Friday, June 25, 2010

Excitement from the ledge

HE stood at the edge of the rocky limestone ledge, swinging his arms in a circular motion while I stood unmoving a few meters across the railings, my camera propped on top of a Taga stone-shaped cement, forefinger poised ready to press the shutter.
I swatted a flying insect near the lens when I heard the inevitable splash. I missed my target. The diver surfaced, treading water as he swam toward the shore. Luckily, he went up the stairs again, as well as some boys and a couple of girls. This time I vowed not be diverted by flying insects or anything else.
Watching the swimmers who never seem to get tired of jumping from the ledge, do summersaults and flip flops, and going up the cemented steps and diving again is exhilarating.
A couple of years back, I had the luxury of time to watch the swimmers trying to outdo each other in how high they can jump, how many flips they can do and how fast they can swim back to shore. I got the chance to watch the kids again only last Saturday.
Taga Beach is actually just a small cove of white sandy beach with amazingly clear, blue green waters tucked between limestone cliffs, but the cemented stone paths and the limestone cliff provide kids and adults the perfect site to jump off.
Taga Beach, a popular destination for tourists and a frequent hangout for locals is almost never vacant any time of the day – even under the scorching heat of the noonday sun.
With available facilities including chairs and tables, an outdoor shower, ample parking spaces and cottages, the place is a favorite not only for swimmers but for families and organizations to hold gatherings and events so if you hear music, the clink of glasses, and laughter from afar, you will know a party is in progress.
Oh, and one thing you should not miss at Taga Beach— the superb sunsets. Just don’t go there without a camera or you’ll regret it.

One night on Forbidden Island

THE word “forbidden” kept ringing in my ears as I frantically grabbed footholds and handholds among the sharp, jutting rocks. It was getting dark and I was trying to stop the uncontrollable shaking of my knees and the rising fear that one false step could send me hurtling down the steep cliffs resulting in serious injury, or even my end.
We were on Forbidden Island on the east coast of Saipan, shoes and jeans dripping from the knee-high water we had to wade through to reach it.
I had thought about  visiting the area for the past two years and so there I was, finally. Our group split into two, the more daring ones going up to follow the eagle trail while the others followed the almost equally hard turtle trail set by hashers Dan and Eric.
After an eternity of hardship, the leader who was ahead of us shouted “dead end” and we started the more agonizing trek back.
Forbidden Island provides the daring with a stunning view, great snorkeling nooks, pristine hidden pools and a cave.
But in the falling darkness, it looked eerie, devoid of any form of life save for the bird and a few plants that were able to tough it out.
I looked at Forbidden Island with a new perspective. It’s different when you just look at it from the view deck above than when you explore it and come back with blue, red and violet bruises on your hands, arms and legs, and knowing panic when you see your buddies fall on the sharp rocks and get up with huge bloody gashes on their legs.
The trek to  Forbidden Island is quite challenging and is not for everyone, especially those who are afraid to fall or who have fear of heights.
Going down, you have to hold on to pieces of ropes tied on tree branches or stumps, or grab stones for footholds and handholds which could roll down any minute. You have to find the trail amid tall tangan-tangan and thick bushes.
The dying embers from our bonfire cast an eerie glow as we gathered our things to leave the  area at past 9 p.m.
We still had to survive the upward trail, with only flashlights to guide us back to the parking lot. We left the site with the waves in their seemingly endless race against each other, crashing into the rocky shores.
It’s been six days since then and I still feel the muscle pains, but it was worth it. If you haven’t been to Forbidden Island yet, you’re missing a lot. (This article was first published HERE.