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Palau: Badralchau monoliths

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Badralchau monoliths | Palau | Oceania

[Visited: January 2016]

We drive to the northernmost state of Palau, Ngarchelong, on a sunny day, and just after a small village, turn right, and soon reach our destination: the monoliths of Badrulchau. It is the most important archaeological site of Palau. There is no one around, so we descend the staircase and walk the clear cut grass to a field on which we find scores of monoliths. Most of them are standing, others have capsized, while some are lying flat on the ground. Most monoliths are just that: blocks of basalt, but some have faces carved out in them. In some respect, they remind me of the famous Easter Island moai, but of course, there are obvious differences. The faces have deep eye sockets, a kind of grin on them, and fangs in the edge of their mouth. They somehow have a grim look, despite the grin. The highest monoliths are around 2,5m tall, the stone faces are lower.

Picture of Badralchau monoliths (Palau): Rows of monoliths standing and fallen at the main area of Badrulchau

We explore the area around the central field on which most monoliths are located, and find more monoliths and faces scattered around the area. Some have palm trees towering high above them. There are some good viewpoints over the coastline where waves break on the rocks, just like they have been doing in the times when these monoliths were carved out. They have been studied, of course, and they have been dated back to the 2nd century, making them impressively old. According to legend, they were carved out by gods who were constructing a bai, or meeting house, here, but the construction failed after a magician played a trick on the gods. The monoliths, then, would be the building blocks for the platform on which the bai should have been constructed. Grooves on the monoliths would support this theory.

Picture of Badralchau monoliths (Palau): Some of the monoliths at Badrulchau

This would also explain the name of the place. Badrulchau is also called Bairulchau: bai for the men's house, rulchau means mighty attraction, while bad means stone. After looking at the monoliths from all sides, we lie down on the grass, and let the atmosphere of the place sink in. We still have the place to ourselves, making the experience more special. Where are the hordes of tourists we have seen in Koror and on the Rock Islands? When we walk up the hill again, we find someone at the ticket booth, and we end up in an interesting conversation with the guy who is obviously proud of Badrulchau, and is convinced that Palau might well be a crossroads of energies. He tells us of a ladder to heaven which is found at the top of a hill, and we pay a short visit on our way back to the south of Babeldaob. Even though only a small boulder can be seen on a coral platform, this was supposedly the base of a ladder to heaven, and is considered a holy place. We cannot help but look up to the sky.

Picture of Badralchau monoliths (Palau): Monoliths casting a shadow on the central field at Badrulchau
Picture of Badralchau monoliths (Palau): Row of monoliths under a tall palm tree
Picture of Badralchau monoliths (Palau): Monolith with carved face at Badrulchau
Picture of Badralchau monoliths (Palau): Central field with monoliths scattered around
Picture of Badralchau monoliths (Palau): Faces carved out of monoliths at Badrulchau
Picture of Badralchau monoliths (Palau): The main field with monoliths at Badrulchau
Picture of Badralchau monoliths (Palau): Rows of monoliths, still standing and fallen, at Badrulchau
Picture of Badralchau monoliths (Palau): The central field on which most monoliths can be found
Picture of Badralchau monoliths (Palau): Marker of the Ladder to Heaven at the top of a hill above Badralchau

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