Anyone who’s been snowbound inside their house or vacation cabin knows that after 2 days, they start looking around and begin discovering things that they might have overlooked by necessity. There’s that jigsaw puzzle that suddenly looks captivating, or that cheesy paperback novel that now turns into a “must read”.
After being on Guam for an extended period, I had explored my fair share of abandoned World War II Japanese caves, hiking trails, banana spider-filled jungles and beachside bars. So one afternoon I decided to take the road less travelled, which on the map snaked around the north side of the military airbase because, well, like George Malloy so famously declared, “Because it was there”.
On this day I packed my car with the usual road trip items: bottles of war, sun tan lotion, a towel, energy bars and a map. Yes, a real paper folded map. These things still do exist. I was prepared to go alone, but opted at the last minute to invite 2 of my fellow Air Force companions. The deal to them sounded good; I had a car and was going off base on a serendipitous road trip and they did not.
Most people going off base take the left at the gate which heads into town. Take a right, and you traverse along the western part of the island along the boonies into the local developments and tin shacks. Take a right FROM the right and you’re headed into unchartered roads. As we drove along it was clear that this was a military access road, spacious and wide. Driving along, the only other signs of life were the occasional gravel truck barreling down towards you from the other side. The posted speed limit was 25mph, but with no traffic and bright sunshine I decided to push it a bit, quite a bit. But not long on this ride did suddenly appear in the road a huge crater, about a foot deep and a yard wide, almost as if this road was target practice for the B-52 bombers that circled the skies above on occasion like vultures. Fifty yards later was another crater exactly the same size, and then more and more spaced out. Hit one of these at 50mph and not only would your teeth rattle but the suspension on the car would break the rental agreement. So, I’d test the handling of this battered Toyota, as I’d swerve this way and that, along this slalom course on the road to nowhere.
But the real fun didn’t truly begin until we reached the end of this “main” road. Suddenly and without warning this wide open road stopped and made this odd-shaped angle twisting down at a 15 degree descent on a freshly gravel road through dense vegetation. After a series of twists and turns, the road straightened somewhat back out at the bottom of the hill, but hugged along all the way against a tall, newly constructed 10-foot fence with sharp concertina wire decorating the top. At this point, it’d be difficult to call whatever we were driving on a was a road. It was hard, whitish-grey and gravelly, but not a road in my dictionary. More like cruising about the perimeter of The Sea of Tranquility on the moon. Craters large enough to swallow a small car polluted this stretch. But it wasn’t just one or two craters; in fact the entire surface was cratered beyond belief. And this went on for miles. We would have to inch the car along at 5mph tops, and when the Toyota teetered on the edge of one of the larger craters, we all collectively braced as it slowly tipped down into the abyss and the vehicle collapsed into an empty hole of rock and gravel, our heads and the shock absorbers rattling about.
A smart person would’ve somehow figured a way to turn this car around and head back, but wisdom had vacated this trip long ago. We had tried several hacks at a “K” turn to negotiate around but with the road so narrow, we opted to keep going with vain hopes of entering a properly paved street. With the overhang canopy of jungle trees, the huge wired fence on the right, I felt as if on the set of Jurassic Park.
This scene, inching along and negotiating the demise of the car, went on for quite some time until we entered a stretch where the craters were not so cavernous. It was then we saw ahead in the distance a cloud of dust, which preceded a vision of something moving straight towards us. Not knowing what to expect at this point, we weren’t sure if it was some rogue bandits or maybe ghosts of the Imperial Army, but as they got closer we saw it was a string of about a dozen ATVs in a row driven by Japanese tourists with extremely large helmets. Coming from where, I had no clue and going to where, was the same mystery. But not more than another half mile further did the road make a sudden turn and end into what was totally unexpected.
At the end of this long road was an entrance swarmed with an army of surveillance cameras, mounted on poles, fences and palm trees, their singular eye all pointed, staring at us. As we pulled into a freshly paved asphalt parking lot our senses had become disoriented. It looked as if a resort, but more like something out of the TV show ‘Lost’. We cautiously parked the car and walked to the entrance, only to find out that this was a lush beach resort nestled in the forbidden geography of northern Guam, fitted with every comfort and amenity (massage rooms, picnic tables, lounge chairs). I found out that this was a remote, and I mean remote, beach resort, which catered to mostly Japanese tourists who stay at the larger hotels miles away, and get transported by way of boat or by “bus” (quite possibly a cousin of the lunar explorer from the Apollo missions). Who would’ve known and who would’ve guessed, unless of course you were part of this inner sanctum that paid extravagant amounts of money to be whisked away from the hustle of the city to this sandy resort in the middle of nowhere.
So, this bizarre and aimless road trip ended uneventful. The Toyota did manage to get its way back home and we all realized that even in the Heart of Darkness resides an oasis, accessible if you have enough money. Paradise comes at a cost.