TWHS: Imeong Conservation Area, Palau

Continuing our trip around northern Palau, today we’re driving back from Tet el Bad down the west side of Babeldaob the northern island and doing our best to find the

Imeong Conservation Area

Etiruir, Palau

 

The area being proposed for inscription into the World Heritage List covers an area of 1,252 m² encompassing savanna, rain forest, wet land and mangrove swamp with several small streams that flow into the mangrove resulting in steep ridges. In the middle of the area are four mountains namely Etiruir, Tmerou, Sechedui and Ngeruach collectively they form the highest point in the state. Etiruir mountain is the second tallest mountain in Palau reaching an elevation of 213 meters above sea level. The propose Imeong conservation area include sacred cultural sites such as Ii ra Milad, Ngeruach and Ngerutechei traditional village. Ii ra Milad is a rock shelter with a stream that flows under the rock shelter. Under the rock shelter are several mortar or hollowed areas on large boulders and petroglyph. During WWII, Japanese soldiers also lived in the area and historic artifacts are scattered around the site. Milad is a name of a goddess who lived in the rock shelter where it is said that the ancestors of all Palauans were born. It is considered the most sacred site in Palau. Ngerutechei traditional village is a well preserved example of a traditional Palauan village and includes stone paths connecting house platforms, to bathing pools, to council of chiefs meeting house, to piers and so on. Associated oral history depicted the site as where the chiefly titles were handed to the people of Imong by the gods. The sacredness of the sites are still observed by the communities. Older sites are terraces on savanna where terraces in other parts of Palau have been date to last century BC. Also within the site are several Japanese defense complex. Therefore, within the proposed site, a chronology of Palau settlement is presented from the prehistoric to historic period. The diverse ecological zones support a wide variety of plant species. A 2004 environmental study by The Environmental Inc of plants in Ngerutechei traditional village and Ii ra Milad identified over 100 plant species representing over 57 families with 15 being endemic and 59 indigenous. Other unidentified species were also found. Diverse habitats in the area include freshwater wetlands, streams, mangroves, agroforest, upland forests and grasslands sheltering a high number of bird species. The Environmental Inc and Palau Conservation Society conducted a survey from Ngerutechei traditional village and up to the valley between Sechedui and Ngeruach mountains identified 94 birds representing 12 families and 18 species of which 10 are endemic to Palau.

As with Tet el Bad, we found that there’s nothing in the way of directions or maps available, and even the locals are fuzzy on exactly where any of this stuff might be located.

The closest thing to a landmark you can find on a map is Etiruir mountain above there; and while yes, it is a mountain —

— as the Palau terrain goes anyway, 213m is a mountain here —

— there’s really no points of interest or anything particularly distinguishable from the rest of Palau.

It appears that the complete signposting that appears to any of the attractions of the area is this roadside sign:

Milad, Palau

And we drove past it twice because the staples are pulled out of the right side and it had folded over to hide all the writing; we simply decided that since there weren’t any other signs for miles along every road, better see what was on this one.

Beside it a stone causeway lifts off into the jungle,

Ngerutechei, Palau

and in a few minutes you’ll come to traditional village remains:

Ngerutechei, Palau

… which are pretty much just platforms of rocks, as opposed to roads of rocks.

We went wandering off over the hills in search of Milad, and while that was an interesting jungle trek over sketchily “bridged” streams,

Milad, Palau

and rock causeways through tidal mangrove swamps,

Milad, Palau

… it pretty much petered out in the middle of nowhere.

Milad, Palau

So, although this one probably does have a better chance at eventually being inscribed than Tet el Bad does, at the moment we’re pretty hard pressed to recommend it as being worth the drive to anybody except those who MUST! TICK! EVERY! SITE!

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p dir=”ltr”>… or at the very least, find a local willing to guide you through the jungle so you can actually find the sacred areas, instead of blundering around until you run out of water like we did!

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Alex Curylo

Alex

I go places.

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