The ship travels at night. This actually works out very well because the rocking of the ship makes for superior sleep. We arrived bright and early in Hilo. This is where we had decided to see a volcano. There is one on Maui I hear, but Volcanoes National Park is near Hilo. And for sheer duration and information I think this is the time to see the volcanoes. The bus takes you up into the park and you have several stops each timed perfectly. If there’s anything else to know about volcanoes I can’t imagine what it would be. Our first stop was at the top of the mountain to view the crater of Kilauea. This particular volcano is not active right now, but supposedly is the most active. There was steam coming out of it. In the visitor’s center you learn all about Pele, the mythical goddess of volcanoes. One of the things I found the most interesting in the center was the various forms lava takes. I had no idea it was as diverse as it is. And I could see after looking at the display why the natives of Hawaii thought there was a being behind all that violence. Lava can appear in a form that looks like hair and then in another form that looks like tears. It’s not just rough or smooth.
After you learn about volcanoes you are taken to a place where there is steam rising out of the ground all over the place. I guess if I’d thought about that more while I was there I might have found that stop a little disturbing. Obviously something very hot is right beneath my feet. But, instead, I just enjoyed the steam facial and got back on the bus. And on we went to the next stop. This one was lower down and you looked down into the crater of a volcano. We noticed that there were people walking across the crater so we asked our guide about that. He told us that you can get an excursion that leads you down there. It takes almost the whole day and it is a long hike. At first I had wished we had known about that, but upon further consideration maybe it’s just a well we didn’t. We probably got to see a lot more with the one we were on. This stop took us to the most recent lava flow and the damage it had done. There was nothing there! Literally, just rocks. The lava had taken it all away or burned it off.
Following that we got to see what I considered the best part of the journey, a lava tube. Now, this was news to me. I didn’t even know that anything like this existed. You only see a portion of it, but what you see is remarkable when you consider it was made by lava flowing, cooling on the outside to form the tube and flowing on out leaving the tube hollow. They have installed lighting in the tube so you can walk through it. The portion you go through is around 400 feet long. Just amazing.
This tour, for the most part, would be accessible to anyone except for the lava tube. You go down a steep flight of stairs and a steep walkway to get to the entrance. Then you hike back up on a path back to the parking lot.
Our final stop was a chocolate factory. It was surreal to me that we made this stop after so much natural violence. But there we were in the midst of hundreds of boxes of candy. A little non sequitur in many ways. The Japanese people on the trip seemed to enjoy it. They bought bags of the chocolate.
That night the ship moved from Hilo to Kona going around what the Hawaiians call “The Big Island” or Hawai’i. As it moves there was an active volcano flow that could be seen around 10:00 p.m. Hawaii time, which is 3:oo a.m. at home for us. I slept through it. I didn’t want to sleep through it, but rocking boat, time change and a day of hiking through the park had taken its toll and I was dead to the world when that happened.