For our final few nights in Okinawa we left the peace and quiet of Onna and headed back south to the bustling city of Naha. The hostel we booked looked perfect and the directions given to us seemed straight forward enough…oh how wrong we were.
When we got off the bus we were told to walk towards ‘the building’ and then follow the road on the left all the way to the obviously sign posted hostel. The first issue arose when we got off the bus and realised we were surrounded by possible ‘the building(s)’ and there was literally no logical direction to go in. We spent the next hour aimlessly wandering around Naha, and I wish I could say that was an exaggeration.
Eventually we decided our best bet was to head for the coast because we knew that our hostel had a view of the water (but in a city built around the sea that doesn’t say very much). After another hour wandering the streets of Naha we finally found the right area in which to find our hostel. The directions had described the hostel itself as a ‘three storey white structure’; the entire area was filled with three storey white structures…
When we finally found the hostel it’s safe to say we were not in the best mood. Did I mention this was also the day the results of the US Presidential Election came out, fun I know. We dropped off our bags and headed into the city centre to explore, when we left the hostel Hillary was in the lead and we were trying to stay positive despite the stress of the day so far. Fast forward to a couple of hours later and Trump was convincingly in the lead, we were uncomfortably sweaty, in desperate need of food and desperate for a sit down.
At this point we decided to head back to the hostel and watch the closing moments of the election with the other hostel guests, which included a couple of Americans. At first we thought it would be best to hide our disdain for Mr. Trump until we could work out whose side the Americans were on…luckily they were as devastated by the result as we were.
The rest of that day is a bit of a blur, we ended up drowning our sorrows in Mexican food and margaritas with the two lovely Americans, a subtle middle finger to Mr. Trump’s view of Mexico. By the end of the night we found ourselves in a dirty little cocktail bar where every wall was covered in defaced dollar bills. Sometime between the first margarita and leaving the grotty bar we drunkenly agreed to go to the Kerama Islands with the Americans the next day.
We woke up early the next morning to catch the ferry over to the Kerama Islands and despite the omnipresent hangover that dominated the group we found some great seats right in the sun on the top deck of the boat. The ferry to the island of Zamami took about 2 hours and gave us a whistle-stop tour of the rest of the Kerama islands along the way. Around every corner was another hidden cove or a tiny village perched precariously on a clifftop.
Arriving in Zamami is like walking into a dream, this tiny island is covered in jungle and surrounded by lush coral reefs teeming with fish of all shapes and sizes. Everywhere we looked there was another jaw dropping view. Okinawa-Honto is beautiful but Zamami is in a league of its own, it really does feel like you’re discovering an island for the first time.
Our American friends were staying the night on Zamami but sadly we had to catch a flight the next day so needed to catch the evening ferry back to Naha. Yianna had wanted to go diving from the moment we landed in Okinawa but hadn’t been able to…until Zamami. Now as I said in the last post I have what can be politely described as fear of deep water but Yianna forced me to join her in this little diving adventure.
That day in Zamami will forever be one of my most cherished memories for so many reasons. From the moment we stepped into the water and dove beneath the surface (literally the moment we went underneath) we could see fish all around us. I spent the first hour clung to Yianna’s arm as we swan around the reef pointing at every fish we recognised from ‘Finding Dory’ and screaming every time something brushed past my leg.
Eventually I plucked up the courage to let go off Yianna and swim around by myself, it was exhilarating. For many people deep water and the idea of diving just sounds like fun…for me it was honestly terrifying. Unfortunately my fears were only compounded when the first fish I came across by myself wasn’t a fish at all…it was a sea snake and it swam right past my face. After a brief period of panic and a desperate search for Yianna I regained what little composure I had started with.
Up until this point neither of us had sustained any real injuries on the trip (ignoring the sun burn of course) however it wouldn’t be a day out with Jack and Yianna if at least one of us didn’t do something stupid.
One side of the reef was bordered by a line of stunning rocks that jutted out of the water like razor sharp teeth. So we decided it would be a good idea to swim over to these rocks and investigate…with our hands. Next thing we knew the two of us were screaming, laughing, and crying all at the same time as our hands and my leg were shredded by one of these rocks. Turns out they look like razor sharp teeth for a reason.
By the time we got out of the water and headed back to the ferry we were bruised, bleeding and happier than we had been on the whole trip so far! However our day of danger wasn’t over just yet.
There are two ferries that run the journey from Naha to the Kerama Islands; the normal ferry (the one we had come on in the morning) and the express ferry (the one we were going back on). We assumed that the express ferry was simply faster because it didn’t do a tour around the islands, turns out it’s also because it’s driven by a lunatic and goes about 1000mph.
The journey only took 45 minutes but it was the funniest 45 minutes of my life. We spent the entire trip on the top deck being flung around like rag dolls in the wind and intermittently being drenched by waves coming over the side of the boat. In hindsight, the whole day was a health and safety nightmare but my God it was fun.
The next morning was bittersweet, we were excited to go back to Tokyo but we knew that it was the final stop on our trip. Luckily our flight wasn’t until the evening so we had one final day to enjoy Naha.
The centre of Naha is essentially one long street lined with shops, bars and countless souvenir shops. The highlight of this street is a small restaurant whose name still confuses me to this day: ‘A new breeze blows the page story unfolds’. Other must see spots include the Pokemon shop which sells everything could ever want related to Pokemon, as well as some things I don’t think anyone would want related to Pokemon. Truth be told we spent about an hour looking through all the shops and then spent most of the day sat in Starbucks watching the world go by and reminiscing about the trip that would soon be ending.
Luckily our flight back to Tokyo was taking off from the actual terminal at Naha Airport and not the cargo bay we had arrived in a couple of weeks earlier. So we spent our time at the airport doing what we do best, eating. Eventually it came time to board our flight and so onto Tokyo for our final days in Japan…
See you soon,