Mt. Oman (belly of the Sleeping Lady)

imagePassing through the legs of the Lady you’ll reach the top of her belly, Mt. Oman (1555 ft). On the way to the summit, you can stop to see, with the help of a flashlight, several World War II tunnels and later cool off in the cold waters of the triple falls. The Sleeping Lady provides a bright, red pigment for paint. The site of the pigment (Finlesr) is considered the oldest on the island, formed when the Sleeping Lady was menstruating. The ground was stained red by her menstrual discharge at the place on the mountain represented between her legs. According to the tradition, access to the pigment was controlled by a high-ranking person, perhaps a chief; and only certain professionals or expert craftsmen could gather the pigment. Legend states the Sleeping Lady will deny access to those she does not want coming to her. In prehistoric times, the red soil was collected and mixed with oils before painting canoes, adze handles and other items. Unfortunately, the need for this red pigment is no longer in great demand. The soil is bright red and stains. (On a personal note, I got red soil on my pants and, of course, my hands. I managed to scrub it off my hands but even after tens laundries, it is still on my pants!)

Ruins

imageThere are dozens, if not hundreds, of ruins hidden in the jungle of the Lady Island. You can feel the emotion of discovering this lost civilization after walking for hours in the lush rain forest. The island’s oral history does not even cover many of these sites. No one seems to be able to relay stories about the families who might have gathered at annual tributes or priestly conferences; or of anything related to activities at the sites or their place in the history of the island. This is the kind of place ideal for the archaeologist, the geologist, the biologist, and others curious of a mysterious reminder of Kosrae’s little know past.

Menka Ruins

imageHidden untouched for centuries by the jungle, Menka ruins were the sacred spot of Sinlaku, the goddess of nature and breadfruit. In 1852, Sinlaku had a premonition that there would soon be big changes. Afraid her deity would be challenged and disliking change, she left Kosrae. The following day, First Congregational missionaries arrived on Kosrae. According to the tradition, Sinlaku now lives in Yap but there is widespread feeling among the locals that she is still in Menka.

imageFor this reason, visitors, upon approaching the sacred sites, are asked to don garlands of cinnamon-scented ferns in order to please Sinlaku.

imageTo get to the ruins, you must follow some very old pathways built along the river; complete with retaining walls and a tread that has undoubtedly been walked upon by countless generations. In the past, people used various passages to arrive at the site: overland trails as well as paths through and alongside various stream drainages. People would gather perhaps once a year to pay homage, although it is suggested that her priests would gather more frequently, meeting for private conferences at a platform that supported seven large standing stones (backrests).

imageThe site is beautiful, obscured in great part by the jungle, located in a large drainage, with a hundred or more compounds distributed on both sites of the river, in close proximity to one another. Several medicinal plants are scattered throughout the drainage.imageOne wonders if you stand still long enough, whether you will hear the echo of the seka stones pounding the roots of the kava plant or whispered chants of long ago.

The Sacred Seka (also called Sakau), is a mildly narcotic drink pounded from a local root and consumed, perhaps as part of the worship ritual. You can still observe the flat stone areas were seka has been pounded for centuries and maybe try it!

Lelu Ruins

imageWalking around Lelu Island you’ll see only a sleepy waterfront village. An uninformed visitor might never know that behind a “modern” wall of houses, stores, and breadfruit trees lies one of the most impressive archaeological sites in all the Pacific Islands.

image Immense walls of coral and basalt stand over the remains of a royal city’s canals, temples and royal tombs.

imageOnce inside these impressive walls, you're in an ancient, hidden city, the kind of isolated setting you might imagine trekking hours through dense jungle to find. These walls transport you 500 years back in time where you just might feet the presence of the Togusra protecting his kingdom.

In the Jungle

The interior of Kosrae is as pristine as ever, a true tropical rain forest with surprisingly little change by man’s hand. Many valleys and reef passages have been opened by rivers which can be navigated by boats as the rivers flow to the sea.

imageThe island rises to relatively high, steep rugged mountains, covered with dense forest and crowned by miniature or dwarf vegetation with plants unique to Kosrae. High in the mountains, amongst the great trees, are those most ancient of plants, the tree ferns and Bryophytes. imageBird’s Nest Ferns and hanging orchids receive their sustenance from the moist rich air. Mosses and lichens lie heavily on tree trunks, on rocks and underfoot. Wild pigs also live up in the mountains together with many kinds of birds.

imageIn much of the rainforest, the sun’s rays do not hit the forest floor so that plants depend on reflected light for photosynthesis.

On the lower slopes is the agroforest, a mixture of forest, native, and introduced plants such as the coconut palms, the breadfruit trees, the bananas, giant banyans, bamboo, canegrass, sugarcane, taros, lime, orange and tangerine trees, pandanus, tapioca, yams, wild and domestic hibiscus, papaya, and kapok trees . With its pristine and undeveloped interior, biologists and bird watchers, or simply eco-friendly travelers will love this rich and untouched environment.

imageMelukluk is commonly called Bird’s Nest Fern because of its shape. Kosraean use the young leaves to treat stomach upset. They may be eaten directly or pounded to release the juices, which are drunk.