No trip to the Big Island of Hawaii would be complete without a glimpse of the Kilauea Volcano. I had visions of heading there twice, once on our own and the second time via a Tour to take photos of the Lava Sea Entry. I found out that they open the road at around 5pm and close it at 8pm. Since we were staying in Kona that is a 3 hour drive to the West side of the Island in the dark on a narrow road. It was better to let someone else do the driving. Then I thought to myself why worry about the narrow road in the dark, I'll just drive slower or follow another car's tail-lights. Then I decided to do it all ourselves and just leave early with the plan of arriving back at our home base around mid-night if need be. Little did I know that there would be forces beyond our control to foil our best thought out plans. All I could think of was those lava pictures with the flaming ribbons of fire entering the ocean. I brought my tripod and had my trusty Canon G10 by my side. Hawaii is twice as big as all the other Hawaiian Islands combined. There is one road which circumnavigates its way all around the Island, with one questionable road about a third of the way from the top (Saddle Road) , which is forbidden to take rental cars on. The plan was to take the southern route East, then the northern route Westbound back to Kona. Give or take half an hour, it is around 3 hours each way. We finally find ourselves at the boundary of the Park
It was an uneventful drive except for the fact that I have to stop at all viewpoints and take detours down every interesting road, or snap photos of signs and other unusual things. Needless to say the 3 hour drive turned into a 5+ hour drive. If there is not much room on the shoulder of the road to stop safely, then I don't
We stop at the first viewpoint to catch our first view of the crater. It is spewing out a sulphur cloud. The wind has change direction and now it was headed our way. Not hard to breathe but when you do it makes you cough
I noticed this Harley rider & passenger earlier. What luck to find his bike here so I could take a photo of it. In the more populated areas around Kailua-Kona I notice a lot of scooters but few bikes and what bikes I see are mostly rentals from tourists such as ourselves.
I also notice that this is a World Heritage Site
We finally make it to the main viewpoint, closest to the crater
There are warning signs everywhere warning you of the bad air quality, especially for old people like us
Some smaller tour groups arrive and we are soon surrounded by tourists taking photos of the sulphur cloud spewing from the crater. Soon we are all coughing and have to retreat inside the Thomas A Jaggar Museum where the doors are closed and the air conditioning ON.
After about 10 minutes our coughing subsides and we think we are brave enough to go back out and snap a few more photos only to find the Overlook CLOSED .
I mosey over to the caution tape and see the Park Ranger taking air quality measurements
We chat for a few moments and I ask if I can take his photo, so he poses for me
He told me he "I smiled for the camera" . I looked at him and said I noticed and thanked him .
The upper rim road goes to the Jaggar Museum and they have CLOSED the Chain of Craters Road at this point
With no access further down and no lava entry there were no photos to be had. Also the Sulphur cloud made for a very misty day, which was getting worse by the minute and the coughing was starting again. We thought best to be heading down the hill up to Hilo for some sightseeing.
(Final glimpse of Kilauea before we depart)
We get further down the Volcano and noticed this
We stop to chat with the Ranger and he told us that they monitor the air quality continuously. I forget the actual units of measurement but it goes something like this. The put out a RED alert as soon as it is 1,000. parts/million (PPM). At 1,000 PPM it is well within the safely limits of humans, as far as breathing the air goes, but during the past hour it peaked at 8,000. PPM and was currently 4,500. PPM . The rule is if the reading remains over 1,000 PPM for an hour, then they close access to the Volcano. We found out later that access to the Volcano was closed all day Sunday, which was originally the day we had planned to visit here. We did get to visit but were very disappointed not to come home with some ocean entry ribbons of fire photos.