Published: March 18th 2008March 18th 2008
Tall buildings, traffic jams, rude drivers are my most vivid impressions. It’s probably not fair to visit Guam after the magic of Yap. Not surprisingly, American culture rules and the US military have bases all over the island. The crew can’t wait to get to Cotsco and the largest Kmart in the world to stock up on necessities. The shopping ladies on board went wild to find large malls with all the usual stores. Shopping has been a bit meager since New Caledonia.
The island vegetation is the result of efforts by the US. After the bombing in WWII most of the native vegetation was gone. The US airdropped seeds to prevent the erosion of the topsoil. The tactic worked almost too well. The island is lush and green but most native species were unable to survive. Then there is the problem with the brown tree snake but more about them later.
My tour took me to Hagatna, a city that retains some remnants of the Spanish colonial years. Guam was an important stop for Spanish galleons in trade between Mexico and the Philippines. It was under Spanish rule until the Spanish-American War. We visited the ruins of a Spanish fort, not much left but the view over the shore was beautiful. There were three canon in amazing condition cast in the 1600’s.
The highlight for me was Plaza de Espana and it’s beautiful cathedral. Built in the 1600’s, on land donated by the chief of the native population when he converted to Catholicism, it was destroyed in the bombing in WWII. It was later rebuilt and is very, very beautiful. The stained glass windows and alter decoration are vibrant and colorful.
My chuckle for the day occurred at the Plaza where I noticed a young Japanese couple standing at either end of a canon, each taking a picture of the other taking a picture of them.
Guam provided my first view of Latte stones. These ancient monuments are found throughout the Marianas. The rectangular base was carved of limestone. Bowls that are a natural formation of coral heads found offshore caps them.
Latte are found set in parallel rows. Most sets are six of seven feet high. Some are much higher, up to two stories. Like the “heads” of Easter Island, it is a mystery how a people who had no known technology to do so erected these monuments. Archeologists think that they were supports for the elevated homes of the ancient island society. Their height indicated of the status of the elite, the taller the latte the more important the family.
The security on the pier was very tight. We had to pass multiple checkpoints. Our customs and immigration process was slow, due in part to the late arrival of officials, and due in part because the officials insisted in a face-to-face meeting with all passengers and crew.
We were supposed to leave Guam at 11:00pm. That changed to 9:00 pm and we were away from the pier at 9:00 on the dot. The next day at Saipan the process included a hand inspection of all bags and a personal wand search. Later I learned that the ports were under “Code Red” security because military maneuvers were underway in the area.