Day 7: The Day We See a Volcano Not in a Tommy Lee Jones Movie

Up a little later than usual today, which is not a bad thing. We're a little startled to discover that there is NOT a cruise ship anchored offshore this morning. Man, that just looks weird.

We head south down the Kona coast, past the coffee places and Kealekekaua; all the way to the southern part of the island on our way to Kilauea.

We make a stop at the Punalu'u Bakery ("The southernmost bakery in the USA!") and buy some carbs. Lucie picks up some Hawaiian sweet bread mix (can also be used to make malassadas) and a loaf of coconut flavored sweet bread to bring home; I snatch up three different flavors of mac nut shortbread (guava, banana, and ginger) to share at work; and we eat a breakfast of liliko'i-glazed malassadas. These things are incredibly sweet -- "like Hawaiian Krispy Kremes" is Lucie's comment -- and we lapse into a happy sugar coma. Approximately twelve days later we wake up, clear our heads, and continue on our way.

We look at the sign indicating the road to South Point as we drive past, but we're not allowed to go there. Dumb rental car. Next time we're going to rent a Hummer, and then NOTHING will stop us... except for the shame of being in a Hummer, that is, so that's out. Maybe a Jeep 4x4.

At any rate, we continue on our way, I get a little freaked out when we hit an actual straight section of highway instead of curvy mountain road, and we eventually make it to Volcanoes National Park.

Before we hit the actual volcano, though, we make a side trip to the Volcano Winery and try out some Hawaiian wines. We particularly enjoy the guava wine, and arrange for a few bottles to be shipped back home.

Back on the highway, we finally reach the volcano proper. We drive along the Crater Rim Road, which circles the caldera of everyone's favorite active volcano Kilauea. We see steam vents, where moisture from plants or condensation hits the molten rock and comes up as steam through cracks in the round; old lava flows, where as recent as 25 years ago molten lava had flowed across the roads right around Kilauea's summit; stark, desolate areas of land that have yet to recover from lava flows that destroyed everything they touched; and nene crossing signs.

Lots of nene crossing signs.

Lots of "do not feed the nene" signs, and lots of "caution: young nene nesting area" signs, and lots of "don't pick these berries, because they're for the nene" signs... but we don't see a single nene. Not ONE.
You know why? Because I don't think they exist, that's why! Lucie says she's pretty sure they're real, but I'm not as trusting as she is. I think that many years ago, the Hawaiians all got together and thought it'd be hysterical if they created a fake animal, and they told all of the mainlanders to be careful not to disturb it. They called it a "nene", because calling it the "jakalo'ope" would have been too obvious. Heck -- for all I know, "nene" may be Hawaiian for "big foot".

I'm on to you, Hawaii. You just watch it.

Anyway, we keep driving past the lava flows and nene signs, and approximately thirty seconds later we find ourselves driving through the middle of a rain forest... as in, lush green vines and trees, birds (but not nenes) calling from the foliage, and... rain. We stop to put the top up on our car, and continue on our way. Again, because we don't have a rental car with 4-wheel drive, we're not allowed down the Chain of Craters Road, so we make plans to see where the lava meets the water the next time we're here, and head toward Kailua.

We make a short stop by Punalu'u Black Sand Beach; Lucie dips her toes into the water and pronounces it wet. It looks like rain again, so we get back into our car and continue on our way. It rains heavily the entire way back, so we don't make very many more stops. We wave to the monkeypod tree that Mark Twain planted, but it ignores us as we drive past.

By the time we reach Kailua, it stops raining, so we stop at the Ali'i Market. I pick up another coffee mug from a new coffee company, and we get some more shave ice.

We once again relax on our lanai and watch the sun set... we're definitely going to miss that view.

After it gets dark, we head down to the open-air bar and order some pupu (no giggling!) and some drinks to end the day. Lucie has the BBQ ribs with Hawaiian glaze, and a Midori margarita and a Paradise Found to drink; I opt for the kahlua pig quesadilla, and a Midori margarita, Paradise Found, topless mai tai, and an original mai tai to drink. Don't judge me, I'm on vacation!

After we relax for a bit, we head on upstairs, where we spend the next few hours defying the laws of science by managing to pack everything we'd packed to bring over AND everything we'd bought into four suitcases. I'm not even sure Carl Sagan could explain how we did it, but we did it.

Ready to end the day, and wishing the next day weren't our last one here, we go to bed and listen to the ocean as we drift off to sleep.


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