Saipan Part III

Not to half-ass my journey through Saipan locations famous for mass suicide, I next drove up to Suicide Cliff. The background information is the same for Suicide Cliff or Banzai Cliff, except like I said in Saipan Part II (this is getting long for one weekend to Saipan, I know, I’m sorry), Suicide Cliff is inland and below it is a thin strip of jungle and Last Command Post Park. Reaching Suicide Cliff just requires an easy drive up the back side of the mountain, and there is a small park with a parking lot and several small shrines and memorials. Walking up to the cliff, the views are fairly spectacular. At Banzai Cliff you could feel the power of the ocean, but at Suicide Cliff you can look out over it for miles. The land between Suicide Cliff and Banzai Cliff used to house a very large airfield, but is now mostly jungle, interrupted by a Veteran Cemetery with no dead people and a landfill. Despite the landfill, the view is well worth the short drive.

Although it’s not my usual habit, shortly after landing in Saipan I had fired up Tindr. By this point I had started chatting with one woman who was on Saipan out of Shanghai on a company trip. To avoid any cliffhangers, we didn’t see each other, but she did mention that the Grotto was “so amazing.” She mentioned this about three times. She related how Saipan was pretty boring for her, except for the Grotto, which, like I mentioned, was “so amazing.” I’m not a diver, so I didn’t dive the Grotto, but I did stop by to see if I could find out what all the fuss was about. The Grotto itself is a pool that is protected by a rock overhang and connected to the ocean via an underwater passage. I drove to the site and walked down a set of fairly steep steps. It was nice to see, with some colorful rocks and some weird tadpole-looking things and water rushing in and out with the waves. Upon further pressing, my Shanghai connection said there was a shark and some coral stuff underwater, if that wets your tastebuds. Above the waterline, however, the Grotto’s Entertainment value was spent and I headed out.

To round out my tour of northern Saipan, next up was Bird Island Overlook. I’ve waxed and waned about the cliffs of Saipan, and of Bird Island I can say the cliffs continue with earnest. Bird Island itself looks like a broken-off edge of a crater, and it provides a nice focal point for more gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean. I did see some birds, but no more than were to be seen on the rest of Saipan.

Prior to leaving Guam I had gone to the ABC store to buy a hat. It was a stupid hat. I did not set out to buy a stupid hat, and normally I have an array of adventure-appropriate hats, but these were packed away and I needed a hat to keep the sun off my head and the ABC store isn’t known as an ample purveyor of fine hats. So I bought a stupid hat. I ripped off the stupid-looking hat band to make it a slightly less stupid looking hat, even though that left a bead of hot glue around the crown. All of that to say, at the Bird Island Overlook I spotted an opportunity to wear my stupid hat in the form of a sign saying “Kalbera Cave.” At the time I didn’t know what it was. Further internet research has revealed it’s a largish cave where the natives at one point possibly hid from the Japanese and subsequently American invasions, but on that Saturday I was forging into unknown territory. The direction which the sign alluded to was down a dirt road, and since I didn’t know the condition of the road or the exact contents of my SUV rental agreement, I decided to take off on foot towards Kalbera Cave. My morale on this hike quickly degraded, however, with every pickup truck that slowed down next to me to ask if I was alright. The journey was pleasant enough I suppose, with me gawking at cliffs and avoiding carabao dung, but with more and more road and no Kalbera Cave to be found, I turned around and decided to just drive to Kalbera Cave. I made it back to my SUV, but my Kalbera dreams were thwarted by the site being an active construction zone. It looks like it might be a really nice attraction someday, but today was not that day.

Thirsting for excitement nonetheless, I forged on past Kalbera Cave, over increasingly deteriorating road. This is where I was glad to have an SUV, cresting over hilltops, forging across streams, bouldering in some nice air conditioning, thinking that maybe I should have read that rental agreement after all. Eventually, despite getting lost only once, I made it back to a paved road. I could have, of course, just stayed on paved road the whole time and had the same effect, but I’m not one to take the logical, sensible way out.