IMG_8954I have to write about this, because it was the most amazing adventure, although I say that about almost every single day. It was such a change to go inland after all the rocky beaches, sandy beaches, black sand beaches, green sand beaches, turtle beaches and the long miles of Big Island.

Have been staying at the HI Hostel near the University of Hawaii Manoa Campus, a beautiful place to study and be hot. Well out of town, it is already quite a level higher and  far away from the tacky Mediterranean-ness of Waikiki. I got the 6 bus easily about a mile from the hostel, but never forget here you are in baking heat well over 30 degrees every day. The bus sets you off about half a mile from the Manoa Falls trailhead.

After a quick comfort stop at the Rainbow snack shop, as advised, I lathered up with insect repellent. There was such a distinctively different feel from the Paradise sun baked coastal beauty, this was tropical, untamed, Jurassic almost. I was dripping already and felt like an Amazon explorer out of a movie. And of course the Manoa Valley has been the backdrop for many films and TV features including Jurassic park and Lost. In actuality, the enormous broad leaved, hanging, tall, brightly coloured and poisonous things are all carefully managed by the University and State, although you cannot tell other that there is a car park or two and the Arboretum has labels.


I had determined to do both the Manoa Falls trail and the Lyon Arboretum in the same afternoon so I romped off at a pace. When you are that wet already, there is no point in trying to preserve dignity – just wipe your face with you T shirt and push on. The Manoa Falls trail being the most popular was quite busy ( and it was a weekend) and this on it’s own is not a problem. I have noticed certain types of tourists from different parts of the world, (includes me sometimes) have their own distinctive faux pas. Teenage people who turn up in bikini and flip flops, height of fashion visitors in white linen trousers and pumps or tiny silver or gold backless sandals, the multifamily groups with loads of kids and dogs in tow etc. So they do hold you back a bit. This route starts out like a soggy Sherwood Pines track and turns into a full on technical and very slippery, rocky climb to the falls. So you can imagine if you get stuck on this single track behind any of those groups or individuals there can be some frustration. I come into the category of ‘people who are always stopping to take photos of EVERYTHING’ like they have never seen the light of day.  But if you never seen forest like this it is difficult not to. The growth is dense and when the sunlight gets through, emits a beautiful luminescence. I’m sure I got in some people’s way sometimes.

IMG_8792AS mentioned before it’s really slippery and quite steep at the top end of the trail and although there is roped off section, not many people were abiding by it. I was well rewarded when U got to the waterfall. It is breathtaking  – not because of it’s size, it’s more because you are looking at something you might associate with the Prisoner of Zenda, or King Solomon’s Mines. It’s tropical, beautiful and surrounded by wildness.

After an uneventful but slightly painful on the knees descent, I reached the gates of the Lyon Arboretum. This is a ‘giant’ botanical garden, but actually more like a national park – it comprises of many acres of rainforest and steep terrain. Some parts are carefully landscaped, while most is completely naturalised. The Lyon Arboretum has its own trail leading to the Aihualama Falls – not so impressive as the Manoa Falls, but far more mystical and secluded – I only passed about 5 people all afternoon.

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Without the map, I do think you could get very lost in here, as there are many alternative paths which wind and weave over the mountainside.  You could spend a whole day here if you bring a picnic. Anyway, I wanted to share with you some of the astonishingly beautiful and unfamiliar flora that I cam across. And so I have done so. There’s no denying, I felt like a Victorian explorer. This day was challenging, wondrous and just about perfect. IMG_8875

Monster Day Out

IMG_1999The day began somewhat impromptu as I earwigged two people discussing a trip down to the south of the island. Marie had wound up with a soccer mom people carrier as the hire company had no compact cars left. Jason was island hopping from Ouahu for the weekend. He was lucky enough to have family working at island air. I  cheekily cadged a lift and was so grateful for what turned out to be an epic day. The first stop was south of Captain Cook, down to Two Steps beach. This sheltered little snorkelling area had no beach exactly but a myriad of rock pools set in the lava. it was clearly very popular and good place to try out my snorkelling gear. It was baking hot and the water was refreshing. And my $20 snorkel fit perfectly.fullsizeoutput_516

I couldn’t believe what I saw in there. I don’t have a go pro – so I will have to borrow these pictures to show you what I saw. There was a ledge to slide off into the water and the fish were in massive shoals too many to count and so many varieties. It was truly hypnotic and enthralling. After a very short time it had become so ridiculously hot sitting on the lava and we had such a big agenda, we made a move to find coffee. Unfortunately Two Steps coffee shop was closed Sunday.

We drove round the coast looking for the Green Sands beach.  It was quite a way, winding at elevation around the coast, with not single open refreshment establishment in sight, and we stopping at every scenic point to admire the magnificent vistas. Usually vast lava fields, brown and black and at various ages and stage of regeneration, stretching down to the coast from the lush interior. Eventually we found the road down to Green Sands. This was extraordinary because we dropped down from the verdant heights onto a long and winding single track through a sort of anomalous prairie land with cattle. On the way down we stopped at a coffee farm, thinking to get coffee ( well it was just me really), only to find it was a roadside shop selling coffee, macadamia nuts, chocolate and all sorts of products combining these. The amount of samples she gave us made a good lunch and I tasted for the first time the delicious and compelling flavour of fresh macadamia nuts. All the while there was a parched and throat searing heat. Further down and incredulously was a serious coffee shop truly in the middle of nowhere, (though it was really an orchid farm) – so like a lot of enterprises on the island, doubling up on income sources.

In due course, we wound down through the sparse cattle in flat land to the Green Sands car park. You can go no further here unless you have a dedicated off road vehicle. The hike to Green Sands is 2 hours, over savannah like terrain riven but deep off road tracks and bomb holes – not to be attempted without at least 3 litres of water in the heat of the day. In the car park were local family businesses offering a shuttle service to the Sands, looking anything but legal and far from H & S aware. Jason checked it out – $20 dollars a person – we were aghast. But what choice had we if we were still to see the volcano. So with trepidation we coughed up. What followed was one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life. I don’t know what possessed me, maybe the mountain biker/climber outdoor person did, but I decided to jump in the back of the what I can only describe as a large white monster truck with only a rail in the back. There were two or three other girls who screamed all the way in both thrill and terror. Forget Alton Towers and every ride you’ve ever been on ( well none in my case) and think extreme body abuse. We were thrown about like popcorn in the back as we negotiated forty five degree berms, cliffs and obstacles at speed. I finally understand off-roading, though I don’t think a land rover over houndkirk quite comes close. IMG_8531The Green Sands beach was the most extraordinary landscape, with its olive peridot volcanic glass and strangely sculpted headland, but the ride there and back kind of topped it. After an hour and return journey where I did manage to catch some footage, we could hardly come down. But knowing there was a drive ahead, we set off . The local family shuttle  business must be raking it in at that rate, but it was definitely a trip highlight.

Another hour or so drive bought us to Volcano National park, a mere $25 between us. Proving to be an expensive day but in many days priceless. We went into the first entrance we came to really – even though fellow hostellers had said go to the lava flow, it was two against one and it would have meant another 19 mile drive. So we settled on the Kilauea crater rim. I felt a hint of disappointment when we drove up to ‘the crater’ and saw only plumes of steam coming out of a grey quarry like expanse.

To be fair there were steam vents all around us and you could feel it on your chest and also if you put your hand over the vent, you could certainly feel the intense heat. It’s all a bit unreal as tourists loom out of the fumes. But this is not Niagara – with billions of visitors daily –  this is an island that’s quite a long way in the middle of the Pacific and the volcano itself is a mere ninety six miles from Kona. You’re not going to get the Niagara hordes. We went back to the car and drove the few extra minutes to the viewing centre – and then everything changed – particularly  the disappointment bit. At first there was just a bowl like glow in the greyness of everything, more like a crucible or a few embers. Within a few minutes another area had become active and all was getting a little more visible. A patient wait at the telescope revealed a churning, spitting, boiling fury of molten lava and sprays of fiery ash. Pretty unreal to see. fullsizeoutput_442More people arrived for the vigil of encroaching darkness, and a couple of hours passed by with all three of us completely transfixed. Against the night sky, the lava and heat illuminate the gases and you get a real sense you are watching land being born, this island being born. And all the miles and miles of lava flows, some clinker and chiming, some brown and like turned earth, some whiskery with new growth and some architectural. It all makes sense . It was a long drive home – two hours – thanks too Marie for all the driving and a day not easily forgotten!