Day 23 Family Photo – on our porch at sunset. We had a silly girl again last night, all hopped up on spaghetti and chocolate mousse cake. Unfortunately silliness quickly turned to tears… none of us can remember why this morning but we all clearly thought it was funny. That is, except for Casey!
This morning, we were up early once again, but definitely were dragging a bit. I think we were all tired from yesterday. Navigating black, heat-absorbing lava rock, with its cracks, pointy edges, and slippery surfaces around the tidepools, as we have now learned, can be hard on the body. My ankles, feet, and calves have taken a bit of a beating from all the odd ways I have twisted and turned them to feel steady on the rock. Not to mention all the hikes and walks along the beach that we have endured this trip. But alas, more adventure awaits and this time, it requires a bike to get there.
As the sun was starting to peek over the clouds to our east, we took Highway 137 west along the south coast of the island until it met up with Highway 130. It was a beautiful drive. At Mile Marker 22, we found ‘the end of the road’ along with all the companies that rent bikes and provide guided tours to see the current lava flows. We had reserved 3 bikes and a buggie from Kalapana Cultural Tours a few days ago. Mike and I had discussed our plans several times, as his desire to get as close to the lava as possible and my desire to keep our family safe seemed to be in serious conflict. We finally compromised on a bike trip that would get us about ½ mile away from the attraction, forego the recommended 2 mile hike to get up close and personal with hot spewing lava, and then the boys would venture out in one of the lava boat tours later this week to see the lava from the ocean. I even confirmed this plan last night as I was preparing for this morning. (Can you sense the foreshadowing here?)
As we checked in and got settled onto our bikes, they handed Mike a first aid kit and a laminated card with emergency numbers, along with some water and ponchos. This did NOT exactly give me the warm and fuzzies. I started peddling behind Dan and Mike, while Casey sat perfectly content to be carried over the lava by her father. I literally said a quick prayer that we all made it out without any major road rash. After my bad biking accident in 2012, I have a love/hate relationship with biking, so I was just a little nervous.
Highway 130 once led into the town of Kalapana. The Kilauea Volcano, that started erupting in 1983 and has not stopped flowing lava since, destroyed almost all of the town and its subdivisions, with its 1990 flow. (Check out these pictures I found on line that show the before and after. It’s heartbreaking and amazing all at once.) The Kalapana Gardens and Royal Gardens subdivisions were completely covered by, in some areas, 50 feet of lava. Amazingly, Kalapana Gardens, with the exception of one new home that again was destroyed by a flow in 2010, is trying to revive itself on top of the lava.
We encountered Kalapana Gardens almost as soon as we started biking. The entrance was marked by just a small sign and a dirt road. The houses off in the distance between us and the ocean looked a bit barren and depressing. I tried to imagine having to rebuild a life after devastation like that, but could not wrap my mind around how to do that on top of all this hardened lava, where there is no food, no water, and no protection from the wind. It was quite a site. And we hadn’t seen any hot lava yet! A few more ‘homes’ (some would barely count as structures) were scattered here and there for another mile or so, until all that you could see was dark, hardened lava for several miles.
We rode 4 miles in and came to the final barrier that would not allow our bikes to go any further (even though the road continued, we followed the rules.)
At this point, we could see not only smoke rising from a higher elevation flow currently happening, but huge thick white plumes lifting from the water’s edge, where new land was actually being formed. It was really a site to see, even if it was a mile away. Mike asked me to lock the bikes up and I got a little nervous. I thought we weren’t leaving the bikes. Clearly, he had other plans in mind. There was a rope that spread across the lava out toward both the mauka and makai sides of the road with big ‘DANGER’ signs attached to it every 50 feet or so. He started walking toward the ocean holding Casey’s hand, ignoring my looks of consternation. He wanted to get closer.
There wasn’t even a specific trail to take (this lava hasn’t been around long enough to establish any trail) but we followed the rope, careful not to go beyond it and walk onto the unstable lava ledge that can suddenly and violently collapse into the sea with no warning. (actual words from an actual warning sign) Not 20 steps in, Casey cut her baby toe on the lava, starting her own little eruption of tears right there (hence, the need for the aforementioned first aid kit). Mike got her calmed down and we proceeded to hike for just 1/3 mile where we found a higher point and great view of the lava meeting the ocean for the first time. Besides the instability of the land, hydrochloric acid and tiny volcanic glass particles can explode out in steam plumes and are especially dangerous if you are downwind. In other words, it is very very dangerous to get to close to this magnificent land creating event. I was glad to be upwind of it all while Michael and Dan got some good shots, and very grateful when we all arrived safely back at the starting point, with only a baby toe as our one casualty.
After all this excitement, it was only 8:30 am. Luckily, Kalapana still has Uncle Robert’s. We stopped there for a fabulous breakfast and did some great people watching. We will be back there tomorrow night for their weekly event (I literally don’t know what else to call it – locals can’t seem to describe it either. They just say you have to see it when we inquire.) It is quite the place; a collection of tents with a smoothie ‘shop’, a shack that makes amazing breakfast burritos, a stage, a big screen tv, and a bar. It should be interesting tomorrow night.
We were all quite wiped out after our excursion this morning so we came home and all took naps. All of us. I snatched up the lanai couch and it was a glorious 2 hours.
Now to figure out to dinner plans for tonight.