My good girlfriend, Alessandra, flew in from the mainland exactly one week ago, and it has been a wild ride since then. So wild in fact, that this morning she changed her return flight and extended her trip for another five days, or else we would be at the airport right now. The first day my buddy was here was a beautiful day. In the morning I took her to Turtle Beach where we made friends with a sea turtle we creatively called ‘Crash’. Without any care or fear, just relaxed, Crash bumped right into us and manged on green plants on the black rocks. His buddies then joined. After catching some rays, we headed over to our friend C.C.’s beach house with our neighbour Dirk.
C.C. is a real fun rancher girl and a total sweetheart. Her Greenwell family has been on the Big Island for many generations, and was one of the first white people on this island. A majority of businesses and land had belonged to the Greenwell’s in a different time. Today, history and Kona coffee grows at Greenwell Farms offering tours and seriously tasty coffee. At the beach house, a crew of us went cliff jumping into the ocean, climbing back on a rope, knocked back a few beers, and caught the sunset. The dogs Rosco and Jackie wanted some love by playing fetch with fallen coconuts. After dinner and nightfall, Brent, ex-military and marine biologist, took us out over the lava rock coast to see the tide pools and low tide. Visible by flashlights and the glow of the moon, Brent pointed out bright anemones, cowrie shells, sea cucumbers, and types of fish.
The next day was a complete change of plans and within an hour instead of heading north to Hilo, Alessandra and I packed our bags for Volcano. C.C. planned a trip to tour her friends Kate and her mother for the weekend. Aless and I tagged along in Brent’s car.
Our first stop brought us to South Point, the most southern point on the United States. The view is amazing from here. The ocean is a vibrant blue and is famous for its fishing as well as its cliff jumping. Here, Hawaiian warriors would jump off into the ocean to prove their courage. Since fishing does not interest me, with a running start, I flew off the edge and dropped 60 feet into the great blue. There was so much time free falling to contemplate if it was a wise idea while my stomach was flipping over. I came up for air, rejuvenated with adrenaline surging through my veins. From the ocean with a unique view of the caves below I got to watch Alessandra and Kate jump in, all of us equally as graceful. With our new found energy, we hit the road again. Next stop Black Sands Beach.
Pele is the goddess of lava. She is a creator and destroyer. She is the spirit of the island; dancing, shaping, expressing. Black Sands Beach is an expression of how beautifully Pele can create. The shore of the beach is completely black all the way from the tree line to the ocean floor. It is made up of tiny black rocks, smoothed by the crashes of the waves to make a substance kind of like soft foam board beneath your toes. I sat by myself as people tried snapping pictures of the sea turtles popping their heads out of the ocean. I was thinking about how freeing it is not to think. It is very liberating, uplifting, weightless. Sometimes we are so burdened down with thoughts, overthinking (I would know), sinking into a heavy place. It is all caused by us. The gravity does not get heavier and drag us down; we do. Sometimes you have to jump off a cliff to feel gravity carry you and the ocean push you up. Life works with us only if we open ourselves up to let it. Be free.
As the sun began to set, we were unpacking our cars into a cabin at the Kilauea Military Camp on the National Park grounds at Volcano. This complex is reserved to military personal only, and we got a chance to stay because we were fortunate to have Brent with us, who had served for 21 years. I am not going to lie, as soon as we were driving in, it immediately screamed ‘Dharma Initiative’. As we joked about it, I opened up an info booklet on the coffee table which revealed a group ‘namaste’ photo and then pages of recreational things to do. Instead, we got our hiking shoes on and went for a walk around volcano.
The spits of rain could have easily have been the mist from the clouds. We were walking at an elevation of about 9,300 feet asl. On the right of us, the sun was setting, producing an orange glow through the misty fog and was casting colour on the exotic plants found at this elevation. Trees budding with red hairy flowers, mini orange bushes, and our favourite – ohelo berries. We ate these juicy red berries as plentiful as the nene goose, endemic to Hawaii. These look like mini Canadian geese but make sounds like a cow, and sometimes like a monkey. To the left of us was a drop hundreds of feet down into the valley that was as barren as the moon. Our destination was the smoking crater of Kilauea volcano.
From the lookout, we watched the thick smoke dance out of the crater. The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory just behind had the different ‘parts’ of Pele that is formed, like her tears and her hair. Seismic activity readers showed us that Pele is still dancing at Kilauea.
Nightfall had arrived, and after fueling up at a Thai restaurant, we were back in the National Park – this time in the middle of the jungle. Large, green leaves created a canopy high above our heads, blocking out the rain with its natural umbrella. Mossy tree trunks, vines, and ginger plants lined our path up to a large, glowing mouth into the earth. The entrance was much larger than I expected, and the ceilings were further away from me than I would have thought. We had entered a lava tube formed from the volcano pushing out magma from the core of the earth out into the world we know. Hundreds of years ago, lava was bellowing out of this tube, and hundreds of years later, it lay completely empty except for the dripping roots hanging from the ceiling, attached to the trees living above – and the six of us.
Beyond the entrance it became so dark. Our flashlights could only light up our path a few meters ahead, and there was no hope for taking a photograph. It was here, deep into the belly of the tube, below the jungle above, that I could see the creator and the artist that Pele is. The cast of the lava tube was sculpted in a wet and grotesque way, purple-pink in colour. Fissures were running through the floors, the gaps dyed red like veins. It was like we were bacteria moving through an intestine. I had never seen anything like it. Brent, Alessandra, and I reached the back of the tube where the tube shrunk into a point. We sat on a rock, turned off our lights and disappeared.
Before calling it a night, we went back to the observatory and admired the red glow of the volcano under the full moon. It was a reminder that Pele is a powerful creator who defies the testament of time, since the beginning and through the generations. I stood and watched it glow, just like my mother did when she was my age and came to volcano.