Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Saturday April 19, 2008 - San Jose Cliff Line

My apologies for taking so long to get this entry posted. Before talking about the hike I have to say that I doubt any of us ever appreciated how much work Howard put into this blog. Doing one of these write-ups is far tougher than doing any of the hikes!
Also, Howard when you are reading anything I enter here please feel free to insert corrections, comments or addition in ( parentheses ) wherever needed. Thanks, Jude

On Saturday, April 19th 4 of us, Kim, me, Mitch, and Lina, as shown below, set off from the San Jose Cemetery to explore the cliff line from there to the Northern Marianas College Campus.

Following the route Howard had taken in the past, Mitch led the way straight up a rather steep slope then turned back to get a picture of Lina, me and Kim making our way up to join her.

At the top she showed us a small notch in the cliff that would have been used as a shelter in WWII. To demonstrate its small size I posed inside it. Short though I am I could barely stand up in there. We decided it would have been tight quarters for more than one man with supplies and equipment.

Later Kim demonstrated how small another of these shelters, chiselled out of the face of the cliff, really are. This one was nothing but a small indentation at the base of the cliff, probably enlarged a bit by man.

After climbing, scrambling, slipping or sliding our way back down, Mitch led us along the cliff line. As we went we noticed many freshly cut shrubs and saw evidence that coconut crab hunters had been there recently. Next we came to some old pipe and a series of cement supports for the old pipeline that ran down through there.

In the picture above is a length of pipe on the ground between the green leaves and the cement support. The next picture shows the groove the pipe was supported in. And in the shadows beyond the next support in the series can be seen.

A short ways later Mitch pointed out a different sort of shelter, low to the ground, with an opening partially constructed out of 55 gallon drums apparently filled with large rocks.

Exploring within she found one of the numerous old bottles that we see on the jungle hikes.

We all had to take our turns examining this one as it was so low and so small. Though we thought the earlier one would seem crowded it would was spacious compared to this.

While I was having my turn at the shelter, Mitch, ever the observant one spotted one of the several bird's nests seen on this hike.

In a much larger cave we found medicine ampoules, shards of pottery, and several other items left as reminders of earlier uses of these caves.

Outside were many rusting objects. Mitch's friend in Japan had told her there used to be a railroad line in this area. Some of the bits and tools we saw could fit with that.

A well preserved land marker also reminded us that this secluded area was once more heavily populated. Sounds of boom boxes and traffic nearby served to remind us that we were not really so far from it all today.

Other finds also typical on these hikes are grim reminders of less than peaceful times.

Sometime the solemnity of thinking about our two nations in long ago battles here needed to be broken with a bit of levity. We tried to convince our New Yorker, Kim, that the head of an old sledge hammer was actually a submarine sandwich. She cheerfully pretended to believe us.

The next cave was one of the largest we've seen. Mitch told us it had been a hospital cave. Large though it is for caves around here, it still seemed rather small for the purpose.

It took a bit of a climb to get there. Mitch and Lina, below, negotiate the face of the cliff toward the opening just above Mitch. Watching them, I was wondering how they got patients in and out when it had been used as a hospital cave.

Within were more items that suggested it's former usage. Ampoules, vials, a piece of a glass stirrer, microscope slides, etc.

Moving onward, we soon came to the largest site of the day, a cave/tunnel that had been well reinforced by concrete. We had to proceed with caution as it was 'guarded' from high above by a huge bees nest. Below, taken from the tunnel opening, is Lina looking up toward the bees nest.

This was not the usual boonie bee nest. It looked about 15-20 inches high and a foot or so wide with hundreds or perhaps thousands of bees swarming on and around it. Howard, can you give us more info here? ( edit: in 'comments' Howard says they're honey bees ) In spite of all the bees seen here, there were no signs of booonie bees and no stings on this hike.
Once we were all safely past the bees who seemed rather oblivious of us we explored the tunnel/cave. With an opening at each end, and alcoves in between it was hard to decide if it was a cave or a tunnel.

Near the exit, alerted by water on the floor, we examined the ceiling and found stalactites forming there. Even closer to the exit Lina pointed out a huge spider. One very different from the ones we often 'battle' in the jungle outside. We were content to give him wide berth and were relieved that he didn't seem to mind our presence or all our camera flashes. So, of course, we shutter bugs aimed a few of those flashes at him.

A short hike from the tunnel/cave brought us to the grounds of the now closed college,

and then to the cave now used for the stations of the cross and the Santa Lourdes shrine. We took a refreshment break at one of the tables there.

Then a short walk along the road brought us back to our starting point - the San Jose Cemetery.

Several torrential downpours shortly after the hike ended convinced me that we finished just in time. Actually we'd had one brief shower just after leaving the hospital cave. But the jungle was dense enough close to the cliff that barely a drop reached us though we could see and hear the rain.
For more information and pictures of this same hike see Howard's entry of Dec 1, 2007. And at Mitch's blog entry for this hike:
A big thank you goes to Mitch and Lina for sharing their pictures to be used in this post.

The next hike will be Saturday April 26 to the Tachonga Lattes. Unless we find more than the two main groups we know, it will be a short hike so will end with snorkelling. Everyone is welcome. Meet at 8a.m. at the Tachonga Beach parking lot.


The Hiker said...

The bee nest is a honey bee nest.

Howard said...

The spider is a tropical wandering spider.