We landed in Hilo on Hawaii Island, also known as The Big Island. As we looked around we noticed a large array of diverse people; light skin, dark skin, short, tall, asian, caucasian. In the 19th century, the sugar and pineapple plantations needed lots of workers and as foreign diseases killed off natives (similar to other colonial settlements) workers were imported from China, Japan, Korea, and Portugal to labor on the plantations.
We’re on the world’s most isolated group of islands and unmistakably, we’re in the United States. We knew we were back home when we saw McDonald’s, Sports Authority, Pizza Hut and the usual ‘suspects’ of franchises and mass marketing.
In a strange turnabout, I was a bit apprehensive about driving on the right side of the road. I’d rented cars in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand totaling over 3 months behind the wheel on the left side of the road. I haven’t gotten on the wrong side of the road, but I am still working on getting past looking over my right shoulder for the seat belt and turning on the wipers instead of the turn signal.
The first stop was Volcano National Park. We walked along the rim of Kilauea Iki Crater and then hiked down 400 feet into, and then across the caldera. It last erupted in 1959 when the crater floor was substantially lower; the eruption adding an additional 400 feet of elevation. There are still spots that emanate heat from that eruption.
We stopped at Halema’uma’a Crater which contains an active lake of boiling lava.
One very cool sight is the remnant of a 2003 lava flow that covered part of Chain of Craters Road and burned down a then-active visitor center.
At Pu’uloa, the rain fell harder as we hiked over the lava fields to view petroglyphs that were several hundred years old.