Pohnpei Part V

I’ll skip the bit where I crossed one of the channels and traversed a treacherous span of mangrove roots in order to get a closer look at the quite well-preserved side of one of the seawall islets. It was getting kind of close to the time when I told the guy I rented the kayak from that I would be back, and I didn’t want to find out what Pohnpei’s emergency services team looked like. Getting back was a little bit frustrating at first. The adrenaline rush of adventure was wearing off slightly and I had a sunburn and my hands hurt from kayaking. My initial thought was to paddle beyond the reef line so my faithful kayak could actually float, but a glance at the afternoon weather ix-nayed that idea. I even got tossed from my kayak once crossing back onto the beach from the short span of “deep” water I had to cross, though I recovered and dried off quickly. The only really scary moment was when I was wading across the reef and heard a giant splash. Bravely, and probably looking a lot like a variety of action heroes, I leaped up into my kayak. This 6″ vantage point gave me a perspective on my own perceived manliness and a fairly large skate swimming its way to deeper water.

Once I got into the deep water of the mangrove forest and off the beach it was easy paddling. I took some time to admire the forest on the way back and listen to the birds and all the wildlife. On the way I ran across a man paddling across one of the waterways on a raft, very much Venice-style. He marked the first person I saw that day in all my adventures in the ancient city. That is pretty typical of Nan Madol. I was pretty beat by the time I made it back to MERIP but I hauled the kayak up the boat ramp, walked up the hill to return the paddle, and changed into some dry clothes I had brought. I had paddled into the ancient city and gotten my first glimpse of Nan Madol.

Also on Temwen island are some old Japanese guns at the melodious Dolopwuropwur Gun Battery. Since there were still some hours of daylight left after my paddling adventure I decided to take a look at the guns. I continued onto Temwen island from MERIP and found a place to park and started down the road identified by pohnpei-adventure.com. Eventually I found some likely-looking dudes I could ask for more exact directions and one man proffered up his teenage-looking sum for a guide (for a fee of $10). This, I was beginning to realize, is pretty standard for Pohnpei. Without much in the way of friendly signage, the only way you’re going to get around Pohnpei really effectively is with a guide. Maybe you can start to do without when you’ve gotten a better feel for the area, but if you’re cruising through on a weekend away from work, it is best to contact someone before you get to the island and arrange for someone to take you to where you want to go. Pohnpei-adventure has a rundown of a few local guides which is where I found Kenji, my guide for Sunday. The usual gig on Pohnpei is also to charge a few dollars ($3 is pretty standard it seems) admission for the sights, most of them being on private property. My first instinct was to forego guides, being that they cost money and all, but it’s a bargain at twice the price. The “admission” you’ll pay for Nan Madol is a whopping $7, and I paid a grand total of $50 for a very informative guide to show me around nearly all of Sunday. He was nice enough to drive and gave me a very tasty sandwich as well. The guides are worth it.

Anyways, we marched on up to the battery. My newfound friend was largely the strong silent type, but he got me strait to the guns and I would never have found them without him. I have seen a WWII Japanese gun emplacement or two in my day at this point and I was pretty impressed with this one. The whole place is overgrown, having been presumably just abandoned after WWII, but you can still see that it was built to last. The roof has disappeared, but the walls are still sturdy with some impressive masonry. There are four large guns up there, largely intact if suffering from some decades of disuse. Around the site are various alcoves for storage and the site is worth the very short hike. It also features a stone lookout tower that has crumbled away somewhat. The view is obscured by foliage, but it is easy to tell that the location would have been commanding and easily defended if it had been invaded. After I marched around and took plenty of pictures my reserved friend lead me back to the main road and we parted ways.

After a well-earned shower and spending some time nursing my sunburns (I should know better), I decided to hit the town. Pohnpei doesn’t have a bar scene, or at least one that I found. As I was driving around, I noticed several bamboo shed-lookin’ things with a pool table inside, so maybe I missed out on the local culture by not visiting one of those. Instead I visited the Mangrove Bay Bar, which is on the bay and is part of the Mangrove Bay Hotel complex. It was quiet, but the highlight, besides watching a middle-aged Australian dude chat up a local girl, was a drink called the Pohnpei Screwdriver. I ordered it only because it had “Pohnpei” in the name. I then spent the next five minutes watching the construction of one of the most carefully crafted beverages I have ever seen. Your local speakeasy got nothin’ on this. The drink itself featured, among other things, island limes squeezed before my eyes. Garnish was provided by several more strategically placed lime slices. It came out pink and slushy, served in a goblet, and with a maraschino cherry on top. I don’t usually wax poetic about booze, but believe me. If you’re at the Mangrove Bay Bar, get the Pohnpei Screwdriver. Shortly after that I headed back to the hotel to turn in for the night. I did swing by the Joy Hotel, being the only place I identified with a gift-shop type place where I could buy silly touristy crap. I picked up a box thing that I think is meant to store a betel-nut “kit.” I picked it because it said “Pohnpei” on the side. A day well spent, I slept soundly.