Last Saturday night, my family and I spent the night in Hilo, as we wanted to spend some time on that side of the island. We ventured past Kalapana about 3 pm on Highway 130 towards the visitor viewing area for the active lava flow. We parked and started walking down the road and came upon three vendors who were offering lava tours. We ended up talking to one tour provider running a company that took tourists directly up to the hot lava from their personal property up on the lava flow. We thought it sounded like fun, but we were not prepared to go, as I was wearing thongs…and then the tour operator, Ed, said, “I’ll give you a pair of shoes to wear…and we have flashlights, water and snacks.” How could we resist? That and the fact that he was giving us a local rate of only $35? AND he would allow our kids to come, too..where the other providers cut the kids off at age 11. We were IN! Check his tour company, HOT HOT LAVA.com
SO, we hung around for a bit waiting for the sun to set and the lava to really show against the mountain side. We took some pictures of the lava field. VERY barren.
At 6:00, we promptly hopped in our car, followed by 16 other people and drove up a dirt road to the tour operator’s property, where we parked our cars and got an orientation about the trek. Meanwhile, I was treated to a bin of used shoes to sift through to find a pair that fit. Pele was shining down on me and there was a pair of running shoes that fit perfectly..and they gave me a pair of clean socks, too! (all this in a campsite for three guys under some tropical foliage with mangoes being offered to the guests). (you can see the sticks, the shoes and the flashlights in the picture at the top of the page!)
We all picked up a walking stick,…with the ends all burned from prior experience with the lava. That was exciting…to think I would finally spear fresh lava! We turned on our flashlights and headed out across the lava flow.
The first stop was a place where a warped and twisted bed frame lay. The guide, Ed, told us that the site was that of his neighbor…who just lost her house to the lava in NOVEMBER. I thought it had been years by the look of it. Wow. Ed told us that he knows his property will most likely be consumed by the lava at some point in the not-t00-distant-future. That’s a lesson in living in the moment.
We looked up the mountain and it looked like people skiing down hill carrying torches..or ancient marauding marchers coming towards the village to burn it down. What we did not know, was that only a week later, Kilueau would explode in 80 foot towers of lava. Ed DID say he had not seen that much lava breaking out in the time he had been there, so it was a sign that the volcano was about to rupture.
We eagerly bounded across the lava, flashlights waving, towards the lava we saw in the distance. The kids were great..and Ed had a colleague help keep the stragglers from getting lost, while he kept the people up front on their toes with a quick pace. All of a sudden the cool night air shifted to the feeling of a hot afternoon, and we realized heat was coming up from under our feet..and we were still about 100 feet from the fresh lava flow. Finally we were within a few yards of the white hot lava streaming out of the blackened land. Ed gave us some precautions about getting too close and was really great with the kids and offered to take my son down to the lava and let him poke the lava. However, my six year old just did not want to go down there with the heat, BUT I DID!
My husband and I stabbed the fresh lava with the same excitement as planting a flag pole in the top of Everest! It was SUCH AN AWESOME experience! We stood on a knoll near the fresh lava flow and it was like standing on Mt Doom and I felt like Frodo! (had to include a picture of Mt. Doom for reference!)
It had to be at least 130 degrees up there..like opening an oven and leaning in for as long as you could stand it.
I took that moment to thank Pele for her natural artistry and power to create such beauty and awe. I took a moment in reverence and then thought, “Who gets to stand on an active lava field? Me and my family!–WHOHOO!”
We took some video, lots of photos and ooohed and aaahed as fresh breakouts were occurring all around us. We were there for at least 40 minutes and everyone had a chance to stab their sticks…which made me laugh to think,”where did that come from anyway?” Was it from the romantic notion of poking a campfire with a stick? The enthusiasm people showed of not just poking the lava, but throwing branches of trees into the lava to watch it burn made me think of being at college at a bonfire. Very festive, fun and HOT!