After an early morning flight from Oahu to Hawaii, our trip continues.
(Oh, did I mention that I took a lesson in surfing last night? Did I mention that I was dog tired and collapsed in bed after a Burger King dinner? [It's all I wanted. Other meals have been banquets!] We'll have to post those pictures and blog about it later...)
We landed and rode the motor coach south on Hawaii Route 11 to the Mona Lao Macadamia Nut farm and factory. After a self -guided walking tour, we shopped the gift store and snacked on free samples. This is the largest such factor in the world...and is owned by Hershey Chocolate. Do you know why? (Chocolate Covered Nuts!)
We bought lots, and then headed south to the Volcanoes National Park. We have lunch at the Volcanoes Country Club because Volcano House is being rebuilt/remodeled since it was constructed in pre-code 1941. It was in need of a refurbishing even 5 years ago.
We eat our fill and proceed to the Thurston Lava Tube... a very large tunnel left after the lava flowed away from the mountain. It feels like a big, wet cave. Most of our guests are thrilled, but a few of our fellow tourists are unnerved to be a hundred feet underground. We climb out again, but someone detects a wild pig running loose in the underbrush. It snorted loudly, and several women almost fainted.... that is, until they notice that it's just someone pranking them from behind a fern. (Now, who could that be.....hmmmm?)
We go to the caldera and the visitor's center, viewing the escaping gasses and the steam vents. We jump up and down in front of the seismographs and make them record our jump. Then I explain that this is just a fraction of what the trace looks like from October 15, 2006... last time we were there...when the big quake hit! Though the paper record is NOT posted there, it is still available on line, if you care to go look. [Try www.flickr.com/photos/pet_r/2847492303 or http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov and look for the record of the event.] (http://tinyurl.com/y8k6rmv http://tinyurl.com/y9ncshp)
We stop by an old lava flow, and everyone piles out... walk on the lava and inspect the rocks. Some great snapshots are captured, even though we are no longer permitted to drive out and around the caldera... too much gas emitted. But this is a great event anyway! Some say this is the highlight of the whole trip...and I agree that Volcano National Park is the gem of this trip!
We drive back past the steam vents, and the driver demonstrates how he can fog the windows of bus and prank the neighboring bus and tourists by standing next to the vent. The steady wind sucks even more steam from over/around the bus due to the airfoil/air damn nature of the bus. Everyone laughs loudly, as he circles around the parking lot and does it three more times, each time getting more tourists to ruin their hair-do.
After another hour or two on the road, we visit the black sand beach and find two turtles, one in a tidal pool, floating, and one sleeping on the beach. Everyone is impressed. Spirits are high after seeing real live turtles on the youngest beach in America!
We stopped for the Puna-Lua Sweetbread Bakery lunch which we pack along to the southern most point of the USA, and then drive to Kona, where we arrive at the Sheraton. There is too much smoke, gas and vog (volcanic fog) for us to see the sunset, but we settle in anyway. It's been a long, busy day.
Tomorrow is the anniversary of the 7:07 a.m. earthquake, but I don't tell anyone. I don't want to spook them...like I did with the wild hog stunt. It's been a busy day, and the most satisfying one yet, according to our guests. Two women have told us that this exceeded their wildest dream...worth every penny they state.
More later- Kirk