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    You cannot imagine how far away Guam is from North America until you fly there with a toddler.

    Guam is south of Japan, east of the Philippines, north of Indonesia and just far, far away from everything, located in the western Pacific about 13 degrees north of the equator. It's the southernmost and largest island of the Marianas Island Arc. The island chain forms part of the eastern margin of the Philippine Sea.

    If you travel here, you may fly from, say, San Francisco to Honolulu. That part of the trip takes almost six hours. Then you fly from Honolulu to Guam. That takes about eight hours. Another possibility is that you may be routed from San Francisco to Narita Airport in Japan. That takes eleven hours. From Narita to Guam is three and a half hours.

    From Guam to Manila, in the Philippines, is about two hours. It's a little more than five hours to Bali. If you just want to go to Chuuk in the Federated States of Micronesia just south of here, that takes just a little over one hour. If you're not very ambitious and you just go to Saipan in the Northern Marianas, that takes a mere forty minutes.

    Right now the best fares for travelling to Guam are through China Airlines.

Check out this map from the U.S. Navy Public Works Center to see where Guam is located.


    Guam is about 30 miles long and of variable width, about 8 miles maximum. To drive from the southern end by Cocos Island to Ritidian at the northern end takes about two hours. It can take a lot longer if you adhere to the speed limits (45 mph is the maximum legal speed on Guam), or if there's road construction (there always is), or if you get behind a school bus (they seem to run 24 hours a day), or if you get behind someone who has filled up the back of his pickup truck with sand and is dragging his rear on the road, sparks flying, sand blowing off, and the tires flattened by the weight. (Hauling sand is a popular road activity on Guam.)

    The northern half of Guam is a high limestone plateau dipping gently westward. If you are near the edges of the plateau, you see towering cliffs, beautiful reef, and a few white or pink sand beaches in the embayments. The drives down the cliffs to these northern beaches take you through beautiful limestone forest terrain. The jungle is rich with cycads, palms, ferns and pandanus. 
Thumbnail photo of a pandanus tree.
    Up on the plateau, away from the edges, you wouldn't even know that you're on an island. The land is flat and dreary, overgrown with tangan-tangan, an ugly little tree that was planted on Guam after World War II to cover the denuded land and prevent erosion of the exposed soil. The tangan-tangan took to Guam in a big way, and has taken over the island. It's a scrawny little tree with small leaves like a sumac, producing masses of small brown pods that make the tree look half dead. Northern Guam is also densely populated and overdeveloped with the ugly little concrete bunkers that we live in here because of typhoons. Some of the dreariness is mitigated by the flowering trees and shrubs that people have planted in great abundance: plumeria, bougainvillea and hibiscus, and the wild plants such as chain-of-love, philodendron and poinsettia. 
Photograph of Malachi in front of a tangan-tangan thicket in our back yard.
    Southern Guam, on the other hand, is beautiful. It consists of rolling hills and mountains, higher in the south and the west than in the north or the east. The southeastern side of Guam has tall ridges and pinnacles of limestone, in places almost achieving haystack topography. In the west are the tall, jagged cliffs of volcanic rock and red clay. The volcanic rocks are covered with sword grass, forming a barren and beautiful savanna, carved by streams and cascading with waterfalls. The population is much less dense in the south and the villages are prettier. 

by Brenna Lorenz and Mike Pulte.

Agana 96910

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