So sue me, I was in Hawaii on vacation. The Big Island.
Not too shabby.
On our first full day we drove up the coast to see the petroglyph field. I don't know what those symbols mean (I don't read that language) but it was pretty cool all the same. Weird though because the petroglyph field is sandwiched neatly between a golf course and a, umm, whatchamacallit, condo village - you know, a bunch of fancy samey-samey condos scattered randomly-but-not-randomly around a little courtyard with shops and restaurants. In the middle of nowhere.
Then we drove down a little further to a beach to see green sea turtles. We should have been there earlier in the morning because we only saw two but they were quite close enough and looked pretty chill there on the algae-covered lava rocks in the sun.
Then we ate lunch. I had poke. It was good. You should try it if you like sushi or sashimi.
I think we may have gone to some beach or another that afternoon - it was a black sand beach (from the black lava rocks one assumes) and apart from the sand getting ridiculously hot, it was a pretty decent beach with good swimming waves and prettiness.
I also found a place that offered yoga classes on an open deck overlooking the ocean, so even though it's already a bit hot and humid at eight-thirty in the morning, the sea breeze makes it all pretty perfect.
And I managed to go twice.
The next day, or perhaps the day after, we realised that we simply had to go to the green sand beach, one of only four in the entire world. Bonus: it's just about at the southernmost tip of the United States. You thought Key West was the furthest south, and it is: of the continental US.
Only thing is that this beach has nothing, not even a road to it, so you drive south, and the take South Point Road until the cardboard sign proclaiming the turn-off to the green sands beach which goes to a rough gravel parking lot. You then start walking towards the sea until you find the massive ruts left by countless four-wheel drive vehicles that have bumped and scrambled over the dunes, digging ever deeper tracks until the tracks are impassible, and then making a new path. So you walk and you walk in the crazy wind and heat and humidity with a pack on your back with beach stuff and water and a snack or two and you keep trying to walk close to the sea because (a) it's prettier than the endless yellow rutted dirt and (b) you can't miss the beach if you stick to the coast and you try your very best to keep your long-legged 6'3" son in view so that you don't get lost and let me tell you, you're just about exhausted after two and a half miles of this and then you see this beach way down in the cinder cone and indeed the sand is green and you go "WTF? I can't get down there! I don't do rock-climbing and I'm definitely not belaying anything or rappelling anything else even if I had the equipment and then you walk around to where a few people are hanging around the 4WD vehicles and you see that the rocks have sand-carved steps that just fit your feet and so you walk down the side of the cinder cone to the green sands as if it were the staircase in an old movie.
It's obviously not an emerald green, it's more olive, but it's most definitely green. The water is cerulean and azure and aqua and turquoise and the swimming was good, especially after the windy, hot trek with the too-heavy backpack.
And then after catching your breath and cooling off you walk up the stairs and make your way back, hoping you're not lost when you don't find the parking-lot immediately, but eventually you do and then you savour the work to get to the place that's like magic in this gorgeous place.
The next day was The Day of the Tour.
I don't usually care for organised tours because of the crowds and the spoonfeeding and the expense but if we wanted to see sunset from the summit of Mauna Kea we'd need a 4WD vehicle in which we'd have to make our way down from fourteen thousand feet in the pitch dark because no lights because of the observatory and all those telescopes.
So we did the tour thing.
On the plus side: lots of time to knit on the bus and no driving. I don't adore driving on windy roads quite honestly.
After driving up and up they fed us an early dinner (in retrospect I think to help stave off altitude sickness by filling us with carbs) and drove up and up some more, showed us the various telescopes scattered around (three types: regular but humungous telescopes, microwave humungous telescopes and I think infrared humungous telescopes) and told us Stuff about them. One of the big ones had a mirror something like thirty feet across and was somewhere in the six to eight inches range thick, weight some crazy number of tons and took years to make in I think New Jersey or somewhere far away. It had to come up the mountain on roads barely wide enough for two small vehicles to pass each other and remain completely horizontal at all times, otherwise its own weight would have shattered it.
And then we watched the sunset in borrowed parkas and gloves until it was dark.
And then they took us to a really dark place where they set up telescopes and used green laser pointers (which more than a couple of people really wanted) to indicate various constellations and whatnot in the sky, and then showed us cool stuff in the telescopes.
We saw Saturn and its rings, a double star (one blue, one yellow), a gas cloud (i.e. star breeding grounds), a thing that looked like a green Froot Loop but which may have been a dead star but I don't quite remember, and all sorts of other celestial objects.
It was so dark that we could easily see the Milky Way stretched out across the sky above us, from one horizon to the opposite one.
That was not awful in the least.
And then we got home and my mother was bitten by a six-inch gross centipede and had a really bad reaction and it turns out that on the entire Big Island around midnight if you need anything pharmacy or medical the only choice you have is the Kona Community Hospital. No urgent care pharmacies, no open pharmacies or supermarkets for that matter.
Needless to say it was a very long night and I've never seen anyone in quite that much pain; it looked worse even than when my son broke both his radius and ulnar and the people at the hospital just said "Yes, it stings a bit, doesn't it; we'll give you ibuprofen and benadryl" until I persuaded them that it was a bit more serious than that. Not life-threatening as it turns out, but quite awful.
So far it's been a week and the swelling still hasn't gone down all the way.
The next day we saw gorgeous things on the way to Hilo.
We took the scenic route and stopped wherever we found pretty (or wherever the inter webs told us was pretty. Mostly they were right).
In Hilo I ate fruits I'd never had before.
Rambutan and mangosteen and longan. And fruits I hadn't had for ages: guavas and persimmons and dragon fruit and they were all rather good.
Let me just say now that I'm in love with all the things inside Volcano National Park and I think I'd consider going back there after I've seen Asia and the Northern Lights and the Canadian Maritimes and Alaska because LAVA!
So my kids and I hiked across Kilauea Iki: four hundred feet down to get into the crater, across the length of the crater (it looks almost like a double crater, a bit like the outlines of a figure-eight), four hundred feet up the other side, and around to get a pretty view and back to the car which makes it about four miles total and I loved it so much I almost felt like going back in reverse but my mother was hanging out in some coffee shop waiting for us so that didn't happen.
From above the crater looks completely flat but when you get down there you can see that things have been happening under the floor of the crater since it was smoothed out, creating fissures and uprisings and cracks and hillocks. The hiking path across the crater is marked with piles of rocks and the place is like another planet. Barren and harsh and black and yet there are plants - not many, not large, but finding a foothold here and there and surviving.
It was pretty magical actually.
And we walked through a lava tube. These are formed by lava rushing off somewhere, the top layer solidifying but underneath it rushes and roils and keeps a pathway open and that's a lava tube. The Thurston Tube is probably eight to ten feet in diameter and perhaps (I'm guessing wildly) fifty feet long.
Driving through the park is weird. There are trees and scrub grass as far as you can see and then suddenly it's all lava rock where there was a flow that wiped out everything in its path and then the trees and grass appear again on the other side of the flow. We didn't drive all the way to Kalpana on the coast, but from the road we could see the steam at the coast where the lava hits the ocean.
We had to turn around to get to the Jaggar Museum so that we could se the lava glow in the Halemaumau Crater at sunset.
Only thing is, there's so much lava there right now that well before sunset the lava spatters and rivulets were easily visible and utterly mesmerising so we stood there in a howling breeze and for the first time ever I wanted a really good telephoto lens for my phone because this picture is the best it would do, no matter how many photos I took.
It's the best.
Around Hilo we did lots of driving around to see gorgeous things, farmers' markets, waterfalls, eating, that sort of thing. No complaints.
It wasn't hideous at all.