Sunday, June 12, 2005
The real fun began once we reached Volcanoes Nat'l Park (we had to stop for malasadas and coffee and such things on the way). The rain began beating down and Japanese tour buses glutted the roads while their regurgitated tourists flocked in squealing masses into the museums and such. Quitting the higher grounds and vistas, we drove down to the coast to the trail which heads out to the active lava flow. The rain petered out and the sun shone down accompanied by gusty winds. D and I waved goodbye to our older travel companions and struck out across the razor sharp lava (it is quite sharp. I have the bleeding shins and calves to prove it). Our intent was to run most of the 3 mile out, but the air quality sucked (breathing sulfer does little to aid respiration) so our trek was a combination of walking, leaping and running. Good times had by all.
Digression: I just performed a once over, and somehow I managed to get thru yesterday without getting sunburned! Way to go me!
Finally we topped a small rise and were greeted by a steaming landscape at our feet, the largest plume of steam rising from the ocean on our right. A small group of people clustered at 1 oclock and we joined them, and gazed down thru the earth at the glowing lava below! This of course meant that we were standing over this flowing river of death. Briefly I wondered how likely it was for the crumbly lava beneath our feet to give way and dump us into the molten river below, but the thought was dismissed as I took pictures of people. It was funny to watch all these folks back up to within feet of the hole of death just to get a pic. Of course all of them gasped and kept remarking how hot it was (really? That's strange). Don't worry, I made sure to take the photos quickly....hehe.
On to bigger and better things. The lava is pouring into the ocean these days, sending up huge plumes of steam and noxious gases. Not an event to miss. A Hawaiian lady and her beau began wandering further along the coast, moving to the upwind side of the plume in an attempt to garner a view of the event. We followed. I figured that since this woman is Hawaiian, she'd know where the danger zone begins and therefore would keep us out of harm's way.
The danger zone is this: as the lava pours into the ocean it forms new land. It may look and feel solid, but large sections of this new ground tends to shear off and fall into the ocean. If you happen to be standing on this land, well, you're over. There are many warnings about this phenomenon and they recommend staying 1/4 mile or so away from the area. Knowing we were not quite a 1/4 mile away, I bolstered my feelings of invincibility by blaming our possible demise on this Hawaiian woman. Besides, if we went at least there'd be 4 of us. Safety in numbers, eh?
Don't worry, we didn't go crashing into the frothy ocean waters accompanied by crumbling 900 degree melted rock. Instead, we had an amazing view of flowing lava hitting the ocean and exploding upwards! Simply amazing! The original ocean-entry we'd been watching was soon upstaged by a much closer, larger stream of lava hitting the water. As we took notice that the flowing lava seemed to be moving closer to us, the Hawaiia woman exerted her expertise and remarked that she was pretty sure we were in the danger zone, prompting us all to wander back to 'safer' ground.
But really, how safe can you feel yourself to be when you are standing on flowing death? Whomever feels that we control Mother Nature needs to check this out. We ain't got no true power over her.
Our sights taken in and pics snapped, back we scampered. Somewhere along the way a brilliant idea came to my mind. But I withheld its enactment until we approached the ranger's station and parking area. The first/last 1/2 mile of the hike is along the highway that used to ring the island (until the lava cut it off). Hitting the pavement, I left a confused D behind me and streaked towards the car screaming my head off: "The volcano is erupting! Run for your lives! AAhh!" Other such utterances escaped my lips and some people actually began turning back and looked frightened. One young lady actually began running with me and started crying in fear. I stopped and offered to buy her a drink if it would make her feel better. Her boyfriend didn't seem to appreciate my offer and neither found the humor in my prank. I escaped just before being caught in his large paws.
The rangers laughed as I tore past their stand, but then they asked me to leave. Oops. It's ok, I was going anyway!