While walking through the northern town of Anabar, a girl on a motorbike stopped to talk to me; she turned out to be a bright, active person full of ideas, also to make my stay in Nauru more interesting. Appointments were not met, and after two days of finding my way around the island by myself, I almost forgot about her when, on Sunday afternoon, the day before I left, someone knocked on my door. The young, cheerful guy of the reception told me that my friend was waiting for me downstairs; actually, there was a bunch of them in a car, and the guy jumped on the back of a motorbike to follow us. I was flabbergasted; it was easy to give in and just live the surprise as it came. We drove up to MQ (Married Quarters), with good views over Location and the Pacific Ocean stretching as far as the eye could see, and drove the island in a clock-wise direction. I had walked and cycled around the island; and had taken my time to do so; now, we were driving and we reached the other side of the country in ten minutes. My friends were happy to show me a corner of Nauru that is hardly visited even by Nauruans, in fact, most of them had not been there themselves. Without having a proper name, they called it the Hole in the Wall, and I would soon find out where that name comes from.
Standing next to a wall of coral rock, we stepped through an opening in the wall (called VB bar; in fact, the soil here was covered by empty cans of beer): at once, we were in a different world. With the beach less than 100 metres away from us, we found ourselves dwarfed both by tall trees with aerial roots, and high walls of limestone. The canopy was effectively blocking the sunlight, but it was not really cool here, as there was no ventilation. We regularly had to duck under thick roots, step over others, take care not to break spider webs, or thread in muddy soil. At several points, we walked in corridors of coral rock, often with roots of trees coming down, searching for the soil below, or had to bend down and walk through tunnels of rock. We reached the namesake of the area: in one of the massive walls of limestone, we saw a star-shaped hole through which we climbed. But there were more holes, caves, and openings in the rough, rugged walls. After having seen the palm-tree fringed coastline and the pinnacled topside landscapes of the island, this was a totally different experience. Then again, before mining operations started in the early 1900s, Pleasant Island, as Nauru was called, was totally covered by precisely this kind of vegetation. It was here that I realized just how much impact the mining industry had had on the island, effectively changing Nauru in a drastic way with dramatic effects on both its environment and climate.
We were not done. After cautiously threading through yet another opening in the wall, we reached a quiet, brown-water lagoon, hidden on all sides by limestone walls and various kinds of trees. It was low tide, the brackish water corresponds with the rise and fall of the invisible Pacific Ocean I knew lied just behind the other side of the lagoon. To the surprise of my friends, we found a coconut crab, which they thought had disappeared altogether from the area. My dear friend and guide knew her way remarkably well, and at one point, we carefully climbed a vertical slab of coral rock, holding on to the sharp edges. When we reached the top of the wall, the views around us finally opened. Below us, was yet another lagoon, surrounded by thick vegetation, just beyond, palm trees with their tall crowns of rustling leaves, and the crashing waves of the Pacific. Behind us, we could see the rising landscape, marking the end of this little remaining patch of untouched forest: on top of it, lied the man-made landscape of a mined country. We walked back, and, climbing over one of the walls of coral rock, reached the road again. Thanks to my Nauruan friends, I had seen a place many people don't know about; while, judging from the trash on the ground I saw in several places, at least some locals use the place as a quite hide-away. In fact, it was used during World War II as a hide-out during bombing raids, and while the area is small, it is easy to see how you could take good shelter here, and wait for more peaceful times. As for our island tour, we continued our drive, visited the former refugee camp that is now being used as a primary school; with the other refugee camp on Topside being used by the Australians, there were security guards around, and it was the first time they got a little nervous about my camera. We stopped by the extensive cave near the runway, for which I had taken my swimwear and torch; unfortunately, a few apparently drunk girls were trying to use the cold water inside to get sober again, while much of the place was littered with cans and broken glass. Using my torch, I could see just how big the cave and lake were; but to cool off, we would dive into the ocean a little later. The unexpected adventure of hiking through the Hole in the Wall area with my friends was one of the best of my stay on Nauru, and helped making it a memorable visit.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
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