Saturday, August 9, 2008

Sea Kay-Yacking

This weekend is my friend's last in Saipan. We've been here for four weekends together and every Saturday that we've made plans to hike up to Forbidden Island, the Grotto, etc, it's rained. We're not afraid of melting, but of slipping off lava rock or coral in the jungle, which deters us from treading into the boonies. So, as expected we had arranged to have a friend with a large 4x4 truck to bring us out to Forbidden Island this morning and the instant he picked us up, it poured. He bailed out as our tour guide and took us to Wild Bills instead. After a few hours of bullshitting, the rain ended and Miss M and I decided to go kayaking to Managaha.

Kayaking to Managaha, a small island just off the coast of Saipan, has been on our To-Do List, so we were excited to check it out. We rented a sea kayak for two from the Hyatt ($35 for four hours) and headed out to the island. Having grown up on a lake, I've been kayaking for some time now. I thought this would be just like home, right? Get in, hold on tight with the right hand, let the oar slide through the left, 45 degree angle into the water and straight on til morning. Funny thing is, this was the ocean. Before we departed the vendor said, "Nice day to go to Managaha- calm water." Duly noted and appreciated. We slid into the water and with the heave-ho of a kindly fisherman, we were off. Me in the back, Miss M in the front and Managaha straight ahead.

I should have thought more about this adventure before we took off, if for nothing more than mental preparation, but I didn't. Yesterday afternoon, should have been my first warning. We went to Pau Pau beach for some snorkeling, and again, a water bug since a young age and never having a fear of water, I was surprisingly jolted by the turd-like sea cucumbers covering the ocean floor. I was assured at Pau Pau that I truly am a fresh-water kind of girl. The small threat of stepping on coral or animals, or being attacked by a shark was enough to keep my ass on shore for 20 minutes before venturing in; scoping out the action from above the water as friends happily snorkeled around and would surface routinely to point out the giant eel they just saw or the fish at their feet. Where I come from you can't see the shit swimming above or below you, and man and animal live happily oblivious to each other's existence, knowing that neither is a threat to the other. Here, not so much and damn sea cucumbers are nasty. Like I said, fresh water lady right here. Anyway, sea kayaking, was certainly a reassurance of this.

So, Managaha may be oh, I don't know 2 miles from Saipan? We were told to plan an hour of kayaking each way. We hopped right in, headed out, and having never ridden in a two man kayak, it took me a second to get the hang of it and another minute to hide-away the control freak in me, and follow Miss M, in the front. About halfway to Managaha speed boats started cruising by our little kayak and wrecking up large, rolling waves. At first, I thought, this would be a blast to go over in a jet ski! Then, our speed and direction were compromised by the large waves and my stomach began to slosh. Deuce can attest to the pathetic, inconsolable nature of a Nauseous Ans. It's not pretty and it's not fun to be with. It involves a lot of moaning and "Oh shit, I think I'm going to puke!"s. Poor Miss M. She's a trooper and she counseled my motion sick, useless ass to the island. I tried to help. I'd paddle, get ill, try to persevere and then just moan. With a lot of determination we crossed the waves kicked up by parasailing and diving boats and paddled as hard as we could against the rocky current. We hit shore on the eastern side of Managaha, and before Miss M could even touch the ocean floor she instructed me to just get the hell out of the boat. I didn't need to be told twice, and I plunged in, tore off my life vest and wet clothes and laid on the beach.

It wasn't even sunny out, folks. It was not the heat, I'm just a total pansy. Kayaking on a lake, is not like kayaking on the ocean. I get nauseous running on a treadmill for God's sake. I should have known. I recovered on the beach as Miss M circumnavigated the island in search for a snack shack. She returned shortly with a diet coke. Even at this point, I knew I owed her so much more than a coke. After a few minutes I felt fine, and we decided to move to the other side of the island, which was much calmer and swarming with at least 200 Korean tourists. Miss M took the kayak, and I walked.

Managaha is a small island with a bathroom, spray paint tattoo place, a gear rental booth and a snack shack. It's all about the water. The snorkeling in Pau Pau was NOTHING compared to Managaha. It was great. Beautiful, colorful fish swarming around you (sometimes a little too close) almost as if they were ready to be fed, which is probably the case since they encourage you to bring cooked rice with you to attract the fish. There's no need for bait; these fish were all about checking out the humans. It was a lot of fun, but a little freaky at first. By the end of the day we were swimming along with schools of fish.

By four, we had to head back and I thought we'd grab a snack before taking off, but I guess we missed the announcement that the shack was closing up for the night since all of the announcements were in Korean. So, low on food, tired from the sun and not too pumped to get back in to the kayak, I strapped on my life vest and pushed us off shore.

This time, I knew what was coming and I tried to think past the rocking waves knocking on the boat, and to focus on the horizon or the island, but it just didn't work. It was definitely a quicker trip heading back, and this time I sat up front, but it made no difference. Miss M was a freaking rock star, told me to stop paddling, she'd get us back, and to just relax. That's when it got real bad. So bad that I reverted back to soothing techniques that I did as a child when sick; squinting, tilting my head, rubbing my tongue on the top of my mouth (weird, I know, but it works); however, this is usually a bad sign with me. I knew I was going to puke. I announced this (probably several times) and Miss M pushed through, and talked to me about random things in an attempt to get my mind off the slapping of waves from all sides. Seeing that I was hopeless and basically dead weight in her boat, she offered to dump me at the nearest shore line and to come pick me up in the car. I couldn't even speak. I just nodded, focused ahead and tried to keep breakfast down.

We got to shore at American Memorial Park, which butts right up to the Hyatt beach, and I fell dramatically onto all fours, heaved, shook (literally, shaking) and tossed my cookies. Not once, not twice, but three times. There have been only a couple more times in my life when I have succumbed to a pathetic state of vomit and needed someone to just take care of my shit for me. This afternoon was one of those moments. As I huffed, and puffed and blew the chunks out, Miss M collected my water, towel and sandals, placed them neatly on the beach (up beach from my vomit and at least three feet away) and said she'd be back as soon as possible. As always, I felt 100% better after my upchucking antics and offered to walk along the beach as she paddled and to meet her at the Hyatt. It worked out beautifully, and I watched my dear friend paddle a two man boat the rest of the way, by herself. We met at the beach, the vendor met up with us, saw that I was walking and asked if I had swum in. Hell No, dude. I was just puking about 700 yards north and walked back here.

It was an embarrassing, beautiful and humbling day. I will not be repeating that trip by kayak, again with Deuce. Tomorrow, we head to Tinian. We're taking the boat (or as a friend kindly referred to it, the "vomit comet"- awesome!) over and a plane back. Miss M is also Doc M and she's hooked me up with some motion-sickness pills. Let's cross our fingers and hope we don't have a repeat performance tomorrow. I'll keep you posted, but for the time being, here's a one of my favorite pics from Saipan.

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