You know the old saying “When all else fails, read the instructions.” After today’s experience, we might say “When all else fails, pay close attention to the instructions!”
Hiking to the Old Man By the Sea was on our list of things to do but we weren’t sure how to get there. We’d been up the right road but hadn’t seen any signs or indications that there was a trail in the area. When we saw Brian at the street market on Thursday evening, we asked him about it. He’d hiked to the Dry Grotto with us so we thought he might know the way. That’s easy, he told us; someone hung a pair of yellow shorts on a tree to mark the way! When he and his wife, Rachel, heard that we’d already hiked to Forbidden Island, they assured us that the Old Man hike was much shorter and easier.
When this morning’s rain turned to sunshine, we decided to try the hike this afternoon. Just to be sure we knew where we were going, I decided to check the atlas. It showed San Ignacio Drive leading to the shore close to the Old Man By the Sea so I kept that in mind and off we went. We passed the yellow shorts and sure enough, there was San Ignacio Drive just a short distance up the road. San Ignacio Drive is a rather pretentious name for what was little more than a path! We were glad we’d taken the vehicle with 4 wheel drive!
At the end of the road, we came to a clearing, parked the vehicle and began to look for the trailhead. There was nothing obvious but we found what we thought might be the trail and followed it. Almost immediately, we could hear the thunderous sound of waves crashing far below us and we soon came to the edge of a precipice. This is what we saw:
We skirted along the edge of the drop off and continued to follow what we hoped was our trail. Soon it began to descend steeply. Richard went ahead to see if this really was the right way while I stood on top of the world, or so it seemed, and enjoyed the spectacular view.
I was pretty sure that the little beach at the right was where we wanted to be but could we get there from here? Richard returned and said that he thought this was probably the trail so we began our climb down steep rugged rock. Could this really be the way? It certainly wasn’t easier than the hike to Forbidden Island. On we went, though. Soon we could see what I was sure was the back side of the Old Man. There he is, the hump in the centre of the picture.
Unfortunately, though our destination was now clearly in sight, we came to the edge of a cliff and had to admit that we definitely weren’t on the right trail. Feeling a bit discouraged but also glad that we’d seen the amazing sights along the way, we returned to the vehicle thinking that perhaps we’d have to call Brian and see if he’d come with us next time.
As we headed back up San Ignacio Drive toward the main road, a thought struck me. What if we weren’t supposed to be on San Ignacio at all? What if the trail actually started right where the yellow shorts were hanging? Sure enough, when we got back to that spot, there was another vehicle parked at the side of the road and close inspection revealed an easy path leading into the bush! It couldn’t be seen from a vehicle passing by but it was there!
When we emerged from the jungle, there he was, the Old Man By the Sea silently surveying his domain!
The little beach was strewn with litter; everything from toothbrushes to toys! Shoes without partners were abundant. These weren’t things left behind by careless hikers but had washed up on shore after riding the waves from who knows where.
As we explored, we even found this and took a photo for Nathan, our cave loving son. Like most of the caves on the island, it isn’t very deep but it’s probably provided shelter for more than one unlucky hiker caught in a storm.
I could have stayed a long time watching the waves crash against the shore but soon it was time to go. After all, it gets dark early on Saipan and it wouldn’t be a good idea to be caught out on the trail after sundown.
There’s still at least one more hike we want to do while we’re on the island. I hope that one’s not as difficult to find and if we have to ask for directions, we’d better follow them more carefully!