Helicopter Hijinks

Dedicated to Amy, who was impatient for it.

To be honest, I don’t think there really were any hijinks, today, but there definitely were helicopters. Or, at least, one helicopter. With us in it.

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls

For the second morning in a row, Rohan cooked breakfast for us (yay!), so that we could get out the door quickly– our first stop was Rainbow Falls. Sadly, we saw no rainbows in the falls, but apparently it only happens in very precise conditions, and clearly we just weren’t that lucky. The falls were still pretty though!

Hello, Turtle

Hello, Turtle

Our helicopter tour wasn’t booked in until much later, though, so even after visiting the falls we had plenty of time. We packed up our room (having a car makes things much easier in that sense: dump it all in and don’t worry about it) and then went for a drive. We’d intended to visit the Tsunami Museum in Hilo, but that (along with almost everything else) was closed, it being Sunday, so we ventured further afield, and ended up at a local beach. Aside from being a really love spot, it had one definite distinction: we saw turtles. In the wild. Swimming. I hadn’t expected to be that lucky, but it was honestly amazing. There were three or four of them, and they were thoroughly enjoying themselves.

Even after that, however, we had time to kill. We needed money, though, and I was interested in coffee of some kind, so we returned to Hilo to park and find such things. Sadly, the local supermarket did not have ATM facilities, and what they did have was a parking lot arranged the Australian way (as in, the in and out lanes were reversed from the American standard)… only really badly. It was, in short, an absolutely nightmare to get in and out of. On the plus side, we found a lovely little hole-in-the-wall joint a few blocks away that served Hilo Homemade Ice Cream. And coffee. End result? We both had a milkshake made with two shots of espresso, salted caramel ice cream, coffee ice cubs, and cream. It was genuinely amazing; one of the best things I’ve had this trip. Definitely the best coffee.


Finallystill rebuilding in some of these areas, and land is still on sale ($1500 an acre; any takers?).

More volcano!

More volcano!

There is something so eerie about looking at all that land. It stretches for mile after mile, as far as the eye can see – and all of it is completely useless, now. It’ll take 200 years for the land to be useful again, unless people bring in their own topsoil and start from scratch. There are now flows all the time, depending on what gets backed up, and where it all comes out from. These volcanoes are not like the traditional explodey ones: everything just seeps out, bit by bit, until it reaches the sea. The last time I was in Hawaii, the current flow was dropping out into the sea; these ones haven’t reached that far yet, though I suspect it won’t take too much longer. If one headed in the right direction, it could cover Hilo entirely within a matter of days.

Lava flow

Lava Flow

On the flight from Honolulu to Hilo, I read an article about one of the last people who lived on the slopes that have now been completely decimated– a guy called Jack. It turns out that our pilot was the one who finally evacuated him, and he spoke extensively about Jack and his doggedness, the way he stayed in his home (which survived initial flows) until it was absolutely not going to survive. I can’t imagine losing my home like that, even with time to evacuate. On the plus side, losing your home to a volcano is generally not instant: you usually get some warning, and that means that although millions and millions of dollars of property have been destroyed in the past 20 years, no one has died. That’s certainly an improvement over, for example, Australian bushfires.

Driving to Kona after that amazing trip was, understandably, a little less exciting. We hit rain part way through and had to battle that on and off the rest of the way. Kona is amazingly different to Hilo – startlingly so, maybe. It’s commercial and touristy, though not in the same way that Honolulu is. It’s not glitz and glitter and plastic: it’s more real than that. But that doesn’t mean it’s not gaudy in its own way.

We’re now safely ensconced in the condo that will be our home for the next three nights. The view is spectacular, and having a full kitchen (and laundry!) is definitely nice. I approve.

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