Sunday morning was leisurely with a breakfast at the hotel restaurant. I was supposed to meet my guide, Kenji, at something like 10, so I got some gas and picked up some bottled water and headed over to meet him. When I got there, in addition to Kenji, I met Dave and Leeah. They are an incredibly cute couple and live on Pohnpei. Dave is an American with a deep love of Nan Madol, and Leeah is Australian with her speech peppered with “I reckon” and “mate.” We set off towards Temwen, Dave reading out of The Book of Luelan on the way. The family that owns Nan Madol has set up a small parking area with bathrooms. It is from there we set off on the trail.
Although they’re ruins, Nan Madol as a site and as a religious center is still very alive. We passed several small ruins nestled besides people’s houses driving to the start of the trail. On the path down to the center of Nan Madol moss-covered ruins rise out of the ground around nearly every corner. The trail is well-maintained, but I couldn’t find out if it was a recently made trail or an ancient one. We came at low tide, but at high tide this path would lead you over and around channels, winding through an ancient city. You start to break out into sunlight as the path crosses over an islet that was used as a military training ground. As we turned the corner I was telling some story or other when I stopped speechless and dead in my tracks. Eventually I composed myself to let out a quiet “oh wow.”
The Nan Madol you see in pictures in articles and the like in Nan Douwas. It is the tallest structure still standing in Nan Madol and visually the most impressive. The thing is breathtaking. From the trail you look across at the entryway to the ancient tomb and temple complex of the Nan Madol rulers, the Saudeleurs. Basalt walls rise over 30′ high around the entire islet. The complex has three layers: the outer wall, and inner wall, and a central tomb. Between the outer and inner walls there are two additional tombs. These tombs were excavated prior to WWII and the contents, including bones, have been lost. Once I could walk again, and after posing for a picture where the inscrutable expression on my face is pure joy, we waded across the channel and into Nan Douwas. We stopped at the ancient sakau stone at the entryway and reflected on the scene that had played out here for important funerals. Standing next to those walls is astounding as you look up at the corners still rising proudly over the city. Nan Douwas is kept fairly clear of trees, but is still covered by moss and some undergrowth. Walking into the center, I ducked into the central tomb as a light rain sprinkled us and lent atmosphere to the otherworldly scene.