Hawai’i has been beyond anything I could have ever imagined. It is literally Paradise. I made friends who feel like sisters, who made me feel at home immediately. I remember my first day, where I found myself in a childish grumpy mood because I hadn’t made any friends yet. Thanks to yoga, which I tried on day two despite vowing to never do yoga again, I made friends for life. These friends fortunately happened to have cars and didn’t mind driving me around the island for the duration of my stay.
Hilo’s nightlife basically consists of one bar, called the Tavern, which can be really hit or miss. Some very good times were had, the most random of people were met, and feet danced bare to a multitude of bands. I have a teeny piece of glass in my foot that will likely remain as a reminder to those memories. The best music occurred when the Friday Night Art Walk was on, which is on the first Friday of every month, so I got to experience two of them. The galleries stay open until late, there are free nibbles, a booth to dress up like a clown and kids cycling around on unicycles. It looks like this.
There happens to be a free zoo too, with a Siberian tiger and a monkey that hisses and bares it’s teeth at you. There is also a $2 cinema. Almost as cheap as the $1 bus which can take you anywhere. If you wanted to you could find a market any day of the week, morning, day and night on different parts of the island. Uncle Roberts is particularly epic, a night market by the sea with live music and lots of hippies. It was there that I bought the best honey that anyone has ever tasted in their entire lives. As well as indulging in a slice of dark chocolate cheesecake.
The Big Island has two lakes, one of them being Green Lake which can be reached via a trek through the jungle. It used to have a working pedalo, which unfortunately is now filled with holes, so we couldn’t go out onto the lake. I tasted a guava, picked straight off the tree, for the first time. Divine. Nearby is a plateau that you can hike up to and have an amazing view over farms and fields to a distant lighthouse and the ocean beyond. The other lake is Lake Waiau, which can be found near the summit of Mauna Kea, 3970m high. It also requires a bit of a hike and is sadly drying up due to a drought. It is recommended that one doesn’t drink the water, or go in it, since it is considered sacred, or maybe more so because the Waimean Hawaiians place their umbilical cords into it in hope of good fortune for their children.
Endless waterfalls. Popular touristy ones like Rainbow Falls and Akaka Falls which you can’t swim in, to those in people’s back yards, to ones which require climbing through jungle and across lava rock to get to them. On one of my last days we clambered down a river to get to the most amazing waterfall of all. We sat on the edge, overlooking the jungle, with a view of the ocean beyond. Some locals suddenly appeared and one of them jumped, it was staggering. I desperately wanted to do the same, but I was more worried about how I would get back up, which seemed impossible. Maybe next time.
Other beautiful places include Boiling Pots, pools that can be swum in and yet more waterfalls. Waterfall jumping can be very risky however, there are lava tubes and you can get sucked into them and die. There are lava tubes all over the island, ones that are not submerged in water so that you can go spelunking. I checked out the Kaumana Caves, which is 25 miles long in total. At the end of one of the tubes was an opening upwards, so we climbed out and decided to follow a trail that turned into a dead end. But we kept going anyway because bushwalking is painful, disorienting and fun.
On Sunday mornings I heard about the Ecstatic Dance at Kalani and knew I had to experience it. No one is allowed to talk, it’s just about the dancing for almost three hours and they always have a live DJ or bands performing. When I went it was a DJ, it’s hard to describe the music, perhaps Indian Trance. It was so intense, and at first smelled kinda bad due to lots of hippies sweating in an enclosed space, but one quickly gets used to it. I have also never seen so many girls with hairy armpits, which in a way was kinda cool, so go them. Very powerful energy, and some incredible dancers too.
One of the highlights of my stay was going to see the lava. We left at 2am and arrived as the Moon was setting behind the clouds, glowing bright orange, and beside it a red glow was emanating, reminding me of Mordor. We walked and walked and walked in complete darkness with our headlamps. The rock is very hard, yet sometimes brittle, it glistens and sparkles in the light and can do some serious damage if you fall on it. It is also possible to fall through it, as they may be a lava tube lurking beneath.
Suddenly, lava was flowing directly in front of our eyes. Not only did I see lava but I walked on it, I ate sausages and marshmallows that had been cooked on it, and I poked sticks into the hot dense sticky oozing magma. We ambled over to the cliffs edge where we could see lava spilling out onto the ocean and we stayed there transfixed for hours until the sun was up. The waves constantly gushed in, causing vast amounts of steam to rise into the air, sometimes the wave would manage to take a bit of lava with it, as it retreated back into the ocean.
No one is technically allowed to go and check out the lava, so if you’re doing something unadvised, you may as well take it one step further. We went where no one has probably ever been before. We walked along the coast for a while and saw a way down to a small black sand beach, a newly created beach untouched by human presence. To get there we had to get down steep lava rock and walk across lava that was green in some places, and entirely venting out sulphur. We covered our faces and tried not to breathe, the vapours burned our lungs and our throats, but when me finally made it to the beach it was utterly worth it. It was a long journey back to the jeep, surprisingly not feeling that exhausted despite only two hours of sleep.
That evening I went to a Summer Solstice gathering. I was shattered but I experienced my first ever drum circle which pulsed through me and gave me an energy that kept me dancing on my feet until I was almost simultaneously sleeping. I performed a little fire spinning and enjoyed some traditional Hawaiian food called laulau. It is usually a pork dish, but there was a vegetarian option that I could try. They wrap the meat/vegetables in taro leaves (edible), which is then wrapped in a ti leaf (non-edible) and placed in an underground oven called an imu (thanks Wikipedia). It is cooked for hours and hours and hours.
The next morning I was up early to go to South Point, the most Southern point of the entirety of the United States. We did a hike across to Green Sands, one of only two green sand beaches in the entire world. It was extremely hot but also unbelievably windy, I often had to cover my eyes from all of the dust. I was treated to yet more spectacular scenery, the sand being bright yellow against silvery blue shrubs and a perfect blue ocean. It got windier and windier, I eventually fell over and scraped my knee, pulling a muscle. As a result I mastered a pretty cool looking limp for the return journey. When we got to the beach I complained that the sand wasn’t green enough, so I admired the incredible rock formation instead.
Then we drove on to Kona, which is the part of the island where all of the tourists have been excluded to. Endless resorts and pricey restaurants and bars and the most miserable tourists I have ever seen. We were there on a Saturday night and it was completely dead, there was no life at all, it was disturbing. I tried out some snorkelling with flippers on which I found really hard to get the hang of. I saw some colourful corals, lots of fishies and some baby sea turtles too. The sand was so hot it burned our feet. On the way back to Hilo I had the pleasure of my first ever Costco experience, it’s like a crazy warehouse supermarket. Unfortunately I was there when it was quiet and there weren’t any old ladies fighting one another over the free samples. We also stopped by at Waipio Valley where my breath was taken away from me. When I return I will go hiking there.
More recently it was Independence Day, I went to the bay front to check out the BBQs and other happenings, but to be honest it was a bit dire. Nothing was really going on so I left and went volunteering up at the VIS so I missed out on the fireworks. I shall have to experience the 4th July on the Mainland one day.
A couple of days later was Hilo’s first ever Gay Pride Parade and Festival. A group of us spray painted some bicycles all psychedelic and then rode them in the parade. It was epic fun, I was ecstatic, it was strange actually being in the parade smiled at by the onlookers and having our pictures taken. The festival was so much more lively in comparison to Independence Day, there were live bands, and lots and lots of stalls of all kinds, everyone looking so bright and colourful.
This sums up the best and most interesting parts of my stay, although somehow I did so much more, like having dinner parties and getting burnt on the beach, as well as volunteering as much as was humanly possible.