Guest Sharon Johnson and her husband are cruising again with HAL, this time on Zaandam’s 21-Day Collectors’ Voyage to Mexico and Hawaii. Sharon will chronicle their cruising experience for us on the blog. Enjoy!
Feb. 20, 2013:
This morning around 11 a.m., the Zaandam made its way to Hilo, Hawaii, which is our first stop in the Hawaiian Islands. We wanted to be on deck for our sail into Hilo as Kainoa, the Zaandam Location Guide, was going to narrate from the bridge. During his narration, Kainoa mentioned that the best view of the Big Island and Hilo would be from the bow. So Al and I headed for the bow area which is opened for guests during the sail-ins. Paki and Malia were out on the bow area dressed in welcoming regalia. Paki performed the Hawaiian welcoming chant or “Kahea” which would be given to all visitors to the islands. I felt we were very fortunate to have this traditional welcoming chant performed on the Zaandam for our arrival.
Our shore excursion “Secrets of Puna” met on the Hilo dock. There were enough of us that they had to take two vehicles. We were lucky to be in a 8-passenger GMC SUV. We drove south of Hilo to the district of the Big Island called Puna. It is in this area that the eastern rift zone of the Kilauea Volcano opened up in 1955 near the town we would be driving through. The lava spewed out of the rift zone and soon blanketed orchards and sugar cane fields. The lava destroyed one town and almost reached another. There wasn’t any loss of lives because of the evacuation measures. Six miles of road were destroyed. New sections of road had to be cut through the lava flows.
Our first stop was at Lava Tree State Park. About 1790 an eruption from Kilauea Volcano flowed down the mountain and engulfed a forest of Ohi’a trees in lava. As the lava flowed through the area and eventually cooled, molds of the Ohi’a trees were left behind. Some of the blackened chimneys were 12 feet tall. At the park, we could see part of the eastern rift zone which left a crevice so deep that they aren’t sure what the actual depth is. The 600-foot rope used in measuring the depth didn’t reach the bottom. We walked a 0.7-mile loop trail among the Ohi’a tree molds. From the molds they were able to measure the thickness of the lava flows. The Lava Tree State Park was so lush with vegetation that it was hard to believe that lava had flowed through this area not so long ago. There were 85 tree molds in the park. Forty tree molds can be viewed from the loop trail. The tree molds are fragile so we were cautioned not to touch.
Several in our vehicle went swimming at Ahalanui Park which is right on the ocean. Here there is a half-acre pond fed by hot freshwater springs that had bubbled up and mixed with seawater flowing in from the ocean. Those that did go swimming said that the water wasn’t very salty. Al and I walked around the pond and photographed the winter waves crashing on the beaches of hardened lava.
We had a short stop at MacKenzie State Recreational Area where we photographed the huge lava cliffs with the winter waves crashing onto them. The park was named for a forest ranger who had dedicated his life to protecting the area. The lava had flowed down from Kilauea Volcano to the sea creating new land as the lava flowed into the ocean.
Then it was time for lunch as we drove through a tunnel of trees to “Star of the Sea Painted Church” in Kaimu. Originally the church was in Kalapana. It was moved in 1990 to its current location because of a lava flow. The church was built in 1931 and is beautifully decorated with paintings and stained glass. Outside the church was a barbeque and picnic tables with a covered awning to shelter us from rain.
We had a delicious lunch of barbequed pork spare ribs and chicken with potato salad and corn. Just as we finished eating, the rain that had been sprinkling off and on with the sun shining throughout the day finally let loose with a huge downpour. Our guide didn’t feel that it would stop for the rest of the day. And our last stop was supposed to be a walk across the smooth pahoehoe lava, but none in our vehicle wanted to walk in the rain. So our guide suggested that we make our last stop at Rainbow Falls which as he said should be really “crankin” today with all the rain.
So we headed back to Hilo where he pointed out some of the sights of Hilo as we made our way to Rainbow Falls which was really crankin’! It was getting dark as we reached the falls, but it was an incredible sight to see with so much water flowing over the lava rock compared to what we had seen in October when we last saw Rainbow Falls during our Volendam trans-pacific cruise.
We knew we would get back late from our shore excursion so we made plans to eat in the Pinnacle Grill. We had a lovely meal of planked Halibut with asparagus and rice. I had crab cakes for my appetizer as they were so delicious the first time. Al had the lobster bisque since he thoroughly enjoyed the way the Pinnacle Grill makes the soup. For desert, I had peach sorbet and Al had strawberry cheesecake. Holland America decided to bring back receiving a lei upon arrival in Hawaii. Since the orchids didn’t arrive on time, we were to receive the orchids at dinnertime. After dinner the Pinnacle Grill Staff gave us all the leis they had as it was the end of the evening. After having our photo taken with all the leis, we handed out the extras to ladies we saw as we walked around the Zaandam. A great ending to our first day in Hawaii.