Nope, No Photos from Kehena

Everything is just so beautiful here. Even the flowers have flowers.

The B&B where we are staying is Ohia House. It is in the middle of the rainforest near Pahoa, on the northwest shore of the big island. The setting is very private and the grounds are lovely. Cindy, one of the proprietors, is an absolute delight who makes a killer breakfast. At night the song of the frogs is … deafening. Tree frogs aren’t native to the island and have no natural predators so they just spend the entire night going out and looking for sex. They’re like loud undergrads!

We woke this morning, had a leisurely breakfast, and headed out to our first stop, Ahalanui, a volcanically heated sprig- and ocean-fed pool. The grounds are surreal in their beauty (notwithstanding the sign that says “watch for falling coconuts”), and the water temperature is perfect (low 90’s).

Its a very relaxing setting.

This isn’t the most beautiful snorkeling pool, but there are a few fish that can be found grazing on the rocks. And the overall experience is stellar.

The next stop was Kehena Beach. Kehena is a black sand beach at the bottom of some volcanic “steps,” which basically means it is a rocky precarious climb down. We parked the car, and a kindly local small businesman offered us some chronic, which we politely declined. We then proceeded down the dangerous path, being passed periodically by octogenarians who have no time for caution. At the bottom we found a nice secluded beach that …. well …. is apparently clothing-optional.

I have been saying during this trip that “old hippies don’t die. They move to Hawaii.” I say this because there really are a LOT of old hippies here. Well, my visit to Kehena taught me that I was not entirely right in my earlier statement. I should amend that statement as, “Old hippies don’t die. They move to Hawaii and get fluorescent green genital piercings.”

Note to self: in the future you must remember to read the guidebooks more closely.

We tarried only briefly at Kehena before hitting the road again. We passed the small businessman on the way out (he was in the midst of a transaction at the time, so no further discussions were had) and climbed back into the car. D had a destination in mind: Kalapana. We went to the place where the road ends. Starting in 1986 and continuing periodically since, lava flows have gradually destroyed most of the homes that once stood here. The remaining landscape is rocky and desolate, excepting a few scattered houses that were bypassed or whose owners have returned and daringly begun to live off the grid.

The patterns made by the molten rock are entrancing.

Next stop: another black sand beach. The black sand, by the way, is created only when a certain type of lava flow meets the water and shatters. The grains of sand are all little lava rocks. Cool!

We came to Punalu’u to see the turtles, and they are adorable. Totally chill, they’re just laying there soaking up some rays until the tide comes back in. The locals watch out for them, erecting barricades so toursits don’t try to push them into the water, as though they were beached whales.

Lunch was Lau lau – pork and butterfish wrapped in taro leaf. To be totally honest I couldn’t find the fish and the entire thing was a bit bland. Somewhere in the back of my mind I thought, “Do you eat the taro leaf.” It seemed edible (kinda spincah-y) so I did, and then later looked it up. Edible when cooked … OK! Looks like something about oxalate stones? Oh joy!

Now we went further south – to a black and green sand beach at the end of Road to the Sea. That’s really the name but it isn’t entirely accurate. It does go to the sea, but isn’t much of a road. It is basically a 6 mile long clearing in a broken, jagged moonscape of boulders. Actually, come to think of it, the moon is probably better-paved.

Still, even in this desolate land, reminiscent of Mordor or some work of Bosch, we could see the vestiges of life trying to return (this lava flow is hundreds of years old). The first substantial plant that grabs a toehold is the Ohia tree, standing with a scoliotic spine, but showing off flamboyant red flowers. The juxtaposition is perfect!

And at the end of the road is the green (from olivine) and black sand beach with pounding waves and privacy (excepting one lone fisherman in a Subaru). This drive would have been profoundly difficult, if not impossible, in anything other than a 4-wheel drive vehicle.

We eventually make our way back to the road with one final destination: the caldera of Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano. We arrive just as the sun is setting, and standing amidst smoking vents we see the glow of the lava beginning to illumine the toxic cloud rising from mouth of the beast.

A short hike leads us to the observation deck, by which point night is falling quickly. We have seen through the day today what destruction she can inflict upon the land. And she lays there still tonight, crouched and prepared, ready to lash out again.

2 thoughts on “Nope, No Photos from Kehena

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