A Journal Entry
March 19, 2007
After lunch we drove south on Route 4 along the Pacific Ocean shore. We turned left at a sign that read Jungle Boat Ride. Earlier we had arranged for a private tour in a covered boat. We left the dock using a fairly quiet out-board motor and felt the wind blow through our hair. Fog obstructed the bright sun and heat. The unusual haze that had hung over Guam for two weeks dissipated. The afternoon breeze, air temperature in the high eighties, and the beauty of Guam captured my senses.
Traveling down the Ugum and Talofofo Rivers conjured images of Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn in the African Queen. I was fascinated by every hue of earth tone green, brown, grey, and red known in nature. As the quiet, calm, air breezed across my face I was awed by the myriad of curved and straight lines of tree, bush, shrub, fruit, cave, bank, and leaf. Our guide said we could only traverse so far before the bamboo and other vegetation prevented safe travel. He shared history about the region and directed our attention to a carabao tethered through its nose ring at a local homestead, and to various fish that swam beside us. We looked for boar and deer but saw none.
Guam Adventure River Cruise Basics and Tips
- Ticket Prices: For Tourists – $70 (Adults); $40 (Kids 5-11); It’s steep so try to get discounts. For Locals and Military – $25 (Adults); $15 (Kids 5-11). Check the tour website for the latest prices and information.
- Tours last 2.5 hours. Add an 1.5 hour if you’re going to be picked up at your hotel in the tourist district (Tumon) on the other side of the island. Certain hotel pickups are available
- Tour Start Time at 9:00 AM and 1:40 PM
- Free water and ice tea at the cultural demonstration hut.
- The boat launch area had restrooms. Free parking available.
- Bring and wear sunscreen and bug spray. You are going into a jungle after all.
We unloaded at what our guide said was an ancient Chamorro village site. It certainly looked authentic—except for the six concrete made structures on the left. He ignored these and walked to an area where unearthed ruins of rock lay scattered around. “These,” he said, “are real latte stones.”
Our guide shared stories about the vegetation and its use today as well as in ancient times. He climbed a tree and plucked a large fruit that tasted like a combination of coconut and pineapple. He called it soursop. People in our group insisted it was called Breadfruit, but before we left, our guide showed us the difference between the two. The breadfruit, he said, was not ready for a taste test.
We continued along a short trail toward a frame pavilion and dock. Three dogs lazed around a small wooden house a short distance away. A woman and two children waved and provided cool water and juice. Our group gathered beneath the pavilion’s bamboo roof where we rested, talked, and laughed until we heard a loud noise. Everyone looked. I noticed that the guide had clapped to bring attention, so I said aloud, “You must be a teacher.” I have a big mouth.
“I need an assistant, and you’re it,” he laughed. What could I do?
Our guide had given fish, pinwheels, or headbands woven from pandanous leaf to each child and several women, but first he talked about grass skirts. The early Chamorro people, he said, like other Micronesian cultures wore skirts made, not of grass, but from the bark of the hibiscus and the banana plant. The fibers were soaked, stripped, pounded, dried, flattened and rolled. He placed a skirt around my waist. I worried that it would fit, but it did. Naturally, I immediately went into my long ago learned hula, which surprised everyone there.
He placed a hat woven from banana leaves on my head, but noticed my hair was too short to pull up into the hole on the top of the hat, so he fluffed up my grey wisps. He showed us two fans and handed them to me. I fanned while standing there in my grass skirt and banana leaf hat with the hole on top. Then he talked about various woven baskets used to carry fruit and fish and the ketupat, a small woven basket made from the inside of the coconut tree and used to boil rice.
“Natives also weaved coconut and pandanus leaves into halter tops for their women,” he said, and attached a basket to the waistband of my skirt. The skirt, basket, and hat fit fine, but they must have used a very small leaf for that halter top!
The men, especially those who had been boy scouts were particularly interested in the next demonstration. Our guide spoke while the navigator rubbed two sticks together. “That’s going to take a long time,” my husband murmured. Within a few seconds, the long piece of wood showed smoke, not flame. Our guide turned that smoldering wood upside down and dumped the ashes into a nest of dried coconut fiber which immediately burst into a bright orange flame. “This can only be done with the gausali (torch wood) found in the jungle,” he said.
This day’s excursion was worth another visit. I recommend it to everyone visiting or living on Guam.