As some of you know, I recently made my first ever trip to Hawaii with my parents and beloved boyfriend. We spent about four days on the Big Island, caught between a pressing desire to seek out a beautiful beach and collapse on it, not moving until moments before our flight took off, and the equally pressing knowledge that the Big Island was rather vast, as far as Hawaiian islands go, and contained many wonders that we might very well never see again. So we spurred ourselves on to a nearly unprecedented flurry of activity (being a rather sedentary family, all in all), a flurry which yielded this rough photo-diary.

We arrived on the first day after a crack-of-dawn flight from LA, where the beloved boyfriend lives a thoroughly unsedentary lifestyle, and where we had spent a couple of days visiting family and toodling through the canals of Venice (my favorite place to take visitors to LA) and the oddities of Culver City. I was, I have to say, thoroughly shattered by this journey (which came rather close on the heels of my crack-of-dawn flight to CA, which itself rather too intimately followed a traumatizing flight from London to the east coast. There have been quite a few weddings to be attended lately. What more delightful reason could there be for frantic travel?), and was unfit for anything more than zombied rambling through a posh little mall near our apartment and nibbling at a bit of food at a local restaurant.

In this terribly sterile-seeming mall, we made the first of many wee Hawaiian friends when a chameleon (at least that's what we assumed it was, since it changed colors on different surfaces) took a profound liking to the beloved boyfriend (who is obviously well-named, from a chameleon point-of-view):

This wee beastie refused to leave beloved boyfriend's side for a good ten minutes, resting a bit in his hand, crawling up his shirt, sitting on his head. So here's hoping we didn't come home with the rare Hawaiian chameleon palsy, or some similarly fictional disease.

The next morning we experienced the delights of westward jetlag, waking up in the wee hours of the day and rushing out to the beach as soon as the sun rose. It was, in all honesty, the most beautiful beach I have ever seen, its water perfectly clear and (near the rocks) filled with tiny tropical fish and crabs, its sand soft and clean, rocks and trees rising up in the background to provide some interest to the landscape. It was also remarkably empty, perhaps because it was (although open to the public) hidden behind a resort that had been closed after sustaining significant earthquake damage. At any rate, you can see me here frolicking in the surf:

Later that day we went on to the north-east side of the island to examine waterfalls. Since we didn't venture far off the beaten track (we were still rather exhausted from travel) the waterfalls had a rather sterile, stay-back feel to them. Apparently if you take just about any dirt side-road off the one main highway in this part of the island you can find some pretty amazing waterfalls to romp in, unimpeded by the law-suit worries of state parks. But we didn't.

The next day we dedicated ourself to the southern half of the island, which was quite a hike - unless you are in possession of a particularly sturdy four wheel drive, all terrain type vehicle, the only real way around this side of the island is a highway that forms a ring around the island as a whole. So this was a full-day excursion.

We stopped a little more than halfway to our ultimate goal (Kilauea, Hawaii's most active volcano and residence of the god Pele) to visit one of the island's famous black sand beaches, which is also a favorite frolicking-ground for Hawaii's native green sea turtle.

Who was very, very sleepy.

Ok, so the turtles didn't look very frolicsome when they were sunning themselves on the warm black sand. In fact, they looked like they were made out of stone. Very lazy stone. But you could also see (and even swim alongside, if you didn't have a particular fear of the riptides and sharks this beach is known for) these same turtles swimming a few feet out in the waves, and they were remarkably lively. For turtles.

The black sand from the beach (it is now illegal to take it away, since it proved so fascinating to visitors) looks quite like topsoil here, but to us it looked remarkably like caviar. It doesn't, I hasten to tell you, feel like either dirt or fish eggs, but rather like really, really large and jaggedly-grained sand. It was quite hard to walk barefoot on this beach. Coincidently, there was also a very rare green sand beach near this one, although it proved too rugged a hike for us to visit it. The green sand is not (as my boyfriend scurrilously suggested) the result of a nasty fungal outbreak, but rather is a large deposit of a heavy green volcanic mineral called olivine, which remains after lighter sands (black and white) have washed away.

This next photo shows what I have dubbed "The X-Files fern." There was a lot of fascinating flora on the volcano:

After walking a lava tube, viewing the steam vents letting off heat from the active core of Kilauea, and viewing the largest and more active crater (complete with offerings left to Pele), my parents settled in for a rest in the car while BB (belboy?) and I headed off for a hike across another crater. This was perhaps the most gratifying part of the day for me, although it was an unusually vigorous impulse on my part, and about halfway through I did believe I wasn't going to make it and would have to live out the rest of my life in a crater, drinking rainwater and eating ferns. After hiking down the steep side of the crater through lush rainforest, our trail suddenly disappeared (we could only barely make out the white line of the trail heading straight across the crater in the picture below) and we were left to wander aimless around the crater itself, the lava beneath our feet making unsettling brittle, hollow sounds with every step.
We ultimately found our way, and started a grueling hike (for me at least. Probably not for anyone who has been to the gym in the last six months) up the opposite side of the crater, which was considerably more arid. When then made our slow way around the crater's rim to return to our point of origin, and were treated to magnificent views of the path we had hiked through the rising (blessedly rising, since we were blazingly hot) mist:

This picture was taken when were three quarters of the way back around the rim to our origin. You can see the long path we traveled moving diagonally across the picture. In the center of the photo, you can see the crater is still steaming from its last eruption ... which was in the late 1950s.

Coming soon (I hope): Up and down the California coast... in pictures!