My kryptonite is no sleep, which turns me into a complete, worthless, grumpy zombie. My journey to Pohnpei would begin from Palau at 2AM, so there wasn’t even one wink of sleep for me.
I arrived in Guam by 5AM. It was weird being stamped into the US in the middle of this international journey. As you probably know, Guam is an American territory. I found myself outside on the curb, Googling a breakfast spot that might be open this early, but didn’t find any. Back into the airport I go. Later, I found out King’s was open 24 hours but it was too late – Damn, I should have done better research. Although Guam is not part of the “193,” I would’ve loved to have a local meal in town and check it off my list. Maybe one day.
It was in Guam where I would board the famous United Airlines “Island Hopper.” This historic flight travels from Guam to Honolulu (and vice versa) and stops in various islands in two countries plus a US Air Force base. I’d been so excited for this flight for some time, but by the time we took off at 8:20, I was absolutely beat. I tried to sleep most of the way and was barely lucid when I saw BBQ chicken wrapped in foil being passed around. I didn’t know if it was the airline’s meal service or just an islander sharing his food. I was too tired to care.
What’s Up, Chuuk?
We first touched down in Chuuk, Micronesia, where some passengers deplaned and others boarded. Then, it was on to Pohnpei, where I would get off and stay for two nights. The Island Hopper would continue on without me.
My exhaustion and grump level multiplied, as there were no taxis whatsoever outside of the airport – not a one! I couldn’t get any cell service and an hour later the airport was a ghost town, except for me: one hot, tired and angry guy. A compassionate airport employee called the hotel for me and 30 minutes later a cab finally appeared. Once at the hotel – now with a splitting headache – I’d check-in and take the afternoon napper that I needed so desperately.
After waking in the evening, I walked a half-mile up the hill, past menacing dogs, to arrive at The Ocean View Hotel for a sashimi and cheeseburger meal. Then, back down to my hotel to take a magic pill and pack in a good night’s slumber.
All was better the next morning – the sleep did wonders. I was lucky enough to get picked up by a friend of a friend who lived in Pohnpei. Susan, her husband Rick and two of their lovely daughters made my first full day in Pohnpei just awesome.
After lunch at Cliff’s we made the hour drive to the other side of the island to see Nan Madol. These are ancient ruins that until today remain a mystery: No one knows how they were made or even how they got there. The enormous stone pillars and columns weigh tons and were cut with smooth, flat lines – something that has continued to baffle historians today. I enjoyed the hike in almost as much as the ruins themselves, getting to them via rocky trails and makeshift bridges (logs) over streams and creeks. It was just us – no other tourists in sight except one couple at the ruins.
After Nan Madol, it was a stop at Kepirohi Waterfall, then, the hour drive back to town. The streets were clean with bright green all around us. Chickens and pigs scurried about. It was great to be able to cruise through and around the island. I was lucky to have such gracious hosts.
Who Let the Dogs Out? (Roof, Roof, Roof!)
The walk up the hill for my second dinner at Ocean View was close to terrifying, as the dogs were even meaner and more aggressive than ever, now running towards me while snarling. Thankfully, I’d make it past them without being bit. After dinner, on my way out of the restaurant, I inquired about the dogs to my waitress.
I asked, “You know those dogs over there – they’re scaring me. They won’t bite me, will they?,” completely expecting her to put my mind at ease.
The waitress, nonchalantly replies: “Yes, they will bite you.”
So this time, I picked up a pack of hot dogs at the market/shack just before the street with the dogs. Sure enough, the treats did the trick, and one of the dogs not only quickly shut his yapper, but also politely escorted me all the way back to my room. I’d later find out that one of the houses with a dog was The President’s house! You’d never know!
Man About Town
I spent the next and final (so I thought) morning walking into and around town. There wasn’t much to see, but I enjoyed the walk. Special shout out to the tourism office that gave me postcards – they were free! I’ve never seen that before, but the idea is genius: free promotion!
Another bonus point for Micronesia as I was going through airport security: I shrieked in horror as I emptied my pockets only to see I’d taken the hotel room key with me – an old school, metal key – the kind you have to return to the front desk. The X-ray security officer asked which hotel they belonged to and then offered to take them back for me. Who does that? Just amazing!
No Plane on Sunday
Just minutes after boarding the plane, the captain came on the P.A. to notify us all of a delay due to a mechanical issue. 15 minutes turned into 45 minutes before we were all finally taken off the plane and back into the airport. A part had to be flown in to repair the plane and wouldn’t arrive until the next day. Looks like we were all staying in Pohnpei at least one more night. And remember, some of the passengers were simply en route from Guam to Honolulu on The Island Hopper – they’d get an unexpected (and paid) stopover in Micronesia. Kinda cool for them.
I was actually not upset in the least. I had five full days at the next stop (Marshall Islands), so I could actually afford this delay. Had an interruption happened at any of the nine previous countries, my entire itinerary would have imploded – the stops were too tight. But this connection? No problem.
My only concern was having a clean room for the night. The airline rep announced on the mic that they didn’t have enough hotel rooms for everyone. Luckily, it all got worked out, for everyone, and I’d be back in room five at The Mangrove Bay Hotel before dark – but not before hitching a ride on the back of a truck. There weren’t enough taxis and shuttles for everyone. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Scratch N Sniff
I enjoyed a nice dinner and the hotel that night and was probably more social than I’d ever been this entire trip. I chatted up the Australian-Brasilian couple I’d met at the airport earlier that day. I saw Tim who I’d met yesterday at Nan Madol and his family – a group of lovely Tasmanians who were really curious about my travel. I got to chop it up with one of the restaurant managers who was The President’s nephew (the hotel was actually owned by The President’s brother). My final encounter was with a Vietnamese sailor from a fishing boat who’d stumbled upon shore. He knew not a word of English and insisted on taking a bunch of uncomfortably close selfies with me. After he sniffed my face I knew it was time to get the heck outta Dodge and call it a night.
Smell ya Later, Micronesia
I enjoyed another great breakfast up at Ocean View, this time, no trouble from the doggies. In the afternoon, it was back to the airport for a super early checkin, and then over to China Star Restaurant to have a late lunch with some new passenger friends. All meals were compliments of United Airlines at this point. And I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout to UA’s “Easter,” who was the woman responsible for getting everyone situated. She kept one of the coolest heads ever under extreme pressure and was a sweetheart to everyone. She should be running the entire customer service department at United. Thank you, Easter!
I’ve been severely delayed a few times in my life, and as delays go, this one was just about as enjoyable as it could be. And now, on to #192!This entry was posted in Oceania