Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Honeymoon, Part II

Because of our shopping trip the night before we had cereal for breakfast and decided to spend the day checking out some of the attractions outside the immediate area, mostly because we were afraid we might not feel like spending much time in the car if we waited a couple of days. I still think that was a good decision.

So, we drove south. Along our route we saw a sign for South Point, the southernmost point in the United States. How could we resist!? So, we took a right and drove another ten miles through wind-blasted countryside with trees misshapen by the wind, horses huddled together against the wind and dust, and some giant windmills until we reached the rocky South Point. The area rests atop 30-40 foot cliffs and the first thing we noticed were the fisherman trying their luck at catching tuna. (At least that's what he said. Who really knows?) The second thing we noticed was a woman in her swimsuit working herself up to diving into the water. The height was definitely hair raising, but she walked up to the edge, pumped her arms a bit, took a few steps back, pumped her arms again, let out a little yell, pumped her arms, then finally jumped off. The few of us standing around were pretty impressed, but I have to admit that I was more impressed by the fact that she then climbed back up a rusty old ladder that had been jury-rigged to the side of the cliff. After that excitement we wandered around, looked at the brilliant blue-green ocean, and then jumped back in the car to continue on our way to Volcanoes National Park. (Follow these links to a Website with a number of nice pictures of the South Point area, including the black sand beach which I talk about a couple paragraphs from now.)

During the trip we had the chance to see some of the flora and fauna of the islands. I'm sure I'll post some pictures of the flowers, but we saw a number of animals, too. I've already mentioned the geckos, but we also saw mongooses which are very cute (apparently quite a blight since they're not native and have no predators, but are quite good predators themselves), wild turkeys, chickens and roosters, and even some endangered Hawaiian geese called nene (pronounced naynay) that like to hang out next to roads, so they unfortunately get hit a lot.

The other interesting thing we saw (during the whole trip) was the evidence of older and newer lava flows. I'm not talking about still-hot lava, but of fields of bare black rock sometimes peppered with plants, sometimes with absolutely nothing, and sometimes almost completely obscured by new growth. It was really fascinating to think the entire chain of islands is like that. We stopped at one place along the way that overlooked one of the big lava fields that stretched from way up and behind us all the way down to the water a couple of miles below. It was pretty amazing.

Continuing along the way we stopped at a black sand beach which had, uh, black sand. The sand was all lava rock that had been reduced to sand by the action of the waves. I was at a red sand beach in Turkey and we learned a couple days after seeing the black sand beach that there's a green sand beach near South Point, but we didn't make the trip. The black sand beach is well-known as a popular place for sea turtles to come and lay their eggs. I can't imagine how cool that would be to see. There were many signs up saying not to interfere with any turtles that might be on the beach or in the water, which was good to see.

We seemed to be in the car forever -- partially because we kept stopping places, but also because the road was twisty and turny much more than straight. Anyway, after all those stops, we made one more in a little village named Pahala where we had a nice lunch at the only diner in town, checked out "The I Love Jesus Store" (that's its name), and an ice cream sandwich from a little store, then we were back on the road. Oh, and somewhere along the way we drove past Jimmy Stewart's ranch, but we didn't learn that until much later.

Finally! we arrived at Volcanoes National Park and we checked out some maps of the area, the plants and animals of the area, history, and such at the "discovery center" where I also picked up a cool magnetic bookmark with a great image of an exploding lava bubble on it. There was a nice little art gallery nearby with some really great pieces of art and various crafts inside. It was clear that not enough people made their way over to the gallery, but it was definitely worth a look. After all of that we made our way over to a building that overlooks the volcano (called the Volcano Cafe, I believe) and looked out into the cauldron. It was a large expanse of black, craggy rocks that surrounded a smaller, but still quite large depression that was black and rocky and craggy and steaming. Yep, Mauna Loa is an active volcano. Or as they comfortingly put it "erupting" and has been "in eruption" for decades. Awesome! Let's stick around here!

So we did. There's a road that leads around the entire mouth and we followed that a little way (not even a mile) so we could tour a lava tube. A lava tube is a geological structure that used to carry lava, but slowly emptied and did so in a way that the walls are rounded, while the floor is relatively flat. The lava tube we made a circut through ranged from six to 18 feet in height and was at the bottom of a small section of rain forest that had grown on top of it, so there was water slowly leaking in. Again, it was definitely worth the walk and very interesting.

We'd seen enough, so we drove out of the park to find a nearby rainforest that was marked on the map. We found the correct road, turned down it and followed it. Let's just say the rainforest didn't really make itself obvious to us. Certainly there was an area with a lot of plants, but not much in the way of water or anything else to give it away as a rainforest. Regardless, we saw some interesting plants and eventually turned around and made our way back to Volcano Town (yes, seriously) to get some gas. Then we drove back to the Kailua/Kona area where we drove down the main drive of Kailua, Alii Drive, and stopped for dinner at La Cala, a very good Mexican place on the second floor of a building right on the water. After dinner we walked around town and on the beach where we saw a sea turtle in a tide pool. He was being tossed around a little bit by the waves, but he was very intent on ferreting out some food he'd found so it didn't seem to bother him. He came up for air a couple of times, but we mostly saw his butt sticking out of the shallow water, so we took some picture of that and called it a night. We were tired from the day of driving, so we went home and slept.

And once again, I guess I'll have to post another day of the honeymoon tomorrow. This was a particularly full day, so maybe I'll be able to get a couple of days done tomorrow.

Check back!


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