Volcanoes 🌋 are cool! 

Well, some of them are actually still quite hot.

After our grueling backpacking trip to Waimanu, it was time to head south to the Volcanoes National Park.

At the visitor center, we got a recommendation on a place to see an active lava flow. To make it even more fun, we could rent a bike and ride it to the lava viewing spot!

Without thinking, we rushed to that magical place (well, a lot of people got displaced by lava flowing through their homes in a village nearby… So it has mostly dark magic). The drive was about 1.5 hours from the visitor center. On our way there were multiple signs that lava viewing was from 3pm to 9pm. So exciting! Until the bike rental guy reminded us that it was only 2:30 pm. Hm… He also brought up a point that during the day lava didn’t look that interesting, just a bunch of smoke. The best time to observe it would be just after sunset. Basically, we had 3.5 hours to kill far from the park. Again, the bike rental guy came to our rescue with a fun suggestion: there was a good snorkeling place not too far. Great! All we needed was a snorkel… 40 minutes of driving to an appropriate store, 40 minutes in the store picking the equipment and buying food, then another 40 minutes to the snorkeling place, 40 minutes to snorkel, and just enough time to get back to the bike rental guy. We didn’t plan this very well… But we managed it all!

Lava is fascinating. You can keep staring at its unique shapes and forms for hours and still find it interesting.

The bike ride took us around 30 minutes on a gravel road to a spot from which you can see this

It got better as the oncoming darkness highlighted the heat of lava

Supposedly, we could have gone closer from the other side inside the park, but by the time we figured it out, there was not enough time left in our trip (it would take us almost 6-7 hours to get to the other spot from the visitor center). Oh well… I usually spend hours planning this type of vacation. But this time we decided to be more relaxed and go with the flow. I’d say there are pros and cons in both approaches. Not seeing lava from up close was the con :-/
Biking back in the dark was my favorite part of the experience. Cooled lava was glowing in the dark and provided plenty of food for my imagination.

Wearing headlamps helped as well

Overall, I’d say lava viewing at Kalapana was an amusing experience. And not only because of the molten lava flow, but also because of the flourishing tourist infrastracture built around it. There were shabby cabins with mini gardens and crooked shacks with fruit stands built on cooled lava fields inviting tourists to check them out. We didn’t. Instead, I observed and pondered: why would anyone want to live in a tiny shack on an uneven rocky field under an excruciatingly unforgiving sun?

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