9/29/15

Sakau

Sakau is said to have originated on the island of Kosrae. Local legend says a princess from Pohnpei smuggled it back to her home island inside her lady parts. It is said that is the reason the why Sakau tastes different on each island. Over the years due to the missionary's, it was made illegal. As life in Micronesia liberalized after World War II, Sakau became legal again. 

Today it is mainly consumed by Pohnpeians. On the island on Pohnipei there are multiple outdoor markets that are typically open 7-days a week. Outside of Pohnipei it is still consumed, but typically it is made and served at someones house. However since Micronesian's are some of the friendly people I have ever met, if you ask around you'll find the local Pohnipeian who knows how to make it.   
Sakau starts as a large bush like vine. The locals said plants that are 6-10 years old tend to yield the best Sakau. The stems and vines are not consumed, rather the root of the plant are cleaned and then removed from the rest of the plant. 
The roots are then placed on a Sakau stone. This stone is not made, but rather found in the jungle and then brought to the market or persons house. Using large stones that come from a local stream bed, the Sakau root is pounded until it becomes a thin pulp.

The bark of a Hibiscus tree is then removed and soaked in a large bowl of water. Before the Sakau pulp is strained, water with Hibiscus is added to the pulp.
 The wet pulp is then put inside the Hibiscus bark and rolled up.
It is then strained and consumed. How does it taste? Well depends on which island you are on and whether its bottled or fresh. Having tried Sakau on Kosrae and Pohnipei I have to say the legend is true, the Sakau on Kosrae has a lighter taste.

As for the effect it has on you. Again it depends on a great deal of factors. How old was the Sakau when it was picked. How well was the root pounded. Is it fresh or bottled. Also each islands Sakau does affect the body slightly differently. I found on Pohnipei the Sakau was "stronger" meaning it had more of a noticable effect on my body whereas on Kosrae it only relaxed me.

How is it consumed, well you drink it in a group. Traditionally after the pulp is strained into the coconut it is passed around the group. Typically guests will drink first, followed by elders, and then everyone else.

Taste varies depending on how much Hibiscus is in it. If there is little Hibiscus, then it has the taste and consistency of muddy water. If more Hibiscus has been added the drink has the consistency of thick mucus and a tangy muddy taste.

Interestingly when you drink Sakau in a group it feels completely normal to sit in silence with one another. Loud music and noise as well as bright lights will come as a mild annoyance.

Should you travel all the way to Kosrae to try it? Absolutely, while Pohnipei and Kosrae are quite off the beaten path, you can get to them. Both islands have almost no tourism so both the local and expats you come across are more than willing to help you out. That and the opportunity to sit on the beach and help make Sakau is an unmatchable primitive feeling.

Just watch out the next morning. Sakau does have a tendency to tear-up your stomach. 

9/25/15

Kosrae Blue Hole II

Kosrae, FSM

9/24/15

The Two Towers

Musashi Koyama, Tokyo

9/22/15

Kosrae Blue Hole

Kosrae, FSM

Kosrae Freedive

It was the first freedive of the day. There was little to no current and the tide was coming in. The water clarity made 40-feet down appear deceptively close. Closing my eyes, I slipped below the surface as each slow kick took me closer to the bottom. 
Around 33-feet I opened my eyes to see this Spotted Eagle Ray gliding through the deep. Pulling the camera from inside my wetsuit's leg I began taking pictures. Soon the ray had slipped back into the blue and it was time to resurface. 
Passing 18-feet the air in my ears began to expand and buoyancy started to return. Back at the surface I stared into the blue preparing for the next dive. 
Down again to around 40-feet, I swam through the endless coral garden. The sound of aquatic crunching all around.
Again, time to resurface; the end can seem so far away and then you're there.
I was feeling good. it was time to aim deeper. This time I'd try swimming down the ridge. Maybe I could hit 50-feet. It would take a deep level of mental calm and coordination, but it felt reachable. Closing my eyes and concentrating on each kick, I slowly descended.
The pressure in my ears told me I was somewhere around 30-feet. My eyes were still closed, but I could feel something looking at me. Opening my eyes upside down I saw this white tip shark coming in for a closer look. His yellow eyes and mine met. Here alone at 35-feet we looked at one another.


I had encountered sharks while diving before, but never had one shown such curiosity towards me. Methodically the shark swam past surveying this visitor of the deep, then disappeared down the ridge into the deep. Slowly I returned to the surface watching for the sharks return. 
The shark never came back, so I continued diving. Back again at 40-feet I swam along this coral formation. It was so large I had to ascend 10-feet above it in order to fit it into the picture. 

Kosrae, FSM

9/16/15

Kosrae Freedive

Kosrae, Federated States of Micronesia

Pohnpei Pepper

 The pepper vine
 Unripened pepper corns
 The red pepper corns on the right are ripe and ready to be either eaten or dried. Pohnpei pepper is regarded as the finest and rarest in the world. 

Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia