Walking On Lava

September 22, 2002

Back Up Next

We slept in until 10, woke up with with burned faces and feet, applied lotion to our wounds, and bought straw hats to protect our already sufficiently tortured bodies. Ready for lunch we headed south along the west coast of the island. We stopped at a nice small restaurant for lunch, right by the local hospital next door to the Dodo Mortuary. Very reassuring indeed... Once again at least I enjoyed the company of some lizards which seemed particularly intrigued by my camera.

With a minor detour to the black sand beach we headed to the volcano. While we had all the hardware for a serious hike -- boots, water, hats, flashlights -- we didn't have the proper condition: Essan was still hurting from her fall on Friday, and I was barely able to walk due to my sunburn and cuts on my feet. However, once we reached the lava field we geared up and headed to where the lava flows. The signs said very clearly that the air was poisonous, the ground hot and the lava unpredictable; basically, the "Do Not Cross This Line" sign had sufficient justification. Like teenage brats we crossed the line, with five other people. It was fun.

We hiked over lava which was just barely cold - as in solid; it was still warm to the touch. Other places it was really uncomfortable, with the air clearly hotter than my temperature record so far, 105C or 220F, in a sauna. This was warmer, and way more fun. Some places the lava was close enough to touch, but we knew better than that. Next time you see a piece of molten rock moving at you, stay back. And when you set up a tripod to take pictures, take into account that the lava is moving at half a foot per second -- only one of my pictures is in focus because the damn thing moved out of focus during the long required exposure.

We crossed one lava flow and were happily camping between two flows, sitting by the ocean, watching the water boil on both our sides. As far as the eye could see, at the time of sunset we were a total of people who adventured this far, and were rewarded with this incredible experience.

After sunset we relocated a bit so that the moon would rise right above the lava flow. Equipped with Planetarium for the Palm it was a breeze to make such predictions; unfortunately it was cloudy at the horizon and so the moon didn't appear until well after official moonrise, quite a few degrees off. Still, we got a spectacular show, both looking towards the water with the moon and the glowing red steam, or looking the other way towards the Milky Way.

The hike back was not as bad as feared, but still left Essan uncomfortable. It was easier to spot hot lava in complete darkness, and our powerful LED flashlights were giving us sufficient light to retreat from the lava field. I wish we had stopped more often to take pictures during our retreat, but the heat in this area was extreme, unlike Essan's patience. And let's face it: the moment I stepped on what seemed to be a perfectly hard rock and it gave in, not the usual brittle way but rather very softly, with a "puffff" noise, I was ready to get back to the car as well.

In Hilo we visited the local Wal-Mart to buy some nasty looking but relief promising green goo to ease our sunburn pain. At this moment I could really hardly walk, the top of my feet hurting constantly from sunburn and the soles painful from cuts and baked from the hot lava rock. Pumped full of pain killers, caffeine and water we truly enjoyed a quick dinner at "Jack in a Box" -- a clear manifestation of our shape -- and headed back to the hotel at the opposite end of the island, where we fell asleep like babies on an airplane never do.

Back Up Next

Email Stan