Suddenly the lush greenery I normally associate with tropical climates stops to give way to miles and miles of crumpled, wrinkled and cracked black rock. The contrast is stark and it is very apparent we are about to witness something quite out of the ordinary.
The volcano Kilauea has been spewing for days, but has actually been erupting in some form since 1983. It’s one of the most active volcanoes in the world and has surprisingly only destroyed 200 homes. This said if you are going to build your house on a lava field, you should probably expect it one day to be engulfed by the stuff. I guess however it’s a trade-off between whether the lava will flow in your direction in the near future again and the knowledge the land you’re on will be some of the most fertile on the planet very shortly.
As we trekked the four and a half miles to the flow it was impossible not to notice the unbelievable amounts of steam which are coming off the mountain. The closer you got the more steam you could see the lava’s route as wound it’s way down the mountain in a silvery, viscous river down to the cliff edge. The red of the lava only being revealed once the black top had cracked or been split by the sheer weight and heat of the rock inside of it.
By far the most spectacular scene was seeing the lava rivers running down into the ocean. Especially as when the water hits the lava it doesn’t solidify straight away it stays molten, red and seemingly volatile as the water immediately hits boiling point and turns to steam. The red glow of the lava creating a red mist rising up the cliff toward the many onlookers.
As darkness descended the glow of the rock only became more apparent and the oppressive oven temperature heat the lava was giving off only felt hotter.
We started to head home, our heads filled with the mesmerising images of moving lava, and the knowledge that if that was coming towards your home all you really could do is run. We got back to the road only to find the lava river had moved. It was coming across the road. The problem was the bikes which people had left there, probably many hours earlier, were now going to be engulfed by molten rock. Unfortunately, these people had locked their bikes to the post they were leaning on and there was no way we could move them. I didn’t hang around long enough to see what happened next. I hope the owners returned and moved their bikes before the lava moved too close.
And so we walked, back to our car and back to safety from what is emblazoned in my mind as a red hot open air oven which could cook us in seconds. The hike is worth every second, although taking at least a litre of water each is an absolute must! I feel we will probably never see lava again so taking this opportunity whilst we were in this time zone was a necessity to our trip.