Slowing down

In Voyages on 29/01/2011 at 01:46

For the first time in months we’re not trying to outrun the cyclone season. Since leaving Honiara for the Western Province of the Solomons, we’ve reached safe sailing grounds. So we are slowing down here. Taking our time to enjoy the beautiful nature on these islands, to meet the very friendly people, to explore the underwater worlds and to do just not that much.

It’s hot!

Well, truth be told, we are also forced by the heat and humidity to keep it cool. We know we’re not supposed to complain (at home it’s minus 3 degrees Celsius), but this heat is driving us crazy. During the day, every move we make (yep, even typing) starts us sweating. At night it only cools down a few degrees, so we’ve decided to finally make use of the luxuries of this boat and turn on the air conditioning at night. It is truly the only way for us to get some good, deep sleep. And (oh, brilliant excuse) this way we can keep the windows shut and the malaria mosquitoes out. 🙂

Viru Harbour

Anyway, we reached the Western Province of the Solomons on Januari 13. First stop: Marovo lagoon. A beautiful lagoon, encircled by rainforest islands and sprinkled with small, unihabited islands filled palm trees, tropical plants and birds. We sailed through the lagoon in two days and dropped anchor just around the corner in Viru Harbour. A very pretty bay with two small villages on the hills at the entrance of the bay, Tetemara and Tombe, with very friendly people. As we entered the bay we were greeted by waving children in canoes. During our stay a lot of village people canoed up to our boat, to sell or trade fresh vegetables (yeah! fresh! yeah!), beautiful wood carving, to have a chat or just to look at the boat and at us.

We actually turned out to be quite a spectacle here. Every time we visited the villages, we had a tail of little children follow us around. Staring at us, joking among themselves, giggling when they got up the courage to ask us something, being shy if we talked to them. Apparently (so the adults told us) the found us strange and scary with our white skin and weird hair color. And it was still summer holiday, so we were an exciting diversion from daily play (which funny enough were the same outdoor games we used to play when young: soccer, hopscotch, shoot marbles and “elastieken”). They were very nice and happy and really enjoyed the balloons we gave them (thanks for the tip Caitlyn!).

We also met a lot of nice adults in the villages. Like Abu who showed us around Tetemara and took us for a trip up the river looking for crocodiles (we didn’t find any, but expected one around every corner and behind every shrub, what an amazing jungle river!). and like miss Rose, the high school teacher, who shared her sunday lunch with us and gave us our first taste of local food cooked in leaves in a stone oven (called an umu). Or Sano, a master woodcarver but also a canoe builder, who is making a canoe especially for us right now (we’ll pick it up an a month or so) and wants to be paid for it with a laptop to aid his sons studies. And his brother, the headmaster in Tombe, who showed us the secret spot where the women and children of Tombe used to hide from the haedhunters. From the top of the hill you could see them coming in their war canoes for hours in advance. A scary thought!

Lola Island

Leaving Viru Harbour with the promise to return, we sailed to Lola Island in Nono Lagoon. This island has a small resort on it, a few beach huts an a restaurant/bar, so we thought we could spend a few days her and have a nice dinner or a drink. To our surprise there was another yacht anchored there as we arrived. we hadn’t seen any other boats since Penhryn, about two months ago. Two days later even another yacht arrived. So we had some very nice cruisers drinks and talks with Jon and Nancy from the Ariana and Jim from Asylum.

While anchored at Lola we saw something we hadn’t seen before: schools and schools of tuna jumping out of the water while feeding. An amazing site, we tried to get close enough to snorkel in between them, but the motor of our dinghy scared them away. Another first: a visit to Skull island where the skulls of centuries of chiefs and warriors from the surrounding islands are kept. Very eerie. Especially if you realize that the island is apparently still being used to place the heads of deceased chiefs…

Gizo

So now we’re in Gizo, the main town of the Western Province. Which means there are grocery shops with a reasonable stock (all run by Chinese), there’s a daily market, some ATM’s, a post office and of course an airfield. Actually there are a lot of airports in the Solomons, due to the fact that the Japanese and the Americans fought their main WWII battle here (a traumatic time for the country). Apparently John F Kennedy’s boat sunk not far from here. One of the two restaurants in Gizo is named after it: PT109.

As there are a lot of sunk ships and airplanes, it’s a great place to go diving. We went on four dives with Dive Gizo and saw lots and lots of fish, a fighter airplane, a huge ship, a small manta, beautiful reefs and coral, and lots more. We’ll be back for more.

Off to Australia

Today we’re leaving for Liapari Island. On Liapari we will be able to leave Helena with Noel, a Kiwi who runs a workshop there. In a few days we’ll be catching a plane to Australia, to get a new passport for Rolf (his is expiring in a month) and to indulge in the luxuries of the Western world for a few weeks (cappuccino’s and very long showers, here we come!). We’ll return in the beginning of March for more slow adventures in the Solomons.

  1. Good news you are out of the Cyclone belt, looks like there is a massive one built a bit further south.

    Hope that you are not flying into Cairns (or Brisbane).

    Happy travels, Caitlyn and I are back in the “realworld” that is Tuvalu.

    Take it easy.

    Tony

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