Before going back home, we made a stop-by visit to the Big Island for several days. I didn’t mention in my last post that up until planning our trip, I had no idea there was more than one island in Hawaii. I had no sense of its geography. The term Polynesia didn’t mean anything to me. I knew there were volcanoes but wasn’t sure where they were exactly. I guess I just didn’t care to read about it. But that’s how most of us are, right? We don’t feel the need to learn something or do something until we have to.
And yet I was still naive thinking all the islands in Hawaii should be pretty similar if not the same. I booked a guesthouse in Kona for our entire stay because it was close to Kona airport. We arrived in Kona around 7am. We picked up a rental car and just drove without a destination in mind. As we drove out of the airport, the landscape was completely different from Oahu. Oahu was greener and it felt more like we were in the mainland city than on an island. Here, we saw evidence of volcanic eruption everywhere. A vast open space of lava-formed rocks stretches toward the ocean on one side and toward foothills on the other. No sign of urban development anywhere. That was a quick assessment of my brain trying to make of the place I had yet to explore.
We picked the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park as our first destination. It’s about two hours from our guesthouse. The park is much closer to Hilo. If we had done the research, we would have stayed in Hilo because it’s a lot closer to most popular destinations. The funny thing was we got tired of driving back and forth, we had to ditch our guesthouse one night and stay at Airbnb near Hilo instead. Anyway, early flight and the heat made me feel really grumpy along the way from Kona. But as we got closer and closer to the park, it got greener and greener. The temperature also started to drop. I got a boost of energy by this change in landscape and climate. As a matter of fact, the HVNP is located in a rainforest, and it’s got mild temperature all year long with of course lots of rain. But that’s not all to it. The temperature actually varies by elevations. At sea level, it can get pretty hot and dry. Volcanic eruptions created a diverse ecosystem. It created a desert out of a land where once was full of lush green trees. It added more land to the park and created lava trails and cliffs. It is just phenomenal! I didn’t think I would enjoy the park that much, but I did. In fact, we spent most of our trip there. We didn’t even go to any beaches. We spent only a short amount of time at Waipio Valley Lookout and Akaka Falls State Park, and a memorable half day at the Mauna Kea Summit.
Going up to the Mauna Kea Summit requires a 4-wheel drive vehicle. We were told there were people went up there with a 2-wheel drive. We determined to give it a try with ours. By the time we got to the Visitor Center, we gave up on the idea. The way the engine sounded was horrible. Even if the car was a rental, we didn’t love it any less than our own :D. But we really really wanted to get up there. So we made a plan to ask people for a ride. We were very lucky. A very nice family visiting from Australia offered us a ride. It was very generous of them to let us tag along. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for them either since we had to stay in their car for hours, because it was so cold, waiting to see the sunset. For that, we are forever grateful and will never forget them. And the story of their kindness will live on…
Thank you for reading!