Thursday, August 25, 2005

Palau - Babeldaob

Babeldaob is the big island of the Palauan chain. It is the largest single land mass in Micronesia. The airport is located here and is the only place I had been to on Babeldaob during my 1997 trip. At that time the bridge linking Koror with the Babeldaob had collapsed. There was boat shuttle that moved people from Koror to the airport. Since then a new bridge has been built and Rich and I took this opportunity to explore. Below are pics of the old bridge and the new bridge.

Old Bridge

New bridge, "The Friendship Bridge" courtesy of the Japanese gov.

For the journey Rich and I borrowed David's, ahem, SUV... The Bighorn! Pictured below:

The Bighorn is driven from the right side a la British vehicles. There is a nice rusted hole around the stick shift that allows the heat from the engine to roast your calf quite nicely. And, yes, that is one bolt holding the spare tire on. The biggest kicker with the Bighorn is that its axel was, for all purposes.... practically snapped into. This isn't much of an issue when you're driving around Koror never exceeding 25 mph but to take it to the big island where the roads are even worse than the country roads in Alabama... it makes for a wild ride. 10 and 2 on the steering wheel had to be turned to about 7:45 and high noon to navigate straight. And when you're traveling on roads like this:

.... things occasionally get squirlley. Rich and I made a pact that if the Bighorn broke down, we'd push it into the jungle and fend for ourselves... David and his Bighorn be damned!

Our first destination was the Ngatpang waterfall. Ngatpang is a state in Palau just like California is a state in the US. Of course we got lost and ended up in the village of Ngatpang. While we were looking for someone to ask directons we pulled up in front of the Ngatpang State government building and were greeted by:

If you click on the pic and enlarge it you'll see a small child with a plastic gun. He was the only soul around. Luckily, he greeted us a liberators and threw flowers at our feet. It was odd spectacle as guns are not allowed on Palau and this kid was grinning from ear to ear. So were we after this encounter.

While in Ngatpang village I snapped this photo of a traditioal Palauan raft:

We got our bearings from some locals and headed to the water fall. Along the way we snapped some vista pics:

We finally made it to the waterfall. The Ngatpang waterfall is the smaller of the 2 waterfalls on Babeldaob. The larger one is at the northern tip of the island. We didn't trust the Bighorn to get us there so we settled on the Ngatpang waterfall:

Our main mission on Babeldaob was to see the new Federal Capitol Building for Palau. It is almost complete and is an incredible structure:

Art work on the Capitol

The Dome

View from the court yard

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