04/07/2013, Gizo, Solomon Islands
Hello from the Solomon Islands! -
We left March 17th on St. Paddy's Day for the Solomon Islands to return to Mokisha. It was a lengthy trip of 13 hours to Nadi, Fiji followed by a 2 ½ hours layover. It was another 4 ½ hours to Honiara, capitol of the Solomon's without any drama. We even slept fairly well on the plane which was a plus given the time change.
Our next leg of the trip was to Gizo and ultimately Liaperi. Options were certainly limited for getting to our destination. We ended up with 8 bags of boat parts so our "over" baggage was $690 out of LAX. Yikes, the airlines got us this time. Still, cheaper than trying to ship everything. In any event, a prop plane to Gizo would have issues with the amount of baggage & would have cost additional $$$$ so we opted to go the ferry route. We got a cabin where we piled not only bags but a cooler of meat & several boxes of additional provisions. There was only a single bed in the cabin so we gave a new meaning to ''spooning'' on a tiny bed.
We arrived in Honiara on a Tuesday and the ferry left for Gizo on a Sunday. This ended up being pretty nice since it gave us time to rest up & provision. We were allowed to take everything aboard on Saturday night, which was a good thing when you see the pictures of the crowd! Arriving in 2 taxis we loaded everything into the room & went back for the night. The 10 am departure was smooth & worry free. We set out for our 26-hour journey with 8 stops of various villages. Pictures are in the picture gallery to your right - enjoy.
The ferry ride was enjoyable & we met some interesting people. Each stop was about an hour long and where bedlam ensued. The locals all know what they are doing & it seems to work.
Finally, Monday afternoon we are met in Gizo and are shuttled off to another boat for a 45 minute "canoe" ride to Liaperi. Boy, these bags are getting a workout! Finally, we arrive back at Mokisha. She was in pretty good shape on the outside but the usual coat of mold covered her on the inside from the v-berth to the galley. We were able to settle in one of Noel's comfortable cabins which was a life saver - especially in the afternoon because it is HOT, HOT, HOT!
So we settled into the routine of projects and cleaning - without boring details, we emerge in 8 days with a boat that can move and we leave for Gizo.
We're now at a resort called Sanbis - an incredible place to finish organizing and continue projects. We can jump into the clear waters and snorkel when we get to hot & enjoy the waterfront café at night. We'll be here for a few days (with internet!) before heading off to the Shortland Islands. Although we both got a couple of colds in the tropics, they are running their course so we plan to do a couple of dives - including a 140 foot Japanese freighter that was torpedoed during the war, the Tara Maru. The trade winds seem as though they are arriving which not only cools things down but gives us the chance to sail.
Updates will come when we can get internet again, until then enjoy the pictures.
Colleen & Tom
PS - I've also posted our route for this year - Solomon Islands to Thailand so you can see where we are headed. We'll put 5,000 miles under the keel this year!
Plan B - now in operation!
This season we had planned to join the rally into Indonesia & be in Thailand or Malaysia by around Nov. 1st. We left Fiji - a month later than planned. Then we spent our time in Port Vila, Matt left & we were held up by weather. It soon became apparent we were under pressure to see everything & make it to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea but mid August......just over 3,000 miles! We are slow cruisers & love to see everything. Vanuatu has been amazing - there's so much to see & do. The people are a delight & so friendly. It's been a long time since we've been out in the ''bush'' & really cruising.
We just hit 50 days & nights since leaving Port Vila. No restaurants, no villages with electricity, no tourists, no banks, incredibly clear water for snorkeling, and inviting kids & people no matter where went.
Tiny grocery stores have only the basics - flour, salt, onions and a few other items. I make our own bread. We are now low on provisions, money & fuel. We actually ran out of propane for cooking & our friends on Reflections gave us their extra propane tank so we didn't have to rush off to Luganville.
Any way, I'm digressing - our plan is now to end the season at Liapara near Gizo, Solomon Islands. We'll leave the boat there for 3 months & return early in the season to get it ready for Indonesia. The Solomon Islands are out of the cyclone belt so the boat will be safe there while we are gone. Around Nov. 1st we'll fly to Malaysia or Thailand to do some land travel & get medical stuff done. Dec. 1st we'll fly home until around March 1st when we'll return to the boat. So......that's the latest on what & where we will be this season.
This will be the last posting for awhile! We leave today and head north once again. Soon, we'll have no internet at all which I will sorely miss. We'll of course still be available via Sailmail.
We've been in Luganville for about 10 days. We stayed longer than planned as Tom got a cut on his foot & it became infected. Boy, a nasty infection in the tropics is a tough one to beat. He's been on antibiotics for a week & still has a few days yet to go. His foot swelled to twice it's size & he couldn't walk for a few days. Finally, he's got this thing beat but the danger is that the staff infection could rear it's ugly head again - so we'll be keeping a close eye on his foot.
While here, we went on an all day hike - The Millennium Cave Tour. The tour consisted of hour and half hike on a very muddy hiking trail with spectacular views of the jungle & coast to a cave. The cave was about a quarter mile long and was cavernous. We hiked thru a river to an opening on the other end. We came out in a gorge with an area for lunch. Continuing on, we did ''canyoning'' - or at least that's what the locals call it - half hiked, half floated on intertubes down the river. Incredibly steep rock walls and bright green fauna awed everyone on the tour. Waterfalls fell from high above as we floated thru them. The beauty and stillness took my breath away. Finally, we ended our float down the river. The climb out consisted of ladders & trails up and out of the canyon. We were greeted with more incredible views & a wonderful hike back to our starting point. This is probably one of the most spectacular & best tours we've ever done. If you ever come to Vanuatu, you have to do this tour!
Our other highlight is diving the USS Coolidge & Million Dollar Point. The USS Coolidge was a luxury liner until WWII. It's a big as two football fields! It hit a mine that the U.S. set for the Japanese and sunk. We only dove the first part of the wreck as it goes very, very deep. It was the best wreck dive we've ever done though. It's hard to imagine how big it really is.
Million Dollar Point is a point that the U.S. dumped bulldozers, forklifts, trucks, steel, etc. after the French said they'd give us pennies on the dollar for all the equipment. The U.S. laughed in their face & dumped all the equipment. It is a mountain of surplus, now covered in a multitude of bright colored corals and countless schools of fish. At least we left a tourist attraction for Vanuatu! They were both great dives & one we won't forget for a very long time.
Enjoy the pictures in the picture gallery! Until next time........
Colleen & Tom
Vanuatu has some of the best snorkeling and diving with crystal clear waters. Here are some of the best pictures we've taken.
My camera took a 'dump' while in Fiji. I sent it back to Panasonic for repair. They in turn, sent me a brand new one. The catch though is that they wouldn't send it internationally. But to the rescue, came Jay (matt's roommate). He sent it to me in Vanuatu.......THANKS JAY!! Without him helping me out, I wouldn't have these pictures. Enjoy.........
Colleen & Tom
We've arrived in Luganville, Espirto Santo - back to 3G internet service!
Over the course of the last month we've visited 4 islands. The Maskelynes were great. We snorkeled a giant clam reserve, met a doctor & her husband from New Zealand & enjoyed a traditional feast in one of the villages. The people were so welcoming & loved showing us around the island. I even found some fresh veggies - something we usually can't get. Our weather had not been the best though & we had to high tail it to a very protected anchorage - leaving sooner than we had wanted to.....Port Sandwich next!
We were in Port Sandwich, Malakula (Mal-A-Koola) for 10 days because of 25-30 knot winds & 12 ft. waves. Not fun weather to sail in! While in Port Sandwich we met a lot of the locals - all very warm & sweet people. Tom tried to help one of the tiny villages with their solar system. Unfortunately, the battery & controller ended up completely fried. We gave them one of our old solar panels in hopes that they will be able to get a new controller & a battery. The most interesting thing about the solar system is that the entire village uses it to charge their cell phones - the most important issue they have. Most villages in Vanuatu don't have running water, electricity, no furniture or beds, they live in tiny flimsy houses but everyone has cell phones!
Eventually, we breathed a sigh of relief when we could finally move on.
From Malakula we headed 12 miles away to the island of Ambrym. It's the center of sorcery, magic & wood carving in Vanuatu. Our first stop was Double Bay where a big ramp of lava had met the ocean edge. This was an incredible place as bubbles came up everywhere - it felt like you were in a soda can or something. We saw turtles and sharks. The best part was my catch of a 25 lb. Wahoo! Finally, sashimi & fresh fish. We even gave some away because we had so darn much.
In Nopul we attended the Black Magic Festival. There were Tam-Tams (wooden carved statues). The men were dressed, or un-dressed, depending on how you looked at it in traditional nambas (nam-bas - just like it looks). These are penis sheaths & a woven matt around their waist. The women with grass skirts only, no tops. The dancing was phenomenal, particularly the ROM dances where several of the men had on masks & costumes. We have lots of videos. I think this is truly the last frontier in old traditional customs and ways. Chief Sekor led the dancing & chanting. There's several pictures of him in the photo galley. He even came out to the boat the next night.
Our next island was Pentecost - home of the famous land-divers. Maybe you've seen them on National Geographic? The villagers build a tower approx. 90 feet tall. Men strap a vine (yes, you read right!) to their ankles & jump. They jump on Saturdays only in April, May & June. When the plunging diver is about to smash to the ground, the vine stretch out fully & slowly stops the diver as his head brushes the ground, symbolically re-fertilizing the earth for the next crop of yams & a successful harvest. Yam are a main staple & a good harvest is essential. This is where the idea for bungy jumping originally came from. Boys are circumcised when they are 8, they can then make their first jump. Only men are allowed to jump. Unfortunately, we were to late to see the jumping but we were able to see the towers. It would have been mesmerizing to see the males plunge to the earth with only a vine attached to their ankles!
Enjoy the pics in the Picture Gallery!
Colleen & Tom