Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Hustle and Bustle of Pohnpei

I can easily see sitting here in Pohnpei, FSM, for a month catching up on boat projects and recovering from our frenzied trip to the U.S. and the last 3 weeks in Kwajalein. But alas... on to the Hustle and Bustle of Pohnpei.

First, we have to see/do everything there is to see/do in Pohnpei. That has included (starting the day after our arrival), dive trips out to the reef, hiking, an around the island tour, ancient ruins, Japanese relics, and meeting and socializing with some of the FSM and American residents.

John Ranahan, when he can get 6 interested divers, does dive trips out to the reef. On our first diving day, he took us out to Manta Road, where we got to see about 5 huge Manta Rays hanging out in the current and feeding.

Great Manta Shot by Jerry from Challenger

Though we've swum with Mantas before in French Polynesia, you never get tired of watching these majestic sea creatures. The second dive trip we took, we had an awsome drift dive on a wall on the western side of the island.

For hiking, Stephen on Westward II arranged a trip up to see the "6 Waterfalls". We ended up with 13 yachties on that trip--facilitated by Kumer and Antonia helping to arrange 4WD transportation for that many people. This was an all day hike/scramble in the jungle, punctated by swim stops at a couple of the bigger waterfalls. Very strenuous. Well worth it, and probably the best day hike we've done in years.

Dave blew out his almost-new very rugged-looking hiking sandals on this trip--the uppers completely detached from the lowers halfway through the trip. He ended up putting his socks on OVER his sandals, to keep them together. He looked ridiculous, but it was effective. Two people on the hike ended up barefoot scrambling up the rocky riverbed. They had come in totally inadequat flip-flops. My genuine Keen Sharks (now 4 years and many hikes old) are still hanging in there (thank you Sally, for the hand-me-down).

We did another hike on our own up to Sokeh's Ridge. This is an hour walk away from the dignhy dock, up on a huge rocky outcrop overlooking the harbor.

The View from Sokeh's Ridge

We went up to see the Japanese gun emplacements up there, and we hiked all the way to the primary cell tower. We didn't go on the further hike out to the pinnacle overlooking the commercial harbor, but Westward II and Aurora Star did.

One of the Japanese Guns

A Japanese Memorial Marker

Dave Checking Out the Wifi Antennas

On another day, we went with Westward II and rented a car, and went around the island. The highlights of that trip was the "Botanical Gardens" (and black pepper farm), Nan Midol, and another waterfall. Pohnpei is so small (and with a decent blacktop road all the way around) that you can circle the island without stops in about 2 hours. So a one day rental is all you need to see pretty much everything. We bought a pound of black pepper fresh off the tree (still green) at the Botanical Gardens. We have since dried it and are now wondering what to do with that much pepper!!

Growing Peppers at the Botanical Gardens

The Cute Baby Pigs at the Pepper Farm

Nan Midol is another one of those ancient civilization archeological sites that are a "must do" when you visit a place like this. This is a large area of large fortifications / religious structures spread over several fringe islands on the shore.

The Layout of Nan Midol (from Wikipedia)

All the structures are made of huge basalt "logs". Basalt is a rock of volcanic origin, with similar properties to granite--heavy and hard. These "logs" (I would call them columns if they were standing up, but they are used laying down and so "logs" gives a better sense) are rough 5 or 6 sided, 1-2 feet in diameter, and 10-20 feet long.

The Boat Ride Out to Nan Midol

The walls on the main structure are 10-15 feet high. So, again, some older civilization has been organized enough to have the manpower to mine, transport, and construct a huge complex with really massive building materials. Like places like Tikal in Guatemala and Machu Pichu in Peru, it's staggering to think of the effort and skills involved. And this is on a relatively tiny island country 1,500 miles of open ocean from the nearest continent.

Right across from Nan Midol (by car) is another waterfall. We paid $3pp to park the car and "hike" in (5 minute walk on an improved trail" to the waterfall and take a swim. It is the tourist version of the Pohnpei waterfalls.

The Nice Waterfall

We concluded our day of touring with a nice dinner at Cupid's Restaurant, on a cliff overlooking the harbor. This is a popular wedding spot for locals and tourists. And they serve a pretty good meal.

A Nice Sunset at Cupid's Restaurant

Besides the big tourist excursions above, there are some other interesting things to see around town. The Japanese occupied Pohnpei during World War II. The U.S. never assaulted (with troops), but did bomb the gun emplacements on the hill. There are a few Japanese relics still left in Pohnpei. The Ace Hardware store has a small display of accumulated relics, and if you walk back along the dirt road next to Ace, through the concrete factory, there is a line-up of about 10 small one-man Japanese tanks. They are all pretty much intact but rusted in place. Rumor has it that there's one still operating on the island, and we're trying to get a peek at that.

The Japanese Tanks Behind Ace Hardware

A Nice Display of Japanese Artifacts at Ace Hardware

On another day, we got together with the crews of Westward II, Aurora Star, and Challenger and made a dinghy excursion through the mangrove tunnel and out to snorkel on the NW side of the island.

A Dinghy Trip Through a Mangrove Tunnel

Westward II and Aurora Star


With all this stuff to see and do, we've been here two weeks and have barely gotten into our "must do" boat projects...

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