Monday, March 12, 2012

Moonlight drive at the back roads

SO, what’s new with driving in the back roads these days? Nothing and everything—that is if you go out for a night drive.
Coming out from a late dinner some nights ago, I gave in to the temptation of going for a drive around with a couple of buddies. It was almost midnight and we decided to drive to the Banzai Cliff and back, just to re-experience how the place feels like with the light from the quarter-moon illuminating the skies.
Bracing myself for a night of moonlight adventure in a place I’d always considered eerily beautiful, I was surprised to find that my buddy mad a right turn and headed for Capital Hill instead, telling us she was suddenly scared to go to Marpi.
She was at the wheel so we were left with no choice but gave in to the idea of a quick drive in the back roads and emerge in San Vicente and back to the office.
We took the back road with its familiar twists and turns that snaked through the dark jungles like countless times before. The road was almost empty save for a few vehicles that we met along the way. Road construction was in progress marked by orange cones and signs but when we reached the Mobil station at the intersection going to Kagman, things changed.
We had been busy talking and missed some developments in the road earlier. As we drove on, we forgot the usual back roads we’ve come to know in the past four years. We were driving down in one of the three lanes of smoothly paved roads, enjoying the sight of the long line of reflectors installed on both sides of the road. It almost felt magical, with Saipan’s lofty hilltops and natural scenery silhouetted in the moonlight and the distant lights of Dandan Village and the airport blinking in the distance.
Maybe I had been away from the lights too long but it’s amazing how road developments created great changes in an ordinary drive around the back roads—drives that usually elicited more ‘ughhhhs’ from us in the past because of the distance and the rough road condition.
We emerged at San Vicente feeling refreshed, and made a detour to Chalan Kanoa before heading back to Garapan.
That moonlight drive at the back road is something that the travel brochures do not include. It is one experience that anyone could do just to break the daily routine and feel like you are in another place from time to time.

Revisiting Laulau Beach

Photos by Raquel C. BagnolTHE rough road to Laulau Beach in San Vicente had been the biggest challenge for people who wanted to visit this lovely area tucked amid breathtaking views of cliffs and jungles. Going there was not for people who didn’t have four-wheel vehicles.
Now, at least, the entrance has been paved.
The sign was still tilted but the paved road was a strong temptation I couldn’t resist. Going down early morning on Wednesday, it was a big relief to drive on a smooth road that used to be so rough you’d think you were rolling down a dried-up river.
The paved portion ended just below the sharp bend on the road to Laulau Beach, but getting there was much better than before.
The last time I had been to the beach was about three years ago, and other changes had already taken place since then. A proper parking space had been built and an open hut for picnickers had been constructed with a barbeque pit.
Going to Laulau Beach is a unique and refreshing experience, especially if you have the whole place to yourself. The remoteness and the accessibility add to its appeal.
It was quite an experience to sit on the beach listening to the sounds of the waves rolling in from the reef, watching several blackbirds swooping down to catch food on the water while hearing the chirping of other birds from the jungle behind.
It’s like cutting yourself off from civilization and having all the beauty of nature to yourself. You’re not totally isolated, of course, because you can see the Laulau Bay Golf Resort hotel from a distance.
Laulau Beach is also one of the best dive spots on the island.
Going there allows you to enjoy a picturesque view of the road, with long vines hanging down from trees. It seems like you’re entering wonderland.
A rough road snakes its way from the beach all the way to Kagman, but I didn’t have the luxury of time and a sturdy vehicle to be daring enough to follow where it lead. But someday, soon…