Picture from a typical trip on a local bus!
Tuvurvur, the active volcano next to Rabaul, was rumbling and smoking
as we slowly sailed up to the anchorage. Even all the way down in
Kokopo it makes loud deep noises that shake the hull of the yacht as it
spews alternating black and white streams of smoke from it's fiery
mouth. There's three volcanoes up there. The other two are larger and
quieter. More comfortable you might say. Like old men they don't seem
to feel the need for all the showy posturing that comes from Tuvurvur.
Rabaul is a town right next to the volcanoes. It has a great deep port
in some very protected waters. It's also almost always covered in ash
from the volcano. The shore of Kokopo is covered with palm
plantations, a couple of resorts, and people having fun on the beach.
We were all a bit disappointed that we had to stay aboard until we
cleared the next day.
- We left Noro as early as possible after Chris cleared us
out of immigration. It seems that the
Australian government is having some sway in the ways that laws change
here and the officials are more officious than they really needed to be. Chris seemed happy to have been processed without any troubles but
I can't imagine that would be the case a year from now after the rules
have been in place for some time. We were not legally in the Solomon
Islands any longer so we set sail for PNG. I was excited to be
leaving. Aside from the relatively unremarkable place that Noro was, my
mind and body was filled with excitement to be heading to PNG for the
first time ever. The excitement soon faded and gave way to a special
form of maritime ennui. You see the sailing was slow and we had to use
the motor for some ways. We knew that we couldn't get to Kokopo in
Papua New Guinea before the immigrations office closed on Friday so we
sailed slowly intentionally. At times, being underway is boring
especially when sailing slowly. This is strikingly so when
intentionally sailing slowly. We motored and jib-sailed all the while
averaging about 3.5kts for most of the way. Despite our greatest
sandbagging efforts we still arrived Sunday afternoon.
07/28/2009, 08 14'S:157 11'E, Solomon Islands
25th July, 2009 - Leaving Peava In the morning I helped Lisa sort through her backup files and upgrade her Anti Virus. I wasn't able to stay until the virus scan finished but I really hope that it was able to clean the "Gods must be crazy" virus off of her computer. We said our goodbyes and set sail for Ghizo.
26th July, 2009 - Arrived in Ghizo We sailed on the northern side of the island and the wind kept wrapping around behind us until we got into a bay right between two islands on the eastern approach to Ghizo. We motored in the last leg of the journey. Passed Kennedy Island which is named after the late John Fitzgerald when his river boat, PT-109, was sunk and he towed a soldier ashore with his teeth gripping the other's lifejacket. We anchored up and had a rest before we went to find some food and COLD BEER! I hadn't even seen a beer in over three weeks and it was well appreciated as was the dancing and music and the Sunday night in general that Ghizo puts on.
27th July, 2009 - Day in Ghizo Ghizo is the second largest town in Solomon at 3,500 people. Chris tried to clear out but was informed that there is no longer immigration services and that we would have to sail back from the direction we came to go to the respectable town of Noro. We were easily distracted from the bad news by the internet cafe and the other tasks at hand like trying to find someone to exchange my seemingly useless Vanuatu currency. I got a copy of Picasa to sort the trip photos. Cleo barged on the food mission and we have a lovely bunch of vegetables from the market and she found more "popcorn" I rowed a lot. I rowed people. I rowed diesel. I rowed water. I rowed groceries. I rowed and rowed. Next time I'll recommend that we attach the OBM. We met two Australian guys, Graham and Sam, that were on a reunion tour helping get their recently relationship-free friend, Jeffery, get his amazingly spacious 34' steel boat named Whisper L (a Spray design) back down to Cairns. They had been friends f or 40 years and seemed like a genuine bunch and I hope they have a good trip and we get to meet up with them again in Cairns.
28th July, 2009 - Leave Ghizo I woke up late and we were already packing up to leave Ghizo. I scrambled up on deck and helped as we took off. I could tell Chris wasn't happy that we had to waste a day and he wanted to get to Noro before immigrations closed so that we could clear out ASAP. We had to motor most of the way and we arrived at 15:30. We were called over by sailing vessel Lady Emily. It had a huge cabin and an Australian family on deck and they were very nice to show us where to anchor. There's not too many yachts in Noro and the lagoon is surrounded by reef and not well marked. We anchored and I went ashore with Chris so that I could find water. Chris went straight for immigration and I found free water next to the ANZ ATM and carried it through the market back to the dinghy with no shoes! Chris met the immigration officials standing outside their locked office. They were done for the day. We had to come back tomorrow to clear out of Solomon Islands.
We came to Paeva at the invite of Lisa Chouquette, a name that will be familiar to anyone who has dived in Hawaii. Lisa has fallen in love with the Solomon islands and has started a business here www.solomondiveadventures.com Lisa is committed to getting as many local people involved in the business as possible and has trained 5 to Dive Master level and has started training >100 local folk in basic SCUBA. As well as the dive business Lisa has already done so much for this community with other ventures such as a library, kindergarten and support for the local primary School. Our role here was to lean from Lisa and to support her where we could. We had also been asked by the International Reef Check organisation to look out for Coral bleaching in the area.
We have spent 4 full days here and have been very busy. Lisa asked us to spend some time with the older primary school kids and this proved a lot of fun. 2 days were spent giving basic reef ecology talks and showing the kids how we do our Reef Check surveys. Paeva is a great place to teach the kids because, being Seventh Day Adventists they do not eat the shellfish. Within the small lagoon where we are anchored Lisa has encouraged the community to start a small Marine Protected Area, a great spot for teaching the kids and for all of us to observe some really large clams!
Talking to Lisa I heard about an interesting small business in neighbouring Bichy village that had been supported by James Udy from the University of Queensland (UQ). I am very interested in looking at small sustainable businesses and had been trying for some time to locate a hand coconut oil press - apparently the folks at Bichy had one and had already sold out all the oil they had produced. I think the production of "cold pressed virgin coconut oil" might be a viable small business for Karkar Island, PNG where their coconuts have exceptionally high oil content. The villages on Karkar where we work will be able to determine the future of their own coconut plantation soon when the lease to an expatriate runs out in a few years. Rather than selling into the low value copra market I hope that they can add value themselves to increase revenue.
The stroll to Bichy was more like a trek through Jurassic Park and after 12 hours sleep I am still in recovery mode! It turned out that it was a 16km each way trek through the jungle then along the windward foreshore. The varied terrain included steep slippery paths (some places needed ropes), mud to mid calf, precarious boulder beaches, soft sand, razor sharp Coral rocks and a couple of little rivers to ford. To add to the fun were occasional hand size spiders, a snake, 32c heat, and torrential rain. I found it very frustrating having to watch every footfall when there was so much to see too. There were many fascinating bird and frog calls, some of which were straight out of Jurassic Park! We did see a few parrots, a large Sea Eagle, a finger nail size tree frog with a song that could be heard from 100m, Sulphur Crested Cockatoos and a Hornbill!
Bichy was a very interesting village where the community had decided to buck the trend of the rest of the Solomon Islands by keeping the loggers out. Being on the windward shore made it hard for them to utilise the sea but they have developed death defying swimming and canoeing skills. The kids were amazing, leaping off rocks into a white maelstrom and body surfing into an unyielding rocky foreshore. Gardner thought he would try to emulate them and after 2 minutes emerged bruised battered and bleeding, wondering how these 7 year olds had developed rubber heads!
The oil press was interesting and definitely a possibility for Karkar. This morning we clean up, get water then head for Gizo where we clear out for Papua New Guinea.
07/18/2009, Rennel Island
Te'Nggano, the fresh water lake on Rennell Island, is a World Heritage Site and the largest raised atoll lake in the South Pacific. The entire island of Belona could fit inside Lake Te'Nggano. I was stoked to have an opportunity to go see it in person and the 3 hour walk down the dirt road through the jungle didn't put me off one bit. Chris agreed to stay in Avatai for the meeting with the committee while Cleo, Alison, and I went to see the lake. Joseph went with us as a guide. The walk to the lake was easy and once we arrived we met with Mike and Kasia who are volunteers working with the World Heritage Site. They have been on Rennell for almost 18 months and are very knowledgeable, hospitable, and all around nice people. They lent us some snorkel gear and offered some advice on how to enjoy the lake.
15 kilometers away, back in Avatai, Chris met with the Tehakatu'u Conservation Committee to ratify the Marine Protected Area and to sign a Memorandum of Understanding document that clarified the location of the MPA and OceansWatch involvement over the next few years. The transitional period which will initially reduce the fishing area should eventually allow the surrounding area to produce a greater yield.
A few members of the committee who are away currently will return to review the MOU and hopefully find it agreeable. The final piece of the puzzle is the respect from the local and neighboring communities which will really make the MPA a great success.
Chris, Cleo, and Alison sorted out yesterday's reef check information. Cleo and Alison left to survey more sites in and around the MPA. Osborne came to visit and he asked about fishing equipment. Chris interviewed him about fishing to find out what type of equipment would help the most in the future. OceansWatch is contemplating giving fishing packages, with large hooks, to communities within the tribe to encourage more fishing for pelagic fish, which seem underutilised.
I scuttled more empty water containers over to the shore. Cleo and Alison went out to survey more Reef Check sites. Osborne came to the boat again. Chris and I started fixing the solar panels. More kids came to visit. I made a late lunch for the girls and met them halfway in between the survey site and the boat. Then I took a long kayak trip around the proposed MPA. Chris made a delicious potato dinner and there were flash lights from three different points on the shore and a canoe full of night time fishermen.
07/16/2009, Rennel Island
All is going really well in Rennell. We met with the Hatana conservation acommitteee and other local community leaders on day 2 here and they were really keen to look at ways of conserving their marine resources. Straight after we presented to them they formed a larger tribal conservation committee that covers about 2.5 miles of foreshore. They agreed in that meeting that they should look at the possibility of establishing an MPA.
We did a rapid assessment of their reef area, mainly looking at % hard coral and suggested 3 possible MPA sites. I met with the committe leader today and showed him the areas that we selected. He was very happy for us to recommend the area we thought most suitable for the MPA and what clinched it I think was that at one end of the area there was a section of cliff that looked like a face, watching over the MPA. It seemed appropriate so he said he would be happy to chose that area.
Now this decision needs to be ratified by his committee (he says it will be no problem as they are all keen). We will now try to get some reef check surveys done in the proposed MPA and outside it too. It's hard though as the reef face is mainly vertical walls and isolated bommies.
I now want to help the community to look for ways of mitigating the loss of fishing area. I think there could be ways for them to increase food production as they only really seem to grow Casava. We need a good organic tropical vegetable grower/advisor to spend a few months here with a variety of seeds to try.
This afternoon I visited the 19 pupil primary school. They could really do with some help too and are keen to join the schools program. We will survey for the next 2 days then visit the World Heritage lake if we can find some transport.