Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Hilo Tuesday

22 November 2011

First, a bit left over from Monday: I went out to Hilo Bay Cafe, which is a more high-falutin’ place than the name suggests, and had an awesome beef short rib dinner. Now, I’m not normally a beef person (except for hamburgers) and I generally don’t like short ribs at all because they are too tough. This was grass-fed beef and super-tender. I’d been there on my previous trip and they were really great to work with to find food I could eat, plus they specialize in local and organic. Considering that (and the price of food generally on the island), it was quite reasonable.
This morning, I went first to Volcano winery. As the name indicates, it’s up by the entrance to Volcanoes National Park, and it’s literally at the end of the road past the golf course. I tasted several of their wines, but I’m not a wine drinker. I’d heard their wines were sweet, but they didn’t seem particularly sweet compared to other wines I’ve tried. So I picked one for Thanksgiving. They do have a macadamia nut honey wine that is very delicate — it reminds me a lot of an elderflower cordial that I’ve tried in the past.
After that, I went to Hilo Coffee Mill, which has coffee from several regions around the big island, and even coffee from other Hawaiian islands. They do roasting for a number of growers, and they gave me a little tour. I had to dodge a few chickens (they’ve got about 200, so if you’re ever in Hilo looking for super-fresh eggs, you might want to try there first).
I tried several of their coffees. As they put it, they get so much rainfall that their coffee is milder than on the Kona side, which is far drier — for the simple reason that soil chemicals tend to get washed away. They do supplement the soil, and they’re not an organic farm as a result, but that’s the nature of working with what you’ve got sometimes.
There are coffee plants on the east side of the island that are 100 to 150 years old; it’s a longer-established coffee-growing region than Kona.
What surprised me most, though, was their pineapple coffee. It doesn’t scream “bad coffee hidden by horrific fruit flavoring” — no, it’s good coffee with a delicate lilt of pineapple, and it seemed to me to work very well. So I got some.
At that point it was around noon. I decided to head south past Pahoa (a town I keep going through) and see how far south one could actually drive. About a mile out of Kalapana, the road forks, and I kept going on highway 130, which ended abruptly. There’d been signs earlier that visiting hours for the lava flow were 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Now that I knew where the entrance was, I had about an hour to kill, so I went and got lunch, then headed back.
At the end of the road, there were scary signs that said, “Restricted Access – Authorized Personnel Only.” So I parked just before that and started walking, but a woman pulled over in a car and said I could drive in anyway. So I did, wondering if I were negating my rental agreement in doing so. I drove about a mile in (over two sections of relatively recent lava flows and regular old road between them) and parked where the security people told me to. The woman said, “Oh, because it’s between 2 and 10, you’re authorized.” Nice to know.
Then I set out to walk to the end of where they let you walk, which is about 4/10 of a mile down the road, crossing several flows that seem at most a few years old, houses (still inhabited) dotting either side of the road. Of course, yards are problematic.
It was brutally hot. The wind was behind me, so I didn’t feel it on my face, and it was full sun, I had SPF 85 on, and a liter of water, my camera bag, and my purse. I felt like a camel. I managed to get up onto the end of the road where the lava flow was and look out; I didn’t see any actual lava activity, but they said it was about six miles from where I stood. Then one of the women who worked there said the flow I was standing on dated from January.
I was thinking as I walked it that it seemed that this spot of land was in fact the very land I was photographing last year from the water’s edge. Some of the details seemed familiar, though of course the perspective was radically different. Another staffer said they’d lost a mile and a half of road in the last year — just eaten up by lava.
So, yes, I was basically standing near the hot melty stuff I photographed last year.
New lava flows are shiny and glassy. I tried to capture that in photos, but didn’t capture it last year and not sure I did this year, either. It turns out that silicon is part of the flow, and it rises to the surface as the lava is cooling (being less dense than some of the other minerals), so it gives the freshest lava a very cool sheen. I’d seen that on the black sand beach last year but hadn’t known the reason. I took some photos; we’ll see how they turn out.
Because silicon isn’t super-hard, though, that layer wears off fairly quickly (over 2-5 years), and then lava takes on the more familiar matte appearance.
On the walk back, I had the breeze in my face, but it was still pretty brutal. At the end, I was hot, I was tired, and I kind of collapsed into the car, turned on the air conditioning, and drank some extra water until I felt unshaky enough to drive.
After that, not much. I missed Namaste’s feeding again, darn it, so I’ll just have to go tomorrow. I’m reserving tomorrow for Hilo town stuff: the zoo, the planetarium, the farmer’s market, and a store I wanted to visit.

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