Thu, August 15
After several days at sea, we were very pleased to finally arrive in the port at Hilo. Our goal for the day – to get up close and personal with two of the world’s most active volcanoes in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
As we made our way by coach through Downtown HIlo we could see the evidence of the two tsunamis (in 1946 and 1960) and we saw the memorial clock forever stopped at 1.04 from the 1960 tsunami.
Our first stop was Rainbow Falls – such a pretty waterfal, then on to the Macadamia Factory where samples awaited us. Even though we have macadamia nuts in Queensland, we found something excusive to Hawaii – Hershey Kisses – macadamia nuts coated in Hershey chocolate. They are delicious and we are trying to make the packet last as long as possible!
Next stop was a lovely buffet lunch at one of the few hotels on the island which are all grouped together near the shore. There are lots of banyan trees in Hawaii, and we were impressed to see that several of the trees around the hotel were planted by famous people; two names in particular caught our attention – Amelia Earhart and Babe Ruth.
As we made our way to the National Park which is a World Heritage Site, it was interesting to see the different types of vegetation. Black lava rocks, grey ash and barren landscape around the sites of the volcanoes. There was a wealth of information in the museum and we spent quite some time there. As we walked around we passed several areas where steam arose from vents in the ground caused by rainfall seeping into the ground and coming into contact with hot rock. Unfortunately we could not get good photos due to the low light as we walked through a section of Thurston Lava Tube where red hot lava once flowed.
It was amazing to see the scenery change from thick green vegetation to grey ash and pebbly ground. At one point, we got off the bus to walk amongst a surreal landscape of lava trees, which resulted from a lava flow that left behind eerie lava molds of the tree trunks.
Our last stop was the orchid farm where we took countless photos. A charming feature was the box of little white or mauve orchids and hairpins inside the entrance so all the ladies could pin some flowers in their hair.
Hilo is very much worth a visit, if you are interested, as we were, in seeing the results of 70 million years of volcanism, migration and evolution, whether by road or helicopter. Shops and hotels are minimal. Houses generally are small and often have extended families living together as wages are low and housing is not always affordable. The closure of the sugar mills caused a downturn in the economy and tourism has not replaced all the jobs that were lost.
Overall, we had an amazing day and we were very lucky to have an excellent guide who was not only informative, but entertaining as well.