Red dirt trail to Tarzan Falls

Published 11:32 am Saturday, January 27, 2018

by James D Howell

I wake early in this tropical paradise; it’s still dark outside. Guam is almost on the exact opposite side of the world from Houston. It’s going to take a few days to acclimate to the change. I decide to keep my body as close to Houston time as I can, allowing that I must work during local work hours.

I pull on my beach shoes and head out for a morning walk. I am surprised to find a fair number of others swimming and exercising along the edge of Tumon Bay. I see a definite Japanese ethnic slant to most of the active people. There are the loafers also, maybe left over from last night’s rowdiness.

I’ve brought my Compaq Contura Aero notebook computer with me. I bought it a couple of years ago to take on my work trips. It runs at 25mhz and has a 170 mb hard drive; it has a small monochrome screen. It also has an PMCIA expansion port and I have a 3.5 inch external floppy drive to save whatever files I want to keep. It runs Windows 3.1. It works well with email and word processing and I have a telephone (modem) cord to which I’ve soldered alligator clips for connecting to hotel room telephone wall plugs. The red and green wires always work.

I also have a Compuserve account for internet access. Compuserve’s box is connected to my company’s computers and I can check scheduling, etc., with a proprietary program. Email should work best for contact with home and others, because the time difference doesn’t work well for telephones. Communications with my company is also via email or fax.

I struggle to find an internet provider on Guam and have checked out a couple when I discover that the 800 number for Compuserve works very well. That’s a very pleasant surprise and I’ll use that dial-up for my stay. Communications with the outside world is established.

I spend the necessary time to acquire a security pass for the airport and ramp areas, and familiarize myself with the routine. The job is not an everyday thing.

Classes are scheduled in advance and many days have no attendees; so I have time for exploring and learning local customs and idiosyncrasies.

“Håfa Adai” (pronounced Haf a day) is not a work schedule. It’s the Chamorron “Hello” and is heard frequently. People that are away are considered “off island” and that means not available for anything. Bicycles are dangerous and used only by the brave.

Rain can occur any day — plan for it. Houses, telephone and electric poles are concrete for a reason. Hurricanes blow through regularly and things are built to withstand the winds.

I’m headed to Tarzan Falls, a popular swimming/cool-off spot on the Tarzan River. It’s a little over a mile of red dirt to the falls and pools, but I’m told it’s worth the hike. The access is from a small, dirt roadside parking area on the Cross Island Road. There’s a sign, but without a map and words of caution from friends, I would have missed it. It seems to be hiding in the trees just off the parking spot. I leave the car unlocked, as I’ve been instructed to do, and leave nothing of value inside. There’s no spare tire in the trunk, either. I think my jar of dry roasted peanuts will be OK.

The trail rises and falls over a couple of hills before it steepens to the river bottom. The red dirt is like a clay and becomes very slippery when wet. Today, as most days, will probably have afternoon showers, but so far the footing is good and my backpack settles in very nicely for the trek.

Open hills give way to brush and trees at the ravine leading to the river. I’m thankful for the shade.

This is a beautiful, free-flowing falls, used by locals and visitors alike. The upper level has a couple of shallow pools, suitable for wading or sitting; the lower, larger drop is fun to wade and play in. Only a couple of locals and myself are enjoying the coolness today. A trail connects both levels, but for the adventurous, a large rope has been anchored at the falls edge to climb up or down. I decline the opportunity.

The other visitors have shed their outer garments and spread them to dry on a nearby tree limb. I’m thinking it’s just for my camera, although I know better. I enjoy this somewhat remote swimming hole, and am thankful for the chance to walk on the wild side.

I leave the relative cool of the falls, climb the hill, return to my hubcap-less car and head for the air conditioning of my hotel. I’m ready.

JAMES D. “ARCHIE” HOWELL is a Southampton County native and 1955 graduate of Franklin High School. He can be reached at