It was past five in the afternoon and the sun was making its trip down the horizon faster than we would have wanted to.
I and a friend were driving up the rugged road leading to Mt. Sabana, wanting to see the whole island from the highest point 1,600 feet above and hoping to catch a glimpse of a deer or two along the way, too.
We stopped for a few minutes to quickly take photos of an old Japanese cannon along the way, a quick stop that ate about half an hour of our budget.
Arriving at the gate of Sabana, we slowed to a stop to read a sign which sent our spirits spiraling down. The gate will be closed at 5:30 p.m. and will be reopened at 7 a.m. the following day.
The daring part of me wanted to take the risk to drive on, hoping that the gatekeeper would fail to close the gate that night but my companion said he wouldn’t want to spend the night slapping mosquitoes in the cold mountain or walk the whole way back. We can creep under the gate of course, but we have to leave the car behind and there was no signal so calling for rescue is out of the question.
The drive up to Sabana in broad daylight is a challenge by itself, but driving up in the growing darkness doubles the challenge. There is always the threat of a tire going flat and having no spare, or the car breaking down with no means of rescue as very few cars go up there.
We played it safe and drove back to Songsong in the growing darkness, a little bit disappointed because I was not able to see the Sabana Peace Memorial located at the peak of Mt. Sabana constructed to honor the Japanese soldiers who lost their lives on Rota during World War II, the remains of the man-made rock wall and the site where Japanese Command had once taken place during the war, sites which I have only seen photos of. No deer also crossed our path.
Mt. Sabana is a conservation area under Rota’s local law 9-1. The cool mountain provides a natural habitat for the wildlife and medicinal plants, serves as an area for subsistence farming, and is one of the tourist attractions.
Rota has still so much to offer in addition to its heady mix of natural scenery, crystal clear waters and white, sandy beaches, lush forests, World War 11 memorabilia, friendly people and more—all squeezed into this pocket-sized paradise half an hour away from Saipan by air. When on Rota, try driving up to Mt. Sabana but do it during daytime and have better luck than us.