My first move on Pohnpei was a tactical mistake. I was super excited to see Pohnpei and I knew I might never have a chance to go back, so I was trying to cram as much into this adventure as possible. The website pohnpei-adventure.com is brilliant and an absolute must for Pohnpei research. Having looked up a likely-looking falls to explore, I had copied down some directions. With those in hand I set off from the hotel to try to find the place. This ended with me not finding the falls. There is one main road that circumnavigates Pohnpei. Branching off from this road are smaller unnamed roads that lead up to people’s houses and the like. There are not a great deal of landmarks or roadsigns. The instructions on pohnpei-adventure are therefore written along the lines of (in this case) “drive over the bridge and proceed 10.4 km, and then turn right.” Although the Yaris’ odometer was in miles, I figured that as long as I ballparked about six miles the rest would be fairly obvious. It isn’t; the instructions from the website are excellent but you need to actually follow them instead of guestimate. My ballparked six miles plan was thwarted by the several roads branching off in the vicinity. I explored a few of them, and have come away with a new appreciation for the mountaineering capabilities of the Yaris. After attempting as many of the roads as I could along a two-mile stretch of road, and finding no obvious “last house on the right” I was willing to try, I gave up and headed back into town. So, lesson for you: once you land, go out and get these Eco-Adventure Guides, and then go from there.
In the morning I woke up to birds singing. I’m telling you man, Pohnpei is the lush tropical island you think of when you think of lush tropical islands. Buoyed by my feathered friends I wandered over to the hotel restaurant to have breakfast (I went with “the islander” omelet, which is a corned beef fried rice omelet. There is no better breakfast than an corned beef fried rice omelet). Some rain really nailed down the lush tropical island theme. The hotel also featured several dogs that hung out on the grounds, who were at this point fairly bedraggled. When I stopped to pet one he was mostly surprised that I would pet him.
Before my 10.4 km adventure of the previous day, I had managed to talk to a guide for Nan Madol, but he wasn’t available until Sunday. I was entirely unwilling to wait that long, and since I expected to go on foot to Nan Madol on Sunday I decided that on Saturday I would approach by sea. I had read on pohnpei-adventure.com that it was possible to rent a kayak at a place called MERIP. The directions were again “drive over the bridge and proceed X km,” but this time when I set off I was armed with a metric conversion. It took about an hour to drive to MERIP and this time I was aided by a sign for Nan Madol at the crucial turn to the left. A little further down the road I came across a rather large compound that is currently mostly a church and formerly the Pohnpei Agriculture and Trade School. The MERIP building itself is located at the bottom of the hill down a gravel road and was smaller than I expected. Since I had also expected (hoped) that there would be a convenient “NAN MADOL KAYAK RENTAL” sign or something, I was disappointed to find MERIP closed and no touristy kayak rental cabana in sight.
Undeterred, I looked around and in the shed next door, I found a man, accompanied by his family, working on a car. I asked him about kayak rentals and he directed me back up the road to a roadside store. I got back in my car and headed up the road, where I saw another man. I asked this man if he knew anything about roadside stores and kayak rentals. He apparently knew what I was talking about, because he got in his car and told me to follow him. Upon our arrival to the store, he had a conversation in Pohnpeian as I tried to not look silly. They had no kayaks. But I was to follow another man, and this man took me to his son. His son, it turns out, works at MERIP (I think), and was anyway willing to rent me a dusty but very serviceable ocean kayak for the Pohnpei-Adventure reported price of $10. He asked me when I thought I would return so he could make sure to call for rescue if I didn’t get back in time.