There was always an element of risk associated with just allowing ourselves two days to visit the Kilauea volcano on the big island of Hawaii. This part of the USA is one of the wettest in the USA, and it could have easily rained for days on end. As things worked out, it pelted with rain on the first day, and the second was beautifully sunny, so sunny that both of got a little bit sunburnt.
Pictured here is Pammy on the first wet day, happy to be there in a photo taken when the clouds lifted just enough to reveal the smoking crater of Kilauea very nicely.
And guess which bit of me was sunburnt the worst! I'm standing in the sunshine (on the second day) in front of Kilauea Iki, a smaller secondary crater just off the main crater, which is smoking in the background. You don't hear anything, it's all quite silent; well, it would be silent if there weren't stacks of other tourists gawping and saying "gosh" and "have you got the keys?".
The floor of Kilauea Iki looks like it stopped erupting yesterday afternoon. You can see 'burps' of lava frozen in time as if someone has hit the pause button on them. A perfectly still scene of violent activity, if you like.
Though the second day was blessedly sunny, it was nevertheless quite windy, and so in this and all the other 10-second pan shots that I've taken on my nifty little digital camera, you can mostly hear the stupid wind, and not my stupid commentary. Come to think of it, some people would probably prefer the wind...
Now, don't get me wrong here, as the Kilauea caldera, smoking away ominously, was what we were there for, but as I have discovered on my travels, it's what you don't know exists, what you don't expect, which so often blows you away, and that happened to us yesterday too. As well as driving around the ring road around the Kilauea crater, which is about 11 miles around (and was blocked to traffic in one direction by hot-you-know-what), there is also the splendidly named 'Ring of Craters Road' which takes you from the top of the volcano all the way down to the sea, where the lava eruptions spectacularly spill into the Pacific Ocean. All the way along the Ring of Craters Road we came across lava flows, craters and other spectacular signs of volcanic activity, and that's what the next few pix and pan shots are all about. Pictured here is the Pauahi Crater, which at first reminded me of some open-cut mines I have seen.
Time for another pan shot, folks, about 10 seconds long, showing the Pauahi crater.
The things you learn at tourist lookouts... I now know that there are two types of lava: smooth and crinkly. There's fancy words for both types, which I've already forgotten, so let's stick with smooth and crinkly. This is the smooth stuff, which looks like a thick cake batter when you have followed the directions perfectly (all except the bit about 'heat to 10,000°C'). The crinkly stuff looks like the cake when you added five times the amount of flour as directed, then baked it for seven hours. Fortunately for us, we passed across the most enormous lava field on the Chain of Craters road, and hence the next, extremely windy, pan shot, where I hopelessly fail to be heard explaining that there are two types of lava, side by side. Trust me, the black stuff is the crinkly, the grey is smooth.
I think I'll stick to gardening magazines and give up any hope of becoming a documentary maker...
One of the really remarkable things about these lava flows, and the area around the rim of the Kilauea crater, is how lush and tropical the plantings can be in places. There are rainforests up there, and on the very edge of the Kilauea crater I found a cousin of one of my own garden plants, the Metrosideros, not only growing in abundance but also pumping out a few flowers as well.
Even in the moonscape bleakness of the fresh lava flows near the sea, plants were taking over, such as these ultra-hardy and vividly lime-green succulents.
I'll finish off this day on the volcano the way we finished ours, down beside the seaside. All those cliffs you can see are solid lava. The island is actually growing slowly in size with each eruption.
Pammy snapped this tongue of lava which has solidified into a column pounded by the Pacific waves. (By the way, all the photos here and on the rest of our holiday blogs are a mixture of hers and mine. She's out of the car like a Jack rabbit with camera at each stop, and it's interesting how she and I often pick completely different things to photograph each time. Teamwork!)
Just when you thought you were safe from amateur documentary-makers, here's a little pan shot of the lava, the ocean and the waves pounding in.
The one advantage of showing you my rather tame little You Tube clips of Kilauea is that when you click on the videos they take you not just to my modest efforts in the main window, but in the little list of other people's videos on the side there are some truly spectacular videos of Kilauea when it's truly angry and erupting. The days we were there the the giant was sleeping, but it was still a magnificent thing to see.
I'm actually doing this blog posting in the lounge for departure gate D at Honolulu Airport, while we wait for the flight to take us to Las Vegas. There's so much more I have to tell you about the wonderful big island of Hawaii and its charming main town, Hilo (especially its superb botanical garden) but that will have to wait until the next day or two. Suffice it to say that we wished we had stayed in Hilo for a whole week, and we definitely want to come back soon.