Up on the volcano Kilauea, Kokaua got a firsthand look at the immense power of nature.
Kilauea is nearly 1300 metres high and estimated to be between 300,000 and 600,000 years old.
It is the most active of the five volcanoes that form the island of Hawaii, and according to the US Geological Survey, it has been erupting on a continual basis since 1983.
Kokaua and his group were able to get as close as possible Kilauea’s main crater, just 2kms away.
“I could just see above the tip of the crater. I could see the glowing orange lava. I don’t even think I’d deserve to see more,” said Kokaua.
“Every now and then you’d see a bubble pop, which I think was Pele (the fire goddess that the Hawaiian people believe lives in Kilauea) acknowledging that we were there.”
While they were up there, the group was surprised by one of the Australian Aboriginal members of the group, who asked if each individual could bless a few stone necklaces that she had purchased for her family.
“She said that she was aware that Pacific people blessed special objects, so she asked if those of us that could, would bless it. And we’re doing this in a big circle with the volcano in the background,” Kokaua explained.
“The wind was blowing like crazy and it was freezing but no-one moved, no-one wanted to go back onto the bus. Everyone wanted to be a part of the blessing.”
The necklaces were passed around, and one person who particularly stood out to Kokaua was a New Zealand Maori man, who gave a long and impassioned karakia (prayer).
Not everyone gave a spoken blessing, with some choosing to pour water instead, and when it was Kokaua’s turn he asked Pele to bless the gifts.
“Because we were in the presence of Pele, I asked her to bring the essence, the mana of our islands together.”
Kokaua said the volcano visit was the culmination of an emotional trip for the Aboriginal contingent, who at times said they did not feel a part of the group.
The Australian natives were in awe of the South Pacific cultures, many of whom who still hold true to their traditional beliefs.
Kokaua said the Aboriginals on the other hand, had that drilled out of them for generations, and they explained to the group the hardships their ancestors had been through.
“I think about what those three went through, and it was so brave what they said in front of us. Everyone was crying,” Kokaua said.
“They are still so proud of where they come from, and after meeting us, they want to go back and try harder to learn about their culture.
And I think as a Pacific people, we have a responsibility to help them.”