Day 6 was a day of driving and hiking around the volcano – I think we walked about 9 miles altogether – through a mix of sunshine, showers and strong breezes.
Having visited the lava tube at Hilo, the Thurston lava tube here felt a little over-civilised, with its lighting and walkway, but it was fun to walk through.
Naturally it was drizzling as we started our longest walk of the day, the Kilauea Iki Crater hike. This took us around the rim of the crater and then down and over the surface of the lava lake. This lava was molten in 1959, and whilst it has now solidified completely, extreme temperatures are apparently still detectable down below. I was completely fascinated by this – it was so obvious that this had once been liquid, with cracks and undulations giving the impression of frozen movement, and to be walking on rock younger than many people we know was amazing.
After all the morning’s excitement, it was time for a restorative coffee at Volcano House before driving down the wonderfully-named Chain of Craters road to the coast, and a picnic lunch by the Holei sea arch. The whole coastal plain of this part of the island has been formed by lava flows, and the cliffs are consequently black and dramatic.
The plains themselves were apparently inhabited by ancient Hawaiians, and they have left their mark on the landscape at the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs. Considered a sacred site, a boardwalk has been constructed around the petroglyphs, so visitors can admire them from above.
Back up on the mountain, we hiked across old lava to Pu’u Huluhulu – the top of the wooded hill in this picture below:
It actually wasn’t as far as it looks – maybe a couple of miles – and it was fascinating walking past various features of the landscape: a clearly-delineated lava flow that was taller than we are, and casts of tree trunks being of particular interest. Once at the top we could look down into the old crater, now filled with trees. We also noticed the boundary between the older woodland and a more recent lava flow (which you can just see at the top right corner of this next picture) – just to the right of this shot was a desolate expanse of rock.
Returning to the car we wound our way back to the hotel via a couple more old craters – the road was well-provided with pull-out spots to park and take a quick look at the sights along the way – but by this point even I had had enough volcanic activity for one day so we didn’t linger at any of them.