We got up bright and early, which was quite easy to do with a three hour time difference, and headed back to the airport to take an inter-island flight to the Big Island. We landed in Hilo, where we stopped for lunch before continuing on toward the small village of Volcano. On the way, we paused to browse at the Akatsuka Orchid Gardens, where they have flowers of all shapes and colors. They even have a chocolate-scented orchid, which was quite difficult to resist. We also stopped for a tasting at the Volcano Winery. They have an interesting wine (actually mead) made from the honey of macadamia nut blossoms. In addition, they have the same wine in which tea leaves have been steeped, giving it a unique flavor. My favorite was their Volcano Blush, though I have to say I like the wines I buy here in California better.
At around 3pm we went to our inn and attempted to check in. Strangely, the place was vacant. We tried ringing the doorbell and knocking on the office door, but no one answered. A sign said that the place had a "self check-in" policy, but the doors were all locked, so we had no way to do anything to check ourselves in. We called the number for the owner, but all we got was voice mail. With no other options, we left to go sightseeing at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
The top of Mount Kilauea is at an elevation of about 4000 feet, so our ears popped several times along the way there. Not much volcanic activity was going on at the time, but there was a lot of steam emerging from fissures in the ground, plus it was raining lightly. With all the water droplets in the air, we were treated to a nice rainbow. During the day, all that can bee seen at the main crater is a huge plume of steam. We eventually went back later that night, after it had gotten dark. The steam is lit up from the lava below and it's possible to see a red glow.
When we finished at the park, it was about 5pm, but there had been no response from Aloha Place, which was still locked up tight. We kept leaving voice mail messages and went out in search of a place to eat. Finally, while we were having a quick meal at a cafe in Volcano Village, the owner called us back at 6pm to let us know she was on her way and should arrive in an hour. She gave us the key code to enter the inn common area, where we waited until she arrived. Apparently tourism has been so bad the past year that she had to get a full time job in another city. Ordinarily she prints out the registration information and leaves it by the office door for people to check in to their rooms, but she had been in a hurry that morning and left while our papers were still in her printer. We were assigned the Paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) room, which was decorated with horses everywhere, including stuffed horses, horse slippers, books about horses, and even horse bedsheets on one of the beds. It would have been much more enjoyable, if it hadn't been for all the stress of not being able to check in earlier. The inn even has a very nicely maintained garden that we strolled through in the morning before leaving.
Tuesday, June 15
We returned to the volcano, where we drove down Chain of Craters Road, which is flanked on both sides by bare lava extending to the horizon. We followed the road down to the ocean, again ears popping all the way. The road ends at an impressive stone arch. On our way back up, we stopped to wander through the Thurston Lava Tube.
Having gotten our fill of Volcano, we headed down the southern coast. We took a side trip off the highway to visit a black sand beach, where we were able to see some sea turtles. I was so intent on bending over to take pictures of all the little creatures crawling and living among the rocks that I didn't notice I was bending the credit card I had stuck in my pocket. Fortunately for me, it didn't bend far enough to break, and it turned out to be usable without too much trouble, though it did cause comment whenever I needed to buy something.
We stopped for lunch at the Punalu'u Bake Shop, which specializes in sweet bread. All was going well until we sat down to eat. My dad was halfway through his order when megory checked her bun and saw that they had been served real beef burgers instead of vegetarian burgers as they had requested. The lady at the register apparently hadn't been able to hear the order correctly due to the loud music playing in the shop. She exchanged the order, but my dad was still upset that he had already been eating his without realizing.
We eventually made our way to the Holua Resort at the southern end of Kailua-Kona, where we were able to check in without mishap. The room was spacious and included both a kitchen and a washer/dryer. The view from the balcony was lovely. If I ever go there again, I would definitely pick the same place. We did a bit of shopping nearby, where I bought a nice pair of sandals to wear to my brother's wedding. That night we met a friend of megory's to watch the sunset from her balcony. After the sun went down, we went out to eat at a Thai restaurant. The food was good, but what I liked best were the dolphin salt and pepper shakers.