29 June 2013

Iejima (Ie Island)

After reading my last post on my adventures with Kassie on Kourijima, I know you're just dying to find out if we ever made it to Iejima, our original adventure destination.  We woke up early, drove up the oh-so-familiar-by-now highway and arrived at the ferry terminal to find a packed parking lot and long lines.  This looked much more promising!  The lines moved fast and within a few minutes, Kassie was loading her bike up in the storage area of the boat and I was wading through a sea of people to find a spot to claim for our 30 minute ride.

Be sure to check out Kassie's blog and recap of our trip here.

As soon as the ferry hit land, I hopped off to find a bike rental place.  The day before I totally forgot that I knew how to say bicycle in Japanese, but this time I took the opportunity to practice asking where they were.  They were right around the corner.  Duh.  The ferry cost about $14 round trip per person, and I think Kassie paid about $12 to bring her bike, which, if you have one is definitely the way to go.  I rented a bike for the day for $10, but being out in the salty island air, it was rusted to shit, and I had even harder of a time this day than I did the previous.  If you were to bring a car to the island, you would need to make a reservation and it costs something like $40-$50, which isn't bad if you have a car load of people and are staying for a few days.

We caught up with each other and headed off to find some cool stuff.  We ended up finding a neat little beach all to ourselves and hunted for sea glass, interesting shells, and this guy.

I played with the hermit crab for waaay to long trying to get a focused picture of him/her while Kassie went exploring along the cliff.  She was gone for a while and I thought I should go look for her, but then I dozed off for a few minutes laying on some coral.  Good friend I am, ha!!!

We biked a few kilometers to the Hibiscus Garden which housed over 1,000 different varieties.  While they had really nice walking paths and outdoor gardens, they hadn't bloomed yet, so we headed inside a giant greenhouse, which was still really fun.

There were so many, each on more beautiful than the last.

We couldn't get over how tall the plants were and how large each flower was.  I had never seen anything like it before.  Some were literally bigger than my head!!!

Next up was the feature of the week.  The Lily Festival!!!  We followed tour buses and the crowds through the windy streets until we found a place to park our bikes unchained next to about 2034982349 other bikes.    Walking just a little ways down a path, we came across this view!

Here we grabbed some lunch from some food vendors, listened to music playing from the stage and people watched.

I think we both expected something a little different from this.  For some reason I was thinking that all these lilies would be growing wild, but it made total sense that they are maintained and cared for.  There were people working in nearly every patch of lilies picking off dead petals and fallen leaves to keep everything looking pristine.  I thought that was pretty impressive.

Don't get me wrong, we both loved the Lily Festival, and I would definitely recommend anyone who lives here to go to it.  I mean, come on, how could you not love being in a field next to the ocean in a middle of these gorgeous flowers.  The whole island as a whole was awesome, and definitely go exploring outside of the 'festival'.

Mandatory Japanese pose of the day.

We strayed off the beaten path, not far at all from the festival and climbed over a ton of coral (that stuff is SHARP!  It ripped through my sneaker!) to spy on some fisherman on the cliff.  While we were standing there, some water shot up through a little tiny crack in the coral, so we had fun getting as close as we could to it without being blasted and taking a ton of pictures.  Check out Kassie's blog for a hilarious but mega unflattering picture of me posing 'terrified' of it.  Hehe.

We knew it was about time to get back on our bikes and check out at least one more place before we had to catch the ferry.  Ugh...there were hills, and my rusty bike didn't want to peddle and we were tired and my butt hurt.  But then....we arrived at Wajee View Point, which was worth every second.  Seriously, check out this view!!!

Time to head back.  We had only seen a fraction of the island, and thought we had missed all of the historical sites until we passed this building which had been destroyed during WWII.  It was too bad we couldn't read about it, all we knew was that it was a historic site.

Iejima played a major role in Japan surrendering to the US during the war.  There are 3 runways that still exist, one which is still used for civilian aircraft.  The US Marines use the island as a training facility, and we were able to watch some paratroopers jump out of an Osprey!!! Farming is huge on the island (as is most of Okinawa), well, as huge as could be on a 9 square mile plot of land, and raise tons of things including ducks, cattle, flowers, tobacco, potatoes, fish, and probably tons others I don't know about.  There is even a rum distillery.  We got the impression that you cannot tour the factory, but we did bring some home to try!

We headed back and returned my bike, and as we were walking away, we were yelled at in Japanese to come back and get a free snowcone!  We each got one and enjoyed our surprise treat sitting in the shade.  It was very appreciated after being in the blazing sun for hours!

After buying some treats for the boys back home, and some lilies for ourselves, we headed back.  The ferry ride back was uneventful and quiet.  We plopped down in our hidden little spot on the top deck and relaxed, uploaded photos of the day, and talked about how awesome our island adventures were.  We'd love to go back, maybe bringing the guys and check out the other side of the island, some of the historic stuff, climb the mountain and go into the caves.  Maybe we could stay at the resort of even camp in the winter.

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