Gadao's Cave: One of Guam’s most celebrated cultural treasures

Travel
Photo courtesy of 360Guam
Photo courtesy of 360Guam

Gadao's Cave: One of Guam’s most celebrated cultural treasures

by: 360 Guam | .
www.360guam.com | .
published: October 18, 2018

This is a fantastically short hike to one of Guam’s most celebrated cultural treasures. It is definitely a must-see if you are driving through the South.

Quick Stats

Location: Inarajan

Region: Southeast

Difficulty: Very Easy

Time: 5 – 10 Minutes, Allow 30 Minutes

Length: .06 of a Mile

Elevation Gain: 22 Feet

Sight: Caves

Cool Stuff: Pictographs, Ancient Chamorro History

What To Bring: Closed-toe shoes for walking on sharp limestone

Directions

From Central and North Guam
(Inarajan & Talofofo residents, adapt these directions)

  • Take Cross Island Road (route 17) from the west to the east, across to Talofofo. You may take route 4a towards the end to head in a more southernly direction. (If starting from the Northeast side just come straight down route 4).
  • Whether you stay on 17 on take 4a, you will end up at route 4 (the coastal road) when it ends and turn right, going south. Pass Talofofo Bay and keep going straight.
  • When you start entering a slightly more populated area, slow down and look out for the sign to your left (usually covered by trees, which says “Gadao’s Cave” and turn left here. This is a long, narrow road that skirts the left edge of Inarajan Bay. If you start the curve to the left around Inarajan Bay where the statue of Gadao in half a canoe, the church ruins, and ancient chamorro village is, you have gone too far.
  • Take a right turn on the first gravel road that you see.
  • Soon you will see private property and “Keep Out” signs. You will park on the side of the road before driving through where there are two polls on either side used to string a wire cable across a private driveway, marking the end of the public road. Oftentimes this driveway is left open to allow the residents to drive through. To your right is a chain denying vehicle access with metal cables fencing in a forested area.
  • This chain, possibly with a “Keep Out” sign attached, is what you will be hopping in order to start this short hike.

From South of Cross Island Road
Including southern Agat, Umatac, and Merizo

  • Drive south on route 2 (the main road), which then technically turns into route 4 and pass the village of Merizo.
  • Keep on this road. You will pass the downtown village of Inarajan marked by buildings on your left side, a church ruin and the statue of Gådao in half a canoe on your right. You may have to stop at the stoplight, which is only here until the construction is finished. You will see a mini-mart and old martial arts building in ruins on your left.
  • Immediately after these, before you leave Inarajan, you will take your first right, marked by a sign for Gådao’s Cave, which is almost always covered by trees. This is a long, narrow road that skirts the left edge of Inarajan Bay.
  • Take a right turn on the first gravel road that you see.
  • Soon you will see private property and “Keep Out” signs. You will park on the side of the road before driving through where there are two polls on either side used to string a wire cable across a private driveway, marking the end of the public road. Oftentimes this driveway is left open to allow the residents to drive through. To your right is a chain denying vehicle access with metal cables fencing in a forested area.
  • This chain, possibly with a “Keep Out” sign attached, is what you will be hopping in order to start this short hike.

Parking
Park to the side next to the “Keep Out” sign.

Trailhead
Trail begins just past the “Keep Out” chain.

The Trail Guide

After you cross the chain, keep straight through the weeds towards the beach for 3 – 5 minutes. Soon the trail will veer to the left along the water. Travel between the large boulders and the shoreline.

The first cave-like structure you may see looking through the trees is not Gådao’s cave. Keep walking straight until you see a reddish rock structure, with a ridge along the middle with a clearly etched level to walk along. Climb up to this ridge with just a couple of rocks to step up, and walk along the rock wall on this middle level.

The opening to your left is the mouth of the cave, and the pictographs of the two stick figures are to your left as you enter.

There is a nice spot to sit and over look the ocean if you keep walking forward, to the right, along the shoreline. Either crawl through the small opening in the rocks, outside of Gådao’s Cave, towards the tip of the peninsula or carefully walk across the spiky limestone closer to the water. Here is a larger, more open overhang with a lovely view of the ocean.

To leave, return the way you came.

Pictographs in Gadao's Cave

Since it is extremely difficult to date cave art, we have a large period of time from when these painting could be from. An educated guess would place them within the Latte Era sometimes between 800 A.D. until Magellan’s presence and the Spanish colonization starting around 1521. Since we do not know whether or not some of the symbols are crosses (a Catholic symbol brought in by the Spanish) we cannot place if these paintings came before or after the Spanish colonization.

Guampedia says that the paint used for these symbols was made from white lime, which bonds to the wall by a chemical reaction, and may have been applied by finger. On the west wall, to the right when you enter the cave, there are about 50 drawings ranging from 2 to 20 centimeters in height, depicting human- and animal-looking forms. The most obvious and popular pictographs are on the east wall (to the left upon entering the cave), where two human figures stand together, with one perhaps something in his or her hand. It is suggested that these figures are of Chief Gadao of Inarajan and Chief Malaguana of (now) Tumon, as depicted in their folktale (retold to the right). Others suspect it is of a man and woman.

American anthropologist Laura Thompson studied the cave paintings on Guam and other nearby island before WWII. She described cave paintings in Talofofo and Inarajan in the South and Jinapsan and Mergagen (on Andersen Air Force Base, just north of the Tarague Beach boundary) in the North. Other cave paintings have been found at Ritidian Point, Fena, and Fadian Cave (on the east coast). The drawings depict animals such as fish, stick-figured humans (sometimes without heads), circles, and other various symbols.

For more information on other caves on the island and on surrounding islands, please click here.

The Story of Chief Gådao

There once was a very strong and powerful chief from a prominent, ancient village in Tumon Bay, named Chief Malaguaña. He was very proud of his strength and believed he was the strongest on the island. When he heard rumors that Gådao, a chief from the southern village of Inarajan, was also very strong, he decided to find him to see who was the strongest of the two.

He took his canoe and paddled all the way to Inarajan. When he landed, he saw a man, who unbeknownst to him was Chief Gådao himself. He told this man that he was Malaguaña, the strongest man on Guam, and that he needed to find Gådao to challenge him to a fight of strength.

Gådao told him that he would bring him to his chief, but first he should have a nice meal of coconut crab with him and his wife after such arduous travel. Malaguaña agreed.

In order to boil the crabs, his wife needed him to harvest coconut milk from some coconuts. He shook some down from a tree, and instead of using any instruments to open and grate it, he squeezed the coconut until the milk came out. Malaguaña knew that the chief of the village was always the strongest. Seeing this villager squeeze milk from an unopened coconut made him realize that the chief would be even bigger and stronger.

They went back to Gådao’s home and enjoyed the meal his wife prepared. Afterwards, he offered to seek out his village’s chief. Instead, Malaguaña, intimidated by the apparent strength of this chief, told him that it was getting late and that he should start his trek home before it fell dark. Gådao offered to help him paddle back home.

They both got into the canoe, Malaguaña in the front and Gådao in the stern. They both began to paddle, but as Malaguaña was paddling forward, Gådao secretly paddled in reverse. Instead of their paddling canceling out and keeping the canoe in one place, the two men were so strong that they split the canoe in two.

Malaguaña’s strength got him all the way to Tumon Bay before he even realized that he only had half a canoe. The wise Gådao laughed and laughed as the strength in his paddle sent his half of the canoe inland. The dragging canoe created a channel, which is filled with water to this day.

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