Sunday, July 27, 2008

Forbidden Island: There & back again

For the second time this month, I found myself taking some friends (no Hobbits) to Forbidden Island. Rosita wanted to show JP and her cousin, Lino the hidden pool there, and asked if I could lead hike. I asked Laurina and DJ to come and join us, since I haven’t taken them along in an excursion for quite some time now.

The hike almost got cancelled because the day started out quite rainy and there was some worry about the hike being too muddy. I was glad that I was able to convince the group that we can go slowly and that getting dirty on the hike was part of the fun anyway.

Rosita looked a little worried about the muddy trail.
Good thing she had her trusty walking stick! You have to go cut through some sword grass in the sabana to get to the islet.
Happy hikers: Rosita and Laurina
Then you go through a bit of secondary forest. It was pretty muddy and slippery. I thought for a second that maybe I shouldn't be so gung ho or determined the next time it's this rainy.
The hike was nice since the sun wasn’t too intense but we did need to be careful not to slip on the muddy ground. We had to make a few stops just to scrub the mud off the soles of our shoes on roots and rocks along the way. The trail was slowly getting overgrown by the foliage again. Time to bring a machete! DJ actually did most of the leading since this is his fourth time on the hike. I was glad to be at the back this time around, taking my time to look at things and to take a few pictures.

The pretty and fragrant Sumac or Aidia cochinchinnsis

Wild passionfuit or Passiflora suberosa
Dizzying heights

Can you see the fringing reefs? There she is!
There was enough walking sticks picked up on the trail between Laurina and Rosita for an entire cadre of hikers.

Looks quite treacherous!

Easy! Carefull!

Plenty rocks, nei!
Pretty sandstones in the dirt
Our constant seashore companion: Princess Naupaka, the Half-flower.

You can see two types of Screw Pines here: Pandanus tectorius in the foreground with the slimmer, longer leaves, and P. dubious in the background with the wider, shorter leaves. The Chamorros call these Kafu and Pahong respectively. There will be a quiz later.
Lantana camara or Wild sage. It is a pretty flowering shrub with an interesting odor.
We found some Dodder or what the Hawaiians call Kauna'oa growing in the sabana or grassland
Can you see the small white flowers of this parasitic plant?
I blogged earlier about the Hawaiian island of Lanai's official lei made of orange Kauna'oa

I made DJ a quick mwarmwar with Kauna'oa and Lantana .
I asked him to look like a matao: a Chamorro chieftain.

We made it! Laurina, JP, DJ, Lino and Rosita.

JP on location
Nice outcropping where you can see different layers of earth
I see you!
A Polished nerite (Nerita polita)
Some Plicate nerite (Nerita plicata).
These shells are bright yellow inside and can crawl pretty fast.

Are you all ready to go to the hidden pool?

Looking straight down to the opening of the cave

Lino squeezing in the narrow passage
C'mon, Rosita! I'll catch you if you fall!
JP, the avid photographer
The last time I was at the pool, I was a bit disappointed because the water was so low. We trekked out at about 2 P.M. thinking that the high tide would be upon us in an hour to insure enough water in the pool. Man, I’ve never seen that pool so low! It looks like the surf affects how much water there is more so than the tide itself. Oh, well. DJ and I jumped in the stagnant water anyway, and shared the time with the a few flagtail fishes and a lone sea cucumber.
An hour or two later, it was time to climb back out

Tanke Beach, Kagman

After Forbidden Island, I wanted to see Tanke Beach to maximize our time in Kagman. It gave DJ, Lauire and I the perfect opportunity to beachcomb a little for some neat critters. There are usually lots of marine debris on this beach since it faces the Pacific Ocean in the east. All sorts of trash washes up here from all over the Pacfic Rim.
Here's a curious sole with oysters growing in the little spaces or pockets.

A closer look after carefully taking out a few reveals some Isognomonidae, or Tree oysters. The beautiful inside is nacreous or pearly. The ancient Chamorros fashioned fish hooks out of these shells.

Plenty trash, nei!

A little hermit crab in a nice Fine-net Peristernia (Peristernia nassatula)

There are enough signs at Tanke Beach saying that it is a Marine Protected Area, yet we saw this guy obviously fishing there.

Goose barnacles (Lepas sp.) that were still alive attached to an old water jug.

Ti napu.

The Beachcomber

Welcome, Yerma and Hayden

I honestly didn't believe people when they said that pregnant women sometimes dislike a person during their entire pregnancy. I was totally caught off guard when I became the object of that dislike to my friend, Yerma. Dislike is saying it quite nicely. Hate, detest, disgust, loathe and maybe even some words in French that can't be listed here was more like it.

Yerma and I were good friends. I saw her everyday practically before she left for Colorado last year. She was a constant lunch companion, we swam together for exercise when I hurt my ankle and couldn't run, and she even became somewhat of an emotional bodyguard defending me from my ex-girlfriends when they called me on the phone. We were pretty tight, I felt. So, I was actually pretty hurt and felt wounded when I couldn't share in Yerma's pregnancy. I mean, I had big plans when I heard that she was coming back to Saipan. I was going to be her Lamaze coach. I was going to be on-call 24-7 for any weird pregnancy cravings that she might have. I was going to be at the delivery room to take the Apgar score and refuse an episiotomy. But then she hated me.

Two days after her return, I knew that there was something different in her tone and facial expression. A few days later, a total blow out occurred and we were both pretty unforgiving of each other. The only thing left to do was to bow out of her life gracefully and let go. It wasn't easy, but what can you do when a friendship becomes toxic.

Well, last week I got a surprising phone call. Yerma apologized and basically said that we were all right again. I was apologetic myself reminding her that it wasn't all her fault. I told her I missed her.
I missed you, Yerma. Thank you.

Welcome to my world, Hayden Luke. We'll have so much fun!

Luckily, the old wives tale about the baby looking like the person whom the mother didn't like during the pregnancy didn't come true. Hayden is lovely, just like his mother.

Ti napu.

The Beachcomber

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Old Man and the Kauna'oa

Chrissie and Lindsey wanted to hike down to Old Man by the Sea. The Old Man is a huge cropped out coral limestone rock that has a profile of an old man located in the village of Talofofo, Saipan. It usually takes between 30 to 45 minutes to hike down through the forest to the beach. I knew this was going to be a muddy weekend hike since it had been raining the past few days.

The muddy trail through the forestLots of native trees
I think I forgot to tell the ladies that there were some significant elevation to gain and lose requiring some rope work in between the telling of stories and warnings against paper wasps, slippery soil and barbed wire fences. It was all good though because from our last hike down at Forbidden Island, I gathered that I was with two troopers that can take it. I pointed out some trees of note on the trail especially native plumerias, native hibiscus, Pandanus and Fish-kill trees.

Fish-kill tree (Barringtonia asiatica) seedlings
Pretty leaf litter - Barringtonia flower
Native hibiscus flower: Hau to the Hawaiians like Chrissie, Banalo to the Chamorros,
and Thespesia populnea to those who can remember its scientific name

We found this weird tree hollow that looked like it spilled mulch

Weird looking mulch
A closer look revealed some Fagot (Neisosperma oppositifolia) seeds

The culprits- lots of big hermit crabs or Umang hiding in the tree hollow

I am a fun guy 'cause of my fungi

I was pretty disappointed though to see trash bags that were apparently left after a recent beach clean up. A few years ago, I joined the Division of Environmental Quality on their annual clean up of Old Man by the Sea, and my friends Peter, Richard and I planned to be the last ones out to make sure that none of the bags full of marine debris were left on the beach or on the trail. Sure we were stuck with the heaviest bags that no body wanted to carry (like the bags full of bottles for example), but we got everything out. Don’t worry though. I already made a call to our friends at DEQ and they’ll make sure that these bags are hauled out of the trail. Old Man by the Sea is on the Eastern side or the side that is the Pacific Ocean so you see a lot of marine debris there all the time.

Typical marine Debris at the beach
I found a kukui nut that the Hawaiians make seed leis out of.
I’ve never seen the trees here on Saipan, so this will take some investigating.

Another Hawaiian nut that needs investigating! Hahaha! Love ya, Chrissie!
Some craziness at the beach
Lindsey looking pretty with her shell collection.
We also found a lot of Hamburger beans (Macuna sp.)

A family fishing

A pretty and friendly girl who shared the beach with us

The Stoic Old Man

Memorable cliffs

I noticed some Dodder (Cassytha filiformis) near the beach and asked Chrissie to show us how to braid some into a lei. These plants are parasitic vines that are green, yellow or orange in color and they grow on other plants usually near the shore or on cliffs. In Hawaii, they have what's called the Native Dodder (Cuscuta sandwichiana) or Kauna’oa, and they make them into golden headdresses or horseshoe-style shoulder leis.

The Hawaiian island of Lana’i has the honor of having the Kauna’oa lei as their State Lei. I think that’s pretty neat since most leis are made out of flowers. Legend says that the goddess Pele fled to Lana’i from her angry sister, the goddess of the sea, and dropped her Kauna’oa lei at the beach. Soon, golden vines started growing on the shores of the island, an accidental gift from the goddess.
Chrissie consentrating seriously on her instructions

Close ups of the Kauna'oa twisting technique

We didn’t have enough time for Chrissie to finish a whole lei, so she just showed us how to make an anklet instead. I think I will try to make a head lei or mwarmwar with these the next time there is a need of one. I’ve seen some pictures online that are really beautifully done. I just need a little practice and take notes as to where I can easily find Kauna'oa.

I think I will try to make a head lei or mwarmwar with these the next time there is a need of one. I’ve seen some pictures online that are really beautifully done.

We spent about two hours exploring at the Old Man by the Sea and we also planned a snorkeling excursion at Wing Beach that same day. There was a little worry from the ladies on the way back since they knew that whatever elevation we lost on the muddy trail would need to be gained again by climbing via rope in muddy conditions.
What did you get me into?
Here's Lindsey, a bit worried about slipping but she did it!

In the end, I knew they'd both agree that the sweat, mud cakes and slippage would all be worth the adventure. I had fun Chrissie and Lindsey!

Ti napu.

The Beachcomber