Thursday, April 15, 2010

On the Road Again

We got a car! How exciting is that? Very, as it means no more carrying groceries up the steep hill of death near our house or long walks into and home from town!

How does one get a car in Yap? You can buy them on island from different stores, or, as we did, you can order one online from Japan and have it shipped over. Mike heard of a great website from a fellow expat, and was able to find this beauty for a very reasonable price. We ordered it, and 4 weeks later it arrived at the dock. Meet the Silver Bullet!

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It is used with only 70k kilometers on it, but runs great! We luckily only have two hub caps to worry about loosing when hitting potholes around the island. Since it is from Japan the steering wheel is on the right side of the car, similar to probably 90% of the cars on island. But we still drive on the right side of the road. This, we have decided, is so that when spitting betel nut out the window you lower the chance of spitting it on a passing car, but instead on a poor ill-fated pedestrian. But not to worry the speed limits in town are either 15 or 20 mph, and reach a whopping 25 mph outside of town, read on a kmph speedometer of course. Many drivers in Yap either have a lead foot and drive 20 over, or we suspect haven’t discovered there is a gas pedal and crawl along at 3 mph. We continue to error on the side of caution when it comes to driving. Which isn’t too hard to do with only 3 stop signs in town. We don’t even have a blinking light!

Miranda is happy to have another excuse to not ride the scooter. Though she did try riding it around the front yard one day to get a feel for it, and hasn’t been on it since. She wouldn’t want to take it away from Mike, he has way too much fun riding it!

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We are still adjusting to the differences in what is acceptable while driving and riding in a vehicle. Neither seat belts or car seats are required. Everyday we see infants riding on laps in the front seats, or two or three small children hanging out the window of the back seat. Standing or sitting in the back of a pickup or flat bed truck is also common here. Yes that is a bicycle helmet Mike is wearing in the above picture. A helmet, I use the term loosely, is required when riding a scooter or motorcycle. Bicycle helmets are the norm and Miranda has seen a man riding a scooter wearing a construction hat that he had added a chin strap to.

Along with small Japanese cars and various small trucks, some Yapese love to tint their windows. Partly to provide relief from the blistering sun, but also as an accessory. We have seen green mirrored tinting, and partial windows tinted to provide just the right amount of shade from the top half of the windshield and driver’s window.

There are numerous abandoned cars on the side of the road throughout the island that the jungle has begun to claim. Weeds and vines run through the picked apart and rusted cast offs creating a jungle planter of sorts.

There are a surprising number of taxi’s in town. We are sure they do great business because even though there is a high car to person ratio on island, many people don’t have cars. We haven’t had to utilize one yet, but we hear that the going rate for a taxi ride is around 50 cents to $2.50 depending on how far you are going and if you make any stops along the way. This seems fairly cheap considering gas is currently $3.95 a gallon.

The best part of having a car is the freedom it provides and how our circle of accessibility has grown to the entire island. If we get bored we can always hop in the car and go for a ride on the “loop” road that goes from town around half the island or so with gorgeous scenery all around you. It gives the term road trip a whole new meaning, since you can drive from the North to South tips of the island in probably an hour, if going the speed limit.

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