Lava ad­ven­ture

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No visit to Big Is­land is ever com­plete with­out an en­counter with flow­ing lava, es­pe­cially when it is ac­ces­si­ble for safe view­ing. The Hawai­ian vol­ca­noes are con­sid­ered “be­nign” even when erupt­ing com­pared to In­done­sia, Ice­land or Ja­pan, where erup­tions were ex­plo­sive and deadly. The Ki­lauea vol­cano has been erupt­ing steadily since 1983, and al­though the vil­lagers are pow­er­less to stop its flow, they are able to re­act and evac­u­ate be­fore it claims their homes in most cases.

Want­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence the lava at close prox­im­ity, my fam­ily wanted to em­bark on a lava hike. How­ever, there were many rea­sons to sway us into choos­ing a docile he­li­copter ride or boat tour in­stead.

For one, it would be the long­est hike at­tempted with the kids: an 8km roundtrip of over six hours. Sec­ond, it would be trekking on rough, un­even and even jagged lava ter­rain. And third, we would be hik­ing back in the dark.

But Pele beck­oned like a siren song. And so, we en­gaged a ge­ol­o­gist from one of the tour com­pa­nies that spe­cialises in lava hikes. Start­ing our jour­ney from a pri­vate es­tate in Kala­pana – lava flows are on pri­vate land – we headed out in high spir­its, un­de­terred by the slight driz­zle.

We hiked through the lava flow of 1983, where the fields are cov­ered with scrubs. The rich vol­canic soil had soft­ened for plants to grow. Kama­pua’a wild boars had also gone to work. As we trekked fur­ther, the lava fields be­came bar­ren; here, the lava flow was more re­cent.

The hike proved to be long with no end in sight. Miles of black glis­ten­ing lava stretched across the vast hori­zon as we fol­lowed in the foot­steps of our guide, mind­ful not to step on jagged edges. As the sun sank into the hori­zon, we could see smoke stem­ming from the Pu’u Oo vents from a dis­tance, and the grounds be­came warmer.

the Hale­mau­mau crater within the Ki­lauea caldera is still an ac­tive vol­cano.

the writer and her fam­ily hiked un­til sun­down — and be­yond — over rough ter­rain to get close to a lava flow.

a por­trait of Pele, the Hawai­ian God­dess of Vol­ca­noes, by lo­cal artist Herb Kawainui Kane, as dis­played at the Jag­ger Mu­seum.

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