Day 6: Friday, December 30

The mud path down to Pololu Valley with its rainforest vegetation
The view of Pololu Valley from the trail
The beach of Pololu Valley, and the cliffs that separate the valleys to the East from each other.
The surf at Pololu
The view of Haleakala on Maui, 30 miles across the sea from the northeastern “tip” of the Big Island.
Another view of the rocky coast at Keokea Beach Park, with Haleakala in the background.
A pair of saffron finches–very cute, although not native to Hawaii (introduced in the 1960s)
A yellow-billed cardinal, also not native (introduced in the 1920s)
The huge lava tube right off of Highway 19 north of Kona, with Antje for scale.
Lava tube or a big Godzilla stomp?


We got up today planning not to do quite as much hiking or driving after our long day yesterday.  We stayed around the apartment a bit longer, looking at our lava photos and putzing with our blog, and then left about 9:30 for the trip UP the coast (“North” evokes the wrong impression, especially if you can only go north from Kona for less than 50 miles.  With a couple of stops along the way, we drove up Highway 19, which first goes across yet another lava flow, from about 200 years ago, partly built on (the entire Kona airport is built on top of that lava field), but mostly just bare.  This is a different-looking lava, so we did our on-the-road homework and found out that yesterday, we were walking on smooth, easy to maneuver Pahoehoe lava, which often looks like ropes or elephant skin folds, and is caused by slow-flowing lava, while today, we saw mostly A’a lava, which flows fast enough to scrunch the newly formed crust together, making big piles of smaller, very sharp rocks that look from afar like mounds of dirt. It’s very strange to move out of this kind of hostile landscape after a few miles, and be suddenly surrounded by gentle slopes of pale green grass on what must be lava flow from thousands of years ago, covered now with topsoil and vegetation.  That was pretty much the landscape until we got to the northernmost towns of Hawaii, Hawi and Kapaau–at which point we were back in rainforest land, with the classic gigantic leaves and blooms everywhere.  We had a delicious fresh lunch in Hawi, and I got to taste spearfish for the first time in my life, but we also paid a crazy amount of money for what was basically a salad/sandwich lunch with ice tea and a cookie that we shared.  “Island prices” have a whole new dimensions on Hawaii.  After lunch, we went another few miles further east (we were already as North as we could get), to a lookout we had read about called Pololu. From there, we could hike down into this unbelievable coastal rainforest landscape of cliffs covered with bright green vegetation–again, along with many others who braved the very muddy/slippery but otherwise not dangerous hike to a rock beach where the lava had all been shaken around enough to become smooth round boulders (not quite small enough to be pebbles) that made an incredible sound when the waves knocked them against each other.  Behind the beach, which formed a natural barrier, a marsh and a huge rainforest valley opened up.  It was so pretty down there, and the hike had so many beautiful views that we didn’t even mind the steep climb and the mud.

Once we were off again, we stopped at a few lookouts on the way back–out by the Hawi mini airport (nothing was going on there, but it is as far north on that coast as you can go without falling off), where the surprising thing turned out to be that I felt like I was back in Northern Germany–with lush green meadows, Holsteins and a wind farm.  But it would have been Northern Germany in June, not December. :). We also caught several glimpses of the silhouette of Maui’s nearby mountain, Haleakala, which is a 10,000-foot dormant volcano.  I hadn’t realized until it rose up before us that Maui was only 30 miles across the water!  We’re still learning so much about Hawaii every day like the greenhorns we are about this place!  We didn’t take any real beach time, since it was overcast and not so exciting for water play today, but we found a fun, fairly quiet beach that we might return to, Spencer Beach Park.  We did make one last stop on the way home, just before the Kona airport, where a huge (and I mean huge) lava tube is visible from the road side.  We clambered all over the terrain; it is really impressive to imagine what this landscape was like when this particular eruption (1801 or so) devastated this area just north of Kona.  We made our way home with the last groceries (and the first souvenirs for the kids) in tow, and I cooked us a lovely simple dinner–pasta with a jar of marinara sauce and some sautéed peppers and onions, plus a lovely salad, since we had picked up fresh local romaine and some fruit at the farmer’s market the other day.  We even had ice cream for dessert, so dinner was a real success, and it was nice to be home and done with our day early (around 7 pm).