Saturday, April 30, 2011

The ‘secret’ behind Long Beach’s rocky ledges

TINIAN — Long Beach located south of Blow Hole  is one of the prime destinations here, but there is more to it than meets the eye.
Photos by Raquel C. BagnolEasily accessible, Long Beach, or Unai Dankulo, is true to its name and is long stretch of white, sandy beach and crystal clear waters gently lapping on the shore.
But there is a “secret” behind the huge rocks and cliffs that border one end of the beach. My buddies Barnard, Susan and Edwin guided me to this secret spot on a leisurely tour one Sunday some weeks back. Picking our way gingerly among the rocks and avoiding getting wet from the splashing of the waves was no easy feat. Soon, we arrived at a huge cliff and I raised my eyebrows as we were obviously facing a dead end. Barnard then squatted and pointed to a very small opening at the bottom of the cliff.
We followed him as he started crawling through the very tight crevice. It was not big enough so we really had to crawl on our stomachs for a distance of about eight feet or so.  Fighting my fear of enclosed places, I crawled on, hugging my camera with one arm and groping my way with the other.
Soon, we emerged into the open. I caught my breath and gaped at the scenic hideaway that met my eyes.
Nestled amid pockets of sand between rocky cliffs and coral shelves was a private cove with fine white sand. Just perfect   if you want to get away from it all.
Crawling to the specific spot is the only way to get there, unless you want to brave the rough and treacherous waves and the sharp and slippery stones at the coral edge.
A huge hollow space with soft, fine sand beneath a large rock formation provides shelter for anyone who wants to just sit there and while the time away.
Tinian is not only rich in history. For the adventurous, the island has a hundred and one more special spots just waiting to be discovered.
The ‘secret’ behind Long Beach’s rocky ledges | around-the-island.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mountaintop sunrise

THERE is no other spot on Saipan that provides a spectacular view of the sun rising each morning and setting each night than the peak of Mt. Tapochao, situated at 1,535 feet above sea level.
Photos by Raquel C. BagnolTime and again, we see wonderful photos posted  online portraying sunsets and sunrises taken on Mt. Tapochao, but getting up there to capture these wonders requires a four-wheel drive or an all-terrain vehicle, stamina and endurance if you want to walk, guts for the not-so-daring and those who are afraid of heights, warm clothing to ward off the cold if you want to capture the sunset or explore the place at night, and effort and commitment to get up real early to see the sunrise.
This may sound too challenging, but when you get to the top, your efforts will be worth it. Mt. Tapochao is the only spot on Saipan that offers an exhilarating, spectacular 360-degree panoramic view of the whole island.
A few yards away from the cross are markers narrating how Mt. Tapochao used to be the spot where the Japanese troops fired at American forces during the war.
Today is not just another regular day on Tapochao as hundreds of Roman Catholic devotees make the annual trek to the top of Saipan’s highest spot in observance of Good Friday.
Not everybody who joins the annual trek is a devotee. Some are just curious observers, or friends and family members who tag along. Others go up there to represent different organizations and distribute food and drinks to the “pilgrims.”
Take time out of your daily routine to take a whiff of fresh and cool mountain air as you make the trek to Mt. Tapochao today for whatever reason. It could be for religious or just to enjoy nature. And oh, a spectacular sunrise — hopefully if it doesn’t rain.
Mountaintop sunrise | around-the-island.

Friday, April 1, 2011

An afternoon at Tinian’s Shinto Shrine

TINIAN — A huge old gate standing in front of two old flame trees caught my attention when we went driving on the north field of this island one Sunday afternoon a few weeks back.
Photo by Edwin Sta. TheresaMy companion, Tinian’s hot pepper entrepreneur Susan, drove fast on the rough and dusty road but willingly backed up the car when I asked if we could check the place out.
I’ve driven around Tinian’s North Field several in the past in a rented car and  visited the more popular spots, but that Sunday was different because I was with buddies who are Tinian residents. Gone was the usual apprehension and hesitancy to explore new and strange nooks that I always experienced in the past because I felt that I was with people who knew the place well.
Entering the clearance from the main gate, we came upon another torii Shinto gate and several other smaller shrines on both sides of the inner gate.
The Shinto Shrine gets a fair share of tourists, especially Japanese, every day. We passed by a couple of cars parked earlier but they had already left when we arrived and we had the place to ourselves.
We gingerly approached the place and felt that it was almost a sin to intrude and step on the hallowed grounds. Save for the chirping of some birds and other insects and the clicking of our shutters, the place was silent.
According to the barely readable information printed on a marker, the NKK Shinto Shrine was built next to a spur of the sugar railroad and its name suggests that it was built by the Nanyo Kohatsu Kaisha or NKK of the South Seas Development company in 1941.
From the marker, we also learned that the Japanese development on Tinian started sometime in 1926 when the NKK expanded its operations from Saipan. In 10 years time, about 80 percent of the island of Tinian was cultivating sugarcane. Tinian also embraced Japanese citizens and Japanese culture that time.
It was hard to imagine that once upon a time seven decades ago, ceremonial rites were regularly held on the very grounds where we were standing.
We were reluctant to leave but the sun was already dipping low on the horizon. I didn’t fancy staying after dark in the place.
We left the area with a certain connection to the past, rich with experiences. If you haven’t explored Tinian yet, you’re missing a lot. The island is filled with historical sites and scenic spots worth visiting.