Saturday, February 21, 2009

Part 2.... (nearly) Uninhabited islands

And then was Valentine's Day weekend. We were all ready to take a trip for the weekend and they called us on Friday to tell us they were delivering our furniture and all of the rest of our stuff! Luckily it was a 3 day weekend, so we spent Valentine's Day in household shipment inventory madness and starting to unpack. But the next day we got to take our trip! We drove down to Naha City to the port, finally figured out how to get into the parking garage (which would turn out is much easier then actually getting OUT of the parking garage) and wandered into the terminal to purchase ferry tickets. Sidebar - we have also figured out that when you exchange money for something, you hold it with both hands and bow slightly. Its very tacky to jsut hand someone a 1000 Yen bill with one hand. Anyway, we got our ferry tickets and hopped on the boat, waited for evryone else and then we were on our way! The island chain is called the Keramas, and we went to Tokashiki Island, down to Tokashiku Beach. The straights around the islands are where humpback whales migrate every spring, and of course we couldn't get the camera fast enough but one of the boat crewmen made some really funny noises and motioned for us to get to the front of the boat. We saw a whale about 150 yards from us! Unexpected, and very cool. Added bonus for taking the ferry to the island! A gentleman met us at the port with the hotel bus and drove us there, very steep mountain roads winding though to the other side of the island down to the hotel. The views are absolutely amazing, the pictures really don't do justice to the place. The population of the whole island is about 370, and we saw maybe 10 people counting the hotel staff the entire weekend. Its obviously not high tourism season, but still - everyone that comes to visit HAS to see this place! We went snorkeling for a couple of hours, didn't see anything really big (which was good) but lots of cool looking little fish. Several that were neon blue, others that were black and white striped, puffer fish, scorpion fish and all sorts of colorful other things that I have no idea what they are! Then we rented a kayak for an hour or so, saw a giant sea turtle and then tried to find another one but he outsmarted us. (Our primary concern was staying upright in the kayak - the water was *really* cold and we turned in the wet suits after snorkeling.) And then, there was the food. The biggest adventure of the weekend. Breakfast and dinner were included in the price of the hotel - but it was chef's surprise as to what you might eat. No menu, no choice other than drink - and we're still not sure what most of it was. Ben tried pretty much everything, even after asking the waitress who's English was about as good as our Japanese. Thank you, okay, yes/no was about it. Ben asked what one of the sashimi dishes they brought out was because it was solid white. (We knew what the Ahi Tuna was.) She told us in Japanese, which didn't help, then was extremely proud of her next idea in which she ran away, then ran back with a piece of paper on which she had drawn a nice little squid. She was very happy. So were we, at least we knew what it was. So Ben tried it, but it had the consistency of a pencil eraser (no kidding) so he just couldn't manage that one. No real taste, just like chewing rubber. We also had some mostly raw bacon, some kind of seafood stir fry, some boiled pork dumpling things, soup and well, you'll see the picture. Breakfast was the same but we forgot the camera - soup, yogurt and fruit, a salad, french fries, scrambled eggs, some weird kind of sausage (we think) and then we managed to find the toaster and waffles/pancakes on the side. No syrup, but we had butter and jelly so all wasn't completely lost. Basically, this is an amazing place to go, but unless you're like Ben and will eat pretty much anything, you might want to plan for some snacks. We went to the little store inside the hotel after dinner and bought two cokes, two bags of chips and a bag of oreo cookies.

The next day was pretty bad weather, so we kind of stayed in until time to go get on the ferry home. We walked around through the little port village and then spend an hour on the boat looking at sky/water/sky/water in 12 foot seas on the way home. Good thing it was a big boat.

The food was interesting, the place was beautiful, the water was fun, and the trip was great. And again, impressed with the genuinely nice people here - they are simply amazing. It is part of their culture that if their job is to work in the hotel lobby, they will look good doing it and it makes them so very happy to answer a question and have you smile when you figure out what they are talking about. They also refuse to let you carry your own bags, and stopped what they were doing when we left to come to the front door, wave goodbye and bow as we drove away. We love these people!

Okay, time to go buy Japanese rugs. We'll keep you posted on how this one goes!

Our boat to the island

Bye bye Naha!

Into port on Tokashiki

Bus ride to the hotel

The road winding down to our beach!

Snorkeling self portrait

Japan's newest (and best looking) snorkeler

Our beach. No, really - we didn't see another person.

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Sake makes you wear funny hats.

After dinner snack

Port village wandering around

Everywhere. No matter if no one lives there, there WILL be vending machines. Random cane fields, middle of nowhere, how-in-the-world-do-they-get-power-to-them vending machines.

End of the trip, heading back out to Naha!


Anonymous said...

Ben and Mimmie, we miss you guys so much! I loved your little stories about the great adventures in Japan. We have been thinking about you guys. I guess there is change happening everywhere :). Mardi Gras is not the same without you two! Hope to see you in March, Mimmie. Love, Shelly and Missy Wilson

Julie said...

Hi Em and Ben-This bl0gging thing is great. Thanks for keeping us all posted. Glad you all are enjoying(experiencing so much!!) Will see you in a couple of weeks , Em/ Julie

JHinote36 said...

Sounds fun!!! I wouldn't last a day though!!! Love u! Miss u! :)