Having taken the opportunity to cleanse and treat ourselves to clean clothes, we arranged our laundry and checked out. Neither of us felt any symptoms of flea bites as we had suspected we might.
In Naalehu we bought a very expensive film for me for USD 10 and a bunch of bananas before travelling back eastwards to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Just beyond Naalehu we turned off to Punaluu where we stood out in the wind staring at the Pacific ocean and enjoying the vista of black sand and palm trees. The beach area was surrounded by lava.
Soon enough Ian called for my attention having spotted three or four turtles swimming around in the surf and taking breaths. Quickly I joined Ian and on sighting the hawksbill turtles I began photographing lots of surf and the odd surfacing of a hawksbill turtle's head. They were frolicking about just by the lava I was stood on and thoroughly enjoying themselves in the surf, bobbing their behinds out of the water and surfing the waves.
I moved on to join Ian who had long wandered off on the beach and we carefully walked across the black sand to where a group of tourists had accumulated, curious as to what had captured their attention. Resting in a lava tide pool was a hawksbill turtle, head down in the water, being tossed about in the surge. Every now and then he poked his head above the surface to breathe but the best thing was while everyone was enthralled by him, because he was so lovely and close to everyone, two other turtles immediately in front of him in the ocean surge were clowning about, one on his back and the other taking a breath, both travelling across the bay behind the tide pool. No one else saw them they were so fixated on the resting chappy yet it was so entertaining to me. They were like comedians, watching the tourists watching their friend and making their own entertainment while enjoying someone elses!
Ian had moved on again and so I joined him at the other end of the beach where he had spotted some smaller green turtles. They too were frolicking around and displaying their fins in between gulps of air and acrobatic displays. They captured my attention for the best part of an hour while the sun and the splashing saltwater tried to shoo me off. I noticed three divers were in the ocean at the edge of the bay and I envied them being in the company of so many beautiful turtles. I have never seen so many turtles in one place at one time! There were over a dozen that we saw which means there must have been at least that number in the bay at once. The most turtles we saw at once was during a night dive at the Great Barrier Reef and they were only present because they were sleeping. There were six of them then. It was a super experience.
Having spent 2 hours at Punaluu we moved on to Volcano village and washed our dirty clothes. While the machine in the launderette took care of them we had a poor lunch in the village, then transferred the wet clothes into a drying machine and we sat and discussed our plans for when we return to England, in a fortnight. We had made some decisions each and I now had a plan to follow. With the laundry complete and our backpacks repacked wee rected the tent at Kulanaokuaiki campground before we drove into Hilo and spent a small fortune on films for me and compact discs for us in Walmart. An early McDonalds dinner meant we sort of kept in budget today and could return to the red lava eruption site after sunset.
Confident that our tent would still be standing we drove straight to the end of Chain of Craters road. From the roadside we could see that there was more activity today and the red glow of the lava tubes stretched the height of the cliff to the Pu'u O'o Vent. There was some vegetation burning at the top of the stretch. In the distance we could see a wonderful glow from the ocean entry which illuminated the sky. We were very glad we waited until after sunset to return. The skies were relatively clear which created beautiful views of the red glowing landscape reaching up to the star littered evening sky. It was picture perfect.
Armed with plenty of films we marched out again across the lava field to the eruption site marked by the rangers' trail. The trail was evidently longer still than yesterdays. It was a long walk out to the red lava tonight but it was definitely worth it. The breakouts were pretty intense. Ian commented that the lava looked tired, that it was hardening quicker than it was travelling but we saw some fantastic bursts and it sure didn't feel any cooler than before! Again we ventured a bit further than the rest of the crowd and nearly came unstuck when I was walking directly towards a newly settled bu still slightly glowing area. Ian had to alert me to its presence and lead me on a safer route.
I was pleased that we had replenished my stock of film for I reeled off two films in not time at all!
Feeling a little unwell from all the poor food we had eaten today, we had consumed some poor food, and a little nervous about being away from the crowd, on sighting some steaming vents right beside us we gradually moved back towards the decreasing crowd, despite Ian's protests that the steam was a direct result of the newly arrived rainfall. Back in the safety of numbers I found a semi comfortable seat to park my backside on and enjoyed just being there, present in the creation of land, watching immense heat and power revealing themselves in such beautiful ways.
A couple of geologists were extracting some samples of hot lava, presumably for analysis, and they added some excitement to the show for a while. After reeling off some more pictures and finding that the rains had returned, we made our leave from the eruption site for the third time this week. All said, despite its sheer beauty, volcanic eruptions can be dangerous and although the current eruption from Kilauea volcano has been ejecting slow moving lava for twenty years now, it's still a dangerous and volatile site. For me, being so close to the red lava is exhilarating and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity. However, as we followed the same trail back to Chain of Craters road I got severely frightened by what I saw.
It was the same trail that we followed on our way out to the lava earlier on in the evening. Having covered perhaps a third of the distance, moving towards the road, I glanced down a crevice to see bright red lava at the bottom of an 18 inch crevice. We were some considerable distance away from the offical eruption site at this stage. I couldn't quite believe what my eyes were telling me. I continued to lead the way, checking other cracks as I went. When we reached a particularly hot part that had a pungent smell to it and I recalled Ian's reluctance to walk over this section the other day, I was amazed to see yet more bright red lava at this point. It didn't take us long to realise that we were standing on a thin crust of lava which had a lava tube directly beneath it and we, even quicker, moved off of it to safer ground. Now I was pretty scared and for a moment was disoriented. We were the only two people for quite some distance. There was no one else on the trail although the other tourists were at the eruption site with the geologists. For a moment I panicked, thinking that perhaps I had led us on to another trail that led somewhere other than the road we sought. It was pitch black, we were in total darkness except for our torchlight and the glow from the lava. There are no streetlights along the Chain of Craters road.
I continued to lead the way, there was no alternative path and as long as we remained alert we would be okay. Another red glow from lava was seen and this aided my determination to get us back on the road and into the car to drive away. I was getting tired and I still felt unwell from dinner so excused myself from my irrational imaginative envisages of the rock collapsing into the molten lava and leaving us completely stranded, away from everything.
It was quite unsettling.
When we reached the car we relaxed and listened to Coldplay on the way back to the campsite.
We reached the campsite at 23:30 and were surprised to find that not only was the campsite car park full but that someone had erected their tent in the car park. It was a good job that we put our tent up earlier and reserved our place. We set up our sleeping bags for our second night camping and began to rest at 00:00.
Today we had driven 166 miles from Waiohino to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Copyright 2003 Helen Fuller. All rights reserved.