P-MAN XIII Update #26 - In the jungle with Simeon and Flip's new shirt
We had a great day in the jungle today. We did not find anything, but we now know more places not to look.
Simeon is a Palauan hunter. He has hunted many of the islands in Palau. And with just a pellet gun, you have to be good if you want to eat. Four years ago, he took us to Eil Malk / Mecherchar island where he said he and his brother had found an airplane up on the ridge. We hiked up an incredibly steep coral island and came to a cliff face that looked damn near impossible to get around. So Simeon said take a seat and he and his brother would go find the wreckage and lead us to it.
We had a great rest at the base of the cliff, ate some lunch, hydrated to the max and waited. Simeon came back, said he couldn't find it but he would like to enter the island from the east side rather than as we did from the west. That's how he goes hunting on this island.
Fast forward four years. This is the first time we could hook up with Simeon since that hike four years ago. Either he was off island when we were there, or we weren't available, or the conditions weren't right for an east-side approach. This time of year the winds are predominantly from the east, so it can be kind of rough where he wanted to land. Also, tides are an issue. Everything has to work just right for an east-side approach to work. Hunting in Palau isn't easy.
We tried to get to his put-in beach, but the tide was too low. So we headed a little farther south along the island and found another way. When we were ready to start hiking, he said it would be 3-4 hours for him to get there. How long would it take with us in tow? He smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
When we met him in the parking lot of Neco Marine, he seemed to be walking a bit stiffer and shuffling a bit more than the last I saw him. We figured that meant this would be an easy hike. When we pushed off from the beach, the jungle walker came back to life and he just about scampered through the jungle. He did have us in tow and he did give us plenty of rest stops. Thank goodness. According to Dan's GPS, we were almost a mile away from the cliff base we rested at four years prior. Then we would have to search.
At one point, Simeon sent us up to a ridge line where you look east and see the water, and look west and see the water. We were on the highest spine of the island. The Rock Islands are coral upheavals and they are just coral and jungle. Except in a some small flat spots where all the jungle debris has turned into dirt of some sort. The coral is crumbly, sharp and irregular. Great hiking conditions. Right.
So we searched along the spine, looking down the slope to the west. The airplane is supposedly resting 50 feet below the top of the ridge line. Of course we never saw a single piece of metal.
Somewhere along the way we did stop for lunch. I still am not satisfied by PB&J. Must be something from my childhood. However thanks go to Wesley for making a great lunch. Thankfully, I had slipped a single-serving SPAM package into my pack.
We had decided that 1 p.m. would be our turnaround point. That would give us plenty of time to get out of the jungle, get a swim call in to wash the jungle off, get the boat back to Neco at a reasonable hour, and let Simeon go home.
So we turned around at about 1 p.m. and worked our way back to the boat. This is the part of any mission when people are really prone to getting injured: tired, rushing, and beginning to feel some get-home-itis. So we took it slow, found Simeon and Joe and got back to the boat by 3. Simeon and Joe get slowed down when the tourists go with them so generally, they get us to an area, tell us which way to walk and search, and then they go out and cover 10 times the area that we do. But they make us feel as if we're helping them so it's all good.
We did not find anything, but Simeon is going to send out some hunters to really scour the ridge for us. He'll report back if he finds anything.
We did get our swim call. Got back to Neco. Debriefed over sashimi, poke and beer. Then back to the hotel, got cleaned up and out to a Thai dinner. This was Casey's last night here so as is our custom, he got to choose where to eat.
I was going to be a good lad and write this last night. But promptly at 8:22pm, I went to sleep. And just as promptly at 5:00am, I was up and now I'm writing to you.
Today, April 1st, is an off day as everyone who got here before me was pretty pooped from the efforts already expended. And Joe is taking us for a snorkel adventure. Normally we do a SCUBA dive on our days off. But Joe says there are things we've never done before and it will be a good time. We'll report back after we're done.