Thursday, July 31, 2008

Day 166. Arriving in the Big Island

I got to Hilo by mid-morning, and after the usual ritual to rent a car I was ready to start my Big Island adventure. Hawaii deserves its name as the Big Island in that it is bigger than all the other islands put together. The first stop was at the local Goodwill store, to buy the necessary pots and pans for five days of camping. Next came Sears to buy a gas camp stove, and the local supermarket to buy provisions. Since I was in Hawaii I made sure to buy Spam and Dole pineapples for breakfast.
Having secured the basics I headed to the southeast, toward the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. But maybe I should quickly sketch the geography of the island: Hilo is in the east, Kilauea volcano is in the southeast, Mauna Loa volcano extends from the center to the south of the island, and Kona is to the west. The beautiful people live in the north, in the Kohala area. Also in the north is Mauna Kea volcano, which I didn’t visit.
The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is the best deal in the archipelago, with a $10 fee for a seven day visit, and free campgrounds. I took full advantage of the Namakanipaio campground, which features warm showers for a modest fee of $3 per day.

After setting camp I drove down to the southeast coast, to see the Kalapana area, where for the last 30 years lava flows originating in Pu’u O’o have entered the sea. The county keeps an eye on reckless tourists, so one cannot get too close, but it is nonetheless a fabulous spectacle to see the column of steam that rises from the seacliff, and the occasional blast of tephra and steam.
On the way back I made a twilight stop in the Lava Trees State Park, where a whole forest was fossilized 100 years ago by a lava flow. Normally one sees “trees” in lava flows as holes, left after the wood burns out, but at this place the “trees” are marked by columns of basalt spatter. A nice way to end the day.

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