I reached Tokyo after a long train journey crossing Siberia and then by ship from Nahodka to Yokohama. I was almost broke and planned to work in Japan and then continue my around the world journey. But I found a cheap air pass which permitted me to fly during one year to the following islands: Guam; Saipan in the Northern Marianas; Koror in Palau; the Caroline Islands of Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae in the Federated States of Micronesia; Majuro in the Marshall’s, plus Honolulu in Hawaii as final destination, where I hoped to find a job. At the beginning I had the intention to hop as soon as possible through these diminutive islands that I judged unexciting, to reach Hawaii. Fortunately, the friends that I made, their original customs, the singing of tropical birds, and the whisper of the wind during the starry nights, contributed to change my mind, and thus get acquainted with the rich history and traditions of charming people in that ignored part of the world.
GUAM was very dear to me because of the call in it of the Magellan expedition around the world; there is even a monument in his honour in Umatac. I expected to arrive to a primitive island and was amazed: the highroads had nothing to envy to those of Italy, Germany or Spain! Everybody has a car in Guam, nobody walks. The Chamorros, or local inhabitants, are all fat, walking with difficulty because of the abundance of food and money in the island. Soon I made friends who invited me to their houses because the Chamorros speak a language containing 70 % of Spanish words and for them I was a remote relative. They told me that before the arrival of the Spaniards they had four castes, like in India. Thanks to their generosity I could taste the Tuba (local liquor made with coconut) and eat the breadfruit. Beaches are beautiful in Tumon Bay, and the Nature and waterfalls of the island are gorgeous. After one month I continued my journey to Saipan.
SAIPAN. Japanese fly to this island to get married, which is much cheaper than in Japan, and to visit the tiny Island of the Birds, where in front of it there is a plaque devoted to the Japanese soldiers who preferred to commit suicide instead of surrendering to the USA troops during WWII. I visited the jail where, presumably, Kansas pilot Amelia Earhart was arrested before being killed by the Japanese in 1937 (the only thing that we know for sure is that she disappeared after leaving Lae, in Papua New Guinea, in direction to USA with her airplane). Between Saipan and TINIAN lays the Marianas Trench, the deepest in the world, with 11.000 metres. I travelled there by boat and walked to the place from where departed the airplane Enola Gay, the one that threw the first atomic bomb in Hiroshima. In Chalan Kanoa, Saipan, I stayed in the magnificent hotel Marianas Trench. The owner was so helpful that gave me a room for free when he saw me sleeping in a park. After Saipan I flew to Palau.
PALAU. I landed in Koror, hence I took a boat to Angaur, the Island of the Monkeys, crossing the Seventy Islands, one of the three most scenic and beautiful archipelagos of tiny islands in the whole Ocean Pacific (there is another one between Honiara and Gizo, in the Solomon, and the third one is located around Vavau, in Tonga). During that boat journey I was exulted. Once in Angaur I asked for the chief, and after giving him a present (a Russian matrioshka), as is the practice, he showed me an Abai to sleep. Every traditional Island in the Micronesia has an Abai, or meeting house, where people join to talk internal affairs and lodge visitors. Every night all the young natives take a lantern and go to catch enormous eating coconuts crabs. When you walk in that pleasant island you have to be careful with your cap, glasses and pencils in you shirt pocket, because the monkeys are thieves and will rob you while you are walking. After two weeks I flew to Yap.
YAP is the most traditional island in Micronesia. Women walk half naked in the streets and enter the supermarkets, and all men, scarcely dressed with loincloths, carry always with them a straw bag containing hundreds of betel nuts that they masticate and spit everywhere, every time. In Colonia, capital of Yap, I saw stone money in a bank in the street. With those stones of aragonite (calcium carbonate) snatched from the Rock Islands of Palau, locals can buy possessions or pay as dowry to get married. Today they have been devaluated owing to an Irish adventurer of the XIX century, David Dean O’Keefe, who extracted larges quantities of them and became rich; he even bought an island (named O’Keefe!) in front of Colonia and got married to a native girl. I tried to visit a small island called Rummung, but the chief did not allow me to enter, and even refused my matrioshka, for being a foreigner from another “island”. For them, everybody lives in an island. One week later I flew to Chuuk.
CHUUK is a paradise for divers because of the many Japanese warships sunk during the WWII in its lagoon, the greatest of the world. Looking for a convenient bower where to spend the night I met some foreigners who invited me to share their dormitory. They were Peace Corps, or very nice Americans who teach English to the natives. But after two days I got bored in Chuuk. I heard that in the other side of the lagoon there was an island called Tol where the natives play the flute with the nose, but my economy situation had reached the top bottom level, and to eat I had to climb the trees to catch coconuts. Furthermore, I was in typhoon season, it rained every day and the mud made me walk with difficulty. Without realizing it, my mind started to machinate: “Rain rain, mud mud, hungry hungry, rain rain, mud mud, hungry hungry, food inside the airplane! food inside the airplane!” And then I walked to the airport to take the next plane to Pohnpei.
POHNPEI is the oddest island in Micronesia. It has the enigmatic ruins of Nan Madol, erected with blocks of basalt weighing up to 50 tons. Nobody can explain yet how they were cut from the quarry, transported for kilometres and erected in a perfect way forming 92 islets. The nature in Pohnpei is fabulous; you do not feel in a small island but in the centre of a continent because of the high mountains and the powerful rivers. Indeed, if King Kong would exist in Pohnpei he would feel at home. There are five kingdoms in Pohnpei: Kiti, Sokehs, Net, U, and Madolenihmw, and their kings have power in politics. I hitchhiked to surround the island when the President of the country picked me up! He was going to the funeral of the Queen of Kiti and invited me. I willingly accepted. The King was sad, dejected. I gave him a matrioshka as my condolences and he, in correspondence, offered me a head of dog for lunch, but I gently declined and ate an omelette instead. Some weeks later I flew to Kosrae.
KOSRAE. I landed one Friday in Kosrae and tried to visit the island when I was severely admonished. In Kosrae, Friday is a Green Day and everyone, even foreigners, have to do any ecological work such as planting, cleaning the beach, etc. I agreed and entered a garden with some natives. When they observed me climbing up the trees collecting tangerines with enthusiasm, they were satisfied and let me alone. Luckily they did not catch me eating the tangerines and hiding the best and juicier in my bag for the dinner. Afterwards I was invited by the community of Utwe to the rite of Sakau, also called Kava in Melanesia. It consists in a narcotic drink obtained from the root of the pepper and served in a coconut cup. When you are given the cup you have to drink only a little and pass it over to another member. Some days later I flew to Majuro.
MAJURO. The plane landed in Kwajalein before proceeding to Majuro, a sinking atoll where its people are suffering the Evergreen Effect; soon they will have to find another place to live. Marshall’s is included in the Oceania “Biblical Belt”, Sundays are holy and the cars stop when the churches bells ring. Mormons are very active and recruit natives with the theory that they descend from the Lost Tribes of Israel. One week later I flew to Honolulu stopping in the atoll of Johnston, but the US Army did not allow me to get off the plane. Finally I landed in beautiful Oahu and my Micronesia journey ended.