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Palau - Rock Islands & Babeldaob

July 3, 2009

I spent all day Wednesday & Friday at the Pacific Archaeology Conference, which was great. There were scholars from all around the world, with lots of Pacific Islands represented, as well as the president of Palau, president of the World Archaeological Congress, & someone from National Geographic. What was really refreshing was that about half the audience was made up of local Palauans & the papers were televised & broadcast live on the radio. I wish we could drum up that kind of community interest for our SHA conferences. I hung out with my friend Hinanui most of the time, and we had a spectacular dinner at a fancy restaurant on one of the islands.

On Thursday we took a boat to the Rock Islands, which are hundreds of little limestone islands, undercut at the tide line & covered in jungle, so they look like mushrooms rising out of the sea. Some have caves and some have beaches, like Ulong, where they filmed Survivor. We stopped there for lunch & hiked to one of the archaeological sites, which had pottery all over the surface. We also went to two snorkeling sites - the first was called The Cemetery because at low tide the corals stick up like skeletons. There was a patchwork of colorful corals, a wide array of fish, and bright blue and purple giant clams. The second site was Rainbow Reef, where I was just astounded by the numbers of fish; it's so dense with fish that they actually hit into you as you swim. At the end of the day we stopped at The Milky Way, a milky turquoise lagoon with white mud at the bottom that supposedly is good for your skin. We didn't make it to jellyfish lake, but there were jellyfish at The Milky Way & it was pretty creepy to have them brush up against you.

Today I explored Babeldaob, Palau's largest island with my boss, Carole. We drove out to one of the traditional villages & came across an old Japanese historic site with a plane wreck & rusty old machinery & cveramics all over the ground. A long shimmery blue snake was sunning itself at the edge of the jungle. From there we hiked to Ngerchelechuus Waterfall, the highest waterfall in Palau. The trail was wet and muddy & there were scores of pools with mini waterfalls along the way. The big waterfall was truly spectacular & I swam at the base & stood underneath the falls in one of the parts that wasn't raging too hard. Our next stop was a nature preserve that has a boardwalk leading to a lake in the middle of the island. We hiked for two hours but didn't see any crocodiles, althogh we were surprised by some fruit bats that flew right overhead & landed in a tree next to us. Our last stop was the new capitol building, a behemouth structure with Greek style columns that rises out of the jungle like an alien invader in a foreign land. Then more fresh fish for lunch & I fly out at midnight tonight.

Tags: babeldaob, palau, rock islands, travel

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