Kosrae and Pohnpei are both renowned for their prehistoric ruins and Chuuk is famous for the more than 60 Japanese warships and two score aircraft that were sunk in its lagoon on February 17th 1944. The remains of this "Japanese Pearl Harbour" places Chuuk amongst the top dive sites of the Pacific. Consequently, Chuuk has several dive resorts as well as two or three live-on dive boats.
Unfortunately I could not take advantage of this remarkable collection of wrecks because I don't dive anymore for health reasons. My visit was therefore limited to visiting Weno island.
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Chuuk consists of 11 high mangrove-fringed islands in the lagoon surrounded by
a series of 14 low islands such as these on either side of the northeast pass through the
outer reef. The main islands, Weno, Tonoas, Uman, and Fefan are located inside the
Weno became the capital and commercial centre of Chuuk after WW II when it replaced the bombed out Tonoas Island where the Germans and the Japanese had installed their main settlements while they controled these islands.
Here is the Weno airport at the foot of Mount Tonaachaw where, according to the legend, Sowukachaw, the chief of the first humans to settle these islands, built the hut from which he ruled all of the Chuuk Lagoon.
Chuuk is not cheap, the regular price for a single in the RS Plaza Hotel is 70 $ U.S. I was the only customer that day so I got it for 35 $US.
Half of the people here are Catholic and the remainder are Protestant of various denominations. This group playing lively music in front of the "Shop 'n Save" supermarket next door from my hotel, was collecting money for some church activity or other.
There's really not much to see in Weno so here is a shot of the road between Weno-center, where the airport and my hotel are, and Weno-south near the docks and the market
The population of Weno is only of about 15 000 but its market and supermarkets draw customers that come in from all the other islands in these motorboats.
The boats come in the morning and leave in the afternoon so they are unfortunately not much use for a backpacker like me who would have liked to go on day trips to some of the smaller islands. The alternative would have been to visit some of the luxury dive resorts on these islands but that was not what I wanted to see.
Chuuk State also includes a number of outlying islands that are served by the larger ships that you see docked here.
The general market was quite lively with two dozen stalls selling all kinds of produce, fish and fresh meats. I bought a big roasted fish from this lady and ate it on the spot with my fingers. It was delicious.
A lot of people were hurting because tourism was slow but even in the best of times there is a high level of unemployment here.
Government employees and those who serve the tourist industry have cars and they can afford to shop in big supermarkets such as Shigato's shown here, or Truk Trading next door or the Shop n Save in Weno centre.
Many however are not so fortunate and significant inequalities create problems.The fact that land ownership is comunal prevents the people from the other islands from moving into Weno where there are normaly more jobs. This creates frustration and bad blood between the islands and fighting is not uncommon.
One afternoon, I went to have a look at the Blue Lagoon Resort at the southern tip of Weno Island.
It was nicely landscaped, had a fine beach with all the normal beach toys and games, a great beachside bar and well appointed wooden buildings but no customers.