Monday 16 September 2013



We popped into a Hilo gallery displaying amazing photos of the lava on the first day we arrived on the big island. Talking to the owner/photographer really fired Ty up.  He let us know about the various hiking tours out onto the coastal plains outside of the national park where you can get right up close to the lava. The lava had been flowing for almost 2 years consistently on the plains, so we figured that we’d have time to go after checking out other things around the island.

However, the next day – the flows on the coastal plains stopped. All lava hiking tours were cancelled.  This was not what we wanted to hear, particularly Ty. Every morning at 7.00am he would check the lava reports online, make calls to the hiking companies and spend hours at night researching. Each day I would wake up and see an incredibly disappointed face.  Instead we went to Volcanoes National Park and saw beautiful lush forests and the Halema’uma’u crater, which was awesome at night with the orange glow set against the dark sky and the stars. We also drove to the end of road which had been cut off by a lava flow, but still it wasn’t what we really wanted to see.

With only a couple of days left on the Big Island we went back to Hilo. Ty was becoming more despondent by the day. After a very brief discussion, we decided that the only way we could have a chance to see the lava was to do a helicopter trip over the area where it was burning the forest.  Ty phoned up the helicopter company, found an awesome deal on a last-minute cancellation, and we were in the air within 45 minutes. From above, it was incredible to see the landscape and the devastation that the lava had caused, amazing to think that it was also the start of creating a new landscape on the island. We could clearly see lava flowing, fires burning trees and the spatter cones at the top of the crater were glowing red. The helicopter hovered so close to one active area that I could really feel the heat. At one point, the pilot expressed surprise as he pointed out a small group of hikers walking out on the very restricted and hazardous lava fields right up on the flanks of Kilauea volcano near Pu’u ‘O’o – the lava source.

Ty’s eyes lit up. After returning to base Ty quickly did some detective work with the help of the friendly hostel manager and tracked down the lone rogue company that took hikers up to the source. After another quick phone call that night we were booked to go on the lava hike the next day (our last day on the island). This equalled one very happy Ty!

The company kitted us out with snacks, water, gloves, and head torches and we were ready to go. The hike was an 11 mile round trip hike through lush green forests and mud. After around 2 hours of walking through the doomed rainforest, we reached the inevitably advancing edge of the fresh black lava fields. It was like walking on the moon; incredibly surreal. The smell of the burning forest’s smoke swirled in the air. The lava was brittle and felt unstable to walk on. There were many cracks in sections and really interesting patterns. Walking over some of the solidified lava you could peer between cracks and see the bright red glow of the molten lava underneath.  It made Ty’s whole trip when the guide found an active patch and he got to poke his whisk in the lava! A real specimen that he could use in the classroom. His mission to track the active lava had been accomplished.
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