Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. -- Carl Sandburg
There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

December 13, 2012

Hawaii - The Big Island - Day 5-7

Waipi'o Valley in the rain
The northeast coast of the Big Island is the windward side and with the tradewinds slamming into the tallest mountain - Mauna Kea - it rains a lot.  That makes for dozens of lush steep valleys and lots of waterfalls.  We could see the inaccessible waterfalls pouring off the steep cliffs driving by but there were few stopping places.  This used to be sugar cane country but is no longer.  You can still see some sugar cane growing in places.  A lot of eucalyptus and ironwood forests have returned to the hills.  They never left the steep canyon sides.  We learned that most of the houses use rainfall catchment systems for their household water.  Here and the Kona coffee district is where most of the houses are.  The tourists like the dessicated west coast but the people who live here like the rainy areas.  I like the lushness and greenness too.

We headed over the hill through Waimea, the old ranch town.  It is located just where the hill gets green on the saddle between Kohala Mountain and Mauna Kea.  We first went to the Waipi'o Valley lookout.  The GPS wanted to send me down a road that dropped off the highway into a really steep little road but I thought it better to stay on the paved roads.  It was raining the whole day but that is why it is so lush.  The Waipi'o Valley is the largest of the steep Kohala valleys from the collapse of the mountain   It goes back 6 miles, is a mile across and the cliffs are a couple thousand feet deep.  A few people live down there and farm.  the road down is so steep you need 4 wheel drive to get back up.  The Hawaiian royals once lived in this valley, accessing it by the sea.

Eucalyptus Trees
We then drove to Hilo, stopping at the Akaka Falls and back over the saddle road in the clouds until we got high enough to be above them.  The west side was dry as could be.
Akaka Falls

Akaka Falls

Hilo Bay
The next day, we took it easy and explored around the hotel and the beaches to the north.  We explored the fish ponds and beach near the hotel on Anaeho'omalu Bay.  The fish ponds were built by the ancient Hawaiians as easy to have meals for the royals, of course.  They seem to have migrated from place to place quite a lot.  They said there were streams seasonally so they probably followed the water sources.  The beach sand was sharp on my feet.  They must have trucked in construction sand to make a beach for the resorts instead of the lava rocks that were probably natural.
Anaeho'omalu Bay Fish Pond

Ocean inlet for fish pond

Anaeho'omalu Bay


Native Hawaiian house

We took a swim in the waves at Hapuna Bay with a lovely white sand beach.  The Big Island has only a few white sand beaches and they are all on the west coastline.  This beach had the polished coral sand of a natural beach - easy ont he bare feet.  I found a neat lava tube cave.  They are formed when the hot lava comes up out of the earth in channels.  The rock hardens on top and the sides but there is enough pressure to have the hot lava tube go for a ways.  When the magma pressure stops, then the hot lava in the tube drains out, leaving a big tube cave.  This one is washed by the sea and there is some driftwood in the back.
Lava tube at Hapuna Bay

Hapuna Bay

Hapuna Bay
We explored the old dwellings in an old Mauna Loa lava flow (3-5000 years ago) area at Puako.  This is the farthest northwestern reaches of Mauna Loa between Mauna Kea and Hualalai.  Because it is so dry, the lava still looks fairly fresh but the millenia of sun weathers it to a brown color instead of the fresh black of more recent lava rock.  Ancient Hawaiians lived in the lava depressions and caves when the streams had water in them.  The lava gave them shelter from the constant winds.  It looks very rough but I suppose enough palm fronds and other things would present a comfortable enough floor.

Puako cave dwelling

Puako - inside the cave dwelling

Our last day was most of the day on the island as our flights didn't leave until the evening.  We took the higher mountain road back down to the Kona coffee belt.  A beautiful drive but the VOG was noticeable so we retreated back up to Hawi on the north coast for dinner and because it is the farthest away from the VOG while still being easy to get back to the airport.  We saw the mountain on Maui topping the clouds from the north coast.
Coffee Plant

Kona Joe's view to the ocean
I found the Big Island fascinating both geologically and anthropologically.  Geologically, it is new earth born out of the hot magma from the earth's mantle.  They are shield volcanoes rather than ones like Mt St. Helens in the Cascades that blow their tops with ash raining down.  They build and build layer upon layer of hot magma coming up out of the Hawaiian hot spot.  There are lava lakes in the craters from time to time.  Lava fountains of hot lava being forced out into the air by the pressures in the earth.  I found it interesting to see the weathering processes of the different ages of the lava flows and the moisture on them.  Clearly, rain makes a huge difference in how fast the lava turns to dirt.  The broad arcs of the shield volcanoes are visually deceptive in how massive and steep they really are.

Anthropologically, the native Hawaiian culture and religion are a study in isolated human groups.  I don't know how long it took or if they brought the rigid taboo system with them or if it developed into the bloody thing it was when the Europeans arrived.  But it does make me wonder at how ruthless people can really affect a closed population.

It would have been fun to have a 4 wheel drive vehicle but we still got to see a lot of the island in the rental car.  I picked up a great map called Hawai'i Island Atlas and Maps that is chock full of information about the island.  It was perfect to learn about it and find our way around.

Geologic map
The reds and oranges are flows from 1790 to present


  1. WOW ... I just read all your posts and got caught up! BUT I've got to see and read this on the big screen of my laptop... this little iPHone is wonderful but I gotta see the pictures up close.

    The stories along with the pictures ... love it! great background and history, Mary ... loved reading this.

    I would love to go to Hawaii ... jeeeeeez that would be swell .... the flight over didn't sound too swell but wow! what you got when you got there! beautiful ...

    1. Thanks, Carolyn. The flight back was worse - over 14 hours in the air and waiting at LAX and overnight. Hawaii is a unique place. I was lucky to get to spend a whole week there.

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