The Lava Dwellers, Big Island, Hawaii

They come for the privacy, the views, the Pele energy and the rock-bottom real estate prices. Never mind that the volcano could torch their homes at any time.


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Guardian of the Om Shrine.

“They’re not trying to keep up with the Joneses,” Shakti says.

“Somebody’s going to get a hair up his ass and everybody’s going to get a notice on the door,” says Bobu. “Shit’s gonna start. Attorneys, cops, evictions, lawyers!”

“Nothing’s built to code, that’s what we’re saying,” Shakti says.

“You can see how people would want to drop out and start a home down here,” says Joya. “It’s so nice and peaceful down here. It’s very inviting.”

“They filmed Planet of the Apes here,” says Mike, who had been sitting quietly up to that point. The area is so otherworldly that Hollywood did, indeed, shoot scenes from Planet of the Apes II here in 2001, before houses started to appear.

A rain squall hits and we talk about the weather. When the conversation lulls, we listen to the wind and stare out over the lava field, a vast plain of black rock that heaves and pitches all the way to the horizon, like a stormy, petrified sea. Halemaumau crater, the caldera at the summit of Kilauea and the fire pit in which Pele dwells, is 19 miles away. Puu Oo vent, the cinder and spatter cone currently at the heart of the eruption, is eight miles away. On a long downslope stretch of the mountainside below Puu Oo, sulfurous white smoke marks the current edge of the lava flow, which, at the moment, is just three miles away.

Related links:

VIDEO: Living on Lava, Big Island, Hawaii
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