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15.6.10

Okinawa

Hello Friends,

I apologize for the delay in updates. To put your concerns to rest, I am alive and well but have been supremely active these last few weeks and as a result have not had time to sit down and adequately inform you (the reader) about my endeavors of late.

When i left you last i was embarking on a trip to the island of Okinawa. We left from Fukuoka airport, and started our journey. Our first night in Okinawa i rented a bike, and me and some friends, rode around town to get acquainted with the city Naha. It was somewhat rainy that night and the two others who rented bikes with me ended up slipping and falling pretty bad. Lucky for me i got lucky and avoided the falls. Most of Naha was a tourist trap with really expensive foods and restaurants and every shop in sight sold the exact same thing with little variation (redundant).

Ran into some problems with the hostel i booked, turns out that the internet booking system they use sometimes double books people. So instead of canceling one, they cancel both and expect the customer to know. But we found an alternative, in a decent hostel which had dormitory style bunk beds and was unbearably hot during the night. It was a small price to pay due to the amount that we were paying for the night, and for the proximity to the port (2 minute walk).



The next day, we were up at the crack of dawn to catch the first ferry to Zamami Island, a small island off the western coast of Okinawa. The weather was foreboding and indecisive but we held out hope for good weather. In my research i found out that no more than 1000 people inhabit the island at one time, which turned out to be exactly the case. There were hardly any cars or tourists just peaceful tropical paradise. Upon our arrival, we split into our groups of "camping group" and "non-camping group." I was part of the camping group and we made way for our camp ground. We got eaten alive by bugs for the first hour while we set up camp. Our camping spot was just a treeline away from the beach. Which we had all to ourselves. Yes, i am saying we had our own, private, white sand/coral beach.

The water was clear blue and there was a cool breeze coming off the eastern shore when we made our way to the other side of the island to go snorkeling. I was bummed because i forgot my underwater camera at the tent, but still made the best of it. There were some spectacular fish and coral reef to be seen there. Again, there was no one else on the beach but our group. So we had the whole bay to ourselves to swim around in. Some things that i saw included: sting ray, sea snakes, starfish, clownfish, parrotfish, flying fish, fish that would follow you, and other fish that i wouldn't even know how to begin to name.

After a while, some of us decided to explore a nearby island. At first i was hesitant to swim there because it had just started to rain, and i could see a storm off in the distance. Not to mention the fact my snorkel broke and was letting water in through the side which probably not have fared so well against the waves. But i bit the bullet and swam across about 400-500 yards of open ocean, it was exhilarating, know that at any second i could get swept out to sea and drown. When i made it to the other side i noticed a sand bar that ran about half way out to the other island that we could have walked on, but failed to see it. The good news is it stopped raining and we explored the island (some of us went on further than others and didn't make it back to camp until after dark) and i collected shells and hermit crabs, big ugly ones, to use as bait for fishing which was part of my plan to do the next day. We made our way back and started cooking dinner at camp which i was designated chef for. Then went out to the beach to make a fire, which ultimately failed because it was too windy, but had an incredibly clear night to look at the stars. I realized upon my return that it was this night that will have spoiled me for the rest of my life. because it is here that i saw the stars in a way i had never seen before. The sky was white with their light and its sad to say but every time anyone says "oh its a clear night, look how pretty the stars are," i will be forced to think "i've seen better."

The next day i was able to wake up and walk 20 yards to my pristine unadultered private beach and soak in the sun. It was a gorgeous day and after an hour or two of hangin out some of us decided to snorkel again and ended up seeing a sea turtle, which was awesome. The rest of the day i spent riding around the island (4sqk) on a bike i rented and a group of us decided to try and circumnavigate the entire island on our bikes. We ended up walking half of the journey, because there were so many hills and one road we thought lead us to another road to go around the island in fact lead us to the bottom of an even bigger hill. The diamond in the rough here was the fact we discovered a "secret beach" as described on the map we had. As we found out, there was no road connecting in order to go around the island. We stumbled upon this observatory, on top of one of the hills, and it was an incredible sight to see. Atop this hill, there was a cliff that had about a 200 foot drop, and cliffs on both sides. It was really dangerous to stand near the edge because of the whipping wind that was swirling. We made our way back to the beach where the rest of our group was, and after a while got fed up with one of our group members, and as a punishment buried him in the sand. I was the main digger of the hole and was able to swiftly dig and bury in a matter of minutes.

By this point i hadn't showered in about 2 days, and i was feeling miserable. We wanted to all go out to dinner and i didn't want to offend anyone with my stench. So we convinced a local hostel that one of our friends was staying in to let us use their shower. Since our group was so big there were few places that could accommodate us, so we ended up splitting up and then meeting up at a local bar afterwards. On my way back to camp i met a few American marines and they ended up hangin out with us for a little while at our camp fire which was much more of a success this night than the previous.

The next day was dark and cloudy and had sporadic rain showers which showed no sign of breaking up. We made the decision to go back to Naha that day and made the arrangements to return all our gear and get tickets to the lone ferry setting sail that day (Sunday only had one ferry leaving). It was rather hectic but we managed to get one and everyone was terribly exhausted and most slept on the ferry back. We spent the night in Naha seeing all the touristy things and getting free samples of "Habu-shyu" which is an Okinawa delicacy meaning "snake liquor." It is exactly what it claims to be. This liquor has real snake in it and is surprisingly sweet for such a bitter animal and obscenely expensive (a big jar cost about 2,000 USD) That night myself and a few buddies prowled the street looking for fun, but being that it was a Sunday night not a whole lot was going on. Defeated, we returned back to our hostel.

The last day in Naha was rather uneventful except for the one time a Japanese bus EVER runs late, it runs late when we need to catch a flight. As a result we needed to take a taxi in order to make our flight. Our plane was not parked in a terminal so we need to take a bus to the plane sitting on the runway which was cool to be out there. The bus ride back to Beppu was as depressing and rainy as Beppu ever is but it was good to be back to a familiar place.

The trip to Okinawa/Zamami proved to me that there truly are little wrinkles in time where everything seems to slow down. Time moved sluggishly slow (in the good way, not the way classes seem to go) and i was able to really relax and enjoy the time there.

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