Following our fifteen days at sea, we rise in the morning to a quiet absence of diesel engine, slapping waves, booming steel. Our bodies move, not with jerky clutching stumbles, but smooth controlled uni-directional purpose. Like childbirth, the rigors of the past two weeks are forgotten. Our conversation is filled with lists of supplies, how to access internet communication, what local handicrafts do we want to buy, and how shall we see the best sights of Pohnpei.
John’s patient Loren, lives in Pohnpei, and graciously offers to show us around town and help set up a tour of Manta Ray Alley, the eleventh century ruins of Nan Madol, and swimming in the Kepirohi Waterfall. We drive out a narrow two lane road, through mountainous jungle, reminiscent of our Tantalus mountain. At the end of a narrow gravel road sits The Village, a small eco hotel boasting local style construction, sitting high above the ocean with a stunning treetop view back to Sokehs Rock. Tour space is available Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, would we be interested in the all day boat excursion? Reluctant to ask the price while looking around the exotic establishment; “Yes, how much would that be?” “Well, the tour includes, a guide and boat ride to the west side of the island, snorkeling with the manta rays, lunch on an isolated island, tour of Nan Madol, hike and swim to a freshwater waterfall; with four we can give you the discount, and with kayaks for Nan Madol that will be $10 extra, so a total of $75 each. Ok?” During this discussion, I am eyeing the posted Thanksgiving menu which includes the traditional works; chicken and scallion bouillon soup, banana muffins, green salad, roasted turkey, cranberry and walnut dressing, baked squash, fresh peas, brown gravy and mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie with whipped cream. My math skills are weak, but throw the dinner in with the tour and one fantastic day can be had for $100 – “Yes, we will do it ALL!”. I can’t wait to break the news to Jenny, that we won’t be having our frozen ham and canned corn as planned.
We drive back to town, stopping for an excellent lunch at Coco Marina, an ocean side, open air restaurant owned by the family of a Honolulu physician friend, Henry. Afterwards, Loren helps us get prepaid internet cards, a SIM card for John’s phone, postcards and stamps, points out the various hardware stores (a must stop at every port), and takes us for a beer at his new hotel, The Riverside. Loren, who seems to know everyone in town, waves at friends, introduces us at every stop and proudly points out the election signs for Loren’s son who is running for Lieutenant Governor of Pohnpei. At the end of the day, Loren and grandson Sean, drop us off at our dinghy. An outstanding day, and many, many thanks to Loren and his family.
The next day is a business day; change the engine oil, think about laundry, repair various light fixtures, clean the inside of the boat, defrost the refrigerators, talk with an endless stream of yachties who dinghy out to say hello, “How long are you here for? Where are you from? Where are you going?” We have been told that no more than 25 yachts a year stop in Pohnpei, a bit off the proverbial beaten path. By afternoon, we are ready for our dinghy trip into the Kapingamarangi Village to check out the handicrafts. We dinghy to their rock wall dock, where a group of kids shyly look at us and say hi. The trek up the hill in the 30 C temperature and the 95% humidity quickly winds us, or at least me. Hiding back in the jungle along the narrow road are simple open air houses, muddy yards shaded by banana and coconut trees, enormous pigs complacently standing in chicken wire cages, kids playing with chickens and sliding down the slick steep road on pieces of corrugated metal and cast off pieces of plastic. Arriving at the woodworking shack, we stop to watch a group of men carve amazing sculptures of manta rays, whales, sharks, and porpoises out of hard red mangrove wood. All of their work is done by hand using old metal tools; there doesn’t appear to be any electricity to their work area. The prices are marked and seem fair, it is not a culture that bargains. The hard part is deciding what to buy but we manage to do our share to contribute to the local economy. Another great lunch, this time at the Joy Hotel, fresh sashimi, seaweed soup, fried fresh tuna, rice, wasabi and soy sauce. Life is good and we look forward to tomorrow’s adventure to Nan Madol.
Current Position and Time
November 26, 2011
07 05.96 N 160 02.37 E