Round and about Palau
Once we had done the majority of our dives we decided to rent a car for a couple of days and investigate some of the main land based attractions that Palau has on offer.
First on the list was the stone monolith’s on the Northern tip of Babeldaob (big island) in Ngarchelong. These huge stone pillars of volcanic rock have been dated to c.1000 BC, but no-one is sure of how they got there. They sort of look like supports for a large structure (maybe a large Bai – a men’s meeting house), as some are lined up with the tops carved out as though to support something resting on top.
However I prefer the explanation provided by the guy looking after the site – : “The stones were made from creatures that are half human and half spirit that only work at night, one time one of these creatures was outcast from the group and so in an act of revenge carved a coconut into the shape of a cockerel, this turned into a real cockerel and was made to crow during the night whilst the half human and half spirit creatures were working, this made the sun rise and when dawn broke early all the creatures turned to stone! ”
The stone monolith’s in Ngarchelong.
We learnt that there were other stone monoliths around Palau and some of these had faces carved into them, one of these was in Melekeok which was next on our list of places to visit, so off we headed back South down the east coast road.
The first thing that strikes you about Melekeok is the huge Capitol Building, it is unlike anything else in Palau and was built when Melekeok was confirmed as the capital of Palau. Some people think the building is too much, I thought it was ok, as to whether it has been worth the reported $44 million spent on its creation, is another matter. As we continued down into the village we found the stone monolith with a face carved into it, which now acts as a rather grand addition to the edge of someone’s driveway!
While in Melekeok we ate at one (situated to the right of the road which turns into the village – oh yes there are no road names in Palau!) of the two café’s available in the Palauan capital (we couldn’t find the second!). Where-upon we began chatting to a couple of guys in there about Captain Wilson – who was the first foreigner to ‘land’ in Palau, he was a British captain who ran aground near Ulong Channel in 1783, he rebuilt his ship in 3 months with the help of Koror’s High Chief Ibedul. As a mark of thanks Captain Wilson offered to take his son Prince Lebuu back to England for schooling, sadly a few months after his arrival he died of smallpox, his grave can still be found today and I am told a street was named after him, I must remember to have a look when I’m next in London.
The stone face of Melekeok.
We then headed back to Koror and to the Etpison museum which houses a fantastic collection of old photographs and maps of Palau, alongside money discs made from giant clams and money beads from around Oceania. That evening we ate at the ‘Suriyothai at Kaldos’ which provided me with the best Thai Red Curry I have ever tasted (I asked for extra hot) and a tankard of ‘Red Rooster – local beer’ which was as big as my head!
The following day we headed up the Western side of Babeldaob to Ngardmau falls, Palau’s largest waterfall. Here you hike downhill through the jungle and across a river, at one point following an old railway line dating from the Japanese occupation during the 1940’s, until you get to the falls, this takes around 25 minutes. Once at the falls you can go and stand underneath and get (painfully) pounded by the rapidly falling water, this provided a perfect way to cool down as well as a needlelike exfoliation for the skin!
Ngardmau falls – Ouch!
We then headed off in search of ‘Malsol’s tomb’ despite a good deal of searching in 40°C heat and taking our hire car to the max along the crazy tracks, we never did find the tomb… if anyone does please set my mind at ease and let me know where it is!?