Took side roads to nearby South Point, the southernmost point of land in the USA (Key West is southernmost in the continental US). The nearest continental landmass to the south is Antarctica, 12,000 miles away. There we found a windswept peninsula adorned with curious block-and-tackle frames and an enormous blowhole. A local informed us that fishermen used the block and tackles with a rope connected to a pickup truck to haul up the enormous Ahe fish they used to catch there with a rod and reel. Reg persuaded Paul to step way out of his comfort zone and stand beneath the block to gaze down the 80 feet or so to the water below. He didn't pose for long. Reg then peered into the crumbly looking depths of a nearby blowhole (Paul declined on grounds of common sense) and followed that up by perching on the absolute bitter-edge of the cliff, hanging over the sea. Also declined by Paul.
We followed a turn-off to the supposedly World-Famous Green Beach. The road rapidly degenerated to nothing and we walked the last 300 meters or so to the water's edge at what appeared to be a ramp for local boaters to launch their fishing boats. A sign indicated the 2.5 mile path to walk to the beach, so we watched for whales for a while and returned to the car. If it's so world-famous, why is it inaccessible? The Black Sand Beach has a decent road, picnic tables and good signage to direct you, even though there are many black sand beaches in Hawaii. Since there is only one green sand beach, you'd think they'd make a bit more of an effort.
Oh well. Next we hared off in search of a higher-altitude park, following endless miles of two-lane road, up through a sere and blasted lava landscape upon which hundreds of homes had been built. Miles from anywhere and with genuinely ugly views of lava, one can only assume the lots were cheap. Eventually we arrived at the top to find a dead-end and a house. Apparently Mabel (our GPS lady) had mistaken that for a park. And that's with up-to-date maps!
Disgruntled, we returned to the Belt Road and carried on westward to the delightful Painted Church in the town of Captain Cook in the Kona district. In the late 1800s a Belgian priest, Father Velghe had the interior painted with scenes from the bible, so that the illiterate Hawaiians could visualize the white-man's version of creation. Handsomely decorated inside and thoroughly bedecked in flowering plants outside, the church is still in use. In front, there is a cemetery with what has surely to be one of the best views in the world. Nice place to spend eternity.
Following a descent to a local beach full of warning signs and slightly-less-than-one-lane access road through a heavily-populated area (more like an alley, really), we turned around and wove through miles of unpleasant lava scenery on another narrow road, back to the highway. Right there, as we merged with the highway, we stumbled on the Kona Coffee Cafe and stopped for a delightful lunch and conversations with other travelers.
When we left, the rain started so we returned to our B&B. We noted with interest when traversing one of the lava fields, that many of the telephone poles were charred and that some of them had long metal shields on the uphill or lava side. I guess the flow was slow enough and cool enough that crews could get ahead of it and protect the poles. Made me think of the problems of road maintenance here. The road we were on gave every appearance of having been buried once or twice and then having the rocks removed. There are two kinds of lave here, the 'a'a type which looks like a jumble of hot, jagged rocks and the pahoehoe type which is the hot, fluid type. Getting the first type off the road is probably doable, the second type, not so much. The second type is what closed Chain of Craters Road in Volcano National Park on Kilauea. The other thing about the roads, which we had noted one night when returning home after a dinner out, is the near total lack of lighting. Nights here can be very dark indeed. Good news for astronomers.
Road to South Point
Another, gnarly one
Reg hanging over the crumbly-looking edge of a blowhole
Sea sloshing about at the bottom
Enormous fishing tackle
Daredevil leaping from the tackle
Paul closer to the edge than he'd like (Hurry up and take the picture!)
View west along the coast
Reg getting as close as she can to Antarctica
Coastline at trail-head to Green Sand Beach
Painted Church near Captain Cook town
One of the decorative panels
View down to the sea from the church door
Nice place to spend eternity. The omnipresent lava makes digging difficult, so a lot of burials are above ground.