MONDAY, JANUARY 8, 2001
I woke up at 4:00, looked out my window full of moon, and thought the lava glows were much larger. Oh, we were getting the display we deserved to see! After going to the bathroom and putting on my glasses, I saw that they were about the same as they had been last night. It was only my astigmatism that had increased the glow. By now Heidi was awake and my heart stood still as I was afraid she was going to inform me of her plans to photograph the lava by sunrise. I was greatly relieved when she said she wanted to do the black sand beach just down the road. We drove down and swung the RV around so we could watch the lava glows from the comfort of the front seats. Why had we not thought of this last night? Together in such a companionable silence we waited for the night and the last of the stars to fade.
Now she is down on the cliff, within my view, waiting for some splendid colored clouds to release the sun.
the glow of lava
given to the rising sun
stops to think
of her pupils
the lava glow leaves
Well, by us working together, we got the sun up again today. Five days without rain. On the sea horizon are the long cumulus clouds of beautiful weather.
After coming back from her sunrise photo session Heidi could just not get herself going with any interest. From the hike in the dark, she mentioned several times how unsettling it had been last night to take a step and not know how far down her foot had to go to touch the earth or when the earth was going to rise up under her shoe with a thud. And this morning she said that in the night she had continued to dream of being out on the lava. I felt the hike had taken a great deal out of her and it was right that she rest. I knew how much I had enjoyed the quiet of not traveling last night and it seemed that she needed just such a time for herself. She took a book down to the sea wall as an excuse to lie there doing nothing at all. I grabbed my little camera for a jaunt over the tamer (older) lava flows between the road and the sea where I saw so much that made me click the shutter. I wondered what I would do with all these shots of twisted black rock. But there were so many interesting shapes! I thought as I rambled farther and farther afield.
Again I wanted to walk to the palm tree grove, but again the closer I got the more uneasy I got. The scene was so inviting and yet I felt such fear going there so I finally gave up, walked out to the road and made the easy hike back to the RV. When Heidi came back we had our usual lunch. We both laid down for a two-hour nap waking up within minutes of each other.
By now Heidi had her plans for her sunset shot (to go after the golden glint on the lava) so we drove back down the road to the turnout where we had spent the last night. This was the first day our mileage had been under a mile! We were taking it easy!
Heidi geared up to go out on the lava again. I cleaned up the place, filled water bottles to fit in the fridge and began to write postcards. Occasionally the changing light would entice me outdoors to shoot a photograph. (I sometimes felt that 'shooting' a photograph was a destructive act – the way it sounds.) With the RV parked facing the volcano I was even more aware of how the setting sun made the vapors from it glow. And tonight this menacing cloud was reaching down on to the plain beside the RV. Again and again I ran outside as the glorious colors intensified. Then, just as I was getting ready to go back inside, a native park ranger pulled his car up beside me.
"You know you aren't allowed to camp here."
"My daughter is out on the lava photographing. I am just waiting for her."
"Did you folks stay here last night?"
"Yes. Because she was out on the lava until late."
"What time did she get back?"
"Between 9 – 10. Maybe 9:30 – 10:00."
"You are not allowed to camp here. You have to be in a campground."
"When she came in there were about 20 cars here for the night."
"Well, they can't stay here if they sleep. Tonight you must go to a campground."
"It is quite a ways to the N-a-m-a campground. We would get in about 11:30 and what chance would we have of finding a camping spot at that time?"
"Then you should go to the Kipuka Nene Campground. It's much closer and not many people go there,"
"We heard it only has three camping sites which are given out on a first-come, first served basis. At 11:00 how likely would we be to find a site?"
"You can just stay in the parking lot even if the places are taken. Tonight you can go up there. I don't want to find you down here."
With his last word he roared off in a swirl of exhaust fumes as if they were his true final statement. Shaken, I sat at the table, not knowing what to think. How to tell Heidi of this encounter? Should I tell her? What if she comes back as tired and exhausted as she was last night? Can I really expect her to drive another hour to another camping spot? What would happen if I said nothing and we just stayed here? I could sit up all night to pretend I was reading (just for the impression on the ranger – if he even checked). How did he know we had stayed all night here? Did they have some surveillance system? Were the many helicopters flying tourists over our heads buying the privilege with information? I had been looking forward so much to being able to sit in the comfortable seats to watch the lava flows. Oh, well, maybe I would have time for that before Heidi came back. But then what? Could I put away the nervous feelings the conversation with the ranger had given me enough so she would not notice? What if we stayed, got caught and then she would be angry with me for not informing her? What to do?
Tonight the winds were back to being their normal selves – blowing across the treeless plains like a furious person. Shortly after it was deeply dark I heard someone opening the back door. It was Heidi. The wind was too strong for the long exposures she needed so she had given up when she found the wind did not abate with sunset but continued its merry blowing. When she sat down to rest in the driver's seat so could we could watch the glows, she mentioned she should first get a beer. The glows were just beginning and I really wanted to stay and watch them. If I let her drink her beer and then told her about the ranger would she drive off with the beer in her or stay the night? The ranger finding her with one beer here in the park would be even worse. So I stopped her and quickly and lightly told her the story. I tried putting it in a box of jokes but she was dead serious. Gone was her tiredness, her desire to relax and enjoy the evening. Without stowing things away she insisted we take off for the remote campground. Occasionally, I would get a glimpse of the glows as the road changed the views. But far easier to see was the line of taillights as others, finished with the show, wound their way back up the same road we were on. They were in a hurry to get back to their hotels, to bathrooms, to dinner. This meant that at every wide place in the road, no matter how dark or rough or narrow, Heidi would pull off to let them pass. As others sped around us we seemed to being going even slower and the side of the biggest mountain in the world (according to the guidebook) got even bigger.
We found the turnoff road to the campground, which we remembered seeing yesterday. Tonight the sign, "Devil's Throat" seemed to have more meaning as we eased the big, now even wider, vehicle into the small one-lane dirt road. It seemed fairly level which was small comfort in such ugly, straggly tree country. Even the small grass tufts seemed as if they did not want to be here. Heidi noted the odometer so we could find the four miles we needed to navigate. We were both peering into the darkness as we jolted along. We were scared of meeting any other vehicle here because there was absolutely no room on the sides for either person to pull off. Without speaking of it, we both had visions of backing this beeping thing up miles to find a wide space in the lane. Only the newer and deeper ruts jolted us back to the reality of what we were doing. We listened to music – Indians with flutes howling in the darkness. This was accompanied by the bumps and banging of loose stuff in the back flying around. To lighten our mood, we had contests trying to guess what had gone in which direction and if it was important enough to stop to finding it or its pieces. Once a branch reached out and scraped along the side. Dollar signs rose up in my mind as I thought of having to pay to have the RV repainted before we could turn it in.
When we finally eased the RV into the campground's tiny parking lot already filled with two cars we wondered how many of those people still parked at the flows intended to sleep here tonight. Just one more car and we would not be able to turn around. As I stared at the pit toilet smelling in our headlights, I told Heidi I was not happy here and without getting her opinion asked her to drive out and continue back to the N-a-m-a campground, which she did. She even saw the dead branch coming that had scraped the right side in time to swerve to keep it from adding matching racing stripes. As we met all the ruts in reverse we each began to have our doubts about my decision. As it got later and later, would there be room for us in our old camping place? Would we go aimlessly driving around and around the crater waiting for dawn? Well, we were committed and all we could do was to drive slowly and carefully while we waited for the next surprise.
It came. The campground was nearly empty so there were no cars at all in 'our' place! We laughed so hard when we turned on the lights and saw the stuff strewn all over the RV. A bag of macadamia nuts had seeded the living /dining area. Cards and pens had taken new configurations on every surface. Only Heidi's camera equipment had stayed in my bed where she had dropped it in her exhaustion hours before. First we had to run off to the john -- thankful there were two stalls so we could pee at once. Later then we put our place back together and set water to boiling for our chicken pasta. By 10:00 we were in bed. We are too full to sleep but with our eyes closing.
Next day -TUESDAY January 9.
Hawai'i with Heidi Copyright © Jane Reichhold 2001.