Underwater Pillars

Mason and I just returned to Pohnpei after a very relaxing and much appreacited few weeks with family and friends in Seattle.

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It was hard to say goodbye to everyone again, but as you may be able to imagine, we were really looking forward to getting back in the beautiful Pohnpei waters!

Yesterday, we went diving in the waters below the ancient city of Nan Madol. Nan Madol is in the process of becoming a UNESCO World Heritage site, and this was a very special dive.

In the warm, green, and murky, water we found seven pillars that were once pieces of the Nan Madol city. After hundreds of years in the water, these stones have turned into homes for hundreds of creatures.

Despite the cloudy visibility, we still found two lion fish, a shark, many large sea anemones full of clown fish, and many other colorful and interesting animals and plants in this thriving reef.

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Tallest Point in FSM

Last month, we hiked to the tallest point in the Federated States of Micronesia with a group of friends. Nanalaud is the second highest point in the region of Micronesia.  At just over 2,500 feet, the Nanalaud hike is an extreme trek through the jungles of the interior Pohnpei island. IMG_0307

We started at the Salapwuk Elementary School, the same place that we usually start for our favorite Six Waterfalls Hike. From there we hiked seven hours through the intense rain and fog. We had to bypass many of the rivers that we were meant to cross because they were completely swollen from the rain. However, we still found a few goos swimming holes.

After an exhausting first day, we arrived at the cave where we would spend the night. It continued to rain, but we found refuge among the local experts who already had a fire burning in the cave. After a cold and wet night sleep, we woke up early to start the second day of hiking. Once we hiked above the cave, the jungle completely changed. The trees were covered in moss five inches thick. There was a unique species of mangrove tree growing at the top of the mountain. This is unusual because Mangrove trees grow at on the coast. After about two hours we reached the top, the highest point in the FSM. We ate lunch in the fog. Unfortunately, there was no view through the fog, but we learned what it felt like to live in a cloud. We walked along the mountain ridge, through mossy tree tunnels, and nine hours later we found our way back to the school.

Big check on our Pohnpei bucket list.

Diving with the Big Fish Now

Mason and I went diving with Ken from Pirate Diving Service this weekend. It was another incredible dive out near Ant Atoll. We both have more than 20 dives now!

Mason and Ken surrounded by a school of bigeye trevally.

Mason spotted this beautiful black tip reef shark trolling for fish over the reef.

Me, caught on camera, enjoying the scenery and checking my air.

A school of stunning blue reef fish looking for a place to hide in the coral.

First Kayak Trip to the Barrier Reef

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On Saturday, Mason and I put our kayaking skills to the test. Recently, a friend of ours went for extended leave off island, and he left us his kayaks for safe keeping. With two heavy-duty seafaring kayaks at our finger tips, we had to test our abilities.

We went for a 7.5 mile kayak from the boat launch near our house to a tiny island on the barrier reef. After crossing the small bay at the boat launch, we made it to the mangrove tunnels. We know these tunnels quite well, and we paddled right into the third opening. The beautiful tunnel wound its way through green and brown lush forests, until it dropped us off back in the lagoon, directly across from our target: the little island on the reef. That was as far as we had ever gone. We would often make it to the end of the tunnel and stare longingly across the lagoon, imagining the trek.

On this day, however, after a big breakfast and with the right set of kayaks, we were determined to get to the tiny island. As we paddled, we could see the golden reef drop down into deep blue channels and rise back up again. Paddling over the endless dark water of the channels was disconcerting at first; who knows what might be watching from below. After two miles across the lagoon, we made it to the island, the barrier reef, and the open ocean. We stopped on the island for a lunch break, and we took a moment to snorkel at the reef wall, where the color fish were unfazed by our swimming. Snorkeling gave our arms and shoulders a break.

The trip back was tiring. The wind was no longer at our back and the current was not in our favor. Yet, two hours later we made it over the lagoon, through the mangroves, and back to the boat launch. We had finally concurred the lagoon by kayak!

First but not last trip across the lagoon.

Small Island Entertainment

There is one United Airlines flight per day to Pohnpei. Depending on the day of the week, the plane is either going from Guam to Honolulu or Honolulu to Guam. Pohnpei is one of five stops the plane makes in between.

On this day, we watched plane land from the water after a fun day of scuba diving.

Weekend Waterfall Kayak

Although we are loving our new scuba diving adventures (another scuba video coming soon), we have not forgotten our lovely kayak.

Pohnpei is a wondrous place via the water.The mangrove channels of the island are so peaceful.

This weekend we explored our way to a waterfall with some friends. In order to get to the mangroves that lead to the waterfall, we had to pass through a bay filled with shipwrecks. Once through the bay, a beautiful mangrove channel eventually opened up to a different part of the lagoon. From there, we passed through the “mangrove labyrinth” made up of many small mangrove plants that require a lot of maneuvering and remembering if you turned right or left. After a few wrong turns and downed trees, we made it up the river and to a hidden waterfall.

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This small island never seems to run out of beautiful secrets to share.

Tanks 5 & 6

Last Friday, 25 March, Mason and I went for our first two recreational dives outside of our certification class: tanks 5 and 6.

Ken Shigeta, the owner of Pirate Diving Service (and our landlord) took us out with his employees, Maverick and Andy. We went to Pehleng Pass, and tried drift diving for the first time. Ken is an extremely experienced dive master, and we had a fantastic time! We are certainly looking forward to our next dive with the Pirate team.

See if you can spot the (1) octopus, (2) school of barracuda, and (3) shark in the video:

If you are heading to Pohnpei and interested in scuba diving, contact Pirate Diving Service!

Great Day for a Swim

We did the Six Waterfalls Hike again for the third time this weekend. It was the best weather and water level we have had so far, and it was a fantastic time!

Six Waterfalls Hike is more of a jungle obstacle course than a hike. It is an all day hike to six waterfalls in the heart of the Pohnpei rainforest. When you arrive at the school where you park your car, teenage boys come out of the forest to offer their guide services. The family has six sons, and we have had all of them as guides at one time or another. They are masters of the jungle, and they glide over our obstacles in bare feet. They are very patient, safe, and thoughtful, and they make every hike better. This weekend we had Johnson and Johnny.

We made it to all six waterfalls (sometimes weather does not permit this, and you must turn back at four). Our hiking, stabilizing, swimming, jumping, and climbing skills were all put to the test, and I think we all passed!

We are Scuba Divers!

Mason and I finished our Padi Open Water Diver course this weekend, and we are officially scuba dive certified!

Over the past month, we have been attending classes after work and on the weekends. First, we started with the book work and written exam. During these class sessions, we learned how to be safe divers and how to read the dive table. Second, we went to the pool. In the pool, we practiced all of the techniques we learned about in the book. Finally, we took the boat out to a reef inside of the lagoon and practiced diving in the ocean. We were weightless, exploring the reef and practicing our scuba diving skills.

The world is beautiful 60 feet down, and we cannot wait to start diving more regularly. Underwater footage to come!

International Women’s Day 2016

Happy Women’s Day to all of the amazing and inspiring women in my life!

March 8 is International Women’s Day. In Pohnpei, the day was celebrated with a traditional dance and craft competition.

After the keynote speech from Supreme Court Judge Ms. Worswick, 24 groups of women from all over the island preformed cultural dance routines and displayed local crafts at an event held at the track in Kolonia. The event was open to the public, and each group had handmade matching outfits and banners to represent themselves.

The Pohnpei State Department of Health (DHS) woman wore orange scrubs and held posters written in the local language representing women in health. The 2016 International Women’s Day theme was Pledge for Parity, and the female nurses, doctors, and public health professionals from the DHS were promoting the theme by showcasing the important work that they do every day at the hospital alongside their male colleagues.

Today we celebrated the social, economic, cultural, and political achievement of women in Pohnpei. I hope that you were able to do the same wherever you are.