far as the eye can see. But the highlight for me was seeing a whale surfacing to breathe and a rainbow arch across the sky.
Saddle Road (officially known by the more mundane name of Route 200) traverses the width of the Big Island and is a beautiful drive from the city of Hilo to the city of Kona. Beginning from downtown Hilo, this road passes through several residential neighbourhoods in Hilo before going through the forest reserves outside Hilo. The road climbs to an elevation of over 2,000 feet, saddling between the volcanic mountains of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, and rainforest gives way to open landscapes backed by volcanoes. One could probably drive the whole 86 or so kilometres with jaws dropped at the awe-inspiring scenery.
Wandered around downtown Hilo today. The oldest city in the Hawaiian archipelago, the area is replete with history and historical buildings (in one of the stores I found a copy of TIME magazine from 1945). Inexplicably, there was a proportionately large number of barber shops and hair salons, but most of the other stores catered to the tourists. Except for the bustling farmers’ market where the papayas, bananas, avocados and other local produce were being sold, I got the feeling that most of the locals were at the mall.