Okay, so we are now in the theater of the Pride of America, getting sorted into tour groups. Ours is one of the largest, the all-day tour of Rainbow Falls and Volcanos National Park. The botanic gardens have gone off, the waterfalls tours and shorter day tours have gone. So a few hundred of us troop out to the waiting buses and start filling.
Now, I'm a "back of the bus" girl, so I went all the way back and staked out my seat there. There are only two places I like to sit on buses: in the first seat behind the driver, or the Back of the Bus. Our driver, an older Hawaiian guy, is a jovial cut-up type. But he's also warning folks that if they dawdle too much, they can be taking another means of transport back to the ship. I think he's serious, and I've seen too much of this sort of thing on events I've run or been part of, so I kind of know where he's coming from. We head out for Rainbow Falls.
Along the way, we pass through Hilo and get stories of the 1947 tsunami. I remember when we lived in Hawaii when I was a kid, and I asked why a road was so torn up, and my mother told me it was tsunami damage (I think that one was in 1958). Scared me almost as much as volcanos. I remember footage I've seen of the Hilo tsunami, which is right in there with the Indian Ocean one. I vow never to live in Hilo.
Rainbow falls is literally right above town. It's a gorgeous falls surrounded by rain forest, including giant philodendrons that climb waaaay up trees. It spills over the lip of a lava dam and plunges into a pool. There seems to be a lava tube behind it. A large portion of the viewpoint is roped off with "Danger" tape and barricades, but tourists are hopping over to go out to the edge to take photos. Idiots. I hop up on top of a stone wall on the farther side of the viewpoint path, to get my own photos. Better area, and not in immediate danger. Then I head up the path to above the falls. I get some shots from above, where pools spill over the edge, then follow the path along into what looks like Tarzan's jungle. There is a huge banyan tree here, full of vines and kids climbing around in it. The tree is so big the kids look like tiny monkeys. The path dips down by the tree, crosses a small creek, and goes up to the road, so I follow it and take the road back down to the general store and our bus. We get on the bus, and everyone is there except one guy. His wife calls his cel phone and tells him he'd better get a move on, as the bus is leaving. He comes running out with chips and water, as we inch along, pretending to be leaving him. First warning of the day!
We're now headed south, for the Botanic Garden and Volcanos National Park. I am going to call on Pele, and hope we can draw up a truce. She scared the dickens out of me as a kid, especially with all the lava flows menacing houses and poison gas making people sick, on the news every night, but I figure I can work something out.
We go past a special area where you can only live if you are half Hawaiian or more, held in a trust. It's to help native Hawaiians keep a reasonable lifestyle. Our driver says he lives there. We pass a lunch wagon that says "Poke Your Way" with a list of options on how to mix your fish. If I had my duthers, I'd hop off the bus for a minute and pick up an order of poke, but that's not an option. Time to head for the Nani Mai Botanic Garden!