I was ecstatic! Today was going to be our first day ashore after four plus days at sea! And what better place to be than Hawaii! I had never been to Hawaii before, this however was going to be Martin’s fourth time, but for both of us it was going to be our first in Hilo, located on the Big Island of Hawaii. We had planned ahead and booked an excursion – “The Circle of Fire Volcano Helicopter Experience”. This was going to be Martin’s first ever ride in a helicopter, and we were both excited envisioning volcano’s spewing fiery lava. Having never been to Hawaii before I guess I was also expecting to disembark and immediately be surrounded by palm trees swaying in the warm Hawaiian breeze, lush and green with a backdrop of perfect blue sky. As I had hoped as we disembarked the boat, beautiful pink Hawaiian lei’s were draped around our necks. But from here our expectations of Hilo fell flat. The reality was it was a rather dreary and dismal overcast day. The air was moist not only with humidity but the threat of rain. There was no palm trees or golden beaches, not in our vicinity anyway. We had docked in the industrial area of town. We abandoned a pathetic attempt of walking into town when we realized the industrial part of town extended much further than we dared to walk lest we miss our excursion. But we still carried high hopes for our excursion.
After a quick shuttle ride, entertained all the time by our driver the “Invincible Convincing Vince” as he liked to be known, we arrived at Hilo airport. A pretty airport with open walls and mini gardens within. After a quick tutorial on what to do in an emergency landing, we boarded our little Blue Hawaiian Helicopter. With 6 passengers and the pilot we were happy to note the helicopter was built with windows everywhere so that regardless where you sat you still had fabulous views. More so if it wasn’t so cloudy, which unfortunately it was. But despite that, nothing could kill the thrill of being in a helicopter looking down on a Hawaiian island. We flew over Macadamia Nut Plantations, and houses with huge yards. Later we were told the land was so cheap here because of the constant threat of the Kilauea Volcano erupting and earthquakes. You could buy a house but just don’t expect anyone to insure it for you. And sure enough we flew over moonscape landscapes where villages and towns had once resided before Pele, the goddess of Volcanoes and Fire, had taken her vengeance and swallowed them up.We learnt that lava did not necessarily move fast but it was stubborn. It took 2-3 years for one village to be completely taken over by a lava flow. With the threat of the ever encroaching lava on their village the villagers did everything in their power to try to protect their village and divert the flow, but the lava won out, stopping only when it reached the ocean.
One house on the island had gained relative fame for having survived the volcanoes wrath several times. All around it fields of lava had burned the land, taking over roads and all other houses in the vicinity, but Jack’s house with his little red roof, stood strong and untouched. Now converted into a Bed and Breakfast, thrill seekers can be flown in to take their chance on either an uneventful stay or as a sacrifice to Pele.
We were a little disappointed to see that there was no volcano spewing fountains of fire, instead smoke confused itself with cloud, and grey bubbling lava covered the ground, every now and then with just a tint of red to remind the viewer of its heat. Other areas of land were simply scorched black and barren where the lava had previously run its course. It was a very desolate and haunting landscape, but even without the theatrics, managed to retain a sort of ethereal beauty.
45 minutes flew by fast, (excuse the pun), and it wasn’t long before we found ourselves back at the airport. None too soon either as by this time Martin’s head had begun to pound with the threat of a migraine. The photo’s I had taken during flight were rather disappointing, distorted by the curvature of the thick glass windows and my own reflection. And the clouds had definitely not made for optimal shots. So without a second thought I purchased a DVD of our flight, taken by three camera’s set up in the cockpit. We have not watched it yet but hopefully it does the trip justice. The rest of the day was relatively lazy back at the ship. Both of us bit back the little disappointment that we felt in our first Hawaiian adventure together, but also realizing the flaw in having too high expectations. It is always better to be open-minded.