Today was a day of adventure. We left the west coast of Hawai’i and drove 2 hours east to Umauma which is home to a lush tropical jungle north of Hilo. The east side of the island is entirely different from the arid and barren west coast. We had booked a zipline tour with Umauma Experience which owns 186 acres of land along the Umauma River including a stretch with fourteen waterfalls. To ride a zipline you hang from a harness and safety cables attached to a thick steel wire by a wheeled trolley and zip along the length of the line by force of gravity. The longest of 9 runs took us 2000 feet in distance high above the river and waterfalls looking out over the Pacific ocean. Everyone had a great time. We had all ziplined in Uganda and Gillian and I had done it before in other countries but never on lines as long or as high as these. After the first line the kids were going with no hands, spinning around and hanging upside down. The views were fantastic and it’s a very professional operation where you don’t feel you need to worry about safety and can just have fun. They have beautiful gardens and waterfalls and it made for a terrific morning of thrills and scenery.
After a picnic lunch in a park in Hilo we proceeded to the Hilo airport where we checked in for our flight with the Blue Hawaiian helicopter company. This was the first helicopter ride for any of us and it was pretty awesome. The flight path took us over the lush jungle of the west coast down to the active volcanoes in the southern end of the island. We could see the steaming vents, craters and paths of lava as far as the eye could see from the sides of Mauna Loa all the way to the ocean. It was very clear to see that nothing stops lava except cooling which happens due to exposure to the air or by touching the water. Whole towns, forests, roads and infrastructure had been destroyed by rivers of lava over the past 100 years and it was interesting to see the stages of regrowth of the forest and settlements where lava had flowed in the past. We were able to see bright yellow and red lava spraying and splashing out of the Pu’u O’o crater and vents and see hot spots on the lava rivers. The power of nature was clearly on display. The helicopter ride itself was a lot of fun and the panoramic views were amazing. The sensation of take off and landing in a helicopter is really cool and totally different from what you are accustomed to when you think of flying.