Our vacation on Hawaii’s Big Island was a kaleidoscope of impressions. Where to begin? I think I’ll start with our helicopter ride.
I expected to be terrified. Instead, I smiled so widely my face began to spasm. We floated just under the clouds, in and out of rain. Macadamia nut farms lay before us, each farm framed by windbreaks of pines and eucalypti. I had no idea that macadamia nuts are from Australia. They were brought to Hawaii as ornamentals and found their niche on the Big Island (the Great Hawaiian Mac Nut Trail begins in Hilo. I’d love to trace it next time we come).
Through the mist, the coast seemed endless, a lush mosaic of farms and rainforest.
Then, suddenly, devastation. We reached the lava flows of the Kilauea Volcano, grumbling continually since 1983. “Kilauea” means “spewing” or “much spreading.” This is, after all, one of the world’s most active volcanoes and the home of Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire.
Soon, all signs of life were gone, encased in the wasteland of glistening, fuming obsidian.
The textures of an active lava flow are mesmerizing. The landscape seems to breathe and smolder just under the surface.
Occasionally, thin fiery springs pierce the rock, oozing slowly, lazily. Up high in the air, we could feel their heat — a sensation I will not soon forget.
Circling spring after molten spring, we reached another remarkable spectacle: the meeting place of the volcano and the ocean. Set against the blue-green of the water, the scale of the eruptions is breathtaking.
Here and there, dense plumes of steam arch over the waves, clouds of seawater shocked skyward by magma. This is new land being forged before our eyes. The island is growing.
As we traced the coastline, patches of green came into view. It was time to go back. Hilo and its waterfalls were our next stop.