I swear I woke up smiling the fourth day. We made it to the Volcano Village farmer’s market before everyone dispersed. I sometimes forget that these are real, living, breathing communities. This farmer’s market isn’t a tourist attraction, it’s just a local rendezvous. Kids playing on the jungle gym, adults sipping local coffee, chatting about the weather. This amazing lava-surrounded community felt so right.
After a quiet breakfast at the Hale Ohia, we returned to Hawaii Volcanos National Park. We stopped first at the visitor’s center to listen to a Park Ranger speak of the current and past volcanic activity. Unfortunately there were no active, visible flows in the park. We found a hike that took us around a crater ridge then down into a caldera.The caldera was looming and vast. Steam and vibrant red plants crept through the cracks in the crater floor.We ended the hike in the THURSTON LAVA TUBEWe took the 20 minute drive down Chain of Craters Road. Ooing and Ahing over the various lava runs and their nondiscriminatory paths. On the southern coastline you could see a SEA ARCH, Mr. Mussack may have been breaking a few rules by walking that far out, but no one stopped him. We walked to the END OF THE ROAD. Literally. Three years ago this was a slow moving river of lava and it intersected and shut down five miles.
It ‘s kind of creepy how excited we seem about the lava’s destruction.It was remarkable the difference between the faded lava rocks from the hikes we have taken and these more recent remains.We stopped at CAFE OHIA for some quick deli sandwiches on our way to the east side of the island. Notice the sunscreen, it was on us at all times.We checked into our hotel/hostel (more on THAT later) and headed to Harper’s Hawaii. This is where I would like to bring up the pros/cons of a 4WD rental vehicle. It is (in our opinion, along with most rental companies, AND the observatory) important to have a 4WD vehicle to visit the very top of Mauna Kea, the highest point of Hawaii. I think we could have made it to the observatory with our regular rental car but we took the advice of other travelers and stopped at Harpers to rent a truck for 24hours. In the long run the car(5 DAYS)+the truck(1 DAY) equaled roughly as much as getting a jeep from the beginning so it’s your call! There is one more adventure that required the use of a 4WD if you choose the mobile route, but even Harper’s won’t let you take their vehicles there (guess what? more on that later)
We had been warned that it would be cold at the top of Mauna Kea. And it WAS. Like see your breath but can’t feel your toes cold. Oh, I guess it didn’t help that I was wearing slippahs. (flip-flops) But I did bring a pretty sweet blanket. We enjoyed some hot cocoa at the observatory (in order to prevent the likeliness of altitude sickness wait 30-40 minutes here) and were on our steep, bumpy way.
There are three things I learned from Mauan Kea: 1)I am by no means a night/star photographer. 2)Bring a tripod. 3)You can get very drowsy from the altitude change. Turns out I fell asleep after the sun went down while waiting for the ambient light to fall. I ended up sleeping for over an hour. Mr. Mussack had been watching the night sky darken and the stars brighten, but I was so tired I didn’t want to get out of the warm truck. I finally did and made some weak attempts at long exposures, but between the cold, my sleepiness and honestly lack of preparedness for night shooting this is all I captured. Oh, well, maybe next time.
Mr. Mussack drove us the 30 minutes back to our hotel. We were both so incredibly tired, our trip was catching up to us.