Saturday, March 23, 2013

365 Inspirations—82: Walking on Pele, an Active Volcano

"Pele is the goddess of fire, lightning, wind and volcanoes. She is a popular figure in many stories of ancient Hawaii."—Wikepedia

Last night at around 10pm, a group of us decided to head out into the night with flashlights and not much more than a map and the clothes on our backs. We wanted to walk on a lava field formed by Kīlauea Volcano, an active volcano on The Big Island of Hawaii, in order to see hot lava flow into the sea.

The goddess who is said to live in the Volcano is called Pele.

She was calling us. I was hesitant.

How would we find her? It's not easy to access her burning, molten rock at night without a guide, but the group was determined.

As we were driving down a dark red, dirt road, I could smell the gases of the volcano. We drove down a forbidden access road with signs everywhere that said No Public Access or Road Closed, but we kept going, ignoring all these signs.

Pele was calling and no sign was going to stop us.

Houses started appearing along the desolate road. They had been built right over the lava. We paid one of the owners of a house to park and off we went in to the darkness.

In the distance we saw the huge flames of the fire. We walked over uneven, crunchy lava rock in the direction of this fire. Here's what it looked like below our feet:

It was tough terrain and very hard to see. It was how I imagined walking on the moon would be like.

Nothing but us for miles and no clear path in the dark!

Were we crazy? What if met with active lava? What if we fell in a crevasse? I didn't even bring a flashlight. Fortunately, someone in our group gave me one, but the batteries were dying fast.

 I was wearing very thin sneakers and socks, my yoga pants and my pajama top (since I decided at the last minute to go), we were hardly outfitted for an expedition over smoking lava rock to the fire falling off the volcano into the sea.

It was a clear night and the almost-full moon was bright. The contrast of the light of the moon over the blackness of the lava rock was striking. Even more striking was the fire in the distance.

I suggested we walk towards the ocean and watch the fire falling into the sea. It just seemed too dangerous to walk right up the fire and I felt the rocks were getting hot under my feet. Here's what Pele's fire looked like through my iPhone:

One adventurous member of our group, James, walked ahead to see how close we could get. He came back to tell us it was too hot.

We opted to watch the fire from the lava rock sea cliff.

We all sat in a circle the uneven lava at the edge of a sea cliff. The waves were so huge, at times they splashed up and over this cliff. In our sitting circle, we meditated on the lava spewing out along the waters edge in the distance. We sat like that for quite some time.

The road home was just as rough. We also realized that while it was pretty easy to find where we were going (just walk towards the fire), it wasn't so easy to find our way back.

There were no clear trails out there and we hadn't taken a clear path.

We walked along the waters edge and eventually came to a house and decided to take a red-dirt path between the lava back towards what we hoped was our car.

But looks were deceiving in the dark and we got genuinely lost and by now it was almost 1:30AM. We were getting delirious and we were tired. We ended up walking an extra mile out of our way and finally, realizing that we weren't going to make it with our heads, I did something that surprised me.

I prayed to Pele, the volcano goddess we were walking on. I asked her to show us the way.

I let everything go and let the moon fill me up. I let the smells and the sights engulf me. I walked in silence. I looked up at the sky and saw a huge cloud aura around the moon. I felt I was in another world.

I let go.

I felt my breath. I didn't try anymore.

And we arrived.

Driving home, we ended up on a coastal road. Wild boar stopped us, their beady eyes peering out from Tarzan trees. The trees seemed alive. We were in the wild.

I'm not sure how we made it home really, but all I can say is I will never forget that night.

Have you gone on a crazy adventure that you'll never forget?


  1. Wow! This sounds so amazing! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Wow! You are very adventurous, but what a memory you made, huh? Those are the moments...on the edge...that make life just a little more exciting and precious.

  3. I loved that story and wish I had been with all of you! I did have an adventure last Jan. My mother lives outside of Phoenix and when I visit her friend Paul and I always go out for a "wilderness picnic". In fact, the photos of the desert were taken with him out in AZ wilderness. So anyway, last year though we never go to have our picnic.

    Like you all, we went to a state park and drove past all the "no public access; No cars allowed" signs. Paul is 82, so you can imagine I get nervous being just with him out in the middle of nowhwere.

    So after awhile of driving, we parked the car on a hillside and went for a walk. We became so absorbed in our conversation that when we decided to head back to the car, it didn't take long to realize we didn't know where the car was!

    At least, I knew this but Paul insisted he did know and led us away from the car until darkness fell. Neither one of us were dressed for the winter chill of nightfall in the desert either.

    We found a campsite but no one was there. I thought it would be a good idea to wait by the cars to see if they would give us a ride or something.

    It was a moonless night and pitch dark and as darkness loomed, we realized that we needed outside help and called my mom on my cell phone. Luckily, we could get reception. Pauls' idea was for her to come get us with her friend (he insisted he could tell her exactly where we were). But mom had a better idea, for us to call the police.

    With just one bar of battery life on my cell phone, we had a series of conversations with the police before they finally came to rescue us. They were able to determine a general location from the GPS on my cell phone.

    About 30 mins later, we saw their spotlight. Paul thought they were just a few yards away but it turned out harder than we though to get to them.

    In the end though they found us and were able to find our car!

    I was so thankful because I had to fly home the next day and Paul was already saying I'll have to stay behind as all my IDs were in the car and you can't fly without IDs.

    When we got back to my mom's, I was tired and grumpy. Paul loved the whole ordeal and started cooking what we were planning to make for our picnic.

    He laughed and said about our escapade, "that was much more fun than a picnic!" My mother, who is not at all the outdoor lover her daughter is looked completely aghast with this remark. Then I saw the humor in it all. Crazy night!

    I visit in a couple of weeks and Paul said, "maybe we will get stalked by a cougar!" Hm.. not sure I am up for that one.