Saturday, 30 November 2013

Waterfalls & Rainforests in Hawaii

Paradise found, as you stand and watch the hypnotic grace of the cascading falls you may find yourself wondering what it was like a few hundred years ago before the age of cars and planes, before Cook sailed into Kealakekua Bay.  

Akaka Falls
Hawaii is the most beautiful place we have lived. We have lived on 4 continents and 8 countries and often imagined combining all the best places we've lived into one wonderful home. Well we found it at last! 
Most of these photo's were taken by our beautiful and talented eldest daughter.

Ocean bays edged with secret gardens can be explored along the Big Island's shores.

Coves on the Big Island

We follow trails through this paradise, forest birds serenade from a canopy of tree ferns, orchids ramble up trees fuzzed with moss and we remember what really matters in life.

Little streams tip-toe across the forest floor with tinkling laughter. 

The rain forest has conveniently placed umbrella's 'cos it rains a lot here!  The guys were very gallant and saved their skins while the girls got rained on!

 Rain sprinkled flowers delight us as we explore.

Rain Forest

 Bamboo drapes majestically, towering over tree ferns.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Volcano Park, a fiery glow at night, Vog and eathquakes.

View from Kilauea Overlook
 There is something quite astonishing about seeing a red cloud of ash emerge from the Volcano at night, while the full moon gazes unblinkingly over the fiery craters rim. 

Setting up camp 1/2 a mile from the crater.

We camped a ½ mile from the volcano last night…. Park Rangers evacuated the camp site this morning due to dangerous levels of Vog (sulphur dioxide and other nasties). Symptoms we experienced were puffy irritated eyes and to the nose with bouts of coughing. Our friend in Zimbabwe commented that we were lucky to wake up, she's a real cloud-with-a-silver-lining type of person!

Seismograph, with a sensor plate in the floor near the display.
So you can jump and create your own earthquake.
We found that we were also tired but that may have been just the altitude which averages at about 4000 ft above sea level. 

Park Rangers carry portable air quality monitoring devices and are able to react  by closing parts or all of the park when the air quality deteriorates to dangerous levels. It can last from a few hours to days. If you are planning a visit to Volcano, you must expect that this may happen.  Additionally if you suffer from asthma it may be an idea to phone the park for an update on air quality conditions.
Earthquakes on Mauna Loa.
The Seismograph reading shows all the earthquake activity for the mountain we camped on, pity we never felt the rumbles.  The earth quakes almost continually. This website tracks the daily earthquake activity.  Early this morning the house gave an ominous crack, now we know why! Stuart for a moment wondered if we were having a break-in.

Mural inside the Jagger Museum at the Kilauea Overlook.

Sea Arch, Volcano Park

Sea cliff's crumble without warning, sometimes plunging several football field size areas into the sea.

Tree Mold, the hot lava surrounds the tree, burning it up and then hardens into a mold.

Jess inside a small lava tube.
 Lava tubes and crevasses are all over and they pose a danger to hikers who stray off the trails. The Steam Vents are also extremely dangerous.

Hiking the Kilauea Iki Crater

Peridot gems embed many lava rocks littered across the crater floor. 
The green sand beach is made up of this semi-precious stone.
Lava flows down the hill and into the Pacific Ocean.
Lava flows over the cliff edges. 

Wikipedia describes so well the symptoms of breathing "vog", "Most studies of vog have been in areas where vog is naturally present, and not in controlled conditions. Vog contains chemicals that can damage the environment, and the health of plants, humans and other animals. Most of the aerosols are acidic and of a size where they can remain in the lungs to damage the lungs and impair function. Headaches, watery eyes, sore throat, breathing difficulties (including inducing asthma attacks), flu-like symptoms, and general lethargy are commonly reported. These effects are especially pronounced in people with respiratory conditions and children. 

We take it seriously now after our experience and is another reminder that Hawaii can be hostile considering the list of other dangers such as Tsunamis, occasional high surf, earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding and even water spouts.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Volcano Park, Hawaii

Some places are just too big for words, too grand to capture in a photo.  Volcano Park is one of those places.  I'll post some photo's and write some words, but you have to experience this yourself.

Caution, Volcanic Fumes
The Sulphuric gas levels were dangerously high in some areas so they were closed, but we enjoyed most of the park.  

Halema‘uma‘u Crater within KÄ«lauea Caldera
One fine starry night we will visit this crater. 
The orange glow beneath the starry sky is a sight to behold.  The crater is interesting since it smokes all the time. Lava flowed out and left a hollow space which collapsed in the 1500's approx, forming a huge crater. Slowly it has been filling up with lava. In some ways the smoking crater reminds me of Victoria Falls...Mosi-oa-Tunya (the smoke that thunders). 

Actually there are lots of craters all the way down to the sea. We did not see any flowing lava, it's high on our list of things to do! Unfortunately, like game spotting, nature does not always co-operate and at this moment there are no actual fresh lava flows we can visit.  

Sulphur Banks

Sulphur banks is where sulphur crystalizes at the surface, kinda pretty and smelly at the same time! 

Mark Twain said the smell at Sulphur Banks,  was “not unpleasant to sinners.”

"At Sulphur Banks (Ha`akulamanu), volcanic gases seep out of the ground along with groundwater steam. These gases are rich in carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide -- the gas that smells like rotten eggs. Some sulfur gases deposit pure crystals at Sulphur Banks. Other sulfur gases form sulfuric acid which breaks down the lava to clay. This clay is stained red and brown with iron oxide."

Steam vents behind a field of orchids
Steam vents
We saw steam rising from the ground, since it had recently rained. The water runs down cracks and fissures where it is heated on hot rocks below the surface. It certainly gives you an idea of the volcano size since the vents cover many miles. It's wise to stay on the paths, nobody wants to fall into a volcano

Lava Tube
Lava once rushed down this Lava tube and left the empty shell of a tunnel.

Lava Tube entrance
Tree Fern Forest
To reach the Lava tube you walk through a Tree Fern forest, the floor is lined with Maiden Hair ferns and moss. Forest birds sing from the fern canopy.    

Craters Valley

Trails meander throughout the rain forest, revealing treasures along the way.


Kalij Pheasant shared our picnic.

We all had headaches last week and the kids felt a bit nauseous, flu like and lethargic. I thought perhaps it was something viral, until I discovered that it is a side effect of vog. (when I first saw the word vog I thought it was a spelling error). Vog is Sulphur Dioxide and other gases and particles from the volcano.  The unfortunate side effect is that we don't really feel like exploring this wonderful place when we feel lethargic and off. Trouble in paradise. Well I suppose every place has it's draw backs, if we were in Houston or London we would be breathing smog instead! If we were in Johannesburg we would be worried about crime and smog, and if we were in Harare… well, where should I start?!!

A friend in Africa wrote "We have a problem with Pog here (political fog), which upon closer inspection looks like a global phenomenon."

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Snorkeling the Hawaiian Big Island

The colours of heaven paint our sky on earth.
Hapuna Beach Sunset (Photo by Stuart)

   Spectacular sunset to end a phenomenal day at Hapuna Beach, one of America's best beaches.

Black sand, a gloomy rainy day. (taken by Siobhan)
Black sand and Lava beach, near the Tropical Botanical Garden. The rain pelted us as we sheltered beneath the trees and watched in awe as the waves tore at the cliffs. Photo taken from inside a cave.

4 mile Beach, Hilo
Crystal clear waters tantalized us with tropical fish swarming in the shallows

We bought some snorkeling equipment, and a whole new world opened up to us. We can spend hours entranced as we discover, moray eels peeping from their caves, urchins threatening with their terrible spines, florescent purple coral  and shy little puffer fish hiding behind rocks. When Jess came nose to nose with a moray eel she scuttled across the water like a Jesus lizard to escape. 4 mile beach is named for the 4 mile marker, not very imaginative!
Enormous Green Sea Turtle sleeping on the rocks, they drool!

One day I ventured a little too far on my own and suddenly found myself in the deep, surrounded by rock caves.  I had this terrible creepy feeling that a shark was lurking in anticipation.  When a huge shape loomed out of the blue. I nearly walked on water! It was a humongous turtle who benevolently carried on munching sea weed. I spent a quiet moment with him and then went my way.

A few things you don't want to meet in the sea...

Helicopter exploring the coves.
Black Sand Beach in Waipio Valley. The largest black sand beach on the Big Island.

So now we have snorkeled on the black sand beaches, white sand coves and still want to visit the green sand beach. One of only 2 green sand beaches in the world !! 

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Waipio Valley

Waipio Valley 
We walked an epic walk, and my legs are still feeling the pain days later! 1000 ft straight down a cliff… ok there was a little path. The rest of my family bounced down and up again later like a herd of mountain goats! The valley into which we descended is called the Waipio Valley and is the final scene in the movie "Waterworld" when dry land was found. Hi'ilawe Falls drop a straight 1,300 feet and this is what drew us to the valley. Sadly the falls are not flowing at the moment due to a local drought.

An expanse of black sand beach awaited us, it's a peculiar feeling to stand in the crystal clear water and yet it's black. I'm a little wary of going out far into the dark never know what's lurking. In fact a marine biologist friend once told us that "if you've swum in the sea, something has considered eating you!" So not reassuring.

Black Sand Beach

The edge of the black sand beach is lined with smooth pumice stones of various sizes.  A lot of people build little rock monuments to their visit in Hawaii. So Jessica, Dylan and Siobhan decided to do the same.

Imagine our surprise when a man nearby burst into spontaneous applause as Dylan finished his tower of rock. The man said that Dylan should be an engineer, and asked what we have in our blood. I was so surprised I didn't know how to answer, too bad I never mentioned home-schooling!

In the mean time Jessica was creating a colony which drew attention from every passerby, and most of them took photo's of the artist at work. She is thinking of pursuing a career in sculpture since she is already famous, and wants to know how often we can return to that beach!

Jessica's Colony - We've studied a lot of colonies in History.

Siobhan took advantage of the tallest rock on the beach and built her monument on that.
It certainly feels strange to pick up huge boulders as if they were made of cardboard, the pumice has so many holes it's very light.  Pedicures are a thing of the past, the pumice beach beach scrubs our feet for us. Couldn't get better than that!

The history of this valley is fascinating, Hawaiian legends, kings, ghosts, and Tsunami's.  The current residents are reputed to be a wild lot who definitely don't like tourists.