Hawai'i 2.0, Day 10: Putting the A'a In Ha'awai'i

It's a day of firsts -- we sleep in for the first time today to make up for yesterday's early morning, and when I open the doors to our balcony I see my first real nene!  I quickly have Lucie take a picture of it for posterity before realizing it's actually just another cruise ship.  Maybe there are nenes on board... or maybe it's as I've always believed: the nene's just a myth.  It's like someone saying they went shopping at a Whole Foods and DIDN'T see a Prius in the parking lot; just doesn't happen.

Anyway, we're feeling a little volcanic today, so we decide to drive on down to Volcanoes National Park -- we made a quick visit last trip, but wanted to make a day of it this time.  We cruise down the Mamalahoa Highway; past Kona Joe, past Kealakekua, through Honaunau-Napo'opo'o, through the Kipahoehoe Natural Reserve, past acres and acres of pastureland where we wave to all of the mukau, and a couple of hours later we pull into Na'alehu for sustenance.

We walk into the Punalu'u Bakery, buy some goodies for co-workers and family, and some of the malasadas for us for lunch; Lucie goes for the lilikoi-glazed version, and I grab a chocolate-filled as well as a guava variant.  The guava dough is sweet and subtle, the chocolate filled is dense and filling, and the lilikoi glazed is ten pounds of sugar in a two-ounce pastry.  This place is not for those watching carbs or with weak tooth enamel, but we sure like it.  I wash down my malasadas with an iced mocha, in case the sugar needs reinforcements.

We noticed a small craft fair next door at the Na'alehu Assembly of God church, so once we regain our senses from the sugar rush we cross the street and poke through the stalls, seeing what they have.  Lucie picks up a bracelet with hua weleweka seeds, hard gray berries covered in a soft fuzz that's hard not to play with; I also get a pair of sterling silver and coconut shell earrings that I think she'll like (and does.)  I also toy with the idea of picking up a hand-carved fishhook pendant on a woven cord, but when the price goes up from $25 to $40 when they say they need to lengthen the braided cord, I politely walk away; I'm happy enough with my honu pendant from last trip.

Done with shopping for now, we get back into our car and continue down the highway and make another small side trip to stop at Punalu'u Black Sand Beach.  The wind is fairly strong today, so the waves crashing against the black rocks are impressively big and white and frothy, and very picturesque.  We wander around the smooth lava rocks for a while, take a bunch of pictures, and dip our feet in the water.  This turns out to be a bad idea on my part, as over the years I've apparently turned into a major tenderfoot, and I hop and limp my way back to solid ground where I can put my Keens back on.  I learn two new things -- black sand is a lot more coarse and poke-y than white sand, and I'm kind a wuss.  As it turns out, though, a tour bus is pulling into the parking lot as we leave, so we actually beat the rush and end up leaving at a good time.

Not much further down the road, we arrive at Volcanoes National Park.  We're near the southeast side of the island where it rains more, so we put up the top as we go into the visitor's center.  I get my picture taken with a fake nene (the ONLY kind of nene there is!) and we get a few souvenirs.  Kilauea has a new vent that opened up at Halema'uma'u Crater, so Crater Rim Drive, the road that circles Kilauea's caldera, is closed.  We actually took that road last time and passed on Chain of Craters road, the road that winds past multiple craters from older lava eruptions and leads down the ocean where the lava from the current eruption is flowing into the sea, so we decide to take that road this time around.  It continues drizzling off and on -- not dry enough for us to put the roof down on the convertible, but dry enough so we can stop and take pictures at most of the vista points.

The Chain of Craters Road is a very interesting thing... it's a landscape of stark black rock, with occasional beautiful blue ocean visible on one side, and with gorgeous green and lush foliage sometimes visible on the other side.  There's no food, water, or gas available anywhere along the road -- it's all lava and trees, and of course "nene crossing" signs... as with Crater Rim Drive, those signs are everywhere.

Side note -- it's also almost impossible for me to say "chain of craters" out loud on the first try.  The entire time we're here I find myself saying "crane of chaiters" instead, despite numerous attempts and deliberately speaking slowly.  Maybe it's volcano goddess Pele messing with me for mocking her imaginary nene.

Anyway, we drive to the end of the road, where it's blocked off (flowed over after the current eruption started in 1983) and stop for a look at the distant spot visible, where we can see the huge clouds of steam rising from the ocean as the lava flows into it.  We don't have the supplies and we're not dressed for the long hike it would take to get a closer look, but the view from here is still awe-inspiring.  It's the birth of new land; it's Hawaii's youngest and largest island in a geological growth spurt.

We stay for a bit and take a bunch of pictures, then head back up to the park entrance.  I'm a little nervous, as we're nearly out of gas and driving uphill almost all the way, but we should be fine.  We stop along the way and Lucie snaps a great shot of a rainbow stretching out over the black desolate landscape; we stop again at the Thurston Lava Tube but opt not to hike through it -- my knees let me know they aren't up for the trek.  Once out of the park, we make a quick stop at the nearby Volcano Village for gas (I expect it to be grossly overpriced, but it's actually cheaper here than in Kona... which makes you think) and make the long drive back to Kona.

We stop at Jackie Rey's Ohana Grill for dinner -- as with the other places we've been, the reviews on this place are great, and we have to agree -- the appetizer platter of coconut shrimp, short ribs, poke, and tempura veggies is impressive, and our entrees are equally so; Lucie gets the seafood special of grilled ono over purple sweet potatoes with a pineapple mango salsa, and I opt for the steak special, a New York grilled to a perfect medium rare over garlic mashed potatoes with a bordeaux reduction sauce.  It's one of the best steaks I've had since Alexander's, and definitely in the top 5 I can remember eating.

Sated and happy, and tired from the drive, we head back to our hotel and fall blissfully asleep for the night.  We never even make it down to the mai tai bar.

Coffee consumption: 1 can of Royal Mills iced coffee, one iced mocha.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice rainbow picture! Sounds like you guys had fun!!