Today was a busy road trip kind of day - with a little heavy shopping to kick it all off. Wayne had not been able to make the Babeldaob road tour the last time we were in Palau, so this was a new experience for him, as well as Matt and Jodi. There was enough new in the travel that made it really worthwhile for me as well!
We started out at the prison gift shop after making a stop at the Bank of Hawaii teller machine. Let me clue you in about that machine - you can take up to $300 out if you are not a BOH customer, BUT you can take the $300 out twice in succession. Just in case you think you’re going to buy a lot at the prison gift shop. I wound up getting a manta ray storyboard with sea life, no story, and Matt and Jodi got a turtle of the same persuasion. Auntie was particularly helpful in negotiating sales. I did find out that when prisoners leave, they have the option to leave their carvings there or take them along with. If they are sold, the prison notifies them, and they can come pick up their cash. It is a cash and carry business.
(BTW, I am writing this page a few days after being home, so my remembrance of site names where we visited will likely be sketchy).
From here, we took off over the Friendship Bridge, and hit the Compact Road that circles Babeldaob, which now seats the capitol building. Our first stop was a traditional Bai, which had been badly damaged by Typhoon Bopha. It remains in disrepair as the village chiefs continue to argue over how to fix it. I had forgotten about the pee holes and spit holes in the floors...but they are still there! Hopefully the Chiefs will come to agreement soon, or the women who appoint them may have to choose new ones!
From here it was off to the terraces - you can see how they were built in order to defend against invaders based upon the surrounding steep slopes. We got to see a newly discovered gun as well as the terraced farming areas.
Back on the road, we hit two more WWII sites where we saw defensive positions originally manned by the Japanese (I think it was them and not the Germans), with intact weaponry. Some things still remain!
One main location on our agenda was the Ngardmau Waterfall, where we saw a baby crocodile, and went down to the Waterfall itself. Jodi and Matt hiked down and back up, and Wayne and I took the tram -- next time, better shoes for the redhead is a requirement.
Yes, there were zip lines! The train ran along a bauxite mining rail line, which was mined by the Japanese for construction of their wartime materiels. No mining happens any more, as it is not safe.
The waterfall was spectacular, the tram ride a little freaky as it wobbled from side to side.
After the waterfall, we were off to another WWII observation/defense site, and a bombed out lighthouse. I will have to do a little more research on that at some point in the future. It was well constructed, and utterly destroyed by the bombing. There are still bullets in the surrounding area.
From here it was off to Badrulchau to see the monoliths. Auntie surmised that people brought the basalt figures and faces on rafts, and that is how they were deployed around the Pacific (think Ponape, Kosrae and Easter Island). I’m sure that there are plenty of theories.
Then a quick jaunt around the Capitol (and Auntie’s opinion of the folly of that investment has not changed since 2006!), and we were headed to the Taj for our final dinner. Matt and Jodi got to enjoy the Chilli Crab (Mangrove crab), and the evening was deemed successful. Our local cab driver (Len? Lou? I have his card somewhere!) picked us up and brought us back to the hotel where we napped before heading to the airport.
We went through the same problem at the Palau airport as we did coming in because of the separate reservations. Because Matt and Jodi had three legs, their baggage ticket had to be hand written. We kept our fingers crossed for their bags.
We were delayed by the late arrival of the flight from Manila. I found out that the flight from Guam was being held for us, so I felt better about that. We arrived one gate away from the departing flight, but we unfortunately had to process through customs and wait to be allowed to re-enter the airport (did you know that means going through security screening again?).
We dashed to the plane, boarded, and headed back to Honolulu. This time, the flight was without event. And Matt and Jodi’s bags made it! They had plenty of time for their connecting flight to Houston, so we were all on our way.
Looking forward to the next dive trip with Matt & Jodi (BVI, here we come), good diving companions!