Today we moved onto the next island. We woke to see the ship dock at Hilo on the island of Hawaii.
We had another early call for our excursion today. We were to meet our bus at 8:20. We had breakfast at the buffet again. I had a number of things as did Cheryl. Breakfast done, we headed to meet our tour group. There was one difference today. Our ship had only recently docked, so they were a little later securing the gangplank. When we got to the ship exit, it seemed like most of the rest of the ship was there also. We had left some extra time, so no problem. We made it through security (each time we get off the boat, we need to insert our room cards into a machine, take off any sunglasses and hats, and have a customs person verify our picture).
We found our guide/driver with little trouble, and she herded our group of 10 onto her van. We got underway headed to our first stop, Rainbow Falls. The trip took about 20 minutes, and our guide was telling us about the Hilo area. We arrived at the falls and headed to an overlook. The falls were quite lovely. The day was sunny, so it did indeed produce a nice rainbow. We were also told to stare at the falls for 15 seconds or so, then look at the cliffs to the right. We did that, and when you look at the cliffs, a section seemed to be moving up from the rest of the cliff. Neat effect. From there we went to our next stop, Lava Tree Park. This was a park with a path of about half a mile, that had a number of examples of what they call lava trees. These are trees that have had the middles burned out, but the shell of the tree remains hollowed out. It is also completely black from burning.
From there, we moved onto a road that was no longer in use because it had been partially covered by lava. in the May 2018 eruption. The road was blocked so we could only get to about 50 feet from the lava block, and about 100 feet from another blockage that was about 8 feet tall. This was one example of many roads that had been destroyed. We were told that some of the roads are working towards being reopened, but it’s a slow process. From here we went on to the house of a person named Jonathan. His house is a matter of feet from one of the fissures that opened during the eruption. His house was spared but going down his street you pass a number of properties that were not so fortunate. You can see the devastation from the heat and lava, and indeed in many cases there is still steam coming up from the fissure. There was a thermometer in one of the holes pouring out steam, and the temperature was 140 degrees. He spoke to us and explained how he was working away from home on May 3, 2018 when things started to get bad but came back to help his wife and son evacuate. He came back a few more times to clear out the house and waited to see what happened next. His house is still there and in good shape, but there is a concern for the steam and possibly toxic gasses coming from the fissures, a matter of feet from his house. Not an environment for him, his wife, or their now 2 children. Very interesting talk.
After his speech, we moved on to our next stop. We visited the Star of the Sea Church, also known as the Kalapana Painted Church. This church, built in 1927-28, was built by Father Evarist Gielen, who proceeded to paint the upper section of the church, working at night by the light from an oil lamp. In 1964 George Heidler, an artist from Athens GA, conceived of painting the lower panels and chancel area of the church, as well as depicting the stations of the cross in sea glass on the windows. It is an amazing finished product. The depth perception on the chancel is stunning.
Moving on, our next stop was at an art gallery and food location. The interesting part of this visit was that this gallery in 1990 was waterfront property. Then the eruption of 1991 occurred, and the gallery is now 1/3 of a mile off the black sand beach. We walked out to the beach to get a feel for just how far that is. The lava flow filled in all that space. Amazing.
We moved on to our final stop, the factory of Mauna Loa, makers of wonderful macadamia nuts. There was a small factory tour (currently being upgraded) and a large gift shop/visitor’s center. There were lots of varieties of macadamia nuts, which were available for sampling. The dark chocolate covered nuts were wonderful. We spent about half an hour there, then back to the ship.
We got back to our room at about 5:00 and changed for dinner reservations. When we booked our trip, we received three specialty dinner vouchers. We used the first one tonight. We had reservations for Teppanyaki Grill. There was just one problem. We couldn’t find it. Our documentation and the daily newsletter lists it, but there is no sign for it, and the direction signs at the elevators don’t mention it. We finally asked at the customer service desk. It is inside a restaurant called East Meets West, but from the outside there is no mention of it. Once inside we discovered it was a Benihana type restaurant. Lots of fun, good food and good wine.
Dinner finished, we walked around for a while, then headed to our room to turn in.
Tomorrow: Kona side of the big island, Hawaii.