Palau, 18-22 /12, Darryl


For some reason I had been thinking that the Rock Islands were someway from Koror when a glance at a chart will show that Koror is basically in them. Anyways I had barely settled down into my nap when I was rudely awakened with news of our arrival at Ulang Island. This island, and indeed all of the rock islands, is stunning; vertiginous limestone mounds densly cloaked in vegetation form a maze of channels in bright blue water. The overhanging limestone cliffs that form the bases of the mushroom shaped islands are only rarely broken by a white sand beach making the interior of the islands fairly impenetrable. Our anchorage is typical of the Rock Islands a blue hole surrounded by steep cliffs with one narrow, and often shallow, entrance. Long tailed white birds which I have been informed are called Tropic Birds (imaginitive) swoop out of the steeply stacked trees in pairs and trios adding to the paradisical image.

We kicked off the trip with some snorkelling and some maintenance. I had been argueing for some time that the dinghy engine was leaking oil only told that this was impossible and it must come from some other boat in the harbour. As we were now the only boat the leak became more obvious and we subsequently switched out the 10 hp for a 2 hp. I would much prefer to have been wrong in this case as we now motor significantly slower. The snorkelling was nice though.

The next day we headed to the premier attraction of the Rock Islands, Jellyfish Lake, the permit for which naturally costs $50. We went first thing in the morning hoping to avoid the hordes of people that would be arriving in the afternoon. A short walk up and over the ridge that seperates the lake from the sea brings you to a small lake hemmed in by vegetated cliffs as so many of our anchorages were. The differences emerge once you get in the water, heading towards the centre of the lake you spot your first jelly fish and stop to examine it but as you contine you see ten then a hundred then a thousend. Before long there is more jelly than water and to move anywhere requires gently grabbing the fragile Jellyfish and moving them aside. There really is no end to them but if you get tired of being constabtly surrounded you can always dive down a few metres as they hover near the surface only. Looking up at the cloud of Pink jellyfish from below with shafts of sunlight filtering down is worth $50 in my mind.

The next day we had another typically stunning Rock Islands anchorage the cliffs would make Palau an excellent climbing destination and I am furious with myself for not bringing my climbing shoes. I tried climbing anyways but the sharp limestone quickly convinced me to stick to climbing the mast. The cemetary reef just across the strait from us had some excellent snorkelling with turtles, sharks, and lots of fish. The fish here have been fed by tour guides and so have no fear of humans and you almost have to push them out of the way when you are swimming. We finally made real use of the when we moved to a new anchorage the next day as Jonathan and Charlotta paddled there while the rest of us took the boat over. When snorkelling at popular spots here the trick is to sit outside and wait until the tour boats are gone (they seem to come in waves) and then run in. In this fashion we swam through a low rock arch filled with stunning soft coral.

Originally we had been planning to stay out one more night snd then head back to Koror in the morning for the Christmas party on the 22nd but it seemed easier to head back that afternoon and so have all of the next day in Koror rather than finding another anchorage only to leave first thing in the morning and so we turned back to Koror and took up our now familiar mooring.

The 22nd dawned hot and limpid as pretty much all days do in Koror and I, for one, was quite excited for the party as I had spent my previous trips to Koror trying to convince one of the dive instructors to come. As such I took out the precious clean t-shirt that I had been saving for the occasion and generally bounced about the boat as the others got ready at the pace of treacle on a cold day. I needn't have bothered as she never did show up, but the party was quite good anyways I was expecting a small potluck with a few of the other cruisers and got a party of over twenty with a gigantic turkey to match. Due to a special election for a new chief in Palau we were unable to buy alchohol until seven and as such spent the first hour of the party staring at the clock and promptly fell upon the bar at seven sharp. I proceeded to drown my sorrows in copious amounts of the local brew and large amounts of apple pie, which is an excellent remedy for just about anything really.

Suffice to say that I made it back to the boat and the next day nursed my hangover with iced water and fried fish before heading back to the Rock Islands to use the rest of our permitted time there.
Darryl.

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