Least Visited, Day 7: A Heavy Day Followed By A Drink In Every Bar In The Entire Country

January 2nd, 2019

One of the bars on our full-country pub crawl

Today we got a late start yet again, but it really didn’t matter. We were making good progress on the short list of things to see in this country, so it didn’t matter if we were only active for a few hours each day.

It was rainy yet again, as was the theme for this visit. Some of the group went urban exploring yesterday while they went on the round-island hike, and found some abandoned phosphate processing facilities, which we decided to check out today.

Abandoned processing facilities

Graffiti inside

Phosphate rocks on the hill

Phosphate rocks on the hill

I brought mostly skirts to be culturally appropriate, but really these skirts so far have been completely unnecessary. They definitely became a hindrance when it came to attempting to climb rusted over conveyor belts and disconnected stairwells, so much that I gave up on trying to explore. Skirt or not, there was also a frustratingly aggressive thorny plant that not only was spiky, but had hooks that caused some major damage. It cut up my leg, hooking into my skin, and at one point got Lisa’s ear as she was ducking under a railing. This stuff would be more effective than barbed wire as a deterrent.

On the subject of deterrents, we next explored some of the remnants of Japanese occupation during WWII. Sprinkled around the island are cannons, one of which is on the top of a giant hill. The one there is an anti-aircraft cannon.

entrance to the prison, view from outside

entrance to the prison, view from inside

walking through the outdoor prison

Hidden in the forest near the anti-aircraft cannon is a prison, embedded in the rock. It was used during Japanese occupation of Nauru to imprison locals during WWII. We also go to a new prison facility, where I feel uncomfortable taking photos, despite the fact that it’s brand new and therefore not yet staffed or housing any prisoners. The bus driver jokes it’s just because there’s no criminals on the island. It’s a massive facility for the land, which is surprising.

one of the prison cells

prison cell

prison cell

another prison cell

Other than phosphate, Nauru is also famous for hosting an immigration detention center for Australia. We of course don’t go to the center, which is guarded and hidden in the forest, but the presence of refugees working and living elsewhere on the island is prevalent. This particular detention center has drawn worldwide attention due to its isolation. It’s not only a literal island, but it’s small. The refugees can’t escape, and the country is known to have a horrible mental health problem with all of these elements causing extreme depression. Just last week, the very last of the children were shipped out of the detention center to Australia because of the high youth suicide rate.

Bulletin board in the refugee camp

We pull up to a refugee camp hoping to talk to someone to hear their story, and we meet Amiru and Apdu, who are not only willing to talk with us, but they invite us into their homes with sincere hospitality. They’re from Burma, which they left in 2007. They told us about their three-day boat ride to flee the country, and how they were in Malaysia and Indonesia before arriving in Nauru, where they’ve been for the last five years. Amiru tells us how the last time he was with family was in Bangladesh. I ask how long it’s been since he’s spoken to them, and he quietly responds that it’s been at least two months. He knows more family is in Melbourne, but he doesn’t know specifics. He doesn’t know much about their situation, and they don’t know much about his. Women and children were sent off from the refugee camp first, leaving this area filled with about fifty single men who don’t know of their families’ statuses.

Amiru invites us into his home to tell us his story

Amiru gets a monthly allowance of around 500aud, but he can supplement it with construction work. He bought his own tools for the work, but as this is a small country with little growth, there isn’t much work available. He says the stipend is barely enough, and he benefits from not smoking: refugees who don’t kick the habit have a lot less money for food. Whenever possible, he sends any extra money he may have to his family in Bangladesh. The island has public transportation in the form of a bus that only goes clockwise around the island, but it’s unreliable, so Amiru purchased a motorcycle for transportation to work.

Amiru and Apdu

As Amiru talks to us, Apdu disappears for a short time and returns with a bag of about a dozen cold Fantas and Sprites. He passes them around to us as we listen to Amiru’s story, and while some of us refuse, I know from being in Vanuatu that many cultures around the world can take it as an insult to refuse hospitality. It was uncomfortable sipping on a cold Sprite while Amir shared his experience.

Amiru and Apdu speak English extremely well, and they are waiting to hear about leaving Nauru. They don’t know when the news will come. They hope they will make it to Melbourne eventually.

As we drove around to the various destinations today, there was a little down time wherein I was able to chat with our hotel driver, Shanay. He’s extremely friendly and constantly grinning as you speak with him. He is a native Nauruan and tells me, like the girls I met on the first night, that he and his family are pure Nauruan as far as he can remember. He’s traveled out of Nauru to several countries, listing off Australia and Kiribati as a couple he’s visited. I ask if it was for work or study, and he says most trips were actually just for fun, for sports competitions. I ask which sports, and he says “different ones, like dart throwing!” He and his teammates fundraised for their travels by selling food. In his free time, Shanay enjoys powerlifting and weightlifting. His English is a bit hard to understand, and when I ask him what are some of his favorite Nauruan foods, he says Nauruan food doesn’t exist. I persist, asking if he has a favorite dish that his family makes, and he seems confused by the question, but kindly suggests that I could visit the produce market for some fresh local coconuts.s

Bar #1: Jules on the Deck

The view from the deck

After our long day, we decide to head to a bar, or rather, all the bars in the entire country in one night, which is not a difficult task when there are only four. Our first stop is Jules on the Deck, which is just a bar for bar’s sake (of the four, it’s the only one). It has a nice deck overlooking the water, which would have been a nicer view if it were not rainy. The owner seems a bit stressed by our arrival, the first customers for the evening at 6pm. She laments it would have been nice to have a call that such a large group was arriving so she could call all of her staff in, but Alistair makes a side comment to me that it would have been nice if they had a phone number posted anywhere online. Regardless, most people get beers or wine, and the rest get mixed drinks, which takes all of ten minutes to prepare by a single staff for 21 people. Here, mixed drinks cost 7aud and beers 5 or 6.

Bar #2: Pokies aplenty

Bar #3 owned only five shotglasses.

We next head back to the pokies bar from the other day at the Od-N Aiwo hotel. We want to make it quick, so we order shots of tequila or Jaeger, which cost 4aud each. We then head off to dinner at the Bay restaurant, the first place we’ve been to that doesn’t have Chinese food. Every other restaurant we’ve visited so far has the exact same menu, in the exact same order, of Chinese dishes with the occasional burger, and only slight price variation. But here at the Bay restaurant, there are ribs, curries, salads and more. I get a chicken curry platter which isn’t spicy at all, but flavorful nonetheless, and comes accompanied by rice and naan. I wash it down with a tequila and juice, which costs a mere 4.50aud.

Bar #3: A beautiful outdoor patio restaurant

After dinner, there’s just one more bar remaining, and it’s the hotel bar at our hotel, Hotel Menen. I walk home and Justin joins me for the final drink of the night, a $7aud vodka lemonade (which, because of the Aussie influence, is not lemonade at all but rather Sprite). The place is dead except for two men at the end of the bar, despite the late hour of 9pm. We learn the bar turns on the lights at 9:45pm for last call, and 10pm is when the bar closes. This is across Nauru, for all four bars.

Bar #4: The bar in Hotel Menen was hoppin'

Bar #4 had some pricey drink specials

I leave just as the rest of the group arrives from dinner. It was an exhausting day and time for sleep. Tomorrow is our last full day in Nauru.