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Updated: October 7, 2011 17:20 IST

On the lap of the goddess of volcanoes

Sowmya Nandakumar
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Parasailing on Kaanapali Beach, Maui. Photo: Sowmya Nandakumar
Parasailing on Kaanapali Beach, Maui. Photo: Sowmya Nandakumar

When not performing acts of courage, Sowmya Nandakumar meditates upon the different shades of blue and green

Aloha!! We stood on the summit caldera of Mt Kilauea — the home of Pele, the goddess of volcanoes, and one of the two most active volcanoes in the world – and stared at the Halema' uma ‘u crater of Mauna Loa, the other most active volcano, as it spouted clouds of steam. The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in Hilo, Big Island, abundant in hiking trails and steam-spitting crater views, was a thrilling drive. It ended at a ‘volcanic black rock' coast, where we stood and saw steam frothing up from the sea under us.

Quick stops at the volcano's hot springs were a welcome relief at eight degree Celsius and also an immense wonder — the large gaping cavity near which we stood threw out steam like a boiling kettle, cosily warm from a safe distance. The lava tube, a lush and densely-wooded pathway, provided a satisfying and fear-free hike as Hawaii is uninhabited by snakes and dangerous wildlife even in the deep woods.

During a helicopter tour of the volcano, it alarmed us to know it could erupt anytime, yet we viewed the red flames, the orange lava and the fizzing steam with intense amazement; the fiery image of it never quite cooling off the brain.

We visited two islands, Maui and Big Island – they were a perfect blend of nature-adventure, the right dose of art and culture, infused with a tiny experience of the typically touristy hub.

Downtown Hilo, along the coast, proved to be a shopper's paradise with the flavours of Hawaii. The nearby Banyan Drive, in the shade of ancient Banyan trees, made for a most fanciful walkway. The drive from Hilo to Kona is an artist's fantasy, dotted with greenery on one side, the blue ocean on the other, with the ferocious white Akaka waterfalls cascading down with an unimaginable force on the contrasting green tapestry. Renting a Mustang convertible immeasurably added to the delights of traversing this coastal hilly terrain.

In Kona, we zip lined at an elevation of about 400 ft, harnessed to a cable, relying purely on gravity to move us from one point to the next. I risked shooting a video of the dense green canopy of the forest below which took my breath away. It was exhilarating, adrenalin gushing as we zipped by. Much unlike a roller coaster's stomach-churning feeling, this was an invigorating sensation of speed as in a race car. Expert scuba divers and swimmers took cruises in Kona and headed off for snorkelling adventures in deeper waters. Being non-swimmers, we rented snorkelling gear in one of the beaches and learned to snorkel on our own in shallow waters. We were gratified by clown fish (famous for their lead roles in ‘Finding Nemo') and when we were bumped on our behinds by a giant sea turtle visiting the rocky shores.

The Luau is a term culturally used to refer to a Hawaiian party with food, drinks and performances of the Hula dances. Attending a Luau needs either an invitation or a ticketed reservation but we furtively caught a glimpse of the goings on from outside and swayed to the sounds of the ukulele.

Hawaii is the land of Tikis – gigantic anthropomorphic wooden carvings. Each Tiki serves a purpose — healing, protection of territory, love, friendship… To the tourist, they all looked the same! It was intriguing to learn their distinctness.

In Maui, we chanced upon the Rebecca Lowell Art Gallery. One can't help but buy some authentic Hawaiian souvenirs here — photographs and paintings of the charming scenery and picturesque beaches. We toured up country Maui in pouring rains on horseback. Although the jockey taught us to have faith in this majestic runner, it was fantastic and yet unnerving to trust a mere horse, in slippery, downhill moments. I may have slipped had I walked but the horse sure was firm footed.

Parasailing at Kaanapali beach was monumental. From our boat somewhere deep sea, our parachute was flown to a height of 800 ft; we could either be terrified or feast on the varying shades of pelagic blue. I chose the latter and savoured it all the way to the gradual descent that ended with a splash land in the waters. We were drawn aboard the boat, quite unbelieving of the feat we had accomplished.

Being colour struck by the greens and blues of Hawaii was meditation in itself. – No wonder the colour of prosperity is green and calmness blue. The colours painted their unfathomable magic upon my human soul.

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