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40 • Vacations

®

Fall 2017

We fly from Honolulu to Big Island, getting an eyeful of the

magnificent ‘shield volcanoes’ before landing in Hilo. Then we

drive an hour to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Kilauea’s crater is a circular depression, exactly as we expect.

What we don’t expect is its vastness – a full four kilometres

across, and strangely beautiful.

Perched on the rim is the Jaggar Museum from where we can

see a smaller inner crater. This is the active vent, marked by

a bulging column of gas and steam. “At night you can see it

glowing,” a park ranger tells the boys. “And yes, sometimes

it shoots lava. Seismic recorders tell us when that’s likely to

happen, but it also makes tell-tale sounds. It rumbles.

Sometimes it sounds like the sea.”

The vent is off-limits owing to poisonous gases so the

inevitable question is asked: “Where can we get close

to lava?”

The next afternoon, we drive two hours south to the town

of Kalapana, where we’re told Kilauea’s lava exits via

subterranean ‘tubes’ into the sea. We arrive to find Kalapana

isn’t what it was: in 1990, the townsfolk watched their houses

and gardens get swallowed up as Kilauea’s lava gently probed

a new path, encroaching a few metres each day.

But the townsfolk have rebuilt and are happy to greet

us – and the hundreds like us – offering to rent mountain

bikes from pop-up gazebos. For about $30 each, we’re

equipped with bike, helmet, first aid kit, head-torch and water.

The stream of lava pilgrims pushes into the twilight, following

a broad track that has been bulldozed through a stark, surreal

landscape. The lava field is all monochrome textures, formed

from ooze, crumbled and cracked. It stretches away on all

sides, up to Kilauea in the far distance. The six-kilometre ride

is oddly quiet except for the crunch of fat tires on gravel.

We arrive at a clifftop where a great cloud mushrooms, and

then park our bikes. Rangers marshal us to a space cordoned

by ropes, 500 metres from a portion of cliff that grinds and

steams like a machine.

“Can’t we get closer?” ask the boys, perched on pumice

mounds.

I indicate a nearby section of cliff where, a week earlier, nine

brittle hectares had fallen into the sea. “No.”

Not that we need to be closer. We can see rock crashing into

the water, hissing violently, and as darkness closes, the lava

shows as glowing globules being birthed from the island’s

boiling guts.

As we’d learned in Bishop Museum, we’re witnessing the

Earth renewing. Hawaii’s islands are a long chain of extinct

volcanoes. After each volcano was formed by the magma

reserve beneath us, the planet’s tectonic plates moved them

out into the ocean to cool and die. One day, Big Island will

have a new neighbor. It’s forming under the sea and already

has a name – Loihi.

For two hours, we sit among hundreds of people in the lava

field, watching, entranced by the spectacle, enchanted by

the weirdness. We ride back through the night, the beams

from our head-torches bouncing off the lava field. Only, we

pilgrims sound different now – there are whoops and calls

and laughter.

We’ve been lit up by lava.

SPONGE BOB WELCOMES YOU TO NIKELODEON HOTELS & RESORTS PUNTA CANA

©SARAH PITTARD

Families looking for a sunny escape will love

Nickelodeon Hotels & Resorts Punta Cana.

This kid-centric property offers a perfect

balance between luxury and family fun.

Ultimate Family Vacations

By Sarah Pittard

Punta Cana

Family Fun

for

Everyone

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Vacations® •

Fall 2017 • 41

PARK RANGER AT HAWAII

VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK

©MAX ANDERSON

MOUNTAIN BIKING AROUND KALAPANA

©MAX ANDERSON

KILAUEA VOLCANIC LAVA FIELDS