We woke early, as our host was also up early-ish for work (today she remembered to set her alarm) and we had to get into town early to catch a ferry that left Naha at 10AM. We packed, washed and rushed into town, stopping for fuel and breakfast/brunch on the way. We were travelling along well, not getting slowed too much by the morning rush that was a problem for four-wheeled vehicles.
But, when we finally checked where we were and what time it was (my watch was destroyed in the heavy rain two days ago), we realised that it was going to be very, very close. We were panicking, and rushing and every red light, or car that was blocking our inside passage was causing untold amounts of stress. We got to the point that we could see the port, and the boat, but couldn’t quite work out how to get to it. It was 9:50AM. We took one road, only to realise that it was wrong. We had to ride along a footpath to get where we wanted to go. We parked the ‘cub in the first place that we could find and ran inside to the ticket counter. The man gave us a brief chastising for being so late… and told us that it was impossible for us to bring the ‘cub. This was the only ferry that we could catch today (with the bike). I had to decide right then if we were going to go sans ‘cub, or if we were going to wait until tomorrow (which would also mean that we would miss the ferry back to Kagoshima, as it also left tomorrow). I decided to leave the ‘cub, catch the ferry and if we needed a bike, we could rent one on the island (or just a bicycle). He sold us our tickets, told us to run (and was serious). We ran (honestly) to the ‘cub, grabbed what we needed as fast as possible and ran to the ferry, just as they were unmooring. It’s another in a long list of ferries that we’ve only just caught (even though we were too late for the ‘cub). Though, in the rush I managed to forget my breakfast/lunch. I was going to have to wait until the boat moored at Zamami Island before I could eat today.
We were relieved that we’d made it, even though we had to abandon the ‘cub.
It was a two-hour ferry ride, with only a brief stop at neighbouring Aka Island to break it up. The typhoon had increased the size of the waves considerably, and we were feeling it, especially Risa. Inside the ferry there was a TV showing horrible tele-sales commercials, which was made even worse by the deteriorating signal quality. Going outside was difficult (it was hard to stand up without holding something to support you), though occasionally you could see the coastlines of other islands. Some were white and sandy, others were rocky and were being pounded by giant waves. If it had been sunny, it would have been enjoyable, but the dark grey clouds and occasional showers dampened the enthusiasm. Literally.
We arrived in Zamami and Risa survived the ferry journey, only throwing up once (though, I could be mistaken). We hadn’t made any accommodation plans (our plan was to scooter around and see what we could find), so we had a look at what was available inside the (very helpful) information centre. They had a (I’m assuming) comprehensive list of accommodation options with prices listed alongside. There are three areas with accommodation in Zamami: by the port, Ama and Asa. Asa was in the middle of nowhere, Ama was by the recommended swimming area, and the port had no beach, but it had all the restaurants. We chose Ama and its cheapest accommodation option, Robinson. We called, and within five-minutes there was someone to pick us up and deliver us to our lodgings (which turned out to be a tiny box). Not quite the fancy romantic lodgings that we’d have liked, but we realised that we’d run out of money and this was all that we were going to be able to afford. We unpacked, got changed and went for a swim on the beach.
The beach was pretty (though, the weather didn’t help), but the water was very, very shallow and it was quite rocky. After seeing all the poisonous stonefish at the aquarium a few days ago, we were paranoid about standing on one! I decided it was safer to just swim/float around, rather than walk. The temperature was perfect, the sun was strong, it was humid and the water was refreshing. There were people (much) further out snorkelling, but since we didn’t have the equipment we only looked on with jealousy.
Now, this is the embarrassing part. Feel free to skip this paragraph. I’d been looking for an opportunity to propose to Risa for a while now, but wanted it to be somewhere nice/special, because I knew we’d remember it. So, while she was still swimming, I went back to where our bags were and wrote her this message in the sand, けっこんしませんか？(Shall we get married?), and went back to keep swimming with Risa. To be honest, I’d nearly forgotten that I’d written it by the time we came back. The writing wasn’t very clear, but luckily she was able to read it and after she stopped being shocked, and asking me if I wrote it (and meant it) she accepted the proposal. And, that is how we came to be engaged!
We enjoyed the brief swim, though it wasn’t quite what we were after. We hired two bicycles so that we could ride to the recommended snorkelling area, Furuzamami Beach. Bikes were ¥1000 for six hours, good little business for them. The port was a little over 1km away, and the beach was a little under 2km from the port. We could have walked, but to be honest I hate walking. There was a hill between the port and Furuzamami Beach that was too much for the mamachari bikes that we’d hired, so not only were we walking, we were also pushing the bikes that we’d paid to save us from walking. At least it was all downhill from here.
The skies were slightly clearer than earlier and the sun was nice and strong. We followed the road along the beach for a few hundred meters until we came to a small building where there was a man renting snorkelling equipment. It was a pretty safe bet, but we were relieved all the same. We hired a set each (but didn’t bother with flippers) for only ¥500, walked down to the water and wasted no time going in. At first it was just sandy, but straight away we could see large white fish, and while they weren’t impressive in any sense, we were still impressed. We were swimming (more like floating) with natural fish.
Then we entered the reef area… Wow, it was incredible! So many colours of fish, and not shy at all, in fact they were the opposite. I was worried that I was going to swim into them, so I kept trying to shoo them away. We could see everything, and it was amazing. There were fish of every size, shape and colour, as well sea cucumbers, sea urchins, anemone, starfish, crabs and coral. From the shore the black reef areas just looked like seaweed, not a densely populated reef. We floated around for close to an hour, constantly finding new fish.
The sun was beginning to set, and it looked like the storm clouds were rolling back in. We returned to our little container village, washed, changed and headed back towards the port area for dinner. The town seemed dead, we didn’t see people walking around, nor could we hear the noise of people having fun in a restaurant/bar. We turned to a iPhone application(taberogu) to find what people recommended in the area, and there was one that stood out, so like the sheep that we are, that’s where we went. As soon as we walked inside, we realised where everyone in the town was… here.
Usual story, we had to budget what we ate, but decided to loosen the reigns a little bit (since it’d been quite a special day) and ordered some of the delicious Okinawa beer, Orion. We ordered food too, naturally. I got some delicious fried white reef fish, and Risa ordered some amazing pork that melted in your mouth.
After finishing dinner, we were worried that the storm we’d seen approaching was going to be in full swing, but when we walked out side we were treated to a beautifully clear sky. It’s a small thing, but it was nice to ride our bikes home under the starry sky, with nothing but the sounds of the ocean in our ears.