Welcome to my Kosrae-Pohnpei blog - May 1 - May 20!

I hope you enjoy my blog about my solo trip to Kosrae and Pohnpei May 1st through May 20th.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Last full day in paradise

I was still not feeling the greatest but still ventured out on the town of Kolonia for a brief walking tour and shopping spree.  I started out at the German Bell Tower which is the only structure from Pohnpei's original Catholic mission that managed to survive WWII......

Right near the belltower was the Spanish Walls which were built in 1887 and once enclosed Fort Alphonse and large sections of Pohnpei's Spanish colony.  One section of the wall comprises left to center field of the local ball park..........

Nothing like the left field foul pole near an old entrance to the Spanish fort.......

And a shot from home plate......

I then headed to Porakiet village to purchase some handicraft stuff.  Most of these people are descendants of the outer Polynesian atolls of Kapingamarangi and Nukuoro following typhoon and famine disasters in the early 1900's.  They do a lot of carving of local woods and ivory nuts........

If only I had room for the big shark in my suitcase!

I then happened upon an old Japanese tank leftover from WWII which are one of many scattered throughout the island.

I finished off my day with a nice massage in my hut by a local woman named Mirako.  She was very nice and had me good and relaxed using fresh coconut oil and her magical hands.

I then had delightful dinner conversation with my friends Russell and Carrie and another couple from Poulsbo, WA that are really nice people as well.  I finish this blog for my last night's rest and then strategic packing in the  morning.

See you all at home!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Last dives in warm water until next time.........

I woke up not feeling the best this morning but rinsed out my sinuses, popped some sudafed and headed out on the water for what I think are my last dives on Pohnpei and warm water in general until I am able to get in it again.  This was a scouting trip, right Carrie?!?!

Dive Twenty One
Site: Palikar Pass 

Dive Buddy: Jay
Other divers: n/a
Duration: 42 minutes
Max Depth: 70 feet
Visibility: 110 feet
Outside temp: 86.2 degrees F
Water temp: range from 82.4 - 86.7 degrees F

The weather was absolutely perfect.  Had a decent dive but really could tell I am under the weather as my ears were squirrelly and I was just plain beat. Perhaps it had a little do with the long boat ride to the SW side of Pohnpei only to find they had forgot my weight back at the Village.......45 minutes back if we elected to go that far.  So - I suggested going to Kolonia and have someone meet us.  

Well, they already had screwed up with me earlier this week and he called his boss who wasn't happy so we found a friend of Stamp (boat captain) who loaned us some weight so we headed back out to Palikar Pass.  Dropped down to about 70 feet and enjoyed all of the larger fish.  Pohnpei's waters are actually a bit clearer than Kosrae with much bigger fish as we encountered a school of jacks and then was able to swim right through a school of barracuda which was a neat experience, saw a napoleon wrasse, spotted eagle ray and a white tip reef shark sleeping on the bottom at about 150 feet of depth (him, not me).  We then moved along the reef to see lizard fish, puffers, small vibrant star fish, many clown fish and other small reef fish.  A very nice dive but I was gassed given my apparent sickness so we  surfaced after only 42 minutes.

We then headed further west to the point where we could see Ant Atoll to a dive site called Pehleng Pass

Dive Twenty Two
Site: Pehleng Pass 

Dive Buddy: Jay
Other divers: n/a
Duration: 56 minutes
Max Depth: 73 feet
Visibility: 100 feet
Outside temp: 82.9 degrees F
Water temp: range from 82.4 - 86.7 degrees F

This was a nice relaxing last dive of the day.  We saw a couple barracuda, clown fish, nudibranch, the largest flat worm of the trip at about 3 inches long, and two playful tuna rubbing against each other.

Here is a shot of a transport plane I shot while on the boat that comes in to Kolonia twice per week with Sokehs rock as the backdrop; to pick up fresh tuna to sell to the States......$19.99/lb+ there - $0.75/lb here.  Good stuff - I think I've had sashimi yellowfin 13 times since I've been down here - unbelievably good.

Tomorrow I'm due to head to town but apparently there are divers going to Ant Atoll so may join them depending on my ear situation...............

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The ancient city of Nan Madol

Today we set out for Nan Madol.  I say we because I met an extremely nice couple at dinner last night by the name of Russel and Carrie.....

They are NOAA scientists based out of Honolulu who just got done doing a 2 month cruise through the Western Pacific Islands.  They do coral monitoring - scuba diving 7 days a week - 4-6 dives per day.  They call it work - I call it a dream job and they were very gracious in answering all of my questions.  I was like a kid in a candy store.  They are on a delayed honeymoon of sorts having been married 4 months ago so are island hopping back from Saipan to Honolulu as that is where their work cruise terminated.

We first attempted to snorkel with the mantas after leaving the Village harbor but we struck out so headed off to the Kepirohi Waterfall as part of our tour.  The trail leading in was even spectacular......

And then the gorgeous waterfall itself.  It was fairly tall as you can see compared to the palm tree and was quite majestic.........

We had a nice lunch on a beach on a small island within the Pohnpei lagoon and then off to Nan Madol.  Nan Madol's construction began in 1100 AD and took 200-300 years to complete.  It is spread over 92 artificial islets extending over one mile on the reef on the southeastern side of Pohnpei.  It was a place of worship housing royalty and their servants.  Wide basalt pillars, up to 23 feet long, formed naturally into hexagonal columns and some weighing over 60 tons make up the construction.  Legend says that the pillars were moved by "magic" as they were obviously much too heavy for men to lift; even in teams.  That theory was challenged many decades ago by attempting to construct rafts made by materials believed to be available at the time; sturdy enough to float a medium sized pillar high enough using high tide and each attempt failed miserably so no-one really knows how the ancient city was actually built.

A tomb......

I liked this shot because it shows the sound engineering - obviously to last 900+ years in this good of shape..........

They used coral in between the basalt columns as filler as shown in this shot........

We then headed off to explore the rest of the ancient city by kayak which was stunning and a ton of fun.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Big animals on our dives today

Met Stamp (Captain), Ward (Dive Master) and Bernard (Deck Hand) at the front desk in preparation for diving with the Village this morning. Not sure why we need such a large crew with my being the only diver.  Drove down the hill and boarded the boat.   Headed out to our first dive spot - Manta Road.  This is a manta ray cleaning station so Ward and I geared up and headed down........

Dive Nineteen
Site: Manta Road

Dive Buddy: Ward
Other divers: n/a
Duration: 48 minutes
Max Depth: 73 feet
Visibility: 50 feet
Outside temp: 83.3 degrees F
Water temp: range from 83.1 - 91.8 degrees F (keep in mind this is my computer telling me this which can record little bits of water shortly after surfacing - the water temp is mostly towards the bottom range for most of the dive(s)

The viz was not good but I expected this given that it was a cleaning station inside the Pohnpei lagoon.  For those that don't know - a cleaning station is where large animals come to get cleaned by wrasse, remoras, etc.  Mantas are large animals with wing spans of nearly 10 feet wide!  We were lucky enough to see one manta swoop through and several small white tipped reef sharks settled on the bottom.  Also saw my first spotted eagle ray swooping past to our left - majestic! Not much else to be seen on this dive.  We had to abort early because Ward ran out of air as his regulator was leaking.

For our surface interval and lunch we went to Langer Island where the Japanese had a seaplane base during WWII.  It was actually really cool.  Stamp wanted a long surface interval as our dive profile would be deeper on the second dive so needed to rid our bodies of most nitrogen before heading down again.  There was a large cement pier running out into the water ending at a ramp that the seaplanes could run right up on.  Stamp led me on a tour through the jungle showing me several bomb craters from the US bombing this location during WWII.  He also showed me the collapsed hangar where the Japanese seaplanes were kept - pre-bombing.  Massive structure built into the side of the mountain. You can still plainly see the door on it's side and the track it once slid on.  There was also a plane engine lying on its side.  He then brought to me where a gun emplacement once stood with the swivel base and massive wheels jutting out (for when they transported the gun I guess).  A tall mangrove tree was growing right out of it so most of the iron was not visible.  Of course - I forgot my memory card for camera at the resort so was unable to snap photos but may have another surface interval there in future days so will be sure to snap some photos!  We then hopped on the boat and headed out for the next dive....

Dive Twenty
Site: Mwand Pass

Dive Buddy: Ward
Other divers: n/a
Duration: 36 minutes
Max Depth: 86 feet
Visibility: 100 feet
Outside temp: 90.3 degrees F
Water temp: range from 83.1 - 90.3 degrees F

This started out to be a fabulous dive.  Saw a manta ray swooping down below before my attention was brought to a spotted eagle ray climbing the wall to my left.  Spotted a large grey shark - probably 6 feet long?  I then was treated to a massive manta swooping towards me.  I sunk down to about 80 feet and he went right over my head - probably less than 5 feet away.  He had a remora stuck on the bottom of him.  AWESOME sight to behold.  This was a fairly heavy current dive so was simply watching depth and watching for large animals while flying along next to the reef.  Spotted another manta down below and then Ward gave me the shark signal and started to swim out into the blue so I followed.  I then saw many sharks on a "corner" of the reef. (I say "corner" because this apparently rivals Blue Corner in Palau - only to have a reef hook to stay!)  I started counting 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25......too many sharks to count!  There were white tips and large grey sharks.  BEAUTIFUL sight!!!!  I then turned around to head back to the reef only to be treated to another close encounter with a manta gliding right next to me - we made eye contact but went our separate ways - not my choice but his, lol.  We then hit some heavy current coming right at us so I wanted to turn around and let it take us but Ward was too far out in front to stop him.  I'm not sure what he was thinking as I really became tired swimming against the current with my split fins.  I went through 1300 pounds of air in about 6 minutes.  Not happy!  I had to abort the dive and was so tired out I could barely do my 15 foot safety stop.  I climbed on the boat huffing and puffing and not a happy diver as I was really enjoying swimming with the large stuff.  Oh well - I expressed my displeasure to the owner when I returned to the resort so will work out payment (or lack thereof) for today's diving later.

I then took a nice nap after doing some reading and am now blogging, drinking ice-cold San Miguel and heading to dinner soon.  I will try and post more pictures later.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Extreme Adventure Diving!

Went to Pakin (pronounced paw-keen) Atoll yesterday which sits about 30km West-Northwest of Pohnpei.  I had met Dan on scubaboard.com and he had chartered a boat for the local dive club to take us out to Pakin from Nihco Marine Park.  There were 5 divers and 3 snorkelers with us for the trip.  The boat was owned by Wilbur who went with us and operated by his son Joe and assistant KM.  His other Jayson was in an assist boat (as needed so many tanks) with two other helpers.  The boat we were on is a 30 foot long skiff, open-bow boat.   It was a bit rough out on the open ocean with some pretty big waves - I'd estimate 8-10 feet?  Big waves for what seemed a small boat.  Travel time to the atoll was about 2 hours.  We were to meet some Seventh Day Adventist teachers (college students) out by the reef but they were nowhere to be seen.  So, we prepped our gear and went in the water.

Dive Seventeen
Site: Pakin Atoll 

Dive Buddy: Dan
Other divers: Brian, Rick, Ron
Duration: 66 minutes
Max Depth: 65 feet
Visibility: 175+ feet
Outside temp: 86.0 degrees F
Water temp: range from 82.4 - 85.3 degrees F

People keep asking me if I've found what I'm looking for on this trip and if I were looking for fantastic visibility, I found it today.  Estimated 175 feet of viz+.  The cleanest water I've ever dove in.  Pakin is a sheer wall with all sorts of caves, etc. all along.  We dropped down right on a stingray in about 60 feet of water.  He was propped in a crack in the wall and Dan took several photos.  You can see Dan's photos of the ray and other things we saw here:  Pakin Atoll - May 15th.  We slowly moved along the wall at our own leisure and as the viz was so fantastic - could dive your own profile while easily keeping track of your fellow divers.  I saw several nudibranchs, tons of giant clams, christmas tree worms, soft coral, hard coral, clown fish and I did spot a white tipped reef shark cruising at about 150 feet below the surface...below us.  It was an amazing dive and loved the viz!

We then had an hour surface interval where our boats would hand fish.  If you saw the gear I showed you the first day on Kosrae - the fisherman don't use much more except the line test is more and  their spool a bit bigger.  They call it hand fishing.  No pole.  The other boat pulled in a huge grouper while we off-gased nitrogen.  We then headed to the northwest point of the atoll and prepped our gear to go in the water.

Dive Eighteen
Site: Pakin Atoll 

Dive Buddy: Dan
Other divers: Brian, Rick, Ron
Duration: 71 minutes
Max Depth: 61 feet
Visibility: 175+ feet
Outside temp: 86.0 degrees F
Water temp: range from 82.4 - 84.6 degrees F

I enjoyed the second dive more than the first.  Perhaps because I was more comfortable with the other divers and/or the site.  I entered a small cavern and explored around - several red grouper hanging on the top. Saw wahoo, nudibranch, small black urchin, small star fish, box fish and more clown fish.

The ride back is where the adventure comes in.  It was POURING rain and we couldn't see the atoll we left or the island we were going back to and the waves were big and we were going against them.  We actually had to grab my compass and guide the captain back at 95-100 degrees East. It was wet - we were all soaked and our gear got a nice rinse even though in bags, etc., lol.  We spotted several schools of fish on our way back in.  The birds play an important part in the fishing because the birds close in on the bait fish where there's a school of larger fish eating them.  I'm talking hundreds of birds - all in on spot on the ocean.  It looks like a black cloud!  We finally started to see land again and the waves did calm down a bit but it was a bit of a scary ride most of the way but I did feel safe.  We drank beer and talked about our dives and life in general on the way back.  One of the deck hands - KM - is of Polynesian descent and looks very much like my nephews.  Shary - is Julian part Polynesian?  Same eyes as Luke/Danny - exact!  Wish I had my camera to snap a photo (was recommended to me not to take it as everything gets wet - glad I listened).  We were then greeted by a school of dolphins that guided us back into the harbor.  Probably 30-40 dolphins?  I went up to the bow of the boat and watched them cruise right in front - it was really cool.  The fisherman don't like them because they can't fish with them so near the boat.  We arrived safely back to Nihco.

I was going to call a taxi but Wilbur offered his son Jayson to take me back to the Village so I accepted.  This family must be doing quite well because he picked me up in a fully loaded Toyota Tacoma - beautiful rig.  Felt so luxurious compared to what I've been riding in, lol.  I offered to buy him dinner and we had some very enjoyable conversation.  He went to school at UC-Riverside so we talked about the Lakers, sports, life on Pohnpei, etc.  He is really a neat kid and was happy to be able to buy him dinner.  He is leaving for Vegas in two weeks to go party - I asked him if it was his first time - he says he goes 2-3 times per year.  Funny kid.

Then came back to the village for a much needed shower and a wonderful night's sleep.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Pakin Atoll dive today

Today - we dive Pakin Atoll.  I had met Dan on ScubaBoard.com from Pohnpei about a month ago and he is hosting a boat full of divers out to Pakin today.  I am told it is approximately 30 km west of Pohnpei and a two hour boat ride there and a 3-4 hour boat ride back due to throwing some line in the water and doing some trolling which will be really cool.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Hello from Pohnpei

I'm staying at the Village resort in Pohnpei which is awesome.  I have my own treehouse in the jungle and it's beautiful!  Great view of the lagoon and Pacific Ocean beyond.  

I'm just settling in and have discovered that the internet appears to be free here so I may post more pics, etc. from Kosrae as have unlimited use (at least from what I can tell now).  Oh - and I just sat down on the bed to test it out - a water-bed?! Yes - I'll be sleeping in a traditional Micronesian hut in the trees in a water-bed - not bad if you ask me!

An update on the weather I mentioned last night.  I thought it seemed a bit severe and apparently it was a waterspout tornado that literally ripped right through the resort.  When I say resort - I'm talking the length is only maybe 50 yards.  They were cleaning seaweed off of the TOP of the walls INSIDE of the lobby this morning!  I thought it was a bit loud for just your normal storm - I guess I can now say I've lived through a tornado!