Saturday, June 26, 2010

Come Rain or Shine

Living in Okinawa during the "rainy season", we've been through some very bi-polar weather. It may be clear blue skies with steady sunshine one minute, and a raging downpour the next! One of these very days, Matt and I found ourselves starving and running for cover into a new cafe (well, new to us) called Cactus Cafe. The place is quite small, but really trendy and comfortable. The decor is incredibly eclectic, natural and the cafe definitely has a 60's feeling to it... this could be on account of the two long-haired guys that work behind the counter and give off a sort-of "Japanese hippie vibe"... just saying... Anyway, the cafe just exudes relaxation - maybe it was just the sound of the rain on the roof and the feeling of sinking into big comfy arm chairs to dry off and have something warm to eat, but I can't help but get a cozy feeling when I walk in.

The best part of the Cactus Cafe - did I forget to mention the food?? They serve the best warm, bagel sandwiches! You get to pick the type of sandwich and type of bagel you want it on, then they make it and deliver it to your table. The guys kind of take a while to make the sandwiches (sort of a part of the chill atmosphere), but they are totally worth it! We've been to the cafe twice now, and so far we've tried the BLT, the Grilled Chicken, the Salmon & Cream cheese, and the Prosciutto & Cheese!

Here are some photos from our second time to the cafe - the original photos happened to be on my iPhone that was taken awhile back, so I ended up losing those...

The hot sandwiches come individually wrapped in paper

This has become one of my favorite places to grab a bite in Okinawa - glad I could share it with you all:)


Friday, June 18, 2010

Take a Hike

As children, my sister and I went on countless (and I do mean countless) camping trips with our parents. Many of these trips involved hiking through forests - sometimes on paths, sometimes without paths. They were always one of my favorite parts about camping, because I loved getting to follow my Dad as he made his own way through the forest to explore instead of just staying on the marked trail. And these weren't just some wimpy hikes, either - I was climbing up rocks, crossing rivers, chopping down trees... okay, so maybe this is mostly my childhood imagination here, but I'm telling you - they weren't just your average nature hikes!

So, I like to think that I pretty much get my love of hiking from my Dad, and now that we're living on a sub-tropical island, I'm all about it! I recently found a list on the internet stating all of the hikes (easy to difficult) to do on the island - there are 17 - and my goal is to do each one before our time here is up!

Enter: Hiji Falls - one of the mid-level difficulties on the list. A few weeks ago, we had a beautiful Saturday, nothing to do, and a yearning for some hiking and waterfalls! I'd heard a few rumors that this hike was on the "tougher side", but that really didn't scare us at all. Hiji Falls is about an hour and a half drive north of where we live, so we planned on spending the day up there.

When we got to the starting point, it was clear right away that it wasn't exactly going to be the rugged, natural hike that we had been hoping for - we paid about 400 yen each to do the hike, and it was clearly marked in the beginning that there would be no leaving the path. Not that it was too much of an option anyway, because they had the path blocked off in such a way that you really couldn't venture off even if you had wanted to. We also weren't allowed to swim in the waterfall or river at all, which was a little bit of a bummer for us as well (we had come equipped wearing our bathing suits!).

Beside the strict guidelines to be followed, we had a great hike! While I found it to be a great calf-workout, I wouldn't necessarily call it "tough". I could, however, see how it could be horrendous to attempt with kids, because the "trail" is more of a series of steep, up-and-down staircases rather than a dirt path. Unless you want to carry little Sally the whole way, I wouldn't recommend it for parents!

Some little falls in the beginning of the hike

We got some great views on the suspension bridge that you have to cross about half-way to the falls

Looking down while on the bridge at the creek below

One of the steep staircases on the trail

Yeah... watch out for those falling rocks!

They actually had a point along the trail where you were able to get cell phone reception - I mean, this was really "roughing it"!

Looking down another one of the steepest staircases on the hike

Getting closer to the falls!

Just a few Giant Centipedes!

Me in a tree

Made it to Hiji Falls!

The hike (round-trip) took Matt and I about 2 hours - including the time spent just standing around and looking at the falls, and even though it wasn't as rugged and "off the beaten path" as we would have preferred, it was still a great hike, beautiful waterfalls, and an experience I'm glad to have had while on island.

After our hike, we had to re-fuel, so we decided to go out in search of a restaurant I had heard of that was in the Hiji Falls area. The place is called Pizza in the Sky, and it is supposedly a little difficult to find. They weren't kidding - if it wasn't for reviewers giving their own directions online, we would NEVER have found it! The directions are something like: Take 58 to 74. Turn right at the fork in the road (by the way - this was NOT a fork!). Go under a bridge. Turn right onto the third gravel road. Pass the house that has a sign for "coffee" in the window (there were multiple houses with this sign in the window), and you will see a house on your left - that is the restaurant! Hmmmm... Anyway, what a cool place! It is basically in a large house that has a very open wrap-around porch attached to it. The restaurant almost has a very natural/hippie vibe to it. Everyone eats at low, Japanese style tables inside the house, on the porch, or at tables in the "backyard" lawn. And they don't call it Pizza in the Sky for nothing - the house is on top of a large hill (or small mountain - not sure what you would call it) and the view of the island and ocean below is amazing! We were there around sunset, and it was so gorgeous and peaceful!

View of the indoor seating area and wrap-around porch

We were seated out on the porch - as you can tell, Matt fits perfectly at the Japanese-style tables;)

Our menu written on a Japanese fan

We ordered the pizza of course! Side note: there is no choice of toppings at Pizza in the Sky - you get whatever the toppings are that day. Our's was sliced sausage, green peppers, onion and corn - yes, corn! It was amazingly great!

After dinner, walking around the "lawn"

View from the restaurant

Thanks everyone for following! Miss you!