Solomon Island - Black people with blond hair

Will stay for three weeks in the Solomon Islands and cant wait to go diving here with all those many WW2 wrecks. Arrived in Honiara yesterday afternoon and found a nice guesthouse from which i can overlook the center point of the city. As there is actually not one building higher than a 3 or 4 floors, Honiara doesnt look like a capital city.

This is where the Solomon Islands are.

14.12.2012 - Unknown fish in Honiara
Shop opening hours are from 8am to 5pm. Restaurants exist, but i didnt count more than two outside the resorts which have open in the evening. Or maybe i didnt see them behind massive crowds, struggeling around in the one and only narrow mainstreet of the town. Or maybe i was just dazzled by these blonde haired solomon islands people. It litteraly looks like these black skinned people have tinted their fuzzy wuzzy afro american head of hair in to yellow colour.

This morning i went diving at a place called Bonegi. It was diving from the shore a few kilometres from the city center. As tourists and divers are rare, i was the only diver and was allowed to choose the spot. I did two dives and each was between 60-70 minutes around the shore and the japanese transport wreck from WWII. The visability was great and the water is crystal clear. The dive guide himself is doing underwater research and is logging every fish he finds in solomon islands. And there was one little strange looking fish he never saw before, nor did he find it in the fishbook he uses for doing reasearch. What a great dive if this really would be an unknown fish.. :)

Now its time to take the overloaded ferry from Honiara to Malaita Province. The harbor is in the village called Auki:

17.12.2012 - Kwaio tribe and the people without iPhones
Arrived today back in Auki in the Malaita Province. After 4 hours of sleep I had to get up at 6am on Saturday to start my trip to Kwaio, a village in the east of Malaita which is famous for its tribe villages and customs. The Kwaio people have their villages somewhere far up in the jungle mountains. Kwaio people are just under special circumstances allowed to leave their village, as their religion doesn’t allow to go to other villages with other religions. That means, just a few kwaio people have ever seen forgein people – black or white. They live isolated and have their own law and rules. For example, unmarried woman are not allowed to walk around with clothes. Money doesn’t exist and wars and fightings are nearly daily business. So no outsider is allowed to go to these villages without any guide and translator. Therefore I hired a guide, who took me all the long way to the border of these villages.

So my trip started Saturday morning. As I knew that there wont be any shop along the way and food is hard to get, I told my guide that I first want get some canned food, biscuits and water. Of course, lots of water and food can become very heavy, but for me, I didn’t see any problem in this. As my guide didn’t have any bag with him, he had two empty hands and was able to carry the big bag of food and the box with 12 bottles of water. Haha!

After a 4 hour ride to Atori on a common pickup truck and loaded with 36 people (I counted them), dozens of rice-, flour bags and other stuff, the first part was done. Next part was another 2 hour ride with the motorboat, that was also loaded to the “over-the-top” with goods and people. Im not a captain nor do I know much about boats, but even the most undeveloped monkey would have seen that this boat is little bit overloaded. As engines are not stupid, they know that too and stop their work suddenly somewhere out in the ocean. So we had to wait 1 hour until another boat came by to continue the ride.

Me and my guide were the last passengers in the boat and at 5pm we arrived in the wharf of Atoifi,
the last village and at the border to the hidden kwaio villages. At the wharf, 2 fellows with machetes walked towards us and introduced themselves as the sons of “the chief”. My guide told them why im here and they took us for a one hour walk up to the border to the Kwaio Villages. They brought me to the “chief” and I had to talk with him who I am, why im here and what my intention is. So even these people here live in their little woodhouses, without electricity and barely any money, here the people are still “normal” – compared to the hidden kwaio villages.

The chief didn’t talk much. He just explained me, that im here at the wrong time. As the “chief” of the first hidden village has died last week, those hidden village people are very upset and don’t want
to see ANY outsiders from other villages for the next few months. But he told me, that if I want, I can see the second hidden village. The fact that this village would have been a half day mountain trekking away, wasn’t the reason why I declined. The “chief” showed me something like a quickly hand written pricelist, where I had to pay for everything during that trip. That means, paying for his two sons as mediators, translators and guards, and also the necessary overnight stay in the village. Even making pictures is not for free. And the prices are just exaggerated.

So the next day we returned down to the wharf and had to wait for a boat back. The grandmaster “chief” told us that a boat is definitely coming on Sunday. But as “chiefs” anyway always pretend to
know everything, and after we waited several hours I somehow got the slightly feeling that on Sunday wont drive any boat. Haha.. how right I was! It ended up that we had to wait all day long down there in the old market beside the wharf. In the evening a family showed up there and asked me if I want to stay in their house, so that I have at least a shelter from the mosquitos. The family also told me that a boat is leaving atoifi at 4am and of course I stood up at 3.30am. As at 4am still nobody was visible anywhere, I knew again, that im a victim of the “Solomon time” (when somebody says 4am, he actually means 6am)!

That’s it, today at 6am we finally sat in the boat and afterwards again in the overloaded truck on the way back to Auki.

19.12.2012 - Tulagi, the WW2 island
Since yesterday im on a somehow very lost island called Tulagi.

The crew of the passenger ship from Malaita to here definately used the "Solomon time". They left us passengers waiting in the wharf for 2 hours, in the middle of the early afternoon heat without any shelter from the sun! Thanks, "solomon time" inventor!

Even it is just about a 2 hours boat ride from Honiara, it feels like being completely off the world somewhere in the south pacific. On this former Solomon capital city is only one mainroad, which is situated along the cost around the island. No real shops exist here and its a nearly all about luck, finding one who sells a bottle of drinking water. Oh yes, there is no ATM on this island. They removed it some months ago because nobody is using it..haha! Why did nobody tell me? Cause then i would have brought the cash from Malaita and wouldnt have to work as pig farmer here for having accomodation and food .. (joke). But actually i really will leave this island with my last cent in the pocket. And also for the accomodation i had to bargain. Not very nice in place like that!
Today i walked along the mainstreet and searched for the WWII relicts. As the japanese and US fought ugly battles around solomon islands, on this island are lots of japanese caves and gunsockets left as used that time. Impressive.

On the way back i bumped into some policemen and we talked about their experience as crocodile haunting police officers. As the water around the island is crystal clear and visability is several dozen meters, i asked them if they can take me out so that i can make underwater pics from crocs. So in the afternoon they took me to the mangroves with their police-paddle-canoes for searching the crocs. Well, i really wanted to jump into the water to the crocs, but as soon we reached the mangrove area, the water turned very dirty and i changed my mind pretty fast about the jumping into that water.

One more day here and then i drive back with the boat to Honiara, where i will stay over the weekend, before i leave to the western province.

25.12.2012 - Christmas Stress in Gizo
Over the weekend i went back to Honiara, so that i surely had spare time and dont miss my flight on monday morning to Gizo in the western part of the Solomons. So yesterday morning i arrived with a small airplane in Gizo, which airport more looks like a bus stop, as its just made of a small office and a shelter for about 20 people. Baggage claim is from a trolley right beside the plane. :)

I got picked up by the dive company and we left the little airport-island by motorboat. After getting the diving gear, some minutes later me and 2 other divers were ready to dive. First dive was a
Japanes WW2 missiles while diving
japanese transport wreck from WW2, where lot of tools and equipment like gas masks, ammo, toilettries and so on were still at its place.

These days i feel little bit sick and i knew that diving can be very painfull with a blocked nose. Indeed, on the second dive i had problems getting down and 20 meters was maximum. But anyway, the second dive was absolutely unspectacular as the visability was for the trash.

Today its the 25th. Its christmas. Shops are closed here and from the streets i can hear the families singing and celebrating. Now im sitting in the guesthouse terrace, overlooking the huge reef and think about my schedule for the next few days. Actually my plan was getting somehow to Gatokae - the place in the east of the western province. Tried to find out this morning, how i can get there and asked many locals around here. But all the people know is "oh, sori, me na save" (no idea). Flight or Shipping offices are closed and in the lucky case the internet connects, it is slower than it was in year 1985.
Departure to Munda at 5am

All i found out that there are some ships with irregular and unannounced arrival and departure dates.
And after hours of running around the town, searching for information and connection transports for getting out of Gizo, my decision is giving up that "Gatokae"-plan and instead going with the ship to Munda tomorrow at 6am. There i will try to dive and by the end of the week, im flying back to honiara. Next week Tuesday, january 2nd, i will fly to Vanuatu and I absolutely dont want to risk missing that flight.

27.12.2012 - Getting to Munda by ship? Really?
Since yesterday afternoon im in Munda. As i wrote, i came with the ship from Gizo.

In addition to my cough and headache, the trip made my nerves literally running wild and i was in the mood to punch the ship crew members into the eye :)!! Why? They didn't drop me off in Munda. Well, every little hillbilly village in the Solomon Island has a wharf, and especially Munda, one famous and "important" city of the Solomons. So how should i know that the ship doesnt drive to the Munda wharf, but instead stops for some minutes somewhere out in the ocean to give the passengers a chance switching to a little motorboat, which should have been the taxi to the Munda wharf? The ship stoped on every other wharf and also will stop on every incoming little wharf along the way. Except Munda! Thanks ship crew, for letting me, the only white tourist on the boat knowing that - afterwards.

Ship to Munda
Finally they dropped me off on the next stop. A little tiny backwoods village called "Ugele" - where the moon is no more far away. From there i had to organize the way back to Munda by myself. Fortunately I found someone who was preparing his motorcanoe for driving the 1 hour trip to Munda in the middle of the early afternoon sun. I didnt ate anything the whole day and just drunk a little bit of water. My nerves - the heat - the cough - it wasnt easy. And as a cream topping of the glourious day, about a half kilometer before the Munda wharf the canoe run out of petrol and we had to paddle the remaining distance.

And today i had to solve another obstacle. My visa was expired on december 23. As i didnt have any chance the last days getting any answer from the immigration department, today was the first time i reached them. One of the 5 numbers picked up the phone after calling them 300 times. Of course they couldnt help me, but as sometimes the irony plays crazy games, I met today the former CEO of the immigration dept in the guesthouse and it seems he can helping me to solve my visa problem. All i have to do now is showing up on monday in the departement in Honiara.

28.12.2012 - A killer as a pet in Munda
In the afternoon i went for a walk along a sideway and passed a fish shop, where i bought a little one for dinner. Continued walking and some locals started talking to me. Somehow we came to the topic "crocodiles", and that was the keyword that made my sense active again...! I found out that one local family has two crocodiles in their garden. So i went there...

An old lady stood beside the house when i arrived and i told her that i came here to see the crocs. She smiled and took me to a little storage house in the backyard. Beside was some kind of vault and on
the top a fence, made of shelves. And down there, these monsters sprawled sepparated from each other in the water. The vault was just about 1.5 meter high so the crocs were just about 1 meter bellow the fence. Soo close - so frightening - so impressive they are...! An awesome feeling watching this billion year old killer in the eye, so close bellow me.

The lady said, she is keeping them in there since 20 years and they feed them once a month with fish, alive chicken or .... yes i heard right - alive puppy dogs! Now the question, how can i make it moving?

Well as i had a fresh fish with me, i decided to feed the croc with it! I hung the fish onto a little stick and held it between the shelves. The croc saw me preparing the lunch and i didnt even pass the shelves, the croc exploded and crushed up to the shelves, which moved away from its position. But as the croc's move was unsuccessfull, i was still the lord of the fish and was able to play and tease the croc with it, before it finally catched it :)! The old lady gave me then a slat, with which i can poke the croc. And its absolutely unbelievable how fast this killers are. I touched it just a little tiny bit, but when it got touched, this beast exploded like a bomb, grabed the slat and shaked it around. Shocking - i never would have expected that it is THAT fast and powerful!! Unbelievable!

These days are very strong winds and heavy rainfalls going on! Some say its an incomming cyclone from fiji. Hopefully he can wait until tomorrow evening, after my flight back to Honiara. This also will be the place where im going to spend the year change. No idea if people celebrate it here too.

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