The island of Babeldaob:
Yesterday we took a break from the water and explored the big island of Babeldaob. (pronounced "bobble dawb") Babeldaob is the second largest island in Micronesia, behind Guam, and is largely undeveloped. The US and Palau are in a compact of free association, which basically means that we give them money and use them for military purposes (there is an Air Force base here). A new road called the "Compact Road" is being built around Babeldaob and is really nice (most of the roads we go on are full of potholes). We followed that around the west side of the island until we got to Ngardmau Falls.
To get to the falls, we hiked for about 20 minutes through the jungle. Once we reached the river there were a couple of swimming holes (literally holes in the rock) where we swam. One was under a waterfall and was really fun. It was very similar to the waterfall swimming we did this summer in Shenandoah but MUCH warmer. While we were there, a man from the state asked if he could take our photo for an upcoming brochure. (We're gonna be in a brochure!) The waterfall at the end was really cool. It was probably 50 feet tall and really wide. We were able to walk to the back of the waterfall and climb up the wall a bit. We spent about 30 minutes there, then turned around and headed back to the top where we ate lunch.
After lunch we headed to the other side of the island. We passed through a couple cool little villages. Both of them had elementary schools right across the street from the ocean. Lucky kids! Palau just built a new capital building in the state of Melekeok (pronounced "me-le-kee-ok"), which was also paid for with the money from the US. The capital is very similar to the US capital, but with a tropical twist. It's located in a beautiful spot right on the ocean. Apparently the decision to put the capital on Babeldaob was pretty controversial. Almost all of the commerce and population of Palau are located in Koror, which is probably 45 minutes from the new capital. The hope is that the population will shift to Babeldaob since there is so much more room on that island. The judiciary hasn't moved to the new building yet, but we saw the location where Tim's new office will be.
Our next stop was a bai, which is a traditional men's meeting house used by Palauans. We hiked up a small hill to get to it. Women aren't allowed in a bai, but no one was around so we all went in. It was decorated with a lot of ornate carvings, many of which were sexual in nature (carved on the outside was a woman with spread legs). Other than that it was empty except for two fire pits in the middle. Around the outside of the bai you could see foundations of older ones that are no longer standing. After we left the bai, we walked out on an old dock that was built by the Japanese. It's sort of a ruin now, but we went to the end and watched the surf for a while.
Coming home, we caught the sunset in the pool at Tim's apartment, showered, changed, and headed out to The Taj for some fantastic Indian cuisine.