The next day, in the bright sunshine, we set off to explore more of the park. The visitors’ centre gives detailed information about the history of the island which only exists because of the volcanic activity. We walked through a lava tube - a cylindrical cave formed by former lava flows. Then we commenced our hike. The clearly marked Kilauea Iki Rim hike starts with narrow paths through forest to the floor of the frozen crater. Reaching the barren expanse of black lava rock is extraordinary. The shapes of the lava flows make weird shapes and patterns. Walking across the bottom of the crater gave us a sense of scale, we were tiny figures in an enormous bowl of eroded rock.
We spent the rest of the day exploring Chain of Craters Road. The clue is in the name, there are loads of former craters to view from the road which winds through old lava flows. We hiked for another couple of kilometres to view an area of petroglyphs- drawings made by generations of indigenous Hawaiians by scratching away the top layer of lava rock. The road ends at the ocean where we could see a naturally occurring sea arch formed by the battering waves. The changing landscape in just a few miles of road is remarkable, and the weather that does with the volcano is quickly changeable.
We topped off our intrepid day with a meal at Lava House - a lodge in the park. We were lucky enough to have a crater-view table, and could gaze at the glowing crater as we ate.
Hawaii is truly unique. There are so many trails to explore in the National Park including campsites to stay at overnight. You can’t visit the Big Island without experiencing this special place and it’s awesome display of nature’s power. And we weren’t finished with it yet.
Hiking for an hour and a half back, using head torches in the complete blackness, was tough. Thanks to gps and iPhones we rejoined our banana bikes and with tired legs cycled back. Dust from the gravel road stuck to sweaty faces on the mostly up hill journey and it was such a relief to see the lights of the bike hire stalls. The effort increased the awesomeness of our achievement. Our intrepid and adventurous expedition meant we had seen actual lava flowing from the earth. Truly unforgettable.