01 December 2008 | Honiara
Monday and our last day in Honiara. It has been an interesting experience being here, but we are very ready to leave. Our final high priority task to handle in the city was to pick up our Papau New Guinea visas from the PNG High Commission. It couldn't be that easy could it? We did have a little positive karma built up from our visit Friday when they said the visas would be ready, but then weren't. Not enough karma though, apparently.
When we arrived at the PNG HC, Hideko was presented her passport with the visa stamp in it (which must have taken 5 minutes to do when they finally decided to stamp it). I was out of luck. You see the only fully blank page in my passport was the back page. The PNG officials would not stamp the back page. No way, no how. Totally unacceptable to stamp the back page. This combined with the fact that so many countries flip all the way to a blank page to put their 1/4 page stamp on your passport (outside the lines), and the fact that US passports have ridiculously few pages to start with (compared to British, Australian, NZ, Japanese, ...), meant no blank pages except the back one.
The Solomons guy stamped his visa right on top of some other stamp. I liked his style. The PNG people had spoken though. The chip was firmly on the should and no solution other than a fresh page to stamp in the middle of the book would do. So we were off to the consulate to get some consoling.
The US consulate here is great. It is small but right on the way to the customs office in the middle of town. It is the cleanest, tidiest place in all of Honiara, that I have seen anyway. Anne, a wonderful woman from Malaita, is the Consular's Assistant and the only person I've ever seen in the place. Anne made a plea for us with the PNG folks but we all new it was a very outside shot. Nothing doing. So the only thing left to do was to pack my passport up and send it to Port Moresby where the actual US embassy is.
The plan is that the passport will go to the US embassy in PNG, get new pages, then come all the way back here to the Solomons to get the PNG stamp (go figure), then Anne will send it to the forestry representative in Gizo so that I can pick it up. This is a fairly complicated plan. Complicated and developing island nations in political turmoil often don't mix well. Particularly concerning given I have no passport until the plan completes successfully. I went for it though, which tells you how much we trust Anne.
The bright side of this escapade is that the Lime Lounge is between the US Consulate and the main road. We had not stopped in there yet and it was perhaps the last of the eateries in Honiara that we had wanted to try. We were glad we did. They had great thick milk shakes (if there's British influence make sure to order a "Thick" milkshake or you'll get a nasty watery chocolate milk when you order a milk shake) good sandwiches, lots of fresh cookies and cakes, good coffee and espresso and WIFI access all in an air conditioned room. Don't plug your laptop into the power outlets though, this is Tabu, they don't want you camping out on a single latte for 5 hours. After our visit I would rate this place as #1 in Honiara for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. If you need to spend all day on the laptop you'll have to go back to the Kitano Mendana hotel where the NGOs seem to be holding court.
Three cruising yachts came in over the last 24 hours. Polaris arrived yesterday, while Kleiner Bar and Whistle arrived today. It was nice to see our friends on Polaris and Kleiner Bar again and good to meet Whistler.
We took an afternoon trip to the Panatia Center (sp?) about 5 minutes east of town on the way to the airport. The grocery store here is the best in the area we have found, but also the most expensive. We stocked up nicely and caught a cab back to the Yacht Club.
I have been filling our 5 gal diesel jug and dumping it in the tanks every now and again to keep up with the battery charging. We are waiting to do a big fill up until we get to Gizo, where I hear they have a proper yacht friendly fuel dock. Hopefully it survived the tsunami last year. So after a final diesel jug run, Hideko and I retired to Swingin' on a Star and got the boat ready to go.
The Lonely Planet guide has an interesting way of describing Honiara. It doesn't make it sound like a wonderful place and takes an even handed view of the shortfalls the town has to overcome. They do, however, say the place can grow on you. While I'm not sure Honiara has grown on us, many of the wonderful people we have met have.