Tuesday, September 27, 2016

'Āina a ke akua i noho ai... Land Where the Goddess Dwells (The Volcano Part 1)


'Āina a ke akua i noho ai - these words are the title of the pamphlet you receive when you visit Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, home to two of the world's most active volcanoes, Kīlauea and Mauna Loa. Both volcanoes still add land to the Island of Hawai'i, and according to recent rumours I have heard there are attempts that this new land shall not be considered American soil. I thought this highly interesting.

Let me quote the introducing paragraph from the National Park's pamphlet:
"Volcanoes are monuments to Earth's origin, evidence that primordial forces are still at work. Volcanic eruptions remind us that our planet is ever-changing, with its basic processes beyond human control. As much as we have altered Earth's face to suit our needs, we can only stand in awe before the power of an eruption."

In awe... it's not only eruption, but the entire volcano by itself. Visiting Kīlauea with its active crater, its lava flow and fumes, the lava tunnels and ancient petroglyphs kept me constantly in awe. When I hear someone mentioning "Hawai'i" I automatically think "Kīlauea".

Kīlauea - often called the "drive-in volcano because it is so user friendly - is right on the flanks of Mauna Loa and is not visible from anywhere on the island. You constantly wonder where that mountain is, even when you're right there. When you get up the mountain and enter the National Park the first thing you see is the huge caldera at an altitude of 4000 feet. You can see it in the image above, and this is not even half of it. The crater is Halema'uma'u Crater, actually a crater within a crater (Kīlauea Crater). This is the home of Pele, the Hawai'ian volcano goddess. The crater is steaming and has a lava lake that has risen and fallen over time.

One of the best views of the crater you have from the Jagger Museum, and that is as close as you get (the photo above was taken with a zoom lens). The road beyond is closed and it is no longer possible to take the Crater Rim Drive because of the nasty gases Halema'uma'u started spewing in 2008.

When you look toward the crater you will notice that the caldera is very much alive. Do you see the bits of steam coming out of the ground in the picture below? It's hot there!

Just along the Crater Rim Trail you can get close to the Steam Vents - only a fence will prevent you from getting too close. It is fascinating to look in there and feel the heat that is coming out of Earth.

The entire region was shrouded in steam, giving it a misty look - it was magical and mysterious. It was nature at work, the ground you were standing on boiling in its depth - fascinating.

The National Park is open all day and all night. On the second night we drove to the overlook at Jaggar Museum again and saw the magical glow of the lava lake - I can't even put in words how fascinating this was. What did the pamphlet say about awe?

It was cold, it was raining, but nothing could persuade me to leave this sight after only a few minutes. This was too good to be true. It was a full moon as well, and this was the first time in my life that I saw a moonbow. I tried to take a picture of it - well, that didn't work.

But I was able to include the fence at the rim of the caldera - and will link to Theresa's Good Fences!

Recently Madame Pele has raised her head again - or, to be more accurate, she raised the lava lake in Halema'uma'u. Early in September the lava lake rose and started to splash and slosh inside the crater. You can see a video of it here - it's fascinating! The Pu'u' Ō'ō vents are very active as well, and the lava flow from there has reached the ocean. Madame Pele certainly wants to make a statement again - beyond human control, and we can only stand in awe!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

She's Gone


On Sunday we moved Kaefer into her dorm at UC Davis. Of course it was the hottest day - and hot at the edge of the Central Valley means really hot.

The move in was very well organized. We were there shortly before eight in the morning (yes, we left home early), she checked in, got her key, and when the residence halls opened at eight we started to unload the car. There were special unloading zones for each hall and each student got 20 minutes assigned to unload. We made it in about 22 minutes! I found a parking lot close by, and then we could start putting her things away, making her bed and decorating her room.

Her roommate hadn't arrived yet which was good since it would have been a bit crowded with two students and their parents, trying to get some order in the unpacking chaos. She arrived later in the afternoon when Kaefer was pretty much done. They have both met through the Davis Freshman Facebook page and over the summer in person when Kaefer invited her to her graduation party. I think they will be fine.

Kaefer is very lucky that she already knows a few other students, and that day I met another girl from her high school who lives on the same floor. In the afternoon one of her friends came by - she had a flat tire, and luckily we were still around so the Geek could give them a first lesson in independence: how to change a bike tire. It's a good thing to have a handy dad!

We finally left in the early afternoon when we had the feeling that Kaefer was settled in a bit and there really wasn't much more to do. To say that our good bye was easy would be a lie; but at least I managed not to cry. That happened later.

The first day without her was hard, especially in the morning. I always used to go into her room to say good morning, and sometimes we would chat a little bit, sometimes not. But yesterday morning there was only an empty room and I felt very very sad. The morning was just weird. I walked around like in a cloud, and my heart was aching. Fortunately I had a teacher meeting later in the morning and that turned out to be a good thing. The meeting lasted for almost three hours, and afterwards I went to one of my favorite nurseries. It was so hot, however, that I didn't stay long, but still managed to get a few plants that will look beautiful in my garden.

Even though I am still sad I've found my center again. I was happily knitting yesterday evening, sitting on the couch and listening to Native American music, feeling quite content. Kaefer and I had texted each other off and on throughout the day and I knew she was doing fine, but didn't like the heat. She was biking around campus, trying to find out where her classes will take place. Classes start on Wednesday.

I love her and I miss my goofy girl, but I am also so very happy for her. It's bittersweet.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Avocado Tree House

In my first Hawai'i post I mentioned that for the first few days we were living in a tree house near Pāhoa - its name was Avocado Tree House and it was built in and around a mature avocado tree. It actually is the hosts' children's old tree house. When they were grown up, their parents decided to expand it and make a vacation rental out of it.

The old tree house is now the "meditation room" that you can reach over a very steep stair-ladder.

The view from up there is magnificent. Unfortunately the windows don't have any screens, so we weren't really able to spend much time up there in the evenings.

The house itself has all the basics that we needed but nothing fancy. There was a big bed for us, a little living area and a loft bed for Kaefer. Many windows all around that were open all the time (these have screens) with a large window to the east with a wonderful view as well.

There was a lot of art in and outside the house. Some of them were bought at local markets and some were made by Hugh, the owner. I especially liked the gecko and was quite happy when I found a smaller version on a market that I could take home.

When you got out of the house through the back door you reached the bathroom section. A wash basin right where the tree is and to the side the toilet. Kind of in the middle of the jungle.

This was the view from the toilet... (I never thought I would post something like this!)

You pretty much just had to reach out your hand and pick avocados. They were literally growing into our mouth (while we were brushing our teeth). I enjoyed this so very much!

And I wasn't the only one who enjoyed this lovely and unique place!

Oh - you probably want to know whether we had a bit more than this gorgeous bathroom for our personal hygiene - of course we had! There was a fully functioning outdoor shower, on the way to the kitchen.

Every morning when I went to take a shower I saw this on my way there:

Can you imagine being greeted like this every morning (you also have to add all the birds that were very active here)?

The kitchen was in a different building right next to the tree house. The kitchen itself was well equipped and had everything we needed. There was a balcony in front of it where we always sat to have our breakfast. We could see the ocean from here. It was my personal slice of heaven.

The Avocado Tree House is part of a huge organic farm, and Elvira and Hugh, the owners and our hosts, provided us with fresh fruit every day (plus organic eggs, butter, Kona coffee etc.). My favorite was the white pineapple that you get only here (it cannot be shipped). It is soooo sweet and very low acidic.

Our breakfast company - Gold Dust Day Geckos - liked it as well.

There was also a porch at the front entrance of the tree house. We mainly dried our snorkeling items here and hung our towels to dry, but seldom sat here. We liked the kitchen balcony a little bit better. However, sitting out here in the evening drinking Mai Tais with friends would be really nice.

There was so much vegetation on this farm - it was incredible. The Royal Poinciana was my favorite tree. The reddish-orange flowers were gorgeous.

This was the best vacation rental we had in Hawai'i. It set the bar very high. If you're ever looking for a place near Pāhoa - close to the Volcano, lava flow, water falls and some awesome snorkeling - and like a quiet and unique place, you can find it on Airbnb.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Coconut Fence

While on Maui we drove down Makena Road out to the Lava Fields when we saw three women by the roadside selling fresh fruit. We stopped and bought a pineapple that was so delicious and sweet - you never get it like this here on the mainland. One of the women prepared it for us right there.

It does look good, doesn't it?

While we were resting there eating our chunks of pineapple and almost getting delirious over it, I looked around a bit and noticed this fence with the coconuts on the posts. I don't like the taste of coconuts, but I like how they look, and I thought they made darn good fence posts.

They do remind a little bit of skulls, don't you think?

Certainly they are good fences - and so I link up to Theresa's blog! Thank you for visiting.

Sunday, September 4, 2016


Near Pāhoa


That is the first word that comes to my mind when I think about the place where we just spent our family vacation, the beautiful Islands of Hawai'i - the Big Island and Maui. Two weeks, while spending in a part of the US, felt so far away from the "mainland" (this is how the US is called in Hawai'i) that we didn't get any news or new scandals and we never tried to. It was so easy to stay away from it all and just immerse in this paradise that we felt completely relaxed.

There are so many memories!

One of the best was staying in a tree house for a few days - a house built around and in an old avocado tree. It was pure magic - you can't get closer to nature than this without the comfort of a real roof above your head.

The jungle was right there, and so was our breakfast company - Gold Dust Day Geckos who - and I hope you will believe this - did NOT try to sell us car insurance but used their 15 minutes to lick up the white pineapple juice from our plates.

I ate so much pineapple like never before in my life - and it never tasted that good. On the Big Island, while staying in the Avocado Tree House, we were introduced to organic white pineapple by our hosts who owned an organic farm. I didn't even know of the existence of white pineapple, lest have ever eaten them. They were so delicious. Our hosts provided at least one of them for us every day and when we had to leave they gave us three more for the road.

We visited Kilauea and fell in love with this active volcano. So much to see and do here! Most people just come up here to have a brief look at the crater - it's often called the "drive-thru volcano", but there is so much more - Kilauea will make its appearance in this blog later!!!

We were enormously lucky that there was some lave flow, and after a long and strenuous hike we could see the glowing lava plunging into the ocean with sizzle and steam - fascinating, amazing and unforgettable. It was worth my badly hurting feet by the end of the hike (8.5 mile round trip).

Hawai'i has some incredible birds like this Erckel Francolin we discovered by the side of one of the smaller roads within Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Of course there are by far more birds in the jungle/rainforest, and they usually woke us with a symphony every morning before dawn that was out of this world.

There were Banyan trees that look like they're from a different time...

Kīpahulu District, Haleakalā National Park, Maui

... bamboo forests...

Kīpahulu District, Haleakalā National Park, Maui

... and, of course, a large number of waterfalls.

'Akaka Falls, Big Island

The world of plants is incredible, full of color, and I had no idea what most of these trees, shrubs and flowers were. This is a Ohi'a Lehua, which is the most common native tree in Hawai'i that grows in a variety of habitats. We saw it in lush surroundings as well as growing out of a rough ground of lava.

We saw the world from above the clouds when we drove up to the summit of Haleakalā, the now inactive volcano on Maui. This mountain often looks like being in the clouds when you see it from below, but the summit more often than not is out of the clouds which makes for some gorgeous views. When you look through the clouds you can sometimes see planes flying BELOW you!

We met the ancient world of Hawai'i that was full of fascination (and perhaps not that ancient after all), often right next to a beautiful bay where you could snorkel and see some Green Sea Turtles resting on the lava rocks.

Pu'uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park

The Geek and Kaefer decided to learn how to paddle board while I was taking pictures of them and enjoying a morning walk along the beach in Lahaina, Maui.

And of course there were sandy beaches with palm trees waving in the breeze, Hula dancers and gorgeous sunsets!

This was just a very short and very incomplete overview of our time in Hawai'i. I certainly will write more about it and show you tons of pictures. I first need to get organized a bit more - this is a busy time since Kaefer leaves for college in two weeks and I'm in the process of applying for a part time job while also getting ready for my teaching job - next Saturday marks the beginning of the German School year.