5 a.m. The shrill ringing of the alarm clock jolted me from an hour’s sleep on Saturday morning, and I had to drag protesting muscles up to get ready for a trek to another one of Saipan’s famous hiking destinations. Hiking to Naftan Point, says our trek organizer Jacob, would take only about 20 minutes from his cousin’s house. We started walking in the darkness toward this historical spot at the southernmost part of Saipan, but it was only after almost an hour later when we reached the Hawaiian Rock where the real trek began. Talk about 20 minutes!
As the sun began its ascent to the skies, my energy level was slowly beginning to drain, not to mention that there was actually none to start with.
We plodded on, asking over and over how far do we have to go and agonizing over the thought of the way back until we finally emerged through a clearing and stepped into a whole new world.
A spectacular panorama was before us but an eerie silence seems to pervade the place. It felt as though we were intruders into another world.
Naftan Point is an enchanting rugged terrain, with grass-covered corals, steep cliffs, numerous caves, plateaus, bushes and more ruins and relics from the World War 2. From a distance, the Forbidden Island seemed to issue a silent but daring invitation to anyone who would want to challenge its name. Over 50 feet below the sharp cliff lines, the thunderous noises created by the crashing waves would make one think twice before standing on the cliffs’ edge.
Hiking to Naftan Point without proper ammunition (a.k.a. camera and tripod) would be unforgivable because the place is a photographer’s dream. It was not that easy to pick your way through the sharp stones and rocks concealed by the untrimmed grasses though. One wrong step and the corals you are stepping on could crack. I did not have the chance to go near the very edge of the cliffs because aside from my progress being hampered by the tripod, I had second thoughts about gambling my life and my camera from the edge. After a few quick bites of tuna sandwiches and sips of water, we took a few minutes of rest but our time was running out. With only the shelter from the huge rock, we know it would not be long before the shade would be gone as the sun gets higher.
We found an old Japanese canon in one of the ruined bunkers at Naftan Point, along with several other war relics. I could just imagine the war when the canon spewed death fumes all the way to Tinian.
We finally started our way back. And that was when everything turned awry.
Two of my companions—Jeanette and Fe went ahead of the group. The six of us followed, but Jacob got other ideas and led us into a “short cut”, which we hesitantly took. But anyway, any change in the road seemed welcome so we followed the leader. However, the road we were following seemed to be going in circles and we seemed to be walking endlessly. When we began to see pink flowers on the vines along the road, I began to guess that the trail we were following was leading to Obyan Beach, much much farther from our car. I was dreadfully right.
We plodded on and reached the end of the shady trail. Suddenly, a dusty, winding road shimmering in the noonday heat stretched out before us. Obyan Beach was a few miles below, and I knew there was no choice but to force my over-tired body to move on.
It was not easy for somebody like me whose only exercise everyday is to go up the stairs of the office or the Superior Court. Imagine walking up the Obyan Road toward the direction of Hawaiian Rock under the 11 o’clock sun, with not a single tree or shade in sight. I was at the farthest rear of the group, trying to concentrate in putting one foot ahead of the other to walk on.
With every dragging, agonizing step I took, my camera seemed to grow heavier and it took real effort to stay awake and not give in to the darkness that threatened to envelop me. After over an hour of fighting the urge to cry, I finally convinced buddy Andrew to seek some shade in the bushes. Under ordinary circumstances, I would never imagine going into those bushes. Andrew volunteered to spread his towel to cover the sharp bushes so we could sit on for a while. Just when I felt so helpless, I got a call that a car was coming for us. I could have kissed the car's wheels with joy!
Naftan Point has still so much to offer and we missed much, but I would love to go back anytime. Minus the unplanned miles of hiking.