Thursday, January 31, 2013
Lost World of Pohnpei: Part I
Sorry for the delay in finishing the story. Getting dengue/chikungunya (a similar tropical fever carried by mosquitoes, curse them) in Pohnpei wiped me out for the week after our trip and then I got food poisoning that left me feeling like a bag of bones. Let's hear it for tropical weight loss (a method I heartily don't recommend)!
The island hopper goes from Honolulu to Majuro to Kwajalein to Kosrae to Pohnpei to Guam. Then from Guam you can take a different flight from Yap to Palau to the Philippines. It's a pretty crazy flight because many of the runways are very small and visions of falling into the ocean are hard to dispel. Coming in to land on the Kosraen runway, that thin strip on the reef, is what is shown in the picture above.
Layover at the airport in Kosrae.
Coming in to Pohnpei (I think).
The views from our hotel. We stayed at Oceanview, which has air conditioning. A screened hut at The Village I've also heard is cool, but I'm extremely glad that we had air conditioning since I was so sick.
I love the sunken boats. Majuro has a few wrecks, but we don't have any cranes sticking out of the water.
Oceanview hotel. Not exactly like the Marriott, but it was sufficient.
About this time I started to feel muscle pains and aches in my bones. Andrew went to the US Embassy for the afternoon, and Max and I took naps. I wasn't feeling too bad still—I thought it might have been a circulation issue from the airplane flight—so we went to dinner at The Village . . . a real restaurant!!
On the way there. It was so nice to have mountains!
View from the open-air restaurant.
Mangrove crab! Pohnpei is very different than Majuro in that mangroves cover the beaches and the reef is way out from the land that people live on. In geological terms, Pohnpei is the volcano that is sinking into the lagoon and will eventually just be a circular coral reef—what Majuro is today. Atolls are a big more complicated than that, but that's essentially what happens.
The next day, feeling okay, I embarked on an adventurous 4-hour trip with Maxwell around the entire island of Pohnpei. We dropped Andrew off at work and set off in the rental car. We went counter-clockwise around the island.
College of Pohnpei. The mountains were breathtakingly beautiful.
Old houses that look like they were from the Japanese-ruled era of Pohnpei. In WWII, Pohnpei saw no action because the island would have been extremely hard to attack from all angles—totally reminds me of Jurassic Park. You can still see Japanese tanks rusting away in a junk yard.
We saw a lot of poverty on the way. People eking out a living on rice, local plants, betelnut juice (which causes this terrifying red mouth) and homemade sakau. It was around this time that the achiness started coming back, this time in my arms and fingers instead of my hips and legs, and my temperature started to rise. I had no way to contact anybody, short of asking around for a telephone, and since we were more than halfway by that point, the only thing to do was keep going.
Dog prints on the top of our car. Lots of feral dogs here, too.
Max reading his dictionary. The child is golden.
So, thinking that taking the road to Nan Madol would take me back to Kolonia eventually, I turned right at the sign instead of left. It let me to Nan Madol, all right. I was expecting it to be a developed tourist attraction and to check it out before Andrew and I went there later that trip. I ran into a dead end and started laughing. The road ended at the edge of the lagoon (see above). I backtracked and took another way. No signs anywhere at this point.
The roads got worse and worse, and my car started making horrible noises when we scraped over rocks. I had no idea how to get back to Kolonia—the map that I took was old and rather misleading. I finally found a sign that said "Nan Madol Trailhead." I paid a dollar to a woman "for trespassing" and took my car down an even worse road. There I fortunately met Johnny, who had been educated in Saipan. He explained that it cost $3 (because we were on someone else's land by that point) to wade out to Nan Madol, and they had no kayaks we could use. While we were talking, a third person came up and demanded another dollar for trespassing over their land. I took one look at my sleeping son, felt that my temperature had risen passed the point of normality, and told them that I would be coming back later with my husband. Johnny told me, after the woman left, that it was impossible to make Nan Madol into a genuine tourist attraction, accessible to the larger public, because the land owners squabbled amongst themselves over who should get the biggest portion of the money when people came. Too bad, really.
Passing through someone's front yard to get to Nan Madol (by land).
I took a few pictures on the way back, but I was feeling sicker and sicker by that point.
By the time I got home I had a 103-degree fever. I took some ibuprofen and rested. Then I was stupid and said yes to going out to eat with Andrew's FSM counterpart at the Embassy. It was a bad idea, although I'm still really glad that I got to meet the counterpart and his extremely nice wife. I also had the chance to witness that Cupid's, an Australian bar and grill, was yet another fantastic restaurant. But Max (also overwrought, since it was past his bedtime by the time we got the food) and I had to leave early, which I felt bad about. Andrew searched in 4 different stores that night for acetaminophen but couldn't find any. It looked like we would have to cancel our Nan Madol tour the next morning.
Tune in next time for a miraculous recovery and one of the most phenomenal experiences of my life! (And pray that I don't get any more tropical surprises before we leave for our next post. I've had quite enough, thank you.)