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Nauru: Topside landscape

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Topside landscape | Nauru | Oceania

[Visited: November 2012]

Before touching down at the airport of Nauru, I realized I had gambled right by taking a window seat on the left hand side: I was sitting on the left, and we were landing in an easterly direction; while we overflew the island, I had a spectacular view of the landscape of Nauru I had heard so much about. While a ring around the island has lush vegetation of tropical trees and plants, the interior, which is a little higher up and therefore called Topside, once as lush as the outer ring, has been converted in a sea of coral rocks in the shape of pinnacles. Indeed, the island is a big coral bed pushed up from the sea. The interior landscape looked amazing from the sky; dark grey, sometimes white, pinnacles sticking out and reaching into the sky, with here and there patches of green. I saw the main road that cuts through the landscape, and looked forward to walking that road.

Picture of Topside landscape (Nauru): The Topside landscape consists for a large part of coral pinnacles, remains of the phosphate mining

At the end of my first day, on which I walked around the entire island, I made a small detour to Buada Lagoon which I had also seen from the sky. I was surprised to find that, after climbing to Topside level, I descended again; the lagoon is probably not much higher than sea level. The orange, purple, and red sunset was a delight to see. The next day, I left early, and took a right turn before reaching Buada; this took me on that road I had been longing to walk. Soon, I reached a boom gate, and the security guy waves me through without a problem. There was a remarkable amount of traffic, mostly motorbikes and trucks. I passed the detention centre where refugees are kept by the Australians, and the road made a detour around an area where mining was going on. Continuing the road, I saw a man-made hill ahead of me, and even though I was on my way to the end of the road at Anibare, I walked up the hill first.

Picture of Topside landscape (Nauru): Rails can still be seen in some parts of Topside

The reward was well worth it: sweeping views on all sides; I realized I could see the sea on all sides of the island of Nauru, and once more realized how small this island really is. Below me, I could see and hear the mining of phosphate, that clearly had resumed after it temporarily stopped for a few years during the deep crisis that hit Nauru in the 2000s. I saw closer now what I had seen from the sky: vast fields of pinnacles, and tried to imagine that mining had for a long time been done by hand. When I finally walked the road to Anibare, I had the opportunity to look at the pinnacles from up close, not an easy terrain to walk around in. Some of the coral rock pinnacles reached up high above me. After another checkpoint, I reached an impressively large chunk of coral rock, overgrown by trees, at the roadside. Looking back from here, with the unsealed road meandering through a landscape of pinnacles, I could not help but wonder how the island will look like in the future. Will it be totally stripped of whatever stood in the way of phosphate (with all the side effects that would produce), or were there really efforts to regenerate vegetation, as I had seen on a board near Buada?

Picture of Topside landscape (Nauru): The landscape of Topside is largely defined by 100 years of the phosphate mining
Picture of Topside landscape (Nauru): Coral pinnacles at Topside
Picture of Topside landscape (Nauru): Topside landscape contains lots of coral pinnacles and some vegetation
Picture of Topside landscape (Nauru): Coral rocks and vegetation at Topside
Picture of Topside landscape (Nauru): Pinnacles of coral rock towering above the vegetation at Topside
Picture of Topside landscape (Nauru): Mining has resumed on the phosphate-rich island of Nauru
Picture of Topside landscape (Nauru): Road running through the interior of Nauru
Picture of Topside landscape (Nauru): Enormous coral rock formation in central Nauru
Picture of Topside landscape (Nauru): The interior road in Nauru sees resumed mining operations
Picture of Topside landscape (Nauru): Discarded train carriage at the roadside in Topside
Picture of Topside landscape (Nauru): Sunset over Buada Lagoon with the hills of Topside in the background

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