Volcanoes and Kona coffee; that was essentially what the Big Island of Hawaii was in my opinion. I had always wanted to see live lava flow and douse myself daily in Kona coffee. I was checking out trips from Singles by the Bay Travel Club and spied their too good to be true 8 days on the Big Island trip that promised me adventure, so I saw lava! My journey began in Hawaiian time for 11 strangers; myself in a luxury home overlooking the Kona coast and siren evacuations triggered by the March 2011 Japan Tsunami. Yes, the day of our arrival was the devastating earthquake and subsequent Tsunami that also struck the Hawaiian Islands.
We were up just shy of dark o’clock each morning, gathering our gear, packing lunches, water and cameras. Our first stop was Volcano Park for a 4 mile Crater Hike. As we stepped downward further into the crater we walked past lush flora and plant life, tentatively wondering what they were. We rounded a corner and found ourselves staring out at a stark landscape. Flat, dry and filled with lava rock formations we pondered the sensibility of our decision. The other side seemed so far off in the distance you could barely see other people. No turning back – we set out and climbed up every structure we could to look into fissures hoping for some lava flow. No lava that day but our reward after a victorious crater hike was being able to relax in the naturally heated Thermal Pools about 45 minutes south of Volcano Park.
Every day brought a new way to stretch our boundaries, experience something new and find strength both mentally and physically. Whether it was in a 1-mile decline that led to Waipio Valley, trekking across sandy beaches to discover hidden places, or traipsing over lava rock to ancient petroglyphs; we had the impression that Pele was offering up her best to us as a reward. Some of our hikes and snorkeling led us to unusual findings from the waves that had pounded Kona days earlier. Fish, crabs, sea life and other sunken oceanic debris that found itself stranded on lava rock a mile or more inland. I am not athletic but I found myself wanting to get further outside of my comfort zones and have a full experience. My first encounter with kayaking was daunting. I admit I almost bailed a number of times, thoughts of capsizing, getting stuck, and drowning peppered my mind. We were paired up so that everyone had a partner who was more experienced so they could tutor those of us who were not.
Having a partner that was encouraging and thoughtful gave me confidence to pretend I knew what I was doing. It felt exhilarating to be in that kayak and glide across Kealakekua Bay. We paddled to the right to survey the remains of a rooftop, cars and other wreckage that was swept into a rock wall by the Tsunami. A cooler sat next to a bathtub, and fragments of wood were scattered in the water. We paddled on to reach the white obelisk on the shores and after some avoidance and a not so gentle verbal shove; I donned my gear and quite ungracefully flew into the water. My experience with snorkeling has usually been about 3 minutes of Darth Vader breathing and a frog like float that leaves my butt sticking out of the water. Yea, I’m that girl. This time was different, I found myself breathing normally, evenly, and swimming in the water as I followed the schools of fish beneath me. It was beautiful, looking at these amazing colors beneath a wet surface. There were so many of them and I wished I had brought a water camera!
When I found myself over 33,000 miles high on top of Maunakea just a day or two later looking out over the most incredible sunset I have ever seen I wrapped my arms around my knees and let out a contented sigh. I surveyed the clouds and earth below me, drank in the vibrant colors this young Hawaiian Island offered to us. Climbing lava rocks, scaling a steep incline at Waipio Valley, snorkeling at 3 beaches and a successful kayak trip. Adventure indeed, I was handed an experience that I never anticipated but haven’t been able to shake since. Photographs dot my home that remind me, even for the not so graceful at foot, there are still journeys and escapades to be had.
About the Author: Janet Atteberry is a member of Singles by the Bay Travel Club and writes many great articles about her experiences on our trips. An excellent writer & amateur photographer, she always adds a great dimension to our groups with her wit and sarcastic sense of humor. Thanks for another great trip review Janet!