Tera and I had spent time on Oahu before, Tera living there for a semester of school, and myself taking a trip there with my family, and with a singing group, when I was a teenager. I knew it was a great place to go (especially for the Polynesian Cultural Center), but I wanted to go somewhere else too, and the volcanoes of the Big Island were calling my name, so we planned the last half of our trip on the big island. Our trip to the Volcano National park was nothing short of breathtaking. But even more impactful was spending time with the relatives that we had here. They were not on my mind when I originally made the trip, but while we were here, Tera got a note from her dad, reminding us that Tera’s uncle’s partner was still living here (Tera’s uncle Jeff passed away about 4 years ago), and also Tera’s 1st cousin once removed was living on the island with his mother. We thought it would be a great idea to meet up with family, and let locals give us some of their local knowledge, so we set up a day with them, which turned out be the best decision we made.
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#1 - Volcano National Park
#2 - Crashing waves on Magic Sands Beach
#3 - Re-connecting with distant family
#4 - Snorkelling in Kapaho tidepools
#5 - Chanting and meditating at Polestar Commune
#6 - Kona LDS Temple
#7 - Wifi speeds and poor cellular reception
#8 - Mild sickness in the family
What to do next time:
#9 - Moana Kea Observatory
# 10 - Active lava flows
#1 - Volcano National Park - What a place. The lava fields, the dozens of individual eruption craters, and continually erupting vents. We were fascinated and awed by everything we saw. My original thought was that this would be a morning only expedition, but we spent the entire day there, with the highlight coming in the evening after dark. We started at the visitor’s center, and the crater overlook. I was hoping to be able to see flowing lava, but it was not to be for us on this trip. It is possible to see flowing lava, but it takes a long car ride, and then a hike of 5-8 miles to get to the point where the lava flow actually is. This isn’t something we planned for, but next time possibly we’ll try. The crater has been erupting for the last 26 years, so I guess it will go on for a few more. We did do the Kiluaea Ike hike, which took you around the crater, and then down onto the solidified surface of the former lava lake. The original eruption was in the 50’s, and it was a liquified center until as late as the 90’s. It has not fully hardened all 400 feet deep, but there were still steam vents billowing. We also took the drive halfway down crater drive, seeing 8 more craters and lava flows from the 70’s and 80’s, and stunningly eerie and beautiful views of lava flow, in all it’s intricate forms.
The highlight was coming back to the main crater near the visitors center after dark. It was a glowing red, and cast the reddish glow into the smoke above, which could be seen about a mile away. Once we got back to the crater overlook, we saw the bright glow, and also saw lava fountains spitting up on the left and right, with blobs of lava just clearing the rim, and coming into our sight. We were told that the lava lake is about the size of the New Orleans Superdome. It was so very cool. Unfortunately, we were kept back quite far, because of the billowing noxious fumes. Notwithstanding, it was an awesome nighttime view.
#2 - Crashing waves on Magic Sands beach - We flew into Kona airport, but stayed in an airbnb across the island in nearer to Hilo. We flew in to Kona in the morning, and stayed in the Kona area to see some beaches and things. We swam at the Magic Sands beach, which was one of the few white sand beaches on the island. The waves crashed heavy and hard, very close to the sand, and the lifeguards kept telling us over their loudspeaker to be careful and cautious, and to heed warnings, and realize that the beach we were on was the fifth most frequent head and beck injury beach in the state. “If your equipment is from Costco, then stick to shallow water” they cried.
#3 - Re-connecting with distant family - It was a little serendipitous that Tera recieved a couple of emails from her father and sister, telling her that Eileen and Ariya were on the island. Eileen was Tera’s Uncle Jeff’s partner for the last 25 years of his life. Jeff’s son Chris had a 9-year old son on the island, named Naiya De, who was living with his mother Ariya. Naiya De was our only blood relative (2nd cousin to our children), but we knew Eileen from meeting her in the past, and we got excited to meet Ariya. We have found from past experience that making personal connections with people, especially relatives, can be the most rewarding and memorable part of travelling, and it was certainly the case here. Eileen and Ariya were warm, and friendly, and genuinely thrilled that we called on them for a visit. They were excited to share their favorite island hideouts, and we were excited to follow them. It was really a great day with them, and we parted with sadness but gladness.
#4 - Snorkelling in Kapaho tidepools - Eileen took us to her favorite snorkelling spot in the Kapaho tidepools, just a short walk from her house. We all got in the water, and swam with Eileen a few hundred yards out through the coral and sand and volcanic rock. It was so much better, with so much more to see than our snorkelling time in shark’s cove in Oahu, earlier in the week.
#5 - Chanting and meditating at Polestar Commune - Ariya was living in a communal village called Polestar, made up mainly of followers of ?? Yogananda, who was the first Yogi to bring Indian yoga spirituality to the USA back in the 1930’s. We joined them in the temple for an hour of chants and meditation. As new and strange as these chants were, all the kids joined in the singing and in the intervening quietude. Jacob, our 8-year old only lasted about 30 minutes, but the rest of the kids lasted the whole time. Afterwards, we joined the group for a potluck dinner. Everyone was friendly, and accepting. They even had a piano, so Nathan gave a short recital, to the very appreciative small crowd. It was a wonderful night, eye-opening because of the introduction to new spirituality and a group of people who made it their lifestyle and specialized living condition, on a far corner of Hawaii.
#6 - Kona LDS Temple - the Mormon temple in Kona is a beautiful white building set on hill, with a gleaming statue of Moroni on it’s spire. We went to the temple with the older kids to do baptism ordinances and had a wonderful time. In our year of travel, we hope to attend as many temples as we can.
#7 - Wifi speeds - Given that we’ll be travelling to Central America in the near future, I don’t think we will get much faster wi-fi than the very slow wi-fi that we found in southeastern Hawaii. The kids with their ever-growing stash of devices, and Tera and I with our wishes to engage in some on-line activity planning at night were slowed down immeasureably by the molasses-like wifi in the airbnb. But as I said, we need to get used to it, and figure out how to work around it
#8 - Mild sickness in the family - Both Emily and Jacob were feeling under the weather. Emily was able to kick the worst of the cold symptoms with some medication. Poor Jacob also felt under the weather, but a nice vomit, out the side of the car into the parking lot of the Kona Bee/Honey museum, helped him to feel much, much better.
What to do next time:
#9 - Mauna Kea Observatory - We missed out on the chance to go to the observatory, and see the stars from the peak of Mauna Kea, which is a shame, because it is one of the best spots - ON THE ENTIRE PLANET - to stargaze. We’ll definitely get there when we come again.
#10 - Hike or Bike or Boat or Fly to an active lava flow - we opted not to do this on this trip due to a combination of high cost and difficulty in getting to the active areas at this time.
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Our first Gap Year was a fabulous "2017-2018 School Year" of travel: from the Netherlands to Jordan to Texas to Hawaii to Mexico to Central America to London and back to the Netherlands. Our "2018 Summer Vacation" took us all around Western Europe, back to the USA on a transatlantic cruise, a road trip through New York and into Canada, and ending up in Utah. We have now kicked off the "2018-2019 School year" with a trip to Asia. Follow along with us on our visits to new places, as well as revisiting some of our favorite places from our time living there. It's going to be great!!