Monday, August 30, 2010

August ??, 2010: Yonehara Beach/ Kabira Bay Day Trip

Today we resolved to go to Yonehara beach which is renowned for its marvellous snorkelling. We woke up early, caught a taxi into the bus station to ensure that we caught the infrequent bus up to Kabira Bay. We took a bus ride up to Kabira Bay to check out the pearl farm.
This area was where the first black pearl farm in the world was established, before Tahiti/French Polynesia became the preeminent black pearl farming locale in the world. We were not wowed by the lustre or quality of the pearls, even the strand that cost over $100,000. Our bank accounts escaped unscathed.

After a quick lunch where we tried out some traditional Okinawan fare including Yoneyama noodles, sea grass with broth, sashimi, and strange bitter green vegetables,  we hopped another bus and took the 20 minute ride to Yonehara beach. We were there about five minutes early at the bus stop and that’s when the bus came and left. You can’t miss the beach location. Along the side of the road are a collection of psychedelically painted Shiisa (traditional lion guardian) sculptures—some eight to ten feet tall.   We looked in the store at these and marvelled at their variety and the creativity of the artist(s).  There was a workshop right there.

We headed for the beach and stopped at the change rooms on the way down. We headed straight into the water as the weather went from spitting and cloudy to full winds, dark grey, pouring rain, thunder, and choppy waves. It was okay though, the water is warm and it was warmer in the water than it was outside in the howling  wind and rain.

We initially spent about one and half hours snorkelling then we took a break. Bill built a sand Shiisa with rock eyes that was fantastic. April looked for shells and found a new area to snorkel in where a sandbank fell into a shelf with coral. Bill and April went in together. We diverged at one piece of coral. Bill was looking at a large fish. April was swimming in the other direction until a large black and white striped undulating animal caught her attention about ten feet away. It looked like a snake mixed with an eel and was about six feet long. April realized it was probably dangerous whatever it was and swam at top speed towards Bill. Bill saw her coming and realized something was wrong and headed for shore which was fortunately near by. April shoved Bill out to emphasize that we should definitely be out of the water. April described the sea creature wherein Bill responded nonchalantly that he had been reading the Ishigaki website the day before and that sea snakes were not uncommon and were apparently not that venomous on this island (this was like Bizarro world as the person who likes snakes, April, was unnerved and Bill the person who can’t stand snakes calmly recounted their antics). They  look like snakes mixed with an eel due to their flat tail. They regularly get two meters or six feet long.

After this we went to retrieve our underwater digital Olympus camera again and started snorkelling again this time in a slightly different area from the Leviathan. We saw so many types of fish and coral including the flowing blue coral, brain shaped coral, coral that looked like honeycomb, anemone, clam, sea urchin, and fish that were from electric blue, bright yellow, bright orange, maroon, rainbow, zebra, and green. It was a different world underwater. The snorkelling at this beach was as good as the best places in French Polynesia. We tried the trick we learned in Taha’a in French Polynesia and brought some banana in the water with us; we were immediately surrounded by swarms of rainbow coloured fish all wanting a bite of banana. April felt some nips at her fingertips while hairy Bill got nips even on his legs. In total we spent about four hours snorkelling with it only seeming like about 45 minutes or an hour. Bill’s swimming lessons have really paid off and he was so at home in the water even going so far as to imitate the undulations of the sea snake.  April will confess that she was looking over her shoulder for the sea snake the rest of the day almost hoping to see it again but worried at the same time. Bill did not get to see the sea snake though as it did not return. The weather turned more nasty and brutish and as we sat on the shore for a few minutes having a banana before getting changed and showering we had the whistling wind and sheet rain to remind us that typhoon season was approaching.

We started to realize only then, too late, that we were somewhat pink. How was a sunburn possible when it had been dark gray all day? We learned that the experts are right. You can get a bad burn even on a very cloudy day. This is one of the worst and only burns I have had in my adult life. Oww. Note to self: wear sunscreen when you snorkel in the rain and thunderstorms!

We went up to the road after changing and the bus came about five to ten minutes early and left with just us on it. For all their avoidance of weather and love of umbrellas the Japanese on the beach sure made the most of even rainy weather to swim and snorkel. (perhaps the umbrella rule is suspended if you are in a bath suit though we did see Mary Poppins by the water with her umbrella today . The bus was empty and it was like a private tour of Ishigaki without the benefit of commentary. We stopped five minutes later for 15 minutes at a stop and were allowed to get off the bus and look at the tourist stands where we met a very nice black cat. We also found a blended mango, ice, pastry, dough ball, cherry ice cream strange dessert to share which we had to wolf down to join the bus again. The black cat followed us in there and meowed loudly at the shop owner. Perhaps he was trying or order a mango ice too.

The bus ride into downtown Ishigaki took about one hour and 20 minutes and we ended at the bus terminal. We walked around looking for somewhere to eat and gave up and ate at A&W. It was interesting. They had nice toilet paper compared to the rest of Japan which seems to favour one ply toilet paper.  We walked around the tourist shops and Bill found an Ishigaki made shirt with the traditional weaving  paper on it. We admired the glass work and pottery made on the island and wondered how people would ever transport it home. We got caught in the rain again and of course had to have an ice cream since it was raining. This ice cream was another one of the cornflake surprise ones (they put dry cornflakes at the bottom of the cone for you to run into after you’ve finished your ice cream).  We walked back to the bus station and took the bus home. We showered and packed since we had to leave the next day or so we thought….

Bill got creative and made a sand Shiisa

Sea Snake Video Link:

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