Big Island, a reunion - My 2nd Hawaii trip


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The lava adventure is calling!

My wanderlust and also the enthusiasm of my good friend Nico and his girlfriend Fela lead me to get on the plane again in 2009. In the meantime I have informed myself a bit better at home and read a lot about the Hawaiian volcanoes and also about Fire goddess Pelewhich is still wreaking havoc there. Their early home was the over 3000 meters high Haleakala crater on Maui.

With an extension of 49 km² it is the largest volcanic crater on earth.

Pele has been expelled there by her sister Namaka, the goddess of water, and since then lives in the Halemaumau crater on Big Island.

Although I already know the national park superficially, I am full of excitement when we drive past the park's entrance sign. We spend the night again in the Volcano Hale and get there from a couple the tip par excellence. Looking for lava inside the park has no sense at the momentthey tell us. We would have to go to Kalapana, where liquid lava flows into the sea. On a small digicam they show us their experiences of the last night. I look at my friends uneasiness, but insist on visiting the small fishing village at night to hopefully experience similar natural spectacles. So we leave around 3:00 a.m. in the direction of Kalapana.

After an hour drive we reach the former fishing villagethat almost completely fell victim to the lava in the early nineties. We park at the end of the road, which was also buried here under Pele's eruptions. It is pitch dark and raining. Nevertheless, we set off with flashlights and can see in the haze the red columns of smoke from the "Ocean Entries" recognize.

At the Ocean Entries, molten magma pours out of the underground lava tube into the sea.

This creates a bombastic column of smoke and there are always small explosions when sea water flows into the lava tubes. Suddenly, out of nowhere, we encounter a small white dog on the lava field. We are worried that he might belong to a ranger who makes his rounds at night to chase away adventurous tourists.

The dog, however, remains alone and disappears after a short time from the cones of our flashlights, roaming the black lava fields all alone until the darkness swallows him. Excitedly we walk on towards the column of smoke, the old lava crunching under our feet. Between the cooled lava chunks has formed Volcanic ash accumulated. You walk like on raw eggs and we get slight panic, we do not know where the underground sewer system is. This makes the whole thing very uncomfortable.

About 300 meters in front of us the molten lava hissing into the Pacific Ocean. We decide not to go closer and rather continue to the next Ocean Entry, which seems more sympathetic to us because of the smaller column of smoke. Far distant lights in the darkness suggest another village on the coast. However, as daylight reveals a few hours later, these were small lava eruptions on the surface. The rain subsides and it clears up. It is also slowly getting brighter and we feel a little safer. As the sun rises, the old lava turns golden in the sunlight.

big island travelogue Big Island
florian krauss lavaflow Big Island
lava flow into the sea big island Big Island

A fantastic sight.

Nico has thought of sausages and so we put our breakfast in a hot lava crevice to eat charred hot dogs at the lava flow at half past six in the morning 🙂 I shoot countless photos and discover not far from the cliffs something shimmering between the lava rocks. It feels like Metal chipbut consists of thin threads of volcanic glass formed from lava during basaltic volcanic eruptions. Gone with the wind and long, the threads resemble human hair, which is why they are named after Pele. I feel very close to the goddess, my comrades-in-arms can only half share my enthusiasm.

faeden volcanic glass pele Big Island

I would have liked to see the small eruptions on the surface, but they are difficult to find in the increasing light. We orient ourselves by the helicopters flying tourists over active lava fields.

However, the lava field is so large, 140 km², that it is difficult to search for lava on foot. By the heat flickering and small columns of smoke rising from the lava field, one can see the underground Lava Tube guess. But when the rising sulfuric acid finally makes our eyes and nose itch, we turn around. One should not inhale too much of these toxic fumes. In the meantime the sun is quite high in the sky and we only now see the extent of this huge lava field.

Only black around us, with single ferns or Ohia treesthat have sought their place in the crevices of the lava. The palm trees and the rain forest from which we had come look the same everywhere. Where we have parked our car nobody knows exactly. So we wander around for some hours in the black wasteland without knowing exactly where our way leads us. When we finally arrive, exhaustion sets in and we fight over the passenger seats.

We have a long drive ahead of us. At a souvenir store, Fela buys a book of legends about Pele. She reads us a paragraph that makes us all shudder: Fire goddess Pele appears as an old woman, but near the crater takes the form of a young girl. She is accompanied by a small white dog...

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A night in the high seat - Kona Side

With Martin, Nico and Fela I stay overnight in 2010 in the middle of the jungle of Big Island. An acquaintance of Martin has created her own paradise there. Surrounded by colorful and lush fruit trees, whose harvest she sells at the weekly market in Kona, there is a round wooden pavilion, including kitchen, bedroom, TV corner and Wi-Fi.

Over muddy roads we reach the hippie commune at dusk. The mood is somewhat clouded because of the drizzle. Even otherwise, some things seem eerie. For example, a Rastafarian who spends the entire evening scratching his back with a large Y-shaped stick. Can too much marijuana cause itching?

Nevertheless, we have a funny evening and sleep in an oversized high seat. Up there are 3 shabby mattresses, all sides are open. Sleeping well is different. The next morning, however, is breathtaking. The morning sun bathes the green vegetation in a magical light. In the morning we stroll through Kailua-Kona, visit the small harbor, which is annually in the fall venue of the Ironman and treat ourselves to lunch in the beer garden of the Kona Brewery.

kona big island high seat big island

And so my second trip to Big Island ended and another island hopping to Kauai lay ahead of me. The Kalalau Trail was particularly challenging and I would like to share my experiences with you.

On to Kauai - The Kalalau Trail

The garden island is home to the Kalalau Trail one of the hardest, but also most beautiful Trekking trails of the world. Famous-notorious it seems. My poor father sits at home and accompanies me on Google Earth. As an experienced hiker, he gets quite sick at the sight of the narrow and steep paths and is very worried. However, I get this information only afterwards. Probably I would not have set out otherwise. Fears and hardships, but also a lot of magical experiences await me and my friends at the legendary Na Pali Coast.

Every time I visit the North Shore a few years later, I walk the first bit of the trail and always meet adventurous hikers there. So one day I take a hitchhiking couple from Haena Beach Park to the start of the trail. I can tell right away from their big backpacks that they will be walking the Kalalau Trail the next morning. "Is it tough?" the girl asks me uncertainly and I grin to myself. "It is," I reply. I climb a half mile and sit in the evening sun with cold Budweiser. There she is again... my beloved Na Pali Coast at sunset. Again and again, exhausted, sweaty and muddy Kalalau hikers meet me on their way back. They all ask me the same question: "How long is it to the start? My "Only 40 minutes" doesn't begin to reassure them. In the end, every minute is too much. The first thing that counts after this trail is a damn long shower, a good meal and a decent mattress.

Our preparation

So Martin, Dana, Nico, Fela, Mike and me start in April 2009 to a 5-day tour to paradise. We expect 11 miles along the coast, through untouched nature and steep, unsecured rock faces. No cell phone reception, no shower (but numerous waterfalls), no real bed, no electricity. No music, no alcohol, limited food and water from the numerous rivers along the trail. Each of us loaded with a backpack, over 10 kg. What goes into this backpack? Tent, sleeping bag, rain jacket, gas stove, flashlight, pocket knife, camera, suntan lotion, change of clothes, food for 5 days. Also, sterilization tablets. To take enough liquid with you for just under a week is impossible. The water contaminated by mountain goats is tapped from rivers or waterfalls, purified with tablets and refined with raspberry effervescent powder. Otherwise it tastes very much like chemicals. Warm anyway. And it is always warm on this trail. Sounds hard. It is. But doable.

On the Kalalau you learn for life. Whoever masters this trail, masters the rest of his existence.

The compensation of the hardships is untouched nature, a dream beach, even a waterfall, which is used as a shower with fresh mountain water. One meets there sporadically petty criminals, hippies and stoners who live several weeks or months in this valley. But all of them are more than peaceful, helpful and anything but criminals. They are safe from the police in Kalalau Valley.

The evening before seems extremely sobering. A last overnight stay in the tent at the dreamlike Haena Beach. A last sandwich, a last beer, the bedtime is set by Martin at 21:00. He knows what he is talking about. He's been down this road twice before.

Kalalau Trail - We start!

The next morning is dreamlike. I wake up with excitement already at 5:00 and enjoy the colorful sunrise. Slowly, my friends also crawl out of their tents. We pack up and drive to Kee Beach, a few miles away, where our tour starts at 6:30 in the morning. The nervousness rises. Are we fit enough? Are the hiking boots well broken in? How will the weather be? During the heavy rain showers that occur almost every day, the ground turns into mud, small rivers grow into rushing brown streams within minutes. The islanders then talk about "flush flood".

Hiking Kauai Kalalau Trail Big Island

The path goes steeply uphill from the beginning and, due to the many stones and boulders, resembles more a scree slope than a comfortable hiking trail. The backpack is extremely heavy. I tighten the waist belt and the weight hangs on my hips. Nevertheless, after the first quarter of an hour, signs of fatigue are already spreading. The sweat flows in streams. The humid morning heat constantly forces us to take short breaks to replenish our fluids. We are overtaken by a well-trained hippie with a bare upper body, surfboard in one hand, water bottle in the other. No clothes to change into, no tent, no food. With only flip-flops on his feet, he masters the path at a pace as if he were on the run.

After the first half mile then finally a small reward. One has a wonderful view over Kee Beachwhich shines in the sun below us. The lagoon with turquoise water is breathtaking. After 2 hours and an arduous descent, the first stage is finally done: Hanakapiai Beach. This beach is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and lonely beaches in the Hawaiian Islands. However, he is due to the Waves and treacherous undercurrents extremely dangerous. A wooden sign points out the annually increasing number of fatalities. We tap fresh water in Hanakapiai Stream and eat a snack. It's a mystery to me how I'm supposed to manage a good four times the distance we've covered so far. But Martin pushes us on, we have a tight schedule.

The path leads us again and again uphill and downhill through green valleys and small rivers. Other hikers are rarely encountered here, as the rest of the trail can only be walked with a permit from the State of Hawaii. Around 13.00 o'clock we reach Hanakoa Valley. From there the big challenge of the tour begins. The path becomes narrower and narrower and stonier, not even 50 cm separate us from the cliffs that drop almost vertically to the sea. Wild mountain goats cross our path. A large rocky outcrop further on then the part of the trail that makes my breath catch. A short part of the trail without bushes, without scrub, only stone and slippery gravel. So we have to go unsecured through the middle of the rock wall, which has a slope of 50 degrees. I am completely exhausted and have a small panic attack. My knees are shaking, the fear sweat runs in my eyes, I'm worried that my heavy backpack could pull me into the abyss at the slightest gust of wind.

I'm already thinking of turning around, when Martin comes back and helps me through. "The balcony", as the most difficult part of the trail is calledto bring me safely to the others. Years later, I still have a sinking feeling in the stomach area when we take a boat trip on the Na Pali Coast on our honeymoon and I immediately recognize this spot from a safe distance. Another descent, another ascent and I am at my wits end. I slump down and wake up a few minutes later with a wet t-shirt on my forehead. Nevertheless, we still have 4 miles ahead of us, which I master more badly than right.

Sunset at Kalalau Beach

From Red Hill then only one mile to Kalalau Beachwhich we longingly see glittering like a mirage in the evening sun. A last descent through the forest, a last river to cross and we reach the paradise that welcomes us like a Garden of Eden. Colorful flowers, white fine sand, green overgrown rock walls, complete isolation. Kalalau Beach lies untouched and almost majestic in the valley, waves rolling in soulfully. Behind the beach, sharp-edged cliffs rise up and are lost in the clouds above us. It's a sight straight out of a science fiction movie. The flip-flop hippie has long since arrived and is surfing in the evening sun. I manage one more photo, then I sink into a 12-hour sleep just in time for sunset at half past six. Without food, which I would have had bitterly necessary. My friends have lovingly built the tent around me.

Kalalau Beach Kauai Big Island

The next morning I wake up at sunrise and have to collect myself before I realize where I am. My whole body feels broken. Shoulders, back, legs and feet are the worst affected. We nurse our sunburn with fresh juice from the leaves of the aloe vera plant. I sit down under the waterfall on the rock face and enjoy the cold, clear shower.

For two full days we live in tropical paradise, eating with gusto our bagged food, which with boiled water becomes a reasonably tasty meal.

Mike has carried a bottle of whiskey in his luggage. The disappointment can be seen on everyone's face. Couldn't he have brought a case of beer? So the whiskey is at least cold under our waterfall and unceremoniously collected limes from the jungle. In the evening we have Whiskey Sour. Necessity is the mother of invention.

The sun burns continuously the next day, so we spend most of the time in or under water, in the shade of the cliffs or in nearby caves. The pain in my joints and tendons has not disappeared even on the second day and I puzzle again how to make the way back. In the early evening, a rather surreal situation surprises us, disturbing our paradisiacal isolation. Out in the waves a boat stops with some young people who throw big black garbage bags into the waves. Are they polluters on a grand scale? The bags are slowly washed towards the beach, we still can't make out what's inside. As the boat crew struggles through the waves to pull the bags ashore, we can hardly believe our eyes. Inside the air-filled sacks are large jukeboxes, emergency generators and a DJ booth. Beach parties or not. But does loud techno music have to be in the Garden of Eden? The leader of the gang also turns out to be an arrogant, muscle-bound giant. We stay away from this inappropriate party fun and hear nothing from the beach section of the techno disciples thanks to the high cliffs.

When we wake up the next morning, they are long gone. Just in time for our departure, Peter opens his floodgates. Within 10 minutes we are wet to the skin. Climbing Red Hill only works on all fours because of the slippery red clay. Accordingly, we look muddy after a very short time. But it's fascinating how quickly a body gets used to such exertion. Happy to feel your own strength and endurance. An inserted break becomes even too long for me and I go on alone, with great fear to fall again to a panic attack in the "Balcony".

Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii Big Island

But the longer and faster I march, the less the fear. After walking alone for two hours, I decide to wait for my friends, hoping for moral support. Grinning, they reach me with the words, "You're still alive." Strange. Once you have overcome "The balcony", the place on the way back doesn't seem to exist anymore.

It is raining incessantly, nevertheless we march through the muddy jungle in high spirits. In the meantime, the small rivers have grown to chest-high streams, so we form a chain, so that no one is washed away when crossing. The sight of the river after the next climb is a blast. Like a huge red snake it makes its way through green lush vegetation.

The way back we master in 2 stages and reach our night quarters in the Hanakoa Valley. Our tent fits exactly between two trees. Sleep is actually out of the question. Sleeping bag, jackets and sweaters are soaked, under the tent floor large roots and stones and probably still wild boars, which creep on the search for food around our camp. We therefore stow our remaining food supplies high in the tree. The next morning I find a long forgotten last soaked pack of cigarettes in my soaked jacket. Especially Nico can hardly believe his luck. 10 cigarettes. 5 smokes. Half a day. Quite manageable. I calculate briefly and with a heavy heart have to make it clear to my friend that he is only entitled to 2 for the next few hours. He doesn't care. He smokes his supply away one after the other. We continue our way inspired, with the prospect of a damn long shower, a good meal and a decent mattress.

Shortly before the end, the sun finally comes out again and it is teeming with people. Although we were only in seclusion for quite a short time, this gathering of people seems to take some getting used to. With our heavy backpacks we are meanwhile faster than the day visitors of Hanakapiai Beach with their ridiculous hand luggage. Full of humility and recognition, they nod at us. "Sissies" we grin to ourselves and are proud to have outgrown ourselves. A quick look back along the coast. We've mastered it all. A sacred moment that almost brings tears to our eyes. I ask a passing couple about the way back. "How long is it to the start?" "Only 5 minutes" they answer me.

In the U.S. thriller "A perfect getaway," I review my experience at home and, because of the beauty of the Kalalau, can hardly believe that I walked it myself.

Photos (c) Florian Krauss

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