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Pohnpei not Pompeii
Magical Tropical Island
A magical weekend trip to a tropical island. This was my first break from the stresses of moving from the continental US to the island of Guam. I experienced and viewed things on this trip that I will never forget. I am fascinated by the legends of Nan Mandol and the people of Pohnpei.
Mangrove Tree Belt
The Island of Pohnpei is the wettest place on earth. This lush tropical rainforest gets around 300 inches of rain each year. It rains for an hour or so each morning and clears for the rest of the day in December/January. The island is completely surrounded by a belt of mangrove trees, therefore there are no beaches. The island is thirteen miles straight across and approximately 60 miles around. It is frequented by green sea turtles, Eagle rays, reef sharks, Dog Toothed tuna and barracuda. There are excellent shallow coral gardens between the island and the belt of mangroves. These colorful coral gardens are full of fish which makes it great for snorkeling.
Atoll Joy/Joy Island
Late one afternoon friends and I took a ferry out to an atoll. This atoll is called Joy. This atoll is not far from the main island and close to the airport. An atoll is an island created by coral not a volcano. As you approach the atoll it looks like an overstuffed finger as the palm trees completely cover it and dangle off the ends. On the pier awaiting arrivals were three dogs. I spent a couple of hours walking the coral reef. I found a shell that I sent to my mother. The water was 72 degrees and clear. I ate a picnic on the beach and watched the sunset as a wave of purple clouds flew by and a spray of white rays sprang through them as the sun fell. I stayed overnight in a small hut that held two army cots, my luggage had to be placed under the cots to have enough room to turn around. It was very basic accommodations for they did not provide blankets or pillows. The hut allowed a cool breeze and kept us safe from the dogs, rats and bats. I woke the next morning to the rooster crowing and dogs barking at the arrival of the ferry. I was allowed one bucket of water for my shower. When the bucket was empty your shower was over. I caught the ferry back to the mainland.
Pacific Island of Pohnpei
The Venice of the Pacific
I took a bumpy truck ride over pothole ridden road to the east side of the main island. Followed by a slippery fishing boat ride across the mile deep lagoon to visit the ruins of a thousand year old royal city called Nan Mandol or the Venice of the Pacific. Nan Mandol is the grounds which was once the center of activity; a place of worship, prayer and eventually the burial place of the Nanmwarki’s and Saudeleur’s. Nan Mandol is man made island. The builders were Olosihpa and Olosohpa. The source of the stones was; Takaieu, Sokehs Rock and Chicken Shit Mountain (this mountain received this name from Marine of the United States military because of its looks.) If you study the island you will find that the mountains in which these stones were removed is fifty to sixty miles across the island. The concensus is that the method used for construction of this location was the stones were floated by wooden raft, towed underwater or rolled/pulled upon ramps into place. However, according to Pohnpei legend, these stones were flown into their place by magic.
After years of thinking on this legend I believe that perhaps there was another mountain of basalt stones close by this location and that mountain was complete dislodged to build this city. Another hypothesis is Takaieu, Sokehs Rock and Chicken Shit Mountain are piles of this basalt stone that was hewn in shape for future use in building.
Scene from South Pacific
It was back across the lagoon, in the slippery boat, to eat at a restaurant built on the hill. It was like a scene in a movie, South Pacific large fan back rattan chair and large rattan fans blowing the corners of our napkins as we dined. Later, we walked the shore of the lagoon. I was amazed by the size of the starfish. They were the size of a grown man’s hand and were the vivid colors of royal blue and orange. There were five or more of the blue ones and only two or three of the orange ones. My friends and I had a great time taking pictures of each other with these starfish draped over our legs, arms and head.
As I journeyed back to Kolonia, the capital, by we passed a ship graveyard. It is a colorful bay filled with rusty, sinking ships sitting in the water ready to be buried. It is said that there are WWII ships and ammo sunk in this area. Scuba divers find the graveyard an excellent place to dive.
As Close As it Gets
Our host took us one afternoon to a remote place that was clear of mangroves which is as close to being a beach as Pohnpei can boast. It is where the volcanic part of the island had caved into the sea and the coral was building a lagoon. The water was very clear. The roots of the mangroves were stretching out trying to fill the gap. Among the seaweed and mangroves there was a lone electric eel and several Eagle rays. We did some walking in the shallow, clear waters on the inside edge of the mangroves, enjoying the smell of the salty air, the sounds of the waves hitting the coral reef, and the feel of the warm sunshine.
This trip will always be beautiful memories for me. It was my first Christmas away from home. The weekend was peaceful, restful and surreal. I would love to return to Pohnpei and do an in depth research of the legends of the island.