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Hawaii : Volcanoes National Park I - Kilauea

With three active volcanoes and a geological history dating (at least) 70 million years, the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is an ideal destination for hiking & camping apart from being the only Unesco World Heritage Site of Hawaii.

These Volcanoes are all active. Amazing on one hand, but may turn dangerous provided you don't get the right information before starting to walk. Always start your visit at the Kilauea Visitor Center where they will kindly update you on which trails are open and recommend a route, based on your availability in terms of time, attire & physical condition.

As we are into walking (I even bought those fugly shoes to protect my toes from scratches), we picked Kīlauea to start with. This shield volcano is the most active of the five volcanoes in the island of Hawaiʻi.

What is a shield volcano? Why do we care at all? Well, it turns out that these type of volcanoes lack the explosive gases of the dramatic (read : deadly) strato volcanoes that throw ash & flaming rocks into the air. This makes it possible to hike around the caldera (even while its eruption is still ongoing) and to chase their lava flows (something we will experience later on).

Next, some imagery on the Kilauea Iki Trail. 6km loop around the crater, perfect morning trail.

Caldera view, from the trailhead.

The terrain around the crater is impressively fertile.

Gases & forests.

Stones that mark the safe way.

In Hawaiian mythology, Pele is the goddess of fire, lightning, wind, and volcanoes. However, she is her creative power, passion, purpose, and profound love. So we are basically entering her cribs, at the Halemaʻumaʻu crater. It's interesting to hear that every incident with a volcanic eruption in Hawaii it is said to be Pele's way of expressing her longing to be with her true love or to claiming back what she created.

The ground was cracked, as if we were waling on giant pieces of dry mud. Desert & windy, dark & sunny, it's an environment you hardly get to see anywhere.

Impressed by the strength of Nature.

Of course, gases kept coming out… Remember, the eruption IS ongoing since 1983.

Life, always finds the way through.

Last view… And back up to the greenery surrounding the hotspot.

Taking the Kilauea Iki Trail anticlock-wise has a clear advantage as one gets through the Thurston Lava Tube right after climbing up from the crater. Several hundred years ago a river of red lava rushed through. At the moement, that lava currently travels from Pu'u O'o to the ocean in a labyrinth of lava tubes much like this one.

The way a lava tube works reminds a lot of a frozen lake. The upper layer solidifies and isolates the liquid flowing underneath, so it remains warmer than the surface. In Stockholm, this means ice-skating on the lake- In Hawaii, it turns into lava flowing through a huge underground pipe.

These tubes can become rather large - we got to hike through a segment of a 60km long one - but the rock of some areas may be unstable, so access is rather limited.

Interior of the tube… Can you imagine? Hot Lava running through it...

Exterior of the tube, amazing tropical greenery.

Last view of the crater, right before getting a peep on what made the surface look like it does, back in 1959!


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