We had the privilege of a personalized Tour of Tinian this week. The pastor of the SDA church on Tinian met us at the airport after our probably 7 minute flight, and showed us all the sights on the island.
Tinian was severely hit by Typhoon Yuto last fall, one of the strongest ever to hit a US property. Winds from 180 – 190 MPH! Saipan was hit very hard too, but more on that in a later blog.
There is nothing funny about people whose homes were destroyed, or people living in tents donated by FEMA (They were VERY helpful here, donating housing materials, tents, and even generators), but I did find humor in some power lines…
Tinian is well known as the site the Atomic Bombs were flown from, on the way to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We saw what’s left of the airfield and some Japanese buildings from when they used the airfields.
The Atomic Bombs, nicknamed “Fat Man” and “Little Boy” were loaded from pits in the ground up into the bombers. They have now placed protective glass covers over these pits.
Here are some models of “Fat Man” and “Little Boy”- they were on mounts, but Typhoon Yutu blew them away!
We haven’t spent much time on the beach yet… but we did drive to the south of the island and check out a couple of beaches.
Ladder Beach is reached by a long stairway that reaches almost to the sand… the southern part of the island is what was hit the hardest in the huge hurricane last fall, and I’m told it altered the landing area of this stairway. But no matter, the beach is still beautiful, with huge boulders on the western side that make for fun exploring and awesome views.
Obyan Beach (pronounced Ob-John) is a bit farther east, and quite a bit more popular.
Alongside the parking area are many trees that have been blown over, and are now just sticking their roots helplessly in the air…
ATV tours are available, and we ran into one leaving the beach. The whole herd seemed to be having fun.
There was a uniformed guard at the parking area when we arrived, and he asked us if we would be getting in the water. He advised that because of a strong rip current, we should not go past the breakers. So we had fun in only about three feet of water. The rocks weren’t too exciting, but it was good to be in the clear water and I had fun chasing fish…
Most of the tourists in Saipan are from China or Korea, with Japan a distant third. I don’t think American tourists get here too often. One thing that amuses me about the tourists, is the love of Pink Mustang convertibles. They are extremely popular, and you see dozens of them driving around. The coolest ones have had the doors modified, so they swing up like they belong on a Lamborghini. These Pseudo Lambo drivers pose for glamour shots all over the island, usually just the pretty girl, but sometimes a couple. You occasionally see red Mustangs, or even Yellow Camaros, but the pink prevails.
The World War II battle for Saipan was one of the bloodiest in the Pacific. The Japanese figured this island was their last line of defense, because if the Americans took Saipan, they would be within bomber range of the Japanese mainland. So they fought ferociously to keep it.
The American invasion was incredibly strong, and the Japanese were overpowered. The last stronghold was towards the north of the island, in a system of caves reinforced with concrete. Much of the fortress still exists, and there are many military relics around to add to the sobering atmosphere.
Near the shore are many shrines commemorating the lost…
A gorgeous sunset seems to represent closure of a sad time for both sides…
My plan was to have a cool history of this amazing island called Saipan in this week’s blog. But I have been reminded how seldom things go like one plans… I’ve learned a lot of fascinating things about this special island, but they will get shared another day.
When I was here 5 or 6 years ago, just for a visit, I ran every morning along Beach road. I’m excited to resume that practice now, and have watched the creation of each new day while running on a sidewalk along the beach.
There are plenty of nice white beaches and fantastic shades of blue in the waters.
Just around the bend in the picture above we ran across these war relics. There are remnants of tank-like treads behind this front axle, telling me that this must have been a “half-track”. Can’t tell which side it belonged to.
Lest you think life is all beaches and exploration, I must admit that I’ve spent most of my time in the clinic. I’m learning their systems and workflow, and even getting some dentistry done!
That is not a huge poster welcoming us, but a nice sign on the glass in front of an operatory. They had those nice welcoming signs all over!
Here is a short video of a couple of beaches and a couple of resorts – one beautiful and one amazingly tacky. It is a gold encrusted eyesore that started out as a casino, and is trying to expand into a huge hotel/resort. Rumor has it that they are bankrupt and will never be able to complete it. It is very tall – dominating the skyline, and drawing scorn from most of the locals. Especially the workers that aren’t getting paid!
The Kathryn Abbey Hanna Campground is really like a jungle with paths through it just large enough to drive an RV, and sites carved out big enough to park one. They are enough apart that you can imagine you are alone in the jungle (well, almost). Our kind of campground! There are miles of hiking trails and biking trails through all this vegetation.
I saw this ring, like a caldera of tree roots. It was obviously the remains of a palm tree – the trunk dies, falls over, and the ring of roots is stronger so lasts a while longer. So after I took pictures, thinking this was so cool, we saw another, and another… they are everywhere. I still think they’re cool.
A short walk takes you to the beach. This time of year there were no crowds!
We saw this HUGE machine, called an Extractor 3300. I wasn’t sure what it does, but was pretty sure it didn’t do third molar extractions. A little research showed that it is a sand reclamation tool – a slurry of sand, water and rocks is pumped from the bottom by a barge a ways off shore, through some huge pipes, and into the back of the extractor. Then it acts like a huge sieve, separating the rocks and whatever else out, spits them into a waiting truck, and then pours water and clean sand out the big wide end. So beachgoer friendly sand is pumped out and the beach replenished.
It seems here they are building a large berm to protect the wild dunes and the houses behind them, but it looks like they might have gotten a bit carried away. These beach access stairs look like they are buried in snow, like half the country is right now!
We’ve been working on a possible trip to Saipan to help while the SDA Clinic there is short a couple of dentists. The paperwork to get my license for the Mariana Islands takes a while, so we weren’t sure if it would work out, or when we’d go if it did. By Sunday night it looked like we might get it finished, and leave soon. We figured we could have everything stored away in a couple of days, so told them we could leave on Wednesday if the paperwork came through. Well, we found out Monday midnight that we were good to go, and had tickets for Wednesday at 7am! So Tuesday we put the car and trailer in storage, took our luggage to a hotel near the airport, and flew off in the morning!
My oldest grandson is playing the ukulele, and the night before we left performed a famous Disney tune for us via FaceTime. He is doing an amazing job of playing – but the tune is a fallacy… It’s NOT a Small World when you fly half way around it at one time!!
We flew from Jacksonville, Florida to Houston, had about half an hour to trek across that huge airport, and catch the flight to Honolulu. That flight left about 30 minutes late, so after our 9 hour flight we arrived in Hawaii at the exact time the next flight to Guam was supposed to depart. But since there were 55 people on our plane that were connecting to Guam, United politely held that flight till we arrived. As we walked out from our plane, gate agents routed us right on to the plane at the next gate. I doubt we spent three minutes on the ground in Honolulu! Probably five minutes after the doors were opened on our arriving flight, the doors were closed on the next flight, and we were off for another 8 hours of flying. We skipped Thursday altogether, thanks to crossing the date line. We did have about 9 hours of nighttime layover in Guam, so we got a room and slept for a bit, before our 7am flight to Saipan.
This is all we saw of Houston:
And then a few minutes of Hawaii…
It was dark the whole time we were in Guam, but we had a nice view from the hotel balcony.
So this morning, basically after 38 hours of travel, we arrived in Saipan! It’s beautiful, and everyone has been very welcoming! They have given us a nice apartment, some starter food, keys to a car, and taken us around to do some more food shopping.
Here’s a little overview of the clinic, church and some housing in the back. By next week I hope to go into some of the interesting history of Saipan, including some with my family. But now I’m falling asleep! ZZZZZZZZZZZ