Monday, March 17, 2008

Pele! She is HOT!

Today was the one full day that we had that Michael did not have to go to the classes at his conference. So we did our one big day trip to the other side of the island to see the Volcanoes National Park. We had heard rumors (from our concierge!!) that the Lava Tubes (caves made by lava) were closed because much of the park is being inundated by sulfur dioxide at levels that could kill you.

And it was raining.

But we had heard rumors to the contrary as well, so we decided to risk it and go. We took the northern route around the island, stopping to view the Waipio Valley overlook, and to see Akaka Falls which was amazingly tall and stunningly beautiful.

We got to the national park, which is mostly a drive around the Kilauea Caldera (a crater) with stops to see some interesting sites. Apparently there are some very unique situations going on with the Volcanoes.

For one, there is some lava flows that have actually snaked their way to the ocean and are pouring in, creating some exciting views. We are actually in the car, after a long day of driving and hiking, on our way to see that (the sun is setting and it all looks more amazing at night).

The other thing is that in the park, in the caldera, there is another, smaller crater that has had a fissure open up in it and a huge plume of steam is coming out, constantly. It is to blame for much of the poisonous gas (we were required to drive with windows up and vents closed but could get out and view it). This is the crater that Pele herself, the Goddess of Volcanoes is said to reside in.

We enjoyed the view of the crater and the plume, and also stopped to see an area where there were many cracks in the earth with steam coming out of them. Noah’s favorite stop, being a tunnel-lover, was the Thurston Lava Tubes. Apparently, lava that flows under the ground creates its own tunnels and travels through them to open in fissures elsewhere, and flow across the land. These were the largest ever discovered. We walked through them to the end, and because our guidebook told us to, we brought our flashlights to explore the completely unlit side tunnel. Noah loved spelunking!

We stopped for dinner (very late lunch) at a restaurant and took our meals back into the park to eat at a playground in a camp area with picnic tables and to let Noah run around a play a bit. On our drive out of the park, we took one final look (while driving) at the huge plume coming out of Pele’s home crater.

Michael noticed it first, and pointed it out to me, and I saw it instantly. The giant cloud of steam had formed into the shape of a woman’s face, looking straight up at the sky, hair falling back into the crater. She looked serious and angry. She had a forearm and a fist by her face, clutching a small stick or knife, or rod of some sort, twice as long as her fist. We both got very excited as we drove by, and into a forest. Noah wanted to know what the commotion was and when we explained what we had just seen he REALLY wanted to see it. We thought, “what the hell, lets get a photograph!” and spun the car around at the nearest safe spot and sped back to the overlook.

When we arrived, the plume was in the shape of some formless white blob. Not of anything in particular. Noah was angry that he had not gotten to see the cloud. And it is one of those pictures I will always be sad I never took. But it was like a gift to us from Pele.
She had made herself seen.

What better birthday gift could I have asked for?

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