Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Hawaii trip - day 5

Tuesday, April 12 - our best day yet

We weren't ready for another full morning at the beach, so after breakfast we set out to do some sightseeing. Our objective for the morning was to visit the Pololu Valley overlook on the far north end of the island. One of the amazing things about Hawaii is how drastically the climate and vegetation can change in just a few miles. This seems to be true of all the islands, but was especially noticeable on the northern part of the Big Island. We drove north from Kona through semi-arid conditions resembling the Davis Mountains in far west Texas (mountainsides covered with yellow prairie grass) but over a stretch of less than 10 miles, the vegetation and cloud cover increased dramatically as we entered the island's "wet side". A series of valleys along the island's northeast shore funnels the watershed from the Kohala Mountains down to the Pacific Ocean. The Pololu overlook, located a few miles east of the town of Hawi, provides an elevated view of one of these valleys and the dramatic seaside cliffs which border it; and provides access to a hiking trail leading down to a black sand beach below.

the view from the Pololu overlook.

We arrived at the overlook around 0900 and found just two other vehicles at the parking area. We could see someone down on the beach, and decided to walk on down the trail. It took us about 25 minutes to reach the bottom. Near the bottom, we met three other people who were getting ready to hike back up, and then we walked out onto the beach.

K on the black sand beach at Pololu

all alone on the best beach on the island

The black sand (it's actually very dark gray) is made up of crushed particles of the black volcanic rock that makes up this portion of the island's coastline. At Pololu, the sand was very fine, and comfortable to walk on (but since black sand absorbs heat it can become very hot!) With ominous cliffs on both sides of us and the black sand under our feet, this was by far the most unique beach I have ever been to. The best part was, we were the only ones around! For over half an hour, we had one of the world's most spectacular beaches completely to ourselves. We felt truly blessed.
The sandy portion was only a couple hundred yards wide... beyond that, the shore consisted of rocks and stones. We walked over some of the rocks toward the cliffs to the southeast, but the footing was difficult so we turned around, and started back up the trail. The hike up was quite a bit more strenuous than the hike down... gaining 500 feet in elevation is roughly equivalent to climbing a 50-story building! But the view we had down at the bottom was worth every step of the climb back up. On our way up, we passed a small army of hikers preparing to descend on the beach. We had obviously gotten there at the right time!

The Pololu Valley, as viewed from the bottom...

Panting and sweating, we finally made it back to our "jeep car", and drove back west. Northwest of Hawi, back on the island's "dry side", we found a road leading down to a rocky portion of the coast. Here we were, less than 10 miles from a thick belt of lush, tropical vegetation, and we were driving a road that looked for all the world like one of the park roads circling Lake Nasworthy out near San Angelo! We spent a few minutes looking at the tidepools, and then headed back to the hotel.

It may look like west Texas lakeside scenery, but no... this is definitely the Pacific.

West of Hawi, I convinced K to pose with our "jeep car".

K wanted to do some shopping, and I didn't want to risk adding to my sunburn by going to the beach during "high sun", so I joined her for a trip down to Kona to check out Hilo Hattie's, kind of a one-stop tourist gift shop for shirts, coffee, macadamia nuts, and all things Hawaiian. Later, we treated ourselves to some "plate lunches" at L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, a nice "no frills" local eatery near Hilo Hattie's, and then started back toward the hotel. On our way north, we stopped to look at a lava tube that we had noticed north of the airport.
Much of the landscape in this area consists of a relatively recent lava flow from Mauna Kea toward the island's western shore. In some areas, all you see is black and brown jagged rock... in others, vegetation is beginning to gain a foothold, and the lava is less evident. During the times when lava flows were active, "lava tubes" formed in certain locations. As the lava's surface hardened, molten lava continued to flow beneath the surface, resulting in the formation of tubes -- essentially, "pipelines" which carried the lava downhill away from its source. Over the years, some of the hardened lava above the tubes has collapsed and eroded, creating openings and entrances where one can look -- and even walk -- inside. The one north of the airport was the only one we saw near a highway anywhere on the island. So we stopped to have a look...

lava tube north of Kona Airport

fractured earth north of Kona

Back at the hotel, I got some drinks and headed to the beach while K took a nap back at the hotel. Later, we had dinner at the hotel's steak house / sushi bar, and then we went to bed early, resting up for what would be our most ambitious day of sightseeing on Friday. Stay tuned for the next report...
np: Neneh Cherry - "Move with me"
nr: Ruby El Hult - Northwest Disaster

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home