|Leaving the airport you see lava. Lots of lava. Aa (rough) and pehoehoe (smooth) for the uninitiated. Lava comes from the five major volcanoes that created the Big Island.
The original Hawaiian people were immigrants, descended from seafaring people from what is now Southeast Asia.
They brought invasive species including pigs and taro root. They also brought religion based on nature and including occasional human sacrifice.
Coffee. Lots of coffee. Kona coffee is famous but to me not that good. I hear it's heavily sprayed with lots of chemicals.
Food is cheaper here than in Australia. It's supposed to be more expensive than the mainland. I did not blanch at happy hour prices at the Canoe Club. I failed to take note of chicken bake prices at Costco.
It's expensive here. Almost everything is shipped or flown in. House prices start at $500,000 for a two bedroom. House prices are driven up by population growth including tons of retirees and an influx of Chinese money. We saw families living in cars.
We spent our first two nights in a room in a hostel for $130 a night. We then had the good fortune of connecting with local friends who in turn connected us with bargain accommodation. We are enjoying a one bedroom apartment for cheap.
Lots of fat people. Locals are fat. Tourists are fat. I think the island sinks a couple of feet whenever a cruise ship discharges its fat American passengers.
There are too many cars and not enough space for adequate roads. The local bus is nearly invisible. Some cycling, but heat, hills, and too many cars seem to discourage cycling. Walking in Kona especially after dark is a bit dodgy.
It's 90 miles from our stay to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and it takes 2-1/2 hours to drive there. In the past 120 months, there has been active lava in eight of those months.
We have had the incredible good luck of seeing Kilauea in active mode. The lava lake was visible. And hypnotic. We spent almost two hours watching mid day. On a ranger's advice, we returned well before sunset and stayed nearly three hours in the gathering dusk and cold. The lava would seethe and bubble, change size and patterns, and finally light up the fumes and low clouds in red glow. One of the most incredible natural sights we have ever witnessed and worth the trip to Hawaii.
The spirit of Pele lives. Mahalo.