Catching up with September

So many mini-adventures in the month of September! Since it’s been a while since I last blogged, I’m going to give an abbreviated version of the month’s highlights. Then at least I can be all caught up and start afresh when I leave for CHINA at the end of next week 🙂

1. Miyagi Island & the “Hidden Beach”

IMG_3233

I had heard a lot about this little spot about 20 minutes and a bridge away from where we live. For me, it fell short of expectations. Granted it was low tide, but the large-pebbled sand was unusually harsh on our feet and the water was mostly seaweed and murk. It’s too bad we don’t have our snorkel gear and special ocean shoes yet, because that’s what I hear Miyagi is truly known for. Still, it was by no means a wasted trip. There were some lovely views, interesting rock formations, and the ride down was an adventure in and of itself.

2. Southeast Botanical Gardens

IMG_6046

Not a very exciting name – and nothing of particular note to share about it – but a pretty place, nonetheless. The gardens are expansive and lush. Chuck kept commenting how he felt like he was in Jurassic Park! Highlights included feeding the capybara, giggling with the spider monkeys, and having zen moments in the lotus garden 🙂 The giant spiders lurking at random corners though… not so much!

3. Okinawa World

IMG_3363Okinawa World is one of those places that’s mostly gimmicky cultural theme park, but with some really cool surprises – like canoodling with the “lucky” white python above. We hung out with pythons, habus, and boas, and lived to tell the tale. I even tried habu sake, albeit inadvertently (I thought it was some fruity plum wine!) Chuck tried the much safer sugar cane juice. We also toured the 300,000+ year-old Gyokusendo Caves, which were truly awe-inspiring. The low point was touring the “zoo” of sorts, especially when I saw the mongoose. Poor guy was going nuts in captivity.

4. Ziplining at Forest Adventure Park

I don’t think much needs to be said, except that I faced my fear of heights with admirable gusto (if you ask me.) Just watch the video…

5. CATS – as always 🙂

IMG_3545

New babies at Uken Beach means both joy and sadness for this girl. I’m pleased to say that more have survived this month that I originally thought, though a couple are missing… I like to think there are more survivors than usual because of my high-protein visits!

IMG_3783

And then there’s my own precious little fur babies, loving each other hard – as you can see in this pic. They are endlessly entertaining. So far, there hasn’t been any blood. I think they both secretly love it!

Okinawa: Love to Hate It

20140715-153706-56226677.jpg

The view from my 5th floor balcony: Crazy skies over the village of Uruma

I have such mixed feelings about Okinawa.

It is beautiful and exotic, but heavily peppered with ugly and distracting architecture.

The skies are striking and waver between extremes at the blink of an eye, but the congested island itself simmers and festers in its own oppressively hot and sticky steam… featuring smells you can’t quite eliminate from your walls, linens, and furniture.

You step outside and even if you are perfectly still, you will quite literally melt within 30 seconds – glistening wet on every square inch of your surface. It’s unlike any humidity I experienced in the American south, and there’s simply no escaping it…

… But the water is blue, placid, and refreshing. There’s always, always that 🙂

photo1

Courtney Beach

20140715-222523-80723588.jpg

Wanderings in Uruma

Now that Chuck and I are settled into our new apartment, I’ve had some time to explore the town of Uruma. I bought myself a used, Japanese-style bike (with a basket!) and I just love it. It has truly maximized my adventuring potential, as it covers more ground than walking yet gives me the freedom and visibility I would lack if driving a car.

So, even though the weather has been rather blah, I hopped on and turned left outside of our housing gate. I turned again onto the main road and wandered for several blocks, occasionally venturing down side streets that looked particularly intriguing. Of course, I couldn’t read any of the signs or storefronts, but I still managed to find multiple restaurants, bars, grocery stores, bakeries, spas, and even a florist. It’s certainly a quieter, more residential area of Okinawa, but it clearly has a lot to offer. And, despite the typical gray, concrete architecture, there are oases of beauty everywhere you look…

Image Image

Excited about all the new places to try (most especially the food), I finally turned around and biked the river walk, where I couldn’t resist snapping photos of the pretty flowers. Even on a gray day, the colors just POP. I love all the flora and fauna around here.

Image Image Image Image

Of course, what’s exploring an island without a beach within easy reach? Uruma has that covered, too! If you turn right out the housing gate, you get a completely different experience: the most lovely specimens of Pacific blue. To date, the majority of the beaches we have visited are on the East China Sea, but our very own Courtney and Uken Beaches are on the Pacific side of the island and are very beautiful indeed!

Image Image Image

The beach route is significantly less urban, and a fun change of scenery from the more built-up side of Uruma. There are fewer restaurants, shops, and cars, but more fields, unpaved paths, ornate family cemeteries, and… THIS:

Image

…Yep, that’s a bull. Walking the streets of Uruma. Can we be friends? 🙂

Journey to Hiji Falls

Image

Nestled in the more sparsely populated Yambaru area of Okinawa Honto is the beautiful 26-meter Hiji Waterfall. Chuck and I woke up bright and early on Sunday morning and drove 1.5 hours north to make the hike. The approximately 2-mile trail incorporates steep climbs, wobbly suspension bridges, and sharp turns, and my calves are truly feeling it today, but who can complain when your ultimate destination is this stunning display of nature?

Image

…Seriously. I felt like I was magically transported into South Pacific the musical, frolicking in Bali Ha’i with Cable and Liat. Such a lovely place to spend a lovely morning, and I am glad we did it before the extreme heat of summer arrives.

After working up a bit of a sweat, we made our way back to the car and drove a few minutes in the opposite direction to visit Okuma Beach. Any time I Google “Okinawa beaches”, Okuma is the one that truly dazzles me. Since we were in the area, we had to pay it a visit, even if it was a bit cloudy and chilly. It is a Japanese resort area in part, but we were surprised to see that the U.S. Air Force actually has command of a large chunk of it, as a “recreation facility.” Chuck and I are both not sure how we feel about the military spending money to run the place, and honestly, I had hoped for a more unadulterated, local beach, but none of this changed the fact that Okuma is absolutely beautiful and I will most certainly go again when the weather warms up. Even with the clouds and wind, it was just perfect – and the sun managed to peek out once or twice!

 Image Image Image

Happy Easter from Japan!

ImageChuck and I spent Easter weekend gallivanting with new friends and exploring two of the beaches the island has to offer – Torii Beach, and Zampa Beach. Both visits were during low tide, so I’m not sure we experienced them at peak beauty (unless you find exposed seaweed and miscellaneous gooey stuff particularly attractive.) However, it was ultimately apparent that the water is clear, blue, and warm. I have already determined that I will keep a bikini in my car at all times, so that on any particularly hot, sweaty day, I can take a dip in the Pacific blue any time I would like (even though this is actually the East China Sea!)

I did have a preference for Zampa Beach, clearly more frequented by locals than Torii, which was mostly military. Since the tide was so low, we spent a good bit of time walking over the exposed reef, poking at odd critters and speculating at the more bizarre of them. We were especially fascinated (and somewhat disgusted) by what we dubbed “sea poops”, which were scattered literally every few feet across the reef. I can only assume they are some sort of sea slug – if that is actually a thing – but they seem relatively harmless.

Our Newcomer’s Brief did warn us of all the dangers these waters have to offer – box jellyfish, rockfish, fire coral, and more – but overall, I think it will be perfectly fun and safe, if we are smart. Chuck is the one who is more reckless with Nature – I’m gonna have to reel him in!!

Image Image Image

… SEA POOPS!!!

Image

Last Weekend in NC

image

Well, it’s just about here. Chuck and I move to Georgia early on Thursday morning. We spent our last weekend in North Carolina doing dinner and a show at River Landing, meeting up with friends, and of course, walking on our gorgeous little beach! I sure will miss this little gem in our landlocked town in GA…