Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Brown Boobies and Flying Fish

One of the Yaeyama islands, Hateruma, is the southernmost island in Japan. The day we decided to go it was pouring rain and didn't look too promising. We took the slow ferry, since it was cheaper. Most of the passengers were workmen in light green jumpsuits. It was two and a half hours from Ishigaki, and it wasn't long before I really regretted not taking some Dramamine. I went outside, and had to hold onto the rail as the boat rocked and crashed on the waves. The water sprayed over the side of the ship, and I felt like I was going to feed the fish my partially digested breakfast.

The fresh air made me feel a lot better, and I had a great time watching the brown boobies flying around the boat. I saw these other little birds glide just above the surface of the water and then dive beneath the waves. It took me a minute to realize they were flying fish! It was very cool watching the boobies hunt the fish, skimming the surface after them and darting beneath the water, leaving white tunnels in their paths.

Hateruma is only 5km wide, but after Taketomi, we decided to rent bikes to get around the island. Hateruma is kind of what I imagine Taketomi might be like without the tourists and the building code. There were crumbling remains of coral walls and traditional buildings in the tiny town, but lots of cement block walls, plywood, and corrugated sheet metal roofs, too.

I think there were more goats on the island than people. This one tried to eat Theo's hat and shoes. They seem to use them as lawn mowers, staking a mother goat in an area with her kids, who I guess stay close to mom.

We managed to get lost somehow. As you can see, there was no one to ask for directions. Masami is just hanging out in the middle of this intersection reading the map.

The open road.

Cape Takana is a rough jumble of volcanic rocks teetering on the edge of the ocean. there were lots of little pools of rainwater filling the gas bubbles in the rock.

We hopped the rocks to get to the edge, where the waves pounded the cliffs. It looked like a great place for cliff diving, as long as you only wanted to dive once.
Pieces of coral stuck in the lava.

We made it to the southernmost point in Japan, and it really felt like the end of the world. There was no ice cream truck, not even a vending machine. There are vending machines everywhere in Japan, even on top of Mt. Fuji. So this place seemed really desolate.

The end of Japan.

The rain stopped, which meant it was way too hot, so the only thing to do was go swimming. The water didn't look promising at first, but when we swam past the end of the harbor, we found some of the healthiest coral I have seen in Japan.

Some purple-tinged coral.

Nice  table coral. Photo by Theo. (Cropped by Jon).

The end of the reef.

The slow boat to Ishigaki left at 3, but we decided to stay and enjoy the coral for a couple more hours. We had to pay about $30 more for the fast boat, and no boobies or flying fish on the way back. But it was worth it to spend a few more hours in this place that was as far away as you can get from Japan without leaving it.

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