Okinawa to Amami traverse PART 1
Anyone who has studied an atlas of the world in some detail must have noticed there are many places on the map that seem custom made for the adventurous traveler. There are usually broad geological or political reasons for this, but the all-important details seem to be left to accident. Through our many years of rock climbing, we often contemplated how an otherwise blank rock face comes to have a line of holds just big enough to be climbable, presenting a natural line that is often more intriguing than the best artificial routes constructed in indoor climbing gyms. Japan’s Nansei Shoto or Southwest Archipelago – the long chain of islands stretching in a graceful arc from Taiwan to Kyushu, is one such natural route of great interest to the sea kayaker. Historically, these islands formed a trade link between Japan and China, and the kingdom of Ryukyu flourished here for centuries in a delicate balance in spite (or maybe because) of the islands’ small size and the fact Japan and China were not usually on speaking terms. The entire Taiwan-Kyushu traverse is a major undertaking (to our knowledge not yet accomplished in a sea kayak) with, for example, a 220km gap between Miyako and Kume islands southwest of the largest island of Okinawa. This kind of thing being beyond the scope of our 2-week summer vacation, we opted instead for the easiest section between Okinawa and Amami, the other large island in the chain. Here the islands are nicely strung together, the distances between them never more than 40km, and the currents, while troublesome, are not as strong or complicated as elsewhere. A little worried about the weather (it was already typhoon season) but quite excited to experience the differences between the individual islands, we loaded the boats onto our minicar and headed to the southern Kyushu port of Kagoshima.