I remember sitting in one of the travel-themed pubs in Warsaw and listening to a story about volcanoes in Indonesia. Never ever would I though then that the volcanoes will be haunting us in this trip.
Just before leaving Poland, Mt Agung on Bali woke up and scared tourists to the point of many airlines cancelling flights to the island. There was a no-go zone around the mountain and thousands evacuated. Till the last moment before our departure we were not decided whether to go or not. Finally instead of going to Amed (to be potentially cut off from civilization should the volcano erupt) we went to Canggu. Of course nothing bad happened and later on we also visited Bromo and Ijen volcanos on Java (the latter still being one of trip highlights according to Szymon). We also saw Merapi while staying in Yogyakarta and the website of Indonesian geology institute became our daily news.
On Philippines we saw smoke over Canlaos and then a lake in the crater of Mt Pinatubo. In Japan, no volocano activity but hotsprings and one earthquake which woke up Wojtek in the middle of the night served as a proper replacement.
And finally Hawaii, which are basically all volcano craters. Dormant or active – whatever you like. Upon arrival it turned out that Kilauea volcano woke up (or rather became more awake because it remains constantly active since 1983). There is a Volcano National Park and if you are lucky you can hike to see lava very close (do not poke lava with a stick as the signs say). The power of mass media is amazing and even being few hundred kilometrs from Kilauea we started to get calls from home asking if we are safe and still alive.
And so we arrived to The Big Island of Hawai’i (this is where Kilauea is). Neither from Kona (the place of the original Iron Man contest) nor from Hilo could we see or hear the volcano. I subscribed for local emergency notification system so I could observe how local government deals with the situation. And they were doing great. Of course they announced evacuation from area to be directly impacted by lava flows and closed roads. Almost real time they were sending notifications on new fissures and whether they spit lava or maybe just send plumes of ash or only smoke. When it gets quieter, people come back to their homes if not there are shelters, gas masks, etc. They maintain law and order and pick up those who try to sneak into restricted access zone because there are always some who try to steal from abandoned properties. After a week of relative stabilization there is another eruption with ash clouds and the air starts to smell sulphur. As we are not sure whether the airport will remain open, we reschedule our flight and leave the island one day earlier.
Still an active volcano is only a part of this amazing island. On top of legends of Goddess Pele inhabiting Kilauea, there are beaches – white, black, sandy, rocky, whatever you like. Water as if painted, turtles, mantas, dolphins and a ton of smaller creatures. There are petroglyphs in the middle of what looks like a savannah. There is magnificient Mauna Kea, where you can move from sea level to over 4000m in 2 hours and enjoy snow, frost, star telescopes and sometimes also altitude sickness. There are waterfalls, valleys covered with tropical jungle – banyan trees, hibiscuses, crotons and other plants which in Poland grow on a window pane and here are big as trees.
I was sceptic going there but Hawaii sneakily won my heart. I will come back to the Big Island, see stars from the top of Mauna Kea, see lava flowing into the ocean, the whales and the mantas.
PS. If you would like to see the volcano eruption really close, get a sneak peak into living next to it and what local people think about it, see “Aloha from lavaland”. Great movie. Makes you think.