Saturday, December 21, 2013

Return to Hawaii

 I've been off again, having adventures! 
This time I went to Hawaii, to the Big Island, the one that is newest and sort of triangular (in my eye) and full of lava.  Fresh Lava.  Oh, that one, to the east! 
I'd been to Hawaii before, to Hilo, and from there I hitchhiked around the island a bit, but this trip was to be a more thorough expedition.  I brought along my trusty companion, Lindsay, and we were set to explore.
Hawaii has a big ridge of sorts that runs north to the south, and consequently there are two sides, the wet side (where Hilo is) and the dry side, or Kona.  On all sides there are lava beaches with black sand and some nice mosses that grow in the breaking surf.  Since the island is in the middle of the ocean, there is not a lot of calm waters around.  

I like the jungle a lot, but I can't show you pictures from inside it, because it is dark, so I was happy to find a tree that was standing outside in the sun, with its roots grasping around the crumbling lava on the shoreline.  Sadly it was a dead tree. 

The liquid hot magma comes up and out the volcanic vents, and then upon touching the atmosphere it transforms into lava, and flows down the flanks of the mountain.   As it flows downhill and finds the ocean it makes these sharp cliff edges (on the SE side) which crumble away slowly into the storming ocean and churning seas.  We never got to see the hot lava, though we wanted to badly and set about making plans, but it was too far away.  The lava is really interesting in the shape and color, as every flow is different and as the lava ages and weathers it changes a lot. 

We found some cool snails that slide around slickly on their slime.  Later we found out that they are not a native species.  Hardly anything is a native species here.  The Polynesians brought over a lot of plants and also some tasty food animals, then let them loose.  This was just the beginning.  As white people arrived they brought countless new life to the island, and it is still arriving.  We learned that Yellow Jackets are a recent addition, brought over by Walmart Christmas Trees.  They shipped the trees over and some Yellow Jackets came along with.   

 I went to this road closed sign once before.  It is in the National Park, where the lava flowed over the road and shut it down.

 There are a few neat animals on the islands, one of them is the Nene.  They are like Canada Gooses, and they honk a little and fly around and eat grass.  They are also quite protective of their territory, and this one came charging up to us as we were parked to look at them.  He (I think it was a he) then posted a sharp lookout and kept his beady eyes on us.  This is not unlike the hawaiian surfers, who are quite protective of the territory, and sometimes will charge or punish the howlies they find invading upon it.  We in fact, came into a primary contact with someone who found our car unsuited and perhaps invasive.  I don't know what it was we were doing wrong, but as we were camped at a spot near the north part of the island, we camped near another tent in a place where camping is allowed, but with a permit.  We of course did not have the permit, but were told by a local that the officials did not check the area.  The next morning, of course, someone came around to check on us, but after I told them that we didn't have a permit, he said it was our lucky day and let us be.  He then proceeded over to the other tent and asked loudly for the guy to come out and show his permit. 
Nobody came out of the tent, so he was rude for a bit more, loudly, then left.  We went snorkeling and came back to find the tent gone and our windshield wiper bent all out of shape, by an angry hawaiian (I think) bent on destruction from the annoyance of earlier.  I am suspecting the tent-sleeper in the matter, but I have no proof. 
Along with the Nene, there is another type of goose, a Mongoose!  Here is a picture of one up nice and close.  I think they are quite curious creatures, and possibly related to cats.  They are fast, however, fast enough to dodge cobras and other snakes (which they like to eat) so possibly their curiosity will not kill them.
As we were tromping around in the damp jungle of the Hilo side, we found a decaying smell brought to our noses and the drip of mildew upon our upper lips.  We did not, however, find many mushrooms.  Here is a small sample of some of the ones we did find:  A slime mold and a mushroom.  Luckily, we were able to make friends with a mycologist, who was able to identify the both for us, but I cannot remember the name.

There are Banyans all over the place, one of my most favoritist of trees.  I climbed a bit in this one.

 We found a lava tube to go spelunking in, but sadly the name has changed to "caving," but the fun is still the same.  It is dark and sharp corners await, and in this one there were a lot of cool colors from the lava flowing through it.  We didn't see the monster, but in the photo you can see it, so watch out!
 It rains nearly every day in Hilo, and we were caught unprepared one of the days, but luckily Lindsay found a big leaf to use.  It works nicely.

 This other leaf, however, would be a bad choice. 
 On North Point, or the northern point of the island, we found a great place with a dirt road in the middle of nowhere to camp and then played around in the wind.  It was blowing so hard it chopped my arms clean off!  I was able to get them back later. 

 South Point is another story, and many people go there and jump off the cliff edge to the waters below.  Here's a shot of the jumping place, and this is the landing zone.  Its a long ways down, something like 40-50 ft. 

 On the last day there we went up to the Mountains.  There are two main ones, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.  Mauna Kea is a little taller, at 13,796 ft tall, and Mauna Loa is something like 200 ft shorter.  The main difference is in the build.  I am pretty sure that the most of Hawaii is actually based on Mauna Loa, because it is a true shield volcano, with really slowly sloping sides and the most gentle of grade.  This makes it gigantic, which fits in the name.  Mauna Loa means Long mountian.  It is huge.  In fact, as the people say, it is apparently 50,000 ft tall because it descends down to the sea floor, and then it has pushed the crust down another 10,000 ft beyond the ocean floor by the enormous weight.  So, Big.  Sprouting off to the north side (in my eyes) is a cinder cone, with steeper slopes and few lava flows.  This is Mauna Kea.  There are a lot of very expensive telescopes on Mauna Kea, while the heights of the Long Mountain hold up the atmospheric observatories.  We got to go up there and explore the observatories guided by an excellent astronomer, who was looking at the solar atmosphere through telescopes.  There are collection sites for various particle assessments there and most famous, the Keeling building is where they collect the CO2 measurements for the famous Keeling Curve, where they first found the global CO2 levels to be rising.  This is sort of the birthplace of Climate Science, or at least the birthplace to Global warming, I think. 
It began to snow while we were on the top, so we headed back, and discovered a very cold bicyclist coming down the hill.  He was in the severe stages of hypothermia, and we got him into the car and fed him sugar, warm water and finally quesadillas.  I think the mexican style food made the difference in warming his heart at the end, so he was fine.  As he got picked up by his wife in their van, I took this shot of the place the bikes had been lying in the gravel in the rain.

We went over to Mauna Kea to look at the telescopes, but the snow had shut down the road to the top, and we had to content ourselves with the view from the visitors center.  It was a nice night with a near full moon on the rise and a good end to a great trip. 


Anonymous said...

Great travel writing!
Good to have you back.


Pele's Pal said...

Really enjoyed the commentary and wonderful photos!