This time, wearing the face shield and KN95 mask, I fly knowing I’m Covid negative (that is a requirement in order to enter Hawaii and not have to quarantine for ten days), and partially protected from the virus having had my first Moderna shot two weeks ago. Who knew how thrilled one could be to get a shot in the arm?
So Juliet and I go to the Kona side of the big Island for a week. We arrive at the airport and have to prove that we have tested negative within the previous 72 hours by showing a QR code and presenting ID to an army of workers there for this purpose. We fill out some forms and then get Covid tested again! We’re told if we don’t hear anything in two hours, we’re fine. What an organized and efficacious way of controlling the pandemic in the islands.
The big island is huge and has many contrasting climates and landscapes. The Kona side of the island is dry and sunny most of the time. Thick black lava extends for miles, the result of continuous eruptions over the course of centuries from the very active Kilauea volcano, the most active volcano in the world. Much of the lava has little foliage growing on it and vast swaths are vacant and jumbled.
The Hilo side of the island is rainy and grey most of the time. The landscape is dense with vegetation, tangled and wild. Plants and trees grow to enormous dimensions.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is in the center of the island. The highest elevations get as much as one hundred fifty inches of rain per year and the temperature can be very chilly. The weather forecast during our stay is basically the same every day: scattered showers. We choose a day that appears to be slightly drier.
We depart Waikoloa on the sunny side at 8:30 am for the two hour drive. It is a glorious day and 78 degrees. However, we come prepared with several warm layers, rain jackets and gloves. We arrive at the visitor center in a downpour and it is 53 degrees. I spend time with a friendly park ranger and we discuss options for the day. He tells me it would probably be best for us to drive the Chain of Craters Road to its terminus at the Pacific Ocean about twenty miles away where it is warmer and drier, and work our way back up to the summit with the hope of improved weather later in the day.
At the ocean, it is 81, sunny and windy. We visit Petroglyphs National Monument, where Native Hawaiians carved symbols into the volcanic rock eight hundred years ago. On the drive back up to the summit, in intermittent rain showers and sun, we make a number of stops and hike to sites of previous eruptions marked by fissures, craters, and various lava formations left behind by the flows. I had very much hoped to see lava flowing into the sea but Kilauea suddenly stopped erupting two months ago. Instead, after sunset under driving rain, I see the eery red glow of the lava bed in the Kilauea crater reflected in the steam and clouds above it.
On a lighter note, we have an interesting encounter with wildlife in our hotel rooms. We enjoy leaving the terrace doors open to get the cool sea breeze and avoid using air conditioning. One evening, late, I am in my room reading. I hear Juliet calling me in a small, urgent voice “come here, right this minute.” I enter her room and she is standing on the bed hyperventilating, looking terrified. She points to the wall opposite where the biggest cockroach I have ever seen is moving rapidly, and then shockingly, it flies! We scream. I call the front desk. When I explain, the woman says, “we call that a B52.” She sends someone to take care of it. He enters the room and it flies again. He says “we call that a 747.” You get the picture. I know roaches live in the tropics, but still….