Volcanic Activity

Amidst the cold yet sunny Michigan this week.. I have been reminiscent of two years ago, when David (my brother) and I bought a one-way ticket to Hawaii.

I have been remembering one Hawaiian adventure in particular. It was me, David, a French girl, and her Mazda rental.

Mauna Kea, a sleeping volcano, is the highest point in the state of Hawaii—reaching over 13,000 feet and is one of the greatest locations in the world for astronomical observation.

A lovely French girl, who was a guest at the hostel for a weekend,  invited David and I to join her in driving up to the top of Mauna Kea to see the sunset and star gaze. We readily agreed.

Mauna Kea is about thirty minutes from Kona so we left around 5pm hoping to catch the sunset at 6pm. Twenty-five minutes into the drive the French girl gasped.

“What’s the matter?”

“Well, our gas is a little low.”

“What? You didn’t look at the fuel gauge before we left?”


We were almost there.

“We’ll be fine”

So we turned onto the mountain road, and began the ascent.

It wasn’t bad: paved, 2 lanes, winding, and smooth. Oh, we’ll be just fine if the road is like this the entire way even with low fuel! We soon arrived at the base camp, drove past the visitors center, restaurant, etc, and stopped. There was a large sign that read “ONLY 4-WHEEL DRIVE PAST THIS POINT.”

David and I turned to the French girl and explained the sign to her (just incase there was a language barrier). “You are driving a 4 cylinder Mazda, and this car is not 4-wheel drive. And I’m pretty sure in your rental agreement it stated that you are not to drive this car in 4-wheel drive zones (which are common in Hawaii).”

“Let’s keep going! It’ll be fine” she said.

David and I looked at each other and nodded. It was her rental car.

At first it was similar to the first road: smooth, wide, and not too steep. But it wasn’t long until it changed and became a steep dirt and gravel track.

I’ve never been so scared in a vehicle in my entire life! The road was no longer 2 lanes but 1 lane with a sheer cliff and no barriers, and we were over 10,000 feet. I tried not to look out the side window but straight ahead while taking deep breathes.

It was getting steeper… and the car was dying.

She had the gas pedal to the floor and the car was literally inching along…

My heart was racing, and I was terrified.

BEEP! The gas light gauge went on!”We are almost there just around that corner” said David in a calm voice. “Keep going, and don’t stop!”

It felt like we were inching for hours.

I was trying not to freak out in the back seat.

The little Mazda kept going..

The Jeep Wranglers and F-250’s  behind us were not pleased with our pace. We could have walked faster then we were driving.

We turned a corner and found ourselves at the top. Finally, the little Mazda made it!

And we were alive!

Just as everyone said, Mauna Kae was stunning!

I have stargazed all over the country: in the east, midwest, south, southwest, and the wild wild west, yet nothing has compared to the clarity and density of those stars seen on the summit of Mauna Kea.

Just in case you were wondering… the way back to Kona was almost all down hill and we coasted for 30 minutes and made it to a gas station.

What an adventure!