Saturday 28 September 2013

Chuuk Life


Chuuk looks like the idyllic place to chill- turquoise waters, small tropical islands, coconuts- pure paradise. However, Chuuk hasn't really caught up to its tourist industry potential and there are no beaches, swimming pools, bars and it has around 4 restaurants on all of the islands.  There is only one reason why most people currently visit Chuuk and that is the wreck diving. The Lonely Planet had warned us about the dangers of walking around Chuuk, particularly for women, and some of the men do look slightly intimidating in their baseball caps and chains.  Having scratched below the surface this turned out to be untrue and an unfair representation of the people who were all very friendly and genuine. 

When we arrived they were building a new concrete road right through the middle of town. Cars would travel around 5 mph playing Chuukese music (vocodafied) that was super chilled. We particularly enjoyed the amazing coconuts and the traditional breadfruit which came wrapped in leaves. At the High Tide restaurant, our local, we even got free coconut refills and never went hungry as they would pile our plates high with garlic rice. 

After diving we decided to go to the small tourist office where we met Mason, who shared with us really interesting facts about the Chuukese culture. His face got super serious when he spoke about the importance of coconuts and how you should never bring your chief the wrong type! Ty and I both wanted to see and find out more so Mason offered us a tour of Tonowas Island, his home. This was very lucky as the Chuukese guard their private lands and it is uncommon for tourists to be allowed to visit.

It's hard to believe that the Japanese had tens of thousands of troops stationed on Dublon island (now called Tonowas).  Now there's just the rudiments of one road overgrown with weeds and scattered crumbling concrete remains of assorted fortifications and structures as evidence of the occupation.  Mason's family home is actually built on some of the foundations of the old Imperial Navy hospital, and it was fascinating to visit.  Got to check out his nephew's breadfruit mashing stone, and we had some freshly harvested coconuts from the tree behind the house.  Nice!

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