Leaving behind the sanctuary of the tree archways and lush green surrounds of the Puna area, I began my adventure deeper into Pele's territory. The jungle had felt like somewhat of a refuge from the stark black lava fields and the formidable energy of the volcano towering above. And so it was with some feeling of trepidation and a lot of excitement that I journeyed beyond the familiar and into the unknown.
After a clear and breezy morning in Pahoa the vog (volcanic smog from Kilauea Volcano) had descended. It is common to be enshrouded by vog on the west side or the island, due to tradewinds that blow the vog across the island from east to west and then offshore. This means that the Puna and Hilo area are usually relatively vog-free. That day was an exception. I felt very glad to be leaving the area and hoped that the Kona side might offer some respite from the oppressive smog. Pele was certainly letting her presence be known!
I headed up the gradual incline of the road through Kurtistown and Mountain View, after travelling north from Pahoa and turning left at the junction of 130 and onto highway 11 south of Hilo. I observed the signs: 1000ft, 2500ft, 3000ft, finally reaching 3750ft to the town of Volcano. The landscape had transformed quite dramatically from green fields and large-leafed tropical vegetation on the coast, to the sub-alpine shubbery on the fringe of Kilauea - greenery yet unsinged by the touch of Pele's hand. Big Island is astounding with its variety of micro-climates - within 30 minutes of leaving the warm, sunny coast I was experiencing a chilly breeze and an area that looked more like a summer alpine town. The town of Volcano reminded me of alpine towns in Colorado, with a uniquely Hawaiian feel. Quaint log-cabin-style buildings lined the streets. Large tree ferns waved their fronds gently in the breeze as if to welcome me to the town. A subtle breeze had somewhat cleared the vog in this area. I wound down the windows of the car and took a deep breath.
Driving past the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park entrance I decided it was not a day to visit Pele, as just outside of Volcano town the vog had settled again. The thick vapour that envelops everything in its path can be quite oppressive. Some are more sensitive than others to it - and I had found that it definitely affected me. I had peered over the edge of Halemaumau Crater on a previous trip to Big Island and I had walked the Kalapana lava fields to get up close and personal to Pele. I had a different destination in mind on this trip -I had never explored Kona side. In particular I planned to visit Captain Cook town, Kealakekua Bay and the very sacred area of Pu'uhonua o Honaunau (Place of Refuge).
Passing the turn-off to the volcano, the road plateaued into endless fields of black lava rock dotted with specks of green here and there. There was charcoaled evidence everywhere of Pele having gouged fistfuls of molten rock from deep within the earth's core and dispersed it in every direction. I noted how incredible it is that nature regenerates herself after such extensive devastation. Before long , black fields eventually gave way to grassy green fields and still the vog was relentless.
I had seen such a variety of landscapes already since leaving the coast, and I couldn't wait to see what new and unknown things awaited me on the road ahead.