Monday, January 14, 2008

Tachonga Hike - January 12, 2007

On January 12, four of us set off to explore the area south of Tachonga Beach. I had been in this area a lot over the years, but have never gone past the dumping site that can be seen on the cliff line south of the beach. Today, we were going to explore the area to the south of the dumping platform.

In the picture below, you can see Judy, me and Erica as we set off from Tachonga Beach. Tachonga Beach is one of the best beaches on Tinian and where most of the tourists hang out.

At the start of this hike, we walked along the beach toward the south, until the sand ends. At this point, we headed into the jungle to find a great latte site. In the picture are Erica, Mitch and Judy just before we headed into the jungle. You can also see the white sand that makes up Tachonga Beach.

In the picture below is Mitch sitting on an ancient Chamorro grinding stone. The Chamorros were one of the few cultures to grow rice in Micronesia. These stones could have been used to grind rice or other plant material. Most of these stones are basalt and had to be imported from the Northern Islands, since basalt is not found naturally on Tinian.

As always, everyone was taking pictures. If you look carefully in the background, on the left side of the picture, in front of Mitch's head, you will see a latte pillar stone standing in the jungle.

After visiting the grinding stone, we walked to the latte site that you can barely see in the picture of the grinding stone above. In the picture below, you can see Erica standing next to one of the pillar stones. Latte pillar stones are always found in two parallel rows. Each of the pillar stones had a capstone, which can been seen on the ground near the pillar stone on the left side of the picture below.

One of the pillar stones from the latte site in the picture above had been moved about 30 or 40 feet to the east of the site. The stone can still be found, but currently a large umumu tree is growing on it, as you can see in the picture below.

From the latte site, we headed back the way we came, for a little ways, before heading south through the jungle. As we followed an old trail, which I had cut through this area about three weeks ago, we came out upon an old Japanese property marker. It also had been flagged by a more recent survey of the area as shown in the picture below.

The first Japanese bunker was just past the flagged Japanese property marker. This bunker is made up of old railroad rails, thick sheets of metal, cement bags, and limestone rocks on top for camouflage. All of the hikers on this trip, Judy, Mitch, me and Erica, are sitting in front of this bunker in the picture below.

After this first bunker we headed toward the shoreline. The shore here is made up of eroded limestone, which we call moon rock here on Tinian. It is fairly difficult to walk on and you have to watch your footing carefully. In the picture below, Judy and Mitch are walking carefully over the moon rock.

The reason why I like to go toward the shoreline after the first bunker is that it makes it easier to find the next bunker. A notch has been carved in the cliff that leads to the bunker. This notch was carved by the Japanese to give a clear field of fire towards Tinian Town (now called San Jose Village). In the picture below, we are in the notch that leads to the bunker. I am right in front of the bunker, and just behind Erica's head you can see the gun port opening for the bunker.

Below is a picture of the gun port opening for the bunker in the picture above. In the picture below, you can see that it is partly covered by rocks.

In the picture below, Mitch is looking at the gun port in the bunker. The bunker is a vertical line on the left side of the picture, just to the right of the tree trunk.

In the picture below are Erica and my backpack on the top of the bunker, which is covered in a thin layer of leaves. The top of the opening to the bunker is at the bottom center of the picture below, but it is covered by large rocks and really hard to see.

After the large well preserved bunker, we continued through the jungle until we came to a sort of a clearing with sparse tangantangan trees growing in it. This was an old road way that led to an old dump platform. This platform was most likely used by either the Japanese or Americans to dump trash into the ocean, to be carried away by the current that flows off the reef in this area. In the picture below, you can see me standing on the platform while Mitch and Erica look into the gully that is on the north side of it.

One of the reasons why I like going to this platform is because of the great view of Tachonga Beach, San Jose Village and Goat Island that you can get from here. Also you can look safely over the edge into a really nice reef area, as Judy is doing in the picture below.

From the platform, we continued south along the coastline. This was a new area for me. As we walked along, we spent a lot of time walking through limestone forest and coastal strand communities. It would seem that Mitch and Erica had a swinging time of it, as shown in the picture below.

In reality, Mitch had found some great vines that were growing in a large umumu tree. We had a lot of fun posing for pictures with the vines.

There really was not much to see except some nice limeston forest, that varied with coastal strand and secondary forest of tangantangan. I kept on trying to get near the shore to try to tell exactly where we where. On one try to get to the shore, I happened to rip the seam out of one of the legs of my pants. This happened next to where we found some old truck tires in the jungle, which are in the picture below.

As we hiked in the jungle, we would spy butterflies every now and then. Below is a picture of one of the butterflies on a tree trunk. According to the Butterflies of Micronesia, by Schreiner and Nafus, this is male Hypolimnas bolina, the blue moon or common eggfly. According to Schreiner and Nafus, it is one of the most widely distributed butterflies in the Pacific.

Below is the same butterfly but with its wings closed.

After the tires and jungle, it was time to head back. As we walked back, I happened to notice a clearing in the jungle. It was an old roadway that used to go from the Dynasty Hotel and Casino to the cliff below Lookout on the south end of the island. This road is really overgrown and not used by vehicles any more. In the picture below are all of the hikers standing on the road. We didn't walk on the road but walked in the jungle next to it, where there was less grass and the going was easier.

Of course as we followed the road, we started to run into boonie bee nests. In the picture below, Erica is examining an old boonie bee nest. At least there were no bees on it to sting her.

We found another tire in the jungle as we walked back. This one looked like it had been there for a long time, like the other two tires that we had found earlier.

As we got near where we had started, the forest started to open up. I happened to come upon a bunker in the jungle, which is in the picture below. It was the first time that I had ever seen this particular bunker. As you can see in the picture, it looks like it was made of cement bags that supported a thick sheet metal roof.

Just a little more towards the shoreline was another bunker. It had a collapsed cement roof, as you can see in the picture below. It was not the first time that I had seen this bunker. Since I knew this bunker, I knew exactly where we where. We were just a little inland from the first bunker that we had found on this hike. So we walked down to the first bunker we had encountered on this hike, and followed the trail from it out to the beach.

Once we got back to the trail that led to the latte stone site, Judy suggested that we stay in the beach strand area and out of the sun as we walked back to the car. We all agreed and headed slowly back to the cars in the shade.

As we walked back, I happened to be talking about the butterflies that could be found on the hunek trees (Tournefortia (Messerschmidia) argentea). Judy happened to mention that she sometimes sees the butterflies on this tree too. So we took a careful look at one of the hunek trees and there were a lot the butterflies there. In the picture below, you can see the butterflies ganging up on a young shoot of the hunek tree. These butterflies are the males of Euploea eunice, the blue-branded king crow. The male butterfly visits the hunek tree to get chemicals to make a pheromone to attract the female butterfly (click here to see an article about the use of plant chemicals by butterflies to make pheromones).

Below is a closeup picture of the same butterflies as in the picture above.

The picture below shows the leaves and flowers of the hunek tree. The young leaves are edible and are fairly pleasant tasting. The leaves are also excellent defogger for diving masks. You just crush a little bit of the leaf and rub it on the inside of the mask. After that, you rinse the mask with water and you are ready for some fog free diving.

After the short walk back to the truck, it was short ride back to the village. Everyone had a pleasant time on this easy hike. Because I enjoy this hike, I do it fairly often. Read the October 15, 2007 for more pictures and another description of this hike.

As for the boonie bee count, it was only one, me again. I got stung on the shoulder and elbow as we walked back following the road. I also happened to get two large spines in my shoe as we walked from the large bunker to the dump platform. See the October 15th hike for more information about these spines.

I would like to thank the other hikers, Judy and Mitch, for helping in providing pictures for this posting.

The next hike will be to the Chiget cliff line. See the October 20, 2007, hike for information about this hike. This might turn into an all day hike, so bring a lunch and plenty of water. We will meet at Grace Christian School at 8 AM on Saturday, January 19.

Everyone is welcome to join on these hikes.

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