Travel Around Nauru on a Harley-Davidson

By Peter & Kay Forwood

Nauru on a Harley (21/12/07 - 28/12/07)
Distance 152 km (500498 km to 500650 km)

This is part of the fourteenth section of our around the world trip.
Complete Trip Overview & Map

Coming from Kiribati

21/12/07 It was a short flight, from just above to just below the equator. Not knowing what to expect from this single island country with a varied reputation and chequered background, and with difficulties getting approval for visas, we were amazed on arrival that the senior immigration officer, Mr Ernest Stephen, also the customs officer, was there to meet us personally. The motorcycle was unloaded on a travelator, much easier than manually, and Mr Stephen cleared us and the motorcycle into the country along with driving us to a hotel. We then returned to the airport, staff assisted reassembling the motorcycle, stowed the packed crate for our onward flight and before noon we were riding in Nauru, the motorcycle's 182nd country. It was all a bit efficient, and a bit of a relief, we spent the afternoon relaxing at the hotel, catching up on sleep. No documentation has yet been completed, for us or the motorcycle, it is Friday, a long weekend, paperwork can be completed on Monday. 

22/12/07 Nauru usedOutside the Parliament building to be one of the most wealthy countries back in the 70's and 80's. It exported phosphate, bird droppings, millions of tons of the stuff, piled up by the birds over tens of thousands of years, but it became harder and harder to mine and eventually it stopped being exported in the early 1990's. Used to an easy lifestyle, with foreign workers from Tuvalu and Kiribati, free water and electricity, existing on imported goods, it was more than a shock to the economy to have no money. The place now looks like a mined out ghost town, only the people can't leave, there is nowhere to go, it is their country. Many have however have managed to emigrate, almost making the infrastructure look more dejected with empty houses slowly falling apart, windows gone, walls broken. The mining equipment seems to be just lying where it last worked, masses of steel structures rusting quietly, constantly reminding the inhabitants of better times. The people now seem philosophical to their predicament and welcome us with friendly waves as we ride around the island enjoying a well made road with little traffic and still in good condition. Other vehicles seem to be leftovers, repaired and amalgamated, rusting rapidly in the salty air, smashed or missing windows, seats broken. We are staying in a nice room of one of only two hotels on the island, oursAustralian security at the detention centre was never finished, but our room is excellent, mains electricity on rotation, six hours on, six off, an energy saving measure, but the hotel generator keeps the fans running during most of the down times. In this strange mix of a country a new, currently free, wifi internet connection is available to everyone, provided by solar and wind powered units, with battery back up on poles around the island, most people can access it, if only they can afford a computer. We rode a loop along the coast, beautiful views, totally different from the low lying ribbon coral atolls we have been visiting, this island has a rocky coastal shelf and no protecting outer reef, no safe harbour, waves just pound in. Stopped at the only thriving business, Capelle's, for a bacon and egg breakfast followed by a chocolate thick shake, a great treat. Australia, Nauru's main supplier of goods and aid, has had a big influence on the island's cultural transition from native to western, phosphate wealth finished the transition. 

23/12/07 Sunday morning and there are few people out and about after a late evening partying, a nocturnal society in this hot country. The missionaries we have been seeing on other islands, we haven't seen here, nor the plethora of churches they leave, in fact we have sighted only a few "white" people. We headed "topside" to the country's interior,Friendly locals, overlooking pinnacle shore line where most of the phosphate was mined and were surprised how much vegetation regrowth was occurring. The phosphate was dug from between coral pinnacles, the remains of an ancient eroded limestone reef. We were also surprised to see new mining equipment and a couple of small new mines. At one point the road was totally cut through, phosphate under it now more valuable than the road. All shops around the island close Sunday morning, so it was quieter than usual on the roads, just enjoying the relaxed riding.

24/12/07 We only get a few days to relax before planning the next piece of the trip. At the airport early to book the motorcycle onto the next flight, confirmed to the Marshall Islands on Friday. Air freighted vegetables and fruits arrived on the inbound flight from Australia, mostly heading for the detention centre, very little locally grown food here. Visited the Immigration office to collect our passports and visas, but the "man with the key was missing." It took a few more visits before paperwork was finalised, surprisingly there was no charge for either visas or customs. Vehicle registration seems a bit of a casual occurrence, no number plates on motorcycles, and many cars also travel without them. We figured if we are going to ride on every road in a country then Nauru is it, just one small island. Over the last three days we think weCantilever, to load phosphate, now rusting away have now been on every road, at least everyone we could find, dirt and asphalt, ending up riding a surprisingly long distance. Australia has been housing "refugees", "boat people" ,"economic refugees" whatever your political viewpoint, on Nauru for the last couple of years. Not Australian territory they don't get the same rights if they had been housed on Australian territory, and whilst many are finally given refugee status and are allowed to enter Australia, many don't, often viewed as economic migrants. We rode past one detention complex, a warm welcoming from the Australian security, interested in the motorcycle, but ultra cautious about commenting on their role in Nauru. We exchanged a photo shoot, each for their own purpose and continued on our ride. Managed to buy a roast chicken and a bottle of Australian wine for our solo Christmas Eve, all shops are likely to be shut on Christmas Day and on dusk Santa arrived, in the back of a 4x4 playing Christmas carols, handing out lollies for children.

25/12/07 A bit of a nocturnal society the streets become busy in the cooler evenings and stay that way through the night. A few boom box cars drive past doing laps with partying occupants. Cruising the island seems the mainStill mining phosphate between eroded coral pinnacles recreation. Today though the church was the busy place, police directed traffic as the faithful arrived mid morning. A quiet day for us as family functions occupied other's time. Some people were out fishing or swimming and in the evening we watched sunset over a calm ocean with dolphins feeding near the shore.

26/12/07 Quiet day like everyone else except that our hotel decided to roll out its New Years Eve sound system and shatter everyone in the neighbourhood's eardrums with a decibel trial. Another look over the island, pleasant riding along the coast road, with sea breeze and no traffic.

27/12/07 A last minute ride using up the last petrol and have breakfast at Capelle's, bacon and eggs again, quite a treat, then to the airport to again break down the motorcycle. Having kept all the packaging from when we arrived it was just a matter of taping it back over the panniers and luggage box, loading it onto a baggage trolley and hopefully it will leave on the flight with us tomorrow to Marshall Islands. 

28/12/07 A 4.45 am flight, we were at the airport by 3.00 am. Already half an hour lateBanyan trees on the fertile coastal strip when it landed with Nauruans returning overloaded with Christmas presents. The rear of the cabin section was crammed with boxes as the luggage area was already full. It took an hour to unload. I was issued a security pass and assisted with the motorcycle loading but, another war wound, when the front fairing jammed up on the travelling loader, taking out a small chunk. It seems almost every shipping a small extra damage is done. It was already now an hour and a half late leaving, again the motorcycle not the problem, it taking just ten minutes to load.        

Move with us to the Marshall Islands


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