The day started super early today... Having missed seeing the red glow of the caldera last night, we made an early morning visit. Bill, awake with his cough, did a recce at 4.30am and returned with a thumbs up. Thus at 5am we were all up and dressed and walking across the Jaggar Centre car park to the Crater Overlook. This time the skies were clear, the stars were bright and the crater was clearly visible with its steep sides and red glow with steam drifting slowly upwards.
Another other-worldly experience.
Venus and Mars were also clearly visible in the eastern sky, while a faint line of dawn light was starting to appear.
Home and back to our cosy beds until 7.30. Another sunny morning with frogs and birdsong and a volcano themed breakfast.
Afterwards we packed everything up and set off for the South-East corner of the island, famous for farming and for the unusual community that seems happy to live in an area which could be affected by an active volcano at any time! The area is made up of lava flows and tunnels, so at the coast there are numerous volcanic tide pools, formed by the lava flowing into the sea. Many of these are fed by warm fresh water that percolates out from the volcanic rocks forming a layer of warm fresh water on top of the cooler sea water.
The best example if this is called the 'Champagne Pond' at Kapaho. Beautiful but notoriously difficult to get to. Perfect. We set off east to Kapaho and onwards, down a rough cinder track towards Kumukahi Light Beacon. This is at the easternmost point of Big Island, where the air is considered to be perfectly pure having been just blown across open ocean for several weeks before arriving.
From this point there was a rough and rutted track following the edge of the coast across the lava field. It was slow going, even in our 4WD, but with Chris at the wheel and with Mike hopping out from time to time to direct him through all the trickiest bits, we did it. Finally we parked in an area of lava overlooking a bay with white surf rolling in over the jagged black rocks.
We walked across the black cinder beach to a sheltered area under trees. The water here was warm and clear - very inviting. With snorkel and mask it was possible to see the layers in the water - the warm freshwater floating on top of the cooler sea water. The area of the pool nearer the ocean was cooler and became warmer and clearer as we swam inland. There were loads of fish to watch - easy to see and photograph in the clear, shallow sunlit water. The different types of water refracted the light differently giving an unusual shimmering effect that was very beautiful and rather surreal.
After about an hour we returned to the car and drove back over the cinder track and onto the main highway north back to Hilo.
Next stop the Mauna Loa Macadamia processing farm. There were 250,000 macadamia trees producing a very large quantity of nuts and we watched the machinery of the plant crack, roast, sort, salt, flavour and pack the nuts for sale. Chris was in his element, and actually a lot more interesting than perhaps it sounds!
Onward to Hilo and to Lilikoi house on Kalanianiole Drive overlooking the sea.
There were anxious moments as the security code for the key box simply didn't work .... Until we noticed the other key box higher up on the wall. Thank goodness.
The house was enormous - and very hot. We threw open all the windows and doors with enthusiasm until noticing the midges which were attacking Mike in the kitchen making sandwiches.
By 5pm we had eaten lunch, closed the fly screens, turned on the fans and unpacked. Now for the beach. We set off to explore, ignoring a few light spots of rain.
Opposite the house were a series of small beaches with shallow tide pools where snorkelling / turtles / kayaking / SUP ing all beckoned. Just as we were making enthusiastic plans, the rain got much heavier - very much heavier - and then absolutely drenching. We took shelter and watched the storm move over the sea in the hopes that it would ease. It did not, and as darkness fell we ran and splashed our way back to the house, to dry out with tea and cookies. What actually followed was a lovely contented evening sitting in our large cosy lounge, fans whirling, playing cards ( a new game Mike learnt in Mongolia, now re-named 'Hawaii!') and enjoying salmon, salad and purple sweet potatoes cooked by Bill. The rain continued to thunder down on the roof overhead and we read in our guide book that the weather was considered to be Hilo's 'Achilles heel' - approximately 140 inches a year! Hmmm...