Today, we left a very wet, grey and cold Hilo to explore the Chain of Craters Road all the way down to the coast. The rain continued most of the way down the steep descent. Along the way, as far as the eye could see, hill after hill of charcoal lava flows with the odd tree scrambling through the cracks. Mauna Ulu, a fissure, erupted in 1969 and continue for 4 years - so that gives you an indication of the extent and scale of the lava flows all around the area. It really is quite surreal to be surrounded by black rivers of rock!
The drive downhill to the coast descends rapidly - a drop of just over 1,2km. But once you reach the more gentle slope of the coastline, the fields of petroglyphs, known as Pu'Uloa (which means "large hill"), are a great stopover. There are an estimated 23000 carvings of various shapes in the lava. Most tend to be circles, dots and even some anthropomorphic designs. A sign at the archaeological site indicated that almost 16000 of these shapes were carved as a way of creating physical ties to the land. Holes were carved into the lava rock and the umbilical cord (piko) of the child was placed in the centre to bless the child with a long and prosperous life and bind them to their ancestral lands. I think that this is an admirable practice.
After reaching the rugged coast and walking around briefly, we returned to Volcano Village for lunch @ the Lava Rock Cafe. I had to have a lunchtime coffee as was feeling very very sleepy. Either the after effects of descending and ascending so rapidly, or the effects of breathing the sulphurous fumes from the volcano area. My eyes were burning and red and I had a headache. Wendy was feeling the same too! When I picked up the sugar (brand called Sugar For The Soul), the thought for the day read: "In your life, you are the paint, the painter and the painting" which seems like a great thought for the day, if not for a lifetime!
On the way in to Captain Cook, we passed by a roadside exotic fruit stall. Big Island is famous for its fruit and coffee - especially on the Kona side. I bought some papayas, guavas and lychees. The Golden Glow mango was especially sweet and delicious! The first mango tree in Hawaii was brought in from the Philippines almost 200 years ago. With over 70 different types of mangoes growing on the islands, Hawaiians have grafted and hybridised new varieties that are found nowhere else. However, quarantine restrictions make it difficult to export to the mainland and other countries.
Decided to make our base at Captain Cook in Manago's Hotel - owned by a Japanese family for generations - where the rooms were cheap, spotlessly clean, spacious, quiet and the balcony had amazing views of the bay below.
We ended our day at the Royal Kona Resort in town, where we snuck in past security to go swimming in the saltwater "lagoon" (more like a pond)! There, we met 2 American guys from Seattle who were working on an interesting assignment in Hawaii. Their company has built and were about to launch an unmanned submarine which would travel up and down the length and depths of the ocean, taking temperatures, salinity levels and other such data and transmitting it back to base continuously. That in itself is interesting but the motive for developing this only becomes apparent when one considers that their company is owned and funded by a large and very wealthy venture capital firm that specialises in anything water-related. Yes, without meaning to sound conspiratorial, the new "commodity" of the future is water and they are gathering the data in order to be able to use it to make money from it, somehow, in the foreseeable future. Interesting...