Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Rota: The Sequel

Been there, done that...and it was wonderful! We really enjoyed Rota and the place we stayed, The Coconut Village, was very charming and close to the water so we could easily hear the surf.
Rota's reef is very close to the island instead of forming a nice big lagoon like on Saipan, but it has it's advantages and the sound of the surf was only one of them.

Here's Casey looking all manly with the pink girly bike. On the way to Rota we realized that neither of us had reserved a car, but we weren't worried because...well...it was Rota. However, the 4 rental cars available on island were already taken and we were out of luck. No problem, we'll just take a...oops! No taxi service. Okay, we'll just call our hotel for an airport transfer. Hmmm...maybe something was lost in the translation, but for whatever reason they couldn't come to pick us up. Okay. Casey ended up just asking a guy if he would give us a lift into town and he was so nice and accommodating that he took us out of his way all the way to our hotel. Very nice, friendly guy. We invited him and his family to be our guests for dinner and he said yes, so we waited that evening until 30 minutes after the appointed time and then just ate. We know that here in the islands "yes" often means "no thank you", but we wanted to wait a bit just in case. Islanders generally don't like to come right out and say no.

Lucky for us the hotel had a nice little restaurant, The Hibiscus, at which we ate our meals. It was pretty good. Casey had a good seafood curry that first night--I had spicy pork something. But the real treat was the dessert--sour sop sorbet! It was delicious and refreshing! Yum! They said they just take sour sop and milk and sugar and ice and whirl it up in the blender. I'm definitely going to give that a try here at home! The next day after our sweaty adventure that's ALL we ordered to eat for lunch!

Just a couple miles further into the jungle from our hotel was one of those advantages I mentioned from the reef being close to the island. It's a place called simply "the Swimming Hole". We walked down there the first afternoon to check it out and it was great! It's basically a huge tidal pool surrounded by rough rocks and reef, but with a soft, sandy bottom. I'm sure it can be treacherous during high tide and rough seas, but we hit it on at just the right time of day and it was a lot of fun. When I was getting out I saw a flurry of tiny, neon-blue fish flitting around in one of the smaller tidal pools on the side. I forgot to take my camera, but I found this photo of the Swimming Hole online. Unlike here, there were a few waves coming over the outer edge the day we went.

On Friday, we decided to take the two old single-speed bikes available at the hotel and head off to the Latte Stone Quarry and the Bird Sanctuary on the other side of the airport. Casey wanted to go by way of the main roads, but it had been quite a while since I've been bike riding and I didn't feel comfortable about how much control I had on it, so he sweetly agreed to go the back way which took us past the Swimming Hole again. I didn't think it would be any longer judging from the cartoon map we had, but he felt sure it was and he was right.

Poor Casey--I was soooo slow, but on the way, and not too far after passing the Swimming Hole, we came across an old Japanese train that was used pre-WWII by the Japanese for transporting sugar cane around the island. We were taking photos when I notice a low hum coming from inside the engine. That ended that little photo shoot for me! Jungle bees are nothing to mess around with--they're very aggressive. After leaving the train we continued on and between pedaling on the flats and downhills and walking on the uphills we finally made our way--arrrouuunnnd the runway--to the airport terminal.

After a rest and plenty of water it was an easy ride over to the Latte Stone Quarry, except for the fact that Casey's bike got a flat! Groan! He just picked it up and heaved it into the savanna grass so it would be hidden until the hotel manager could arrange to come and get it. He walked the rest of the way.

The Quarry was awesome! No one knows what the latte stones were for, but many people think they used them in building their houses--kind of as foundations to raise them off the ground I think. We disagree. What people would go through that kind of trouble to build a home? Especially here! The native people here lived outdoors, why go through that much work? These things are huge! I'm sure they weight many, many tons. Casey thinks it was more likely they had some religious significance, which would explain a lot including the lack of any knowledge being passed down about their use. Many of the Chamorros converted to Catholicism at the point of a Spanish sword, but I know there were a number of them who chose the other option. If the stones did have religious significance and assuming those who chose death were the most devout, then that knowledge went with them. As for the "converts", why tell your kids about something if you know it could endanger their lives?

We didn't continue on to the Bird Sanctuary (it would have been another 4 mile round trip from the airport), since Casey didn't have a bike anymore. We went the mile back to the airport, then my resourceful husband hitch-hiked us back to our hotel. Hahaha!

It was a fun trip--I loved it. Rota is lovely and quiet with very friendly people. It's one of those place where everyone waves whether they know you or not! I like that.

Casey admitted during our little stay on Rota that he had actually forgotten that he had intended to arrange this get-away as a Valentine gift to me. Hmmmm. That's okay--he made up for that on Guam. :)

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Sunday Baking

Sunday afternoon and baking just go together, don't they? I remember my mother telling me that she loved to cook--just not meals (and I'm sure when she said "cook" she meant "bake"). I think I've inherited her attitude. I like leisure baking, not duty cooking. Mallory said lately "cooking therapy" and that's what it's like. It's in-home therapy--creative, goodly, cozy, productive, even philanthropic (hahaha!)--all those things that make me feel like for a little while the world is all right.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011


We're going on a little Valentine's excursion this year--we'll spend a couple of days snorkeling on Rota, then go over to Guam for a couple more days and then home. Valentine's on a remote tropical island---WOW!! But, you know, a tropical island is a tropical island and just because we live on one doesn't make it any less beautiful or a moonlit, ylang ylang-scented tropical night any less romantic.
Rota is the smallest of the developed Mariana Islands, only has about 1,000 residents, and was skipped over in the bombing and burning during WWII so it doesn't have the erosion-control plants (tanga tanga and ironwood trees) that were introduced to save the soil after Tinian and Saipan were ravaged. It has a bird sanctuary (probably for all the poor refugees trying to escape the brown tree snakes on Guam) and a latte stone quarry. Latte stones are monoliths with a bowl-shaped capstone. According to one website, "Their precise use remains one of the great mysteries of the Pacific to this day."
I've never been to Rota, but I hear it has great diving and snorkeling, white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, a turquoise lagoon, palm trees swaying in the breeze, brightly colored tropical fish, moonlit nights, ylang ylang,....