It’s dark already when I start climbing the slopes of Kīlauea in my car, heavy clouds hanging low and soon making the use of headlights more or less useless. I probably won’t see what I’m coming for. Oh boy, if I only knew back then that I was going to get so much more than what I even only dared to hope for.
The road seems endless in the fog and mild rain. The jungle feels like if it was closing in on me, trying to swallow my car and destroy any evidence that I’ve ever existed. Is this really where I’m supposed to drive? I almost start doubting my sense of direction but then, bam. The thickest fog is gone and in the sky to the South,… no. Oh, no, no, no. That can’t be it. This is not real, oh no. My brain doubts the correctness of whatever information my eyes are sending in to be processed.
The sky is glowing with dark deep red.
I’m so overwhelmed by that sight, so beyond the meaning of the word “wonder”, that my head refuses to fully process it (which is probably a good thing otherwise I’d most likely crush my car), and instead of waves of bewilderment sends a bit sarcastically sounding message:
“I didn’t know the end of the world was so near. If I knew, I’d tell you to go raid some ice cream place while in Hilo today.”
“Oh, shut up!” I answer as the cup with a tag saying “astonishment” starts to fill and my brain cannot help it.
Yes, I have internal dialogs with my brain all the time.
I can’t continue driving without risking the safety of myself and basically anyone on the road and within a fifty-meters radius around it so I turn towards the Steam Vents parking and stop the car.
The rain is getting a bit stronger now. Armed with my jacket and a headlamp, I head towards the rim of the crater from here. The light from the headlamp reflects in the steam which seems much thicker than during the day. If there’s some mythical creature either waiting to devour me or trying to hide from me, it’s pretty easy for them for I cannot see five feet in front of me. Thanks god the trail is easily visible and followable otherwise I’d end up getting lost and probably falling into a pool of lava (well, not lava but falling somewhere for sure).
The sky (the clouds) is unreal. I still can’t believe what I’m seeing but it’s getting to me with every second. (Well, to be honest, even now when I’m writing it, it still probably hasn’t fully gotten to me yet – and I’m not sure it ever will.) I’m in some other world, I’m in one of my beloved books. I can’t explain this otherwise – what I’m seeing simply cannot exist in the same world where I go to work and shop for groceries.
I just stand there for a few quiet minutes, completely alone at the edge of the crater, trying to comprehend.
Fighting my way back through the ubiquitous steam, I get to my car and drive towards the Jaggar Museum where I’m supposed to get even better view. (Is that even possible?)
And, oh my, it is as unbelievable as it gets. The clouds are not longer dark red but the lava illuminates them with this bright blood-like red colour which then somehow reflects even on my skin.
This place’s got only one fault – there’s quite a lot people. And so I walk down a dark path, thankful for my headlamp, away from the museum. When I can see the crater again while being almost alone – save for one other person as unreachable as me – it feels like if I walked somewhere much farther than just a few hundred yards.
And it so happens that at this time, this very time when I’m away from the crowd, hearing only the wind again, the fog clears a bit, opening a small window between me and the glowing lava and I can see it; the eruption. I am here at this very point in our time, when it happens and almost unable to believe it.
The red turns into orange, then almost-yellow as goddess Pele herself decides it’s time to put on a show. The light and colours shift and move and dance right in front of my eyes, the volcano as alive as me and you (unless you’re a ghost and reading over someone’s shoulder – although for all I know in that case you might be even more alive than me). A gust of wind brings the heat all the way to my face as if the mountain was saying “hi”.
Unbelievable. Impossible. But it seems that my whole life is full of “impossible” things actually revealing themselves as being possible.
I can only stand there and stare, the tap-tap of the rain on the hood of my jacket getting stronger, my feet wet and cold. One single tree is refusing to give up; the last frontier separating me and the ardent part of earth. I snap a picture here and there but don’t really know what I’m doing. My eyes have lost the ability to look anywhere else than into the boiling redness, my other senses barely knowing what’s going on in my immediate surrounding. I am here but at the same time I am everywhere and nowhere. I’m right in the crater, and I cannot leave.
The previous Searching-the-Aloha article is HERE.
The next one is waiting for you right HERE.
And have a day full of wonder! 🙂
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