Day 7- Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia 

January 19, 2018

This was a relaxing day with forays out to restaurants and craft stores/manufacturers.  Having been lost numerous times in our rental car, we decided to take a taxi out to the Kapinga Village. The residents of the village are from the atoll, Kapingamarangi, southwest of Pohnpei approximately 500 miles. That this time there are more Kapinga living on Pohnpei (500) than on the atoll (300). The crafts of the Kapinga are woodcarving and weaving with natural palm and Pandanus fibers. The 2 photos below are from phase.com.




Our taxi driver had difficulty understanding where we wanted to go, even though the hotel told the dispatcher. There was a long period of randomly driving around, talking on the loud, chaotic CB radio, until he was able to have his dispatcher call the our hotel to find out our desired destination. Ahhhhh….island time is taking some adjustment.  Things do not happen quickly or necessarily as we expect.  It’s a big mistake to assume that the people understand what you think is perfectly clear.  An example is dinner tonight, we went to the famous Arnold’s restaurant and thought we’d get 4 of their well regarded oatmeal/coconut cookies to go.  We were puzzled as we ended up with a rather large plastic bag, when we opened it there were 4 containers of 4 cookies.  Nancy took a box to our favorite waitress, Senovia, at the hotel bar/restaurant where we’ve had excellent meals and drinks. I have to say, that Mark who manages the hotel and just about everything else for the owner, is an expert at getting things done. It’s just when we leave his domain that we find ourselves floundering a bit. 

Pete and I took a little stroll around the hotel complex this morning between tropical rain showers.  The 8 room Mangrove Bay Hotel has a fueling dock, marina, surf club and bar/restaurant. 

Day 6- Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia 

January 18, 2018
The Mangrove Bay Hotel is situated at the end of a very long bay, lined with these fishing ships. They are much larger than the vessels normally seen off the coast of Oregon, appearing to be about 80 to 90 feet in length.  There is also a pier on the bay where shipping containers are loaded and off loaded.  Almost everything here is imported, which makes construction materials, beer, wine, vegetables, boxed and canned products very expensive.  The average wage here is $2/hour, about the same as an imported Budweiser (local currency is the US Dollar). With the low wages and high cost of food and supplies, villager’s and Kolonia town people are generally fairly poor. It’s a good thing that there are fish, crab, chickens, pigs, coconuts (hundreds of varieties), bananas, Taro and breadfruit in abundance.  The plant depicted below is Betel Nut a stimulant chewed by the local people. Marijuana is also a big crop here and although it’s illegal it’s used by a large number of the populace.


The island is broken up into 6 districts, each ruled by a different chief. The politics here are a very complicated with so many leaders in such a small area, but I do know that nothing can be done in a district without the local chief’s permission.  This is the main reason that nothing has been done to preserve the Nan Madol site.  The 2 chiefs that claim dominion over the huge site are afraid of losing control and money, so have not allowed the Smithsonian or other interested parties to help stabilize the ruins.  As a result the structures are being reclaimed by the jungle and sea.  Some promising news is the Nan Madol was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2016.  It has also been declared an emergency site, due to it’s rapidly deteriorating condition.  

Today we drove to Nan Madol, hoping to reach it during low tide, so we could access more of the area.  After many wrong turns we finally pulled into the landowner’s driveway that is the start of the mile plus trail through the jungle.  It was $3/each to cross his land to the trail and $3/each for our guide, Santiago. Pohnpei is one of the wettest places on earth with annual rainfall ranging from 120 at the airport to 400 inches on the leeward mountains. It was raining off and on today, which made the basalt in the trail and at the site extremely slick. Fortunately the trail was basalt mixed with coral. The coral (light colored rock in the trail) was much easier to walk on due to it’s rough surface. We had several near falls, but managed to make it with just a scratch.  We reached the end of the trail and found ourselves across from the structures we had seen yesterday by boat.  Nancy and I decided to wade to a sandbar and at least get a view of the ancient sea walls and another structure we had only been able to see at a distance the day before.  In the photo below the tall main structure is to the left with the three sea walls to the right.


We were frustrated at not being able to access more of the site, however we found on our trail walk that the jungle was full of crumbling walls and structures that have never been mentioned in the literature.  These structures are located far inland from the famous man made ocean islets with their monumental structures.  

Day 5- Guam to Pohnpei, Micronesia

Up to catch a 6 am taxi to the Guam airport, as we are off to Pohnpei, Micronesia today.  The plan is to arrive and immediately jump on a boat to Nan Madol.  This is going to be one of the highlights of our trip. 


The flight was amazing with coral reefs (above) and islands in the making all along our route.  United runs a puddle jumper in the South Pacific, so we had a quick stop in Chuuk then on to Pohnpei.  


Mark with the Mangrove Bay Hotel picked us up at the airport and took us to check in. He had the boat ready for our first trip into Nan Madol.  Only the main island of Pohnpei is permanently inhabited, but many of the small islands within the lagoon, have structures for fisherman and families to enjoy. 

Nan Madol is an ancient archaeological  site of approximately 160 Acres, consisting of 96 man made islands, connected with canals.  This civilization is referred to as the Saudeleur Dynasty and it extisted until about 1628 AD. Not much is known about the people or civilization that flouished here.  The ruins consist of basalt and coral, it is still a mystery as to how these extremely heavy stones were transported to the current site.


By arriving at high tide, we were able to access the Royal Burial islet by boat.  16 remains were found at this site and they are very different anatomically from modern man, with very long leg bones and arms, indicating individuals 7 feet tall.  According to Alison, ancient people of this extreme height are found throughout the world.  Pete and I observed a skeleton in Mexico that was similar, with a very short rib cage, and extremely long limbs. 



This is the sunken burial chamber, set in a courtyard surrounded by high basalt walls with coral corner stones.



Our fearless guide and boat captain was Stamp.  Because of the high tide we had to wade around part of the site. Stamp made sure we made it without mishap.  


Tomorrow we drive to the site and walk in to see additional structures. Afterward we will be going to an eco reserve to snorkle.

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Day 4- Guam

January 16, 2018
A relaxing day around the pool after a short walk down the coast with Alison and Nancy.  Up at 5:30 am the day started out with a lot of cloud cover, but cleared up as the day progressed.  The featured photo is courtesy of Alison and the video is courtesy of Pete.

 

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We found an interesting tree on our walk that has flowers and pods. Research identified it as a Barringtonia asiatica or fish poison tree.  The ocean currents carry the pods, much like coconuts, throughout the Pacific and India. The pod is very buoyant and can stay afloat for up to 15 years. All parts of the tree are poisonous.

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Most of the people staying at the hotel are Asian, Korean and Japanese.  Lots of families with very little kids.  Thinking about all those diapers gave me pause about going in the pool, no matter how good the filtration system.  As dark skin is not culturally desirable, pool attire consists of board shorts, full skins, long sleeve shirts and hats in the water.

According to CBS News: “Last week, the Pacific Air Forces announced three B-2 “Spirit” stealth bombers with approximately 200 personnel have been deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri to the Pacific island of Guam.  The deployment is intended to provide leaders with deterrent options to maintain regional stability.”

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We were eating lunch at the poolside bar when what should roar overhead, not one but two stealth bombers. They move so fast that I could barely get a shot of the second one to fly over. The photo on the right is from CBSnews.com. These planes are stunning to see in person, so black, sleek, thin and fast.

 

Day 3-Guam

January 15, 2018
We crossed the International Date Line flying to Guam from Oahu, leaving Honolulu at 3:10 pm, January 13th and arriving in Guam at 6:30 pm, January 14th on an 8 hour flight.  We are doing pretty well with the Jet lag considering the strange time change.

Alison rented a car today, she drove with Nancy and I navigating around the south end of Guam.  We went to see the Latte Park structures, the Spanish fort and the Inarajan natural pools.  Pete opted to go swimming and walking, so it was a girl’s road trip. 

Our first stop was Latte Park, which features 8 ancient stone (latte) pillars from approximately 500 AD.  The pillars were found by Europeans when Magellan arrived in Guam, March 6, 1521.  Most of  Mepo Village, the pillar’s original site, was destroyed by the military during contstruction after WWII, 8 still survive and were moved for preservation by the military.  It is not known how these megalithic pillars were used.  The top rounded part of the structures were shaped from Brain Coral.  The shape of these structures is found throughout the island in planters, highway monuments, barriers and more. 

Struggling with our lack of sleep, it was time to stop at a local coffee shop for drinks, snacks and amusement.  The little shop has some of the best coffee I’ve had and very interesting decor.

We were off down the road for about 17 miles to Fort Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (featured photo). The adjoining Umatac bay was an important supply station for Spanish ships plying the Pacific to the Philippines in the last half of the 18th century.  The fort was built to protect the ships while being re-supplied. 

*The fort was abandoned in1815, as Spain could no longer afford it after the decline of the galleon trade following the Mexican revolution.  Fortune hunters dismantled much of the fort flooring in search of a rumored buried fortune.  After the Second World War souvenir hunters continued the pillage until the government of Guam stepped in to preserve what was left of the site.


We crossed a very fanciful and interesting bridge at the head of the bay on our way to the fort.  


Last on our journey were the Inarajan natural pools. This was probably one of the most beautiful scenic areas we saw on our drive.  

* http://www.guampedia.com

Day 1 & part of day 2- Portland to Honolulu


January 12, 2018 and part of January 13, 2018

We were at the PDX airport at 6 am for our 8 am flight to Honolulu.  There was a snafu with our Hawaiian Airlines ticketing.  So, with the help of our travel agent, we were finally able to check-in on line, but our seats were separate. Poor Pete got stuck in the middle of the middle row of the Airbus wide body jet, everyone’s favorite spot.  The guy on the aisle promptly fell asleep, so he couldn’t get up the entire 5 hour 45 minute flight.  Not the most auspicious beginning to a trip, but we were laughing (after the blood returned to our limbs) that if this is the worse thing that happens….not so bad.  

After checking into the Outrigger Reef Hotel, we met down in the bar for a celebratory drink and Pupus (featured photo) Alison is on the right along with her friend (soon to be ours) Nancy. The other two on the left you probably recognize.


We took a little nap, since the night was extremely short and met up for a walk to dinner here in Waikiki.  Alison and I found a great restaurant, Bill’s Hawaii, last time we were here in Waikiki. It was soooo good we went back 2 times.  


As you can see our first day of travel was mostly flying, eating and sleeping.  Very exciting stuff, but please bear with me. 

January 13, 2018

Woke up this morning and thought I’d start the blog. I was just getting set up when my phone started vibrating with the following: EMERGENCY ALERT: BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII, SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER, THIS IS NOT A DRILL.  I’m thinking….should I wake Pete up?….is this a hoax?….maybe I should go out on the balcony and see if there’s panic in the streets and why aren’t sirens going off? How’s that for excitement?? It turned out to be a legitimate emergency alert, but it was a drill and someone made a big mistake. There was a Coast Guard ship off our beach, but they finally left.  This was a BIG mistake, as people only have 15 minutes from the alert to find a safe place to shelter.  

We are off to Guam at 3 pm this afternoon. Here’s the view of Diamond Head from our balcony.