Friday, December 27, 2013

Warm in Guam

I like to think that I am a person of simple wants and desires. I am fortunate to have good health, a job I thoroughly enjoy and friends that fill my life with love and laughter. What else could I want? Well, for starters, this year I was hoping for a winter that was not quite so wintery.

I know that everybody raves about the "seasons" and I get it. Growing up in South Florida, I did not have a chance to experience snow until late into my teens and once I did I thought it was the most beautiful thing ever. For each and every one of the past twenty years or so, my travels both professional and personal, have allowed me to revel in the childlike wonder inherent in seeing fluffy flakes drifting down around me. That first snowfall is always magical. I get it. It's great. It's photogenic. So pretty. I'm over it.

I'm over having to spend half my day getting dressed and undressed...because "layering". I'm over stepping on what appears to be solid ground and pulling out a leg soaked to the knee. I'm really over trying to figure which icy patch is the one that is going to take me down in the least graceful way possible. Screw winter and the numb extremities it brings.I'm a Floridian and I believe flip-flops should be year-round footwear.

So far this year, through some planning and a lot of luck, I have managed to accomplish this goal. As I write this, there are 4 days remaining in 2013, and I have yet to see the first flake. The last couple of months I managed this by staying in Florida or venturing towards northern Africa and S. America. This month, I headed westward, towards the Pacific US territory of Guam.
The plan was to hang out in Guam for a little under three days. In theory, this should be enough. It's a relatively small island (merely 30 miles long and between 4-12 miles wide) without a whole lot to do.  The main focus of its tourism is on shopping, with primarily Japanese tourists swarming the duty free shops with a mix of determination and aggression normally reserved for life and death blood sports.  Suffice it to say that I like shopping even less than I like snow, so that was not particularly enticing.

But..then I found out that our hotel, which was right on Tumon Bay, offered free snorkeling gear and happened to have some spectacular coral reefs a short swim away,  I became aware of the fact that if you happen to know someone who knows someone who is a gold member of this hotel's loyalty program, you have a better than average chance of accessing the daily complimentary cocktail reception (which went on until the last person left or passed out).  I was well on my way towards getting a nice tan.

Going back to my simple wants and desires, I had a new one.  I wanted to stay longer, an impossibility considering I had to be elsewhere for work.  Now, if I would have had superpowers- which, let me be clear, I don't- I would have focused on a way to keep us from leaving the island. But since, to re-iterate, I do NOT, there was not much I could do.  Which is why it came as such a surprise when I got a call in the middle of the night to inform me that my flight was cancelled for a minimum of 24 hours.  There was something wrong with the airplane and there was no choice but to await the part's arrival from WhoKnowsWhereistan.  Total stroke of luck (and not at all the result of any special witching powers I may possess, as certain Colombian and French gentlemen may have implied). Bwaahaahaaa.

This pic is actually from an earlier visit but it is just too funny to not include.

With this extra day, I decided to rent a car, gather some friends and explore the island.  There were no set destinations, but we had a map (albeit mainly in Japanese) and a full tank of gas , we were going to see...something.

We set off with a plan to visit Latte Stone park.  The latte stones are stone pillars used by the indigenous Chamorro people as building supports. They are unique to the Mariana islands and were first used around 800 AD.  This park is home to a number of these and also houses an exhibit on the history of Chamorro culture...or so I recall from an earlier visit nine years ago.  The fact is that when you combine a kanji map and teeny tiny road signs, you are bound to get two things.  A lot of U-turns and a lot of missed attractions.

We never found Latte Stone Park, but we did find some quasi-governmental building with a couple of latte stones in the backyard and a latte-shaped lookout tower with a hyper-viligent watchman whose life mission it is to not let you pass unless you have paid him $3.

Next up was a visit to Creepy Ass Falls and Botanical Park (CAFABP).   Hidden on a side road, this was way difficult to find (as were the attractions on the main road, but I digress).  You know you have reached CAFABP when you find yourself at the dead-end of a heavily wooded dirt road, face to face with an elderly woman wielding a machete.  Sure, she may try and coyly hide it behind her back, but you've seen it.  It's not until you have reversed your way back to the entrance that you learn that Lady Jason is actually related to Latte-guy and is now demanding $5 to enter CAFABP.  Out of our group of five, only the youngest and most petite of us, Dee, was brave enough to enter.  I came along only because Dee had paid my entrance and I was not about to tell grandma Wolverine that she had to return $5.

To be fair, the place is actually call Namo Falls and Botanical Park, but I think this may have been a Kanji mistranslation, because what else would you call a park where you are peacefully walking down a trail and come across this shit...

This is some creepy-ass shit right here.
Then there was the sidewalk that took no prisoners.  On the way towards the falls, one second I was strolling along, the next second, I had slipped and was ass over elbows.

We made it to the waterfall. Nice. There was water.  It was falling.  We were on our way back, roughly at the same spot and Dee was commenting on how it sucked that I had fallen, when wham-o.  Dee down.

Our attempt to find Fort Soledad failed. are some pics from an earlier visit.

At this point, we had more or less abandoned the map and were just stopping for random stuff.  A bridge?  That'll do.  Should we pull over?  Nope, the middle of the road is fine.

A bell tower?  That calls for a U-turn.

Franz, Dee, Matt and Joseph- my partners in a lovely afternoon of aimless wandering

A close-up view of a crumbling coral step.

One thing that I did want to find was Bear Rock.  I am always curious about anthropomorphized geological formations.  To me, they rarely look like whatever it is that they are supposed to look like.

The verdict from the majority: Beaver Rock.  Personally, I see a rat.

The undisputed highlight of our road trip was the Inarajan natural pools.  One thing about successfully avoiding the winter is that there's a chance you might end up sweating like a fat kid on a treadmill and this day was a prime example.  To find this cool, tranquil water, protected from the current, to swim (and drink) in was a major score.

This blog post brought to you by Asahi beer. 

We finished off the day's adventure with the one spot you can not miss, the heavily signposted Jeff's Pirate's Cove.  Among this beachside bar's claims to fame is its proximity to Yokoi's cave. Yokoi was a Japanese soldier that somehow got left behind when WWII ended.  For the next 28 years, he continued to hide from the enemy in a self-dug cave.  From there, he could hear the music and laughter from Jeff's, thus reinforcing his believe that the American troops were getting closer. Eventually, in 1972 he was discovered and returned to Japan, only to come back later for a homecoming party at Jeff's.

Today a mini-museum at Jeff's showcases his life, along with whatever else the sea has washed up along its beaches.

Small as the island is, this tour took the better part of a day.  Lucky for us, we had a couple of things working in our favor. 1. We were still in place untouched by snow and its accompanying annoyances. 2. We were able to make it back to the hotel in time for the complimentary reception. 3. The eye of newt had arrived in time to buy us another day. Um, no.  I meant to say..mysteriously enough, that airplane part had yet to arrive.

1 comment:

  1. Once again, I was reduced to fits of laughter whilst reading this awesome blog. Your description of our day could not have been more succinct. You did forget to include the whole "yes this dirt road leading to nowhere is the right way!" excursion at the end though. That was just the icing on the island tour cake! Haha. I loved the CAFABP acronym!!! And the "there was water. it was falling". I was laughing so hard. The dry humor fused with interesting facts about the island is just perfection, really. I was able to relive the trip again by reading this blog. I loved it! Fantastic Job!!!