Caleb got up before my alarm and we were both in the kitchen when ours rang together. I cut up the two abui from yesterday into quarters and the edges are quick to brown. The inside is as soft as ripe persimmon and tastes like mushy honeydew to Caleb and a flan-like dessert to me – easy to scoop too. We shared a plate and I grabbed two spoons. I tried eating the waxy peel, but it will go into the trash bin along with the grape-sized seed. I washed our dishes while Caleb packed us up and we dropped the bag to the car before walking into Bear’s Cafe for more food.
Caleb ordered waffles and sausage. I ordered biscuits and gravy with eggs and reminded him that we had four hours of spelunking ahead – we’re going to need the calories. I got half of my cold brew coffee to-go so we could leave by 8am. This would get us from Hilo to middle-of-nowhere just in time, 8:45. On the way, we managed to pass the third King Kamehameha statue dedicated in 1997. The original was thought to be lost at sea in 1880 and a replacement was erected in Honolulu. When the original was found in 1912 it was put up in Kapaau, near the King’s birthplace, also on Big Island.
We got gas at $2.75 before leaving town, stopped at the ATM some miles from the house, before the roads went from paved and lined with trees to pitted and lined with shorter plants too. We parked behind the two cars in the driveway. There is another couple, Marshall and Allison from Salem, Oregon, standing there as Harry, our cave guide, walks up. We grab hard hat, gloves, and flashlight before making our way through the trees, but not before going over the rules – don’t touch anything!
We’re reminded that we may bring water, a small bag (so it doesn’t touch anything), and our long sleeves/pants with good shoes on are approved. I get to use a flush toilet outhouse, complete with crescent moon and full acoustics, before we descend. Harry unlocks the door and stepping inside I realized this was no ordinary lava tube – this was Kazamura Cave. I could’ve read reviews before coming, or have checked their website, but that would’ve ruined the surprise. We will use a few ladders and one rope to assist in navigation of this beautiful, dark, wet tunnel cut through the earth.
Harry is knowledgeable, not just about this cave, but Mammoth and Carlsbad (that we’ve been to) and about a hundred that we haven’t. He asked what we do and the employed, engineer and lawyers, made the top ten list of common guests; others were doctors, biologists, and programmers. I enjoy small tour groups so much, max of six allowed, because of the amount of time and details shared. We helped each other see different holes, shapes, and bones. There are roots, other biological matter, and anomalies of 1800*C elements cooling at impressive speeds and leaving their history for us to admire.
We saw a mile of the cave and about 500 feet of height explored. I found the total darkness unnerving and then very relaxing as we all stood there listening to the cave rain and I spun around unable to see myself but I could feel the wind movement. Turning on our flashlights again after at least five minutes of complete blackness hitting the corneas was an adjustment period. The walk back seemed too soon, but the girls had started asking about food. Harry explained other things to see/do and why and then gave some restaurant recommendations.
I let the others head back quickly after we see sunlight again so I can focus on the details. I enjoyed the torch tour, less light damage in the cave, but it limited my photo opportunities. I watched the rain drop on the leaves, photographed the colors through the trees, and captured (digitally) one gecko before he ran for cover. It felt good to get the wet gloves off that I used to protect my camera from cave droplets. I tried scraping some of the mud off my shoes from the path that tried to get me to stay – it wouldn’t be hard.
I started popping macaroons in my mouth as we backed away. We were hungry, but couldn’t let a silly restaurant stand between us and lava, so on we went to Volcanoes National Park through the varying stages of rain on the road. We stopped at the steam vents and a Chinese guide was using hand signals for my benefit. Then he lit a napkin on fire and stuck it over the vent to draw more smoke out – “monkey see, monkey do” he said. As we walked to get a better look at the caldera we passed people, some wearing booty shorts and others coats, as the weather was 15*C. From there it’s 1.5 miles to the Jaggar Museum and Hawaiian Volcano Observatory on the Uwekahuna Bluff on the rim of Kīlauea Caldera.
We stared into the caldera in the distance – to gauge, a ranger told us lava was shooting up 30ft and we could see blasts of orange among the, barely visible with the naked eye, pool. A family was there and had brought binoculars – what a difference. I used zoom on my camera and Caleb used the GoPro. The hole is massive and one woman claimed to feel the heat from it. Someone told her to back off the wacky tabacky – we had to be a mile away.
We stopped or hung out the window intermittently when seeing dried lava flows from the 80s, growth on the rocks, and the sky beyond. The drive down Chain of Craters road towards the water was fantastic and the car behind didn’t seem to mind our tourist mode – slow. We parked at the end of the road. To get to the third volcano, located underwater, on the park you have to walk five miles one-way with snacks, water, and a flashlight. Sadly we had none. A kid was trying to convince his mom that they could make it if they ran.
Within walking distance is Hōlei Sea Arch, named after the native Ochrosia compta plant that is part of the milkweed family. Just over some dried lava and bright green plants to an edge protected by stacked black rocks and some copper cable between wooden posts, to a frothy sea below lit by the bright sun, stands an arch carved a few hundred years ago into the basalt cliffs standing at 90ft.
We pass the ranger playing ukulele and drive to the Pu’u Loa petroglyph trail, 0.7 mile one-way walking. There are cairns to guide us and a boardwalk to protect the kapu (keep out/sacred) where families come to leave the piko (umbilical cord) of their child in the large hill to connect their spirit to the ancestors and give them a long life. There are over 16,000 pukas (holes), some shallow, some deep, but all unique to the family they bond.
The weather is perfect and the sunset phenomenal as we leave the park and make it to Punalu’u Black Sand Beach. There are dirty ducks, cross-eyed cats, and kids practicing their ninja gymnastics barefoot. There are also eight Green Sea turtles, either sleeping or moving extremely slow, in their protected rock circle. We enjoy the sound of the waves, the feel of the gravelly sand, and the colorful clouds streaming across the sky.
It’s finally time to eat and we stop at the next place on our left – Hana Hou, meaning “encore”, and it’s the southernmost restaurant in the U.S. They sell pork burritos and chicken salad in papaya. I grabbed a lilikou bar and caramel brownie for back up rations. This meal will give us the energy needed to drive the next hour of winding roads to our stop for the night – Pineapple Park. It’s calm and quiet when we arrive at 7:30. We do some exploring and I was hoping for a social evening, but the crowd doesn’t arrive till Friday from Australia.
I grab my phone to use the light. I want to find the source of the sound in the tree – the tiny Coqui frog. I’m checking the branches and leaves. Our hostess assures we won’t find them as they’re as tiny as dimes or the tip of this woman’s finger, similar to Caroline’s pinky, whichever is smaller. I think knowing what I’m looking for will make it easier, but the light only helps to quiet the tiny creatures. It’s time for a shower.
Caleb’s not ready for bed at 8:30 so we walk to the market across the street so he can get a six-pack of Castaway and I can grab a pint of Chunky Monkey ice cream. He reads while I think about the stories of Columbus, the Louisiana Purchase, and the Gold Rush, and how Hawaii has a very different and unique history. Caleb has two beers and I don’t start reading till I finish what’s left of the melted banana ice cream in the bottom of my pint – the flavor name is fitting.
We will sit, till after 11pm with a Hawaiian station playing, on a couch with a lamp on one side and stairs on the other leading up to where another couple enjoyed their dinner and are now enjoying the evening as well. I miss the feel of country nights – stars, critters, quiet or rambunctious relaxation, but we have to sleep at some point to be ready for tomorrow.