Mauna Loa, Mauna KeaMay 30, 2017 in the United States
I had the most fitting final day on Big Island. There would have been something missing for me if I hadn't made it up to the 'saddle road' which runs E-W (or W-E ...) across the island on the saddle between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. In the past hire cars weren't allowed up there but the road is mostly upgraded, though driving can be iffy if the weather changes.
It was a beautiful clear morning so I took a picnic to the Mauna Kea Recreation Area which is about half way across. It fed my soul to finally see the tops of those 2 great volcanoes 😎
I hadn't planned to do this, but feeling inspired I did a little more research and decided to head up to the Mauna Kea Visitor Centre. It's a stop-off point at 3000m for anyone going to the observatories at the top, to help prevent altitude sickness - it's the change in altitude (most will be travelling from close to sea level) that causes the problem. I saw one person really struggling. To go further you have to have 4WD, specifically a vehicle that can do engine braking on the descent.
Well that's one of the best decisions I've ever made. It's lovely up there. I huffed and puffed to the top of a nearby cinder cone (the thin atmosphere, obviously) and got fantastic views over that part of the volcano, and not a soul was around. Very special in ways I don't really understand.
Then I stayed until dark for the star gazing run by the Uni of Hawaii 😊. The centre has facilities to buy and prepare noodle pots, cocoa, coffee. Plus hoodies, socks, hats and blankets to buy. That all makes sense when the temperature drops to 5C ... that compares to low 30s daytime, mid 20s night at the coast... ie. flippin' freezing! So now I have an extra hoodie.
They show a film while the sky is darkening, which doesn't shy away from the controversy about having the observatories at the summit. I hadn't heard this before. Mauna Kea is a sacred mountain for the native Hawaiians, not only a mountain, but an actual ancestor. I think some sort of framework is in place now to help reconcile the different perspectives.
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