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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Love Below

As you may have picked up, my addiction to diving has grown from a slight, itchy discomfort to full on herpes like level…I talk about it with everyone, I dream about it, I do artistic renderings and interpretive dance about diving…it’s absolutely ridiculous.  If diving were a man, I’d be all Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction”, boiling his bunny and stalking his wife.

I’ve stopped drinking on the weekends because of my diving. I don't flirt in case a man takes me away from my diving obsession. Really I'm totally focused on diving as my main hobby (besides Texas Holdem Poker...I won against 26 contenders last weekend!!!  Great night courtesy of the Solomon Island Poker Association...check them out on Facebook!) 

Hello strange underwater night creature thingy!  Copyright to Joanna O'Shea ...
(Yes she has to admit that we are friends now....sorry Jo.)

I am literally becoming a nautical or diving nun.

Maybe its the breathing in and breathing out or the weightlessness or the communion with the fishies, I don't know.  But I feel amazing EVERY TIME I get out of the water.  I always have a few minutes of adjustment to this hard world, where everything is solid instead of fluid.  The underwater world is by far my preferred environment and only spending a few hours a week there doesn't seem enough.

Seriously, I haven’t loved a hobby so much…pretty much ever (except singing and playing piano).  I do about two to three dives a week right now, mostly on the Boneges because it’s close by and I always see something new and interesting on the wrecks. 

With my obsession in mind, I decide to sign up for an advanced diving course.  The PADI advanced diving course is designed to allow divers who have the PADI Open Water from an 18 metre depth to a 30 metre depth.  It also has things like night diving and navigation diving.  Good stuff!  The reason why I decided to do it now is because its warmer in the Sollies than N.Z. and I like Tulagi Dive.  The owner is a laid back and unnaturally dry humored fellow, so much so that when I show up for a night recreational dive, he mutters: 

“All right, your course starts tonight, Sara.”

Gabe, my former instructor balks slightly.  I can tell that with my slightly bimbo attitude and plethora of back talk, I’m not entirely his favorite student.  But he takes a breath, sighs out and takes it in stride.  It’s off to the beach we go. 

As the sun sets over the ocean, the crew of eight adventurous souls strap into their tanks and stumble into the water, with torches in hand.  We look like the Skexis from that movie the Dark Crystal, hunched and slow...slightly menacing.  

 He's one bad mother...Shut your mouth! I'm just talkin' about
weird rock crab thingy... Copyright Joanna O'Shea. 
Night diving is quite different from day diving, obviously.  First, you only can see what your torches illuminate, leaving an air of mystery and downright creepiness to the dive. Its like being in a horror movie and I'm just waiting for more torch to illuminate some toothy sea monster.  We all know the redheaded, busty slightly slutty types are the first to go, so obviously I'm on watch. 

Secondly, the creatures in the deep have fallen asleep.  Reef fish have covered themselves in a mucus membrane to protect themselves and jamming themselves in rocks or coral to for the night.  Sounds…gooey and oh so comfy.  Gabe warns me not to shine my torch on these fish because they wake up and escape their mucusy home, leaving them without protection. 

Torches (flashlights, for my yankie readers) can be utilized not only as light sources but also as a way to communicate information, like being okay is communicated by circling your torch.   In trouble can be communicated by moving your torch erratically.  Under no circumstances should you flash your torch in someone’s eyes. This will blind your buddies for about ten minutes, leaving them pretty pissed off with you.  Beer fines, apparently, are given immediately if this happens.

Not wanting to incur beer fines or wake up muccusy fish, I let the air out of my BCD, gripping my torch tightly and only shining it to the bottom.  There is something downright spooky and scary about falling into the deep and as the waves slip over my head, I have second thoughts.  I turn my torch upwards and it refracts back into the waves at an opposite angle, signifying to me that the rules of the over world have now changed and I’m heading down into a completely different reality.

We sink onto the sandy white floor. Gabe has brought along his big camera, which has a fantastic spotlight.  The camera looks like a gigantic arctic crab, spotlights all akimbo on dark metal arms.  He lets me hold it while he fixes another dive buddy’s camera…I’m terrified.  The thing is probably worth more than I’ve earned this year.  I gently cradle his camera and whisper that I’ll take care of it…the thing looks so animal like I can’t help but feel maternal towards it and slightly protective.  After all the spotlight alone saves me from having to peer in the dark with my pathetic torch that barely illuminates three metres in front of me.

Gabe and I do a few quick exercises including underwater navigation away from “Mr. Blinky”, his camera (sorry Gabe, I couldn’t resist giving your camera a name.  I called my BCD Dr. Bubbles...its what I do).   I can barely see, which adds to the creepy factor. As we finish the exercises, it’s off to the wreck for some alone time with the fishes.  There is surprisingly little going on with the fish; everything moves slowly and sleepily, not like during the day.  Even the night fish seem slightly bored and sleepy. 

As we get close to the wreck, Gabe motions for us to turn our spotlights off.   It almost becomes dark except for two more inexperienced divers who sit five or so metres above us, just following us around (to be fair, one of the divers was a) her first time since her PADI and  she was understandably nervous and b) her mask kept filling with water.  The fact that she stayed in the water is pretty amazing, I would have been outta there if that had happened to me!).  It was like being on a date or trying to have a romantic moment with your parents around.  The thing is about turning off your lights is that the disco and electric fish come out and swarm, as does the phosphorescence, which dances around us.  After a few minutes we just give up.

It’s up from 25 metres to the shallows to play around with the fishes.  We peer under a rock and see a cone shell (known for its poisonous darts that has a deadly neuro toxin at the tip…stay away), making a quick escape.  Now, cone shells are essentially big sea slugs, so making a quick escape is really a joke because besides send a dart out at you, these fellahs don’t do anything quickly.

Gabe grabs a small crayfish (rock lobster) at me and it’s not very happy.  We quickly release it and it escapes back to the depths.  My favorite group is probably a group of small, transparent prawns with blue outlines rocking out in a big group in one of the holes in the ship. These guys are hopping and dancing around like its Extreme dance club on a Friday night.

As we swim the dark, spotlights and divers everywhere, its feels like that movie,  the Abyss, from the 1980s. As a child, I loved that movie and I can see why, now, people would have all consuming obsession with diving in the dark.  There is nothing like feeling of absolute weightlessness in darkness.  Its creepy and sensory depriving, except for the crackling noises the sea life makes.   I can see now why Michael Jackson slept in one of those tanks, it’s a crazy experience.  You simple have to trust that everything is going okay.  You can’t worry about what is beyond your spotlight because, really, there is nothing you can do about it.

I feel sorry for Gabe; I am a bit nervous to go away from Mr. Blinky so I keep bumping into him, bringing up sediment with my fins as he is trying to get the perfect shot.  I know its no fun to be crowded by another diver but I can't help the shadows, there lurks things I'm slightly afraid of.  Plus he keeps highlighting cool things and I don't want to miss out. 

We pop up, and the air above is cooler than the water we are standing it.  Its cloudy and not a full moon which explains the lackadaisical nature of the sea critters. 

As we drive home, the crew speaks excitedly of a turtle which I didn’t get a chance to see.  Mark, my favorite dive buddy, is completely in love with the dive that night.  He has that far away look of a true addict, coming to me the next asking when we can go next.  I think he too has the diving is his blog account of it.

I can’t say I blame him.  

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Solomon Islands Newbie Guide: How to meet people in Honiara

One year ago today, I arrived in Honiara.  I was alone, weirded out and hot.  I slept for about 32 hours straight, after flying from Paris, and when I woke up, I realized that I didn’t know anybody.  I was stuck in a hot hotel room, by myself, watching episodes of Battlestar Galatica and X-Files (I played video games too.  Sid Myers Pirates, Monkey Island and Civilisation Four are personal favorites).  Oh feel sad for me!!! Ha!

I digress…. Anyway it wasn’t very fun not having any friends and not knowing where to meet people. 

So…here is my list of how and where to meet people.  Expats and locals alike are pretty friendly.  

Occasionally you run into the snobbish types or the ones who have just been here WAY too long and won’t make friends.  But don’t take it personally, it’s not about you, it’s about them. 

  • Diving: Diving is a great way to meet people.  If you aren’t a diver already, take a course.  I HIGHLY recommend Tulagi Dive.  The boys will look after you and you should meet people.  Done the course and still no friends?  Get some gear and go out to Bonege 1 on Saturday or Sunday mornings.  There are heaps of divers who will probably buddy you.
  • Solomon Islands Poker Association. I loves me some good Texas Holdem Poker.  And this group is a lovely, social, fun bunch of folks that will make you feel welcome whether you want to or not.  Their meetups are on Facebook, so friend them and enjoy the mayhem.  These guys are all about poker and having a good time.  Don’t feel bad if you are a newbie, the players are friendly and always willing to help.  There are also tutorial nights as well. Here’s hoping you get pocket aces or a flush on the flop.
  • Ultimate Frisbee-These guys play at Woodford School on Tuesday evenings. I’ve not been but I hear it’s pretty fun
  • Okay, I love HASH but I don’t find the time to go very often.  It’s a great place to meet people, run your guts out and drink, all at the same time (Why don’t I go more often? The mind boggles…).  Anyway, Hashers are a friendly and generous group of people.  Lime Lounge often has information re: meetups.  These guys, both expats and locals, run every Monday night in rain, shine or cyclones. 
  • Church.  Church is a great way to meet people even if you aren’t that churchie.  Solomon Islanders love church and you get an instant social network out of attending. So give it a go.  I recommend the South Seas Evangelical Church just for their singing and social stuff but its up to you.
  • Lime Lounge.  If you are keen on checking out the local expat scene, this is a great place to come and enjoy a nice lunch or coffee.  People often come alone OR in groups but starting up conversations is pretty easy.  Lime Lounge is in Point Cruz.
  • International Tea Group.  Yes, there is an international tea group.  These lovely ladies (and a few gents) meet weekly to discuss all things tea.  I’ve been before and I highly recommend this group to partners of people who are working, as it is during the day around 10 a.m.  These ladies are probably the most friendly bunch of women I know and they will graciously assist you with any questions you may have.   Meeting times and location information is available at the Lime Lounge.
  • Mommy’s group.  There is a group of mommies who have play group.  You can find out their meeting schedule through the kindies.  I know  a couple of ladies who are a part of these groups, so email me if you can’t find this information out.
  • Rain Tree Café.  This is a place to chillax and meet people…I love it there but make sure you have enough time to sit back and enjoy.
  • Extreme Night Club. Okay, this is a probably the most decent and safe place to dance at in Honiara.  Granted, Extreme has a certain Yuck factor about it.  I won’t lie, the music sucks and you occasionally get groped by some drunk guy. I don’t often frequent Extreme but you can meet some interesting people there.  Just watch your bag and those weird old expat men who sit alone in the corner with their beer chatting up 17 year old Solomon Island girls.
  • The Yacht Club.  It’s a nice relaxed atmosphere with a bar so if you are into sailing, boats or drinking, you should be in. 
  • The Iron Bottom Sound Hotel (IBS).  This place is a nice setting overlooking the ocean.  The pizza is pretty edible and you can always find groups of friendly people there.  Just walk up and start a conversation, you should be fine.
  • Yoga and Pilates.  There are classes every Wednesday and Friday at the Heritage Hotel.  I haven’t been but I hear its worth going.  Its about 50 bucks per class.
  • King Solomon Hotel Karaoke Fridays.  This lasts till about 12 midnight and usually pretty fun.  Great place to meet people and sing your heart out.    
  • Aerobics.  At St. John’s school.  Now I love this class. Its filled with locals and expats alike who want to kick it 80s style.  There is lots of hooting and hollering and people are very friendly.

Okay, there are a LOT more clubs and activities here.  The Coconut News is a great place to get all your information, ask around and you can get on their email list.

If you are STILL stumped and lonely, email me and I can send you some contacts of friends who like helping newbies out.  Once you meet people, you will start to get party invites and you are off. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Visitor: Part Three

After the volcano debacle, I felt the need to reclaim some of my pride, some of my dignity.  Sure I couldn’t make it and I crumbled like a stale cookie dipped in warm coffee.  Look, I am not unfamiliar with failure.  But I had to do something to make it up to H.

I guess, for me, I was deeply disappointed in the change of path regarding the volcano on Savo. It used to be a lovely three hour walk up a steamy river bed surrounded by huge cliffs.  The walk was a great little adventure with eight metre bamboo ladders and walking over logs.  It felt fun but still doable.  The walk we did was purely unfun and although I know I could have made it through, I just didn’t see the point. However, the walk fell prey to the classic Solomon Island excuse "land disputes".  Well, I get it.  People want to be compensated properly for their land...I'm not going to make a judgement call on whether its right or wrong.  But it is disappointing.

Anyway, enough of my whinging. I know most of you, especially the kiwis, are thinking “whoa, man up!”.  You are right…I should man up.  Moving on…

On our way out from Savo, I arrange for our patient boat drivers to take us to the little volcano, a place that I had heard of but not yet been too.  We see a nice pod of dolphins dancing in the waves near the boat on our way there.  The sun is kissing the water and the island of Savo looks like something out of Jurassic Park.   We zip around quickly to the other side of the island to see the small volcano.

After climbing our way through one of the nicest villages I’ve seen in the Solomons, we make it to the small  volcano.  There it is, a small cone, coming out of the hillside.  A hot stream glugs and splutters near the path and we make our way down for a bit of a foot bath.  The water isn’t as warm as I thought it would be but it’s enough to know that something volcanic is going on.

Villagers come up with piles of food to place at the base of the volcano.  They use it as an oven or motu.  Our guide lets us play in the stream and look at the bubbling mud.  OOO Bubbling mud!!!

Although it’s probably not as cool as the other volcano, H seems happy and that’s all that matters.
Then we trek our way back to Honiara on the boat.  As we get closer to Honiara, I feel the relaxation I’ve felt start to come under strain.  The truth is I prefer the villages to Honiara.  I dislike all the pollution, rubbish, smog, the harassment from men…I like the calmness of the villages. 

Anyway, we come home for the few last days in Honiara.

The next day is spent shopping (for Helen) while I come back to work.  We sit at the rain tree and enjoy some yummy pizza.  I love the Rain Tree café; its calm and quiet and you get to sit by the sea.  What I hate about it is that it takes two hours to get you your food.  No, seriously. Two hours.  I watched the waitresses take over an hour to serve pancakes the other day because they had to go out get the ice cream. 

It’s a typically Solomon Island place that is great on weekends, killer if you are on a tight schedule.

We wake up early for H’s last morning in the Solomons.  It’s off to Bonege Two for a quick morning snorkel.  Now, over the last few weeks there have been rumours and security alerts about crocodiles and bull sharks around the Boneges.  Mostly, I think its crap.  I think you have to be tremendously unlucky to see either of those creatures here.  But still, I can’t help but think about the crocs and sharks as we enter the calm waters…alone.  The beach is literally empty, there is no one about.  So, we make the first tentative swim out to the wreck.

The water is filled with jelly fish.  I get small, annoying stings all over my body, as does H.  As we get into the front part of the wreck, H lets out an enomorous scream underwater and, using my stupid instinct, I make a break for  the shore, waiting only slightly for H.

We arrive safetly on the shore.

“Oh…I’m sorry Sara, a jelly fish stung me on my mouth!  It hurts and I couldn’t help it!”

“I think you might need to pee on my face.”

Ugh.  After a few minutes, H doesn’t have anything worse than Angelina Jolie lips, so we decide to head out 
back into the water.

We stay out for a little while.  Snorkeling and diving in the morning is preferred in the Solomons. The water is calm and clear and the night fish and day fish are punching their time cards, so you get to see both in the water at the same time.

We leave Bonege 2 behind for a bit of mango breakfast on the balcony at Casa Turchese.

H has a lovely morning of resting and then its off to the airport.  As I wave her goodbye, I feel really sad.  H is the only adventurous soul to come see me here and I loved every minute of it.  I hope she enjoyed her time here too.

H’s departure also signifies the beginning of the end for me here in the Solomons. I’m looking down at three more weeks left to make a difference, do my job, enjoy my diving and create mayhem. 

But the truth is: I’m tired.  H’s visit was the longest holiday in more than a year.  I haven’t seen my parents in over a year and I won’t see them for another six months. My altruistic side got the best of me and I used my holiday helping out in CHCH and I feel spent.   Being here isn’t the holiday one might suppose.  Sure, its not 
stressville either but after awhile, it does grind you down.

My stuff is starting to break down.  Pinkie, my faithful Sony Vaio laptop, is showing her age.  Ants are climbing in and out of my hard drives.  My boardies (swimming shorts) are starting to decay with over use.  My trusty snorkel mask is cracking.  

I think in life one of the critical things is to know when to leave.  No one wants to be the last drunk at the club or that person who is holding on to that bad relationship because they can’t let go. Timing  is important because you gotta know when you have done enough and it’s time to move on.  For me, that time is in about three weeks.

Everyone has an expiration date here and I’m about ready to curdle.  So here is to the last three weeks of Solomon Island time. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Visitor: The Ballad of H and S

(Inspired and dedicated to one of my musical heroes, Bob Dylan, who this week learned how to play the bagpipes at age 70.  True story, well, at least as true as that old trickster Bob ever gets).

Verse One
Climbing up that old volcano
Hot and steamy
And we both a-know
Our hair is gettin too frizzy
To continue on this path
I’m starting to get dizzy

So we climbed up
Halfway to be exact
And I look H square in the eye
And said
This year’s been a little rough
And this trail’s a bit too tough
Can we turn around, babe?
And drink some coconuts?

Verse Two
Spiders as big
As my torso
Sentinels in banana twigs
Smalls Birds trapped in the web
Wrapped up like wontons (Editor’s note: I was clearly hungry at this point)
Probably thinking I’d make a good meal for a month

So we climbed up
Halfway to be exact
And I look H square in the eye
And said
This year, its been a little rough
And this trail’s a bit too tough
Can we turn around, babe?
And drink some coconuts?

Verse Three
She bows her head
Can’t look me in the eye
She could keep going
Climbing on up to the sky
But, she nods and says
Let’s go make a g and t

So we climbed up
Halfway to be exact
And I look H square in the eye
And said
This year, its been a little rough
And this trail’s a bit too tough
My legs are a shakin and you’ve had too much a-quaking (this year)
Let’s go and hammock, my H
And drink some coconuts?

Some experiences can only be told in verse, as above.  So yeah, I’m ashamed to say I couldn’t quite summit the volcano.  BUT H was a good sport about it, as she is about everything.  And I got to write a song. 
So every one wins. 

Next time, questions will be answered: Did H leave okay? What happened to the face peeing incident?  All will be revealed in the final chapter (without bad song writing) of The Visitor...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Big But (A minor interlude)

"Alas for maiden, alas for judge, rich repeiner and household drudge, God pity them both and pity us all ... for of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these:  It might have been."
-John Greenleaf Whittier

I know, I know…you are waiting to hear what happens to me and H. next…its coming but I had to do this one first.

As I near the end of my assignment, I find myself somewhat reflective on the last year and what’s happened.

When I decided to come to the Sollies more than a year ago, everyone I told said pretty much the same thing:

“Man, I would love to do that but…”

There were Buts all over the place.  I’ve got a mortgage, I’ve a kid or a dog or cat or a mom or an ingrown toe nail.  I’m saving for my car, my I-Mac or I’m in prison…whatever I heard it all. 

And here is what I have to say to all to the Buts:

I’m not particularly smart. Or sexy. Or funny. Or beautiful. Or talented.  Or rich. I just got off my Buts.  Cause life ain’t no dress rehearsal, people.  If you want something, you gotta grab it and fight for it.  Because if I can do this great adventure I am POSITIVE that you can do anything. 

Sorry it may sound self righteous or you might say to yourself “But, Sara, you’ve had sooo many opportunities that others haven’t, like access to education and good parents…”.  And you know what? You are spot on. You bet your balls I’ve been lucky.  I have awesome parents who supported my education and career every step of the way.  I’ve been very fortunate in this life to have had great friends, partners, mentors bosses and amazing jobs working for kick ass organizations. I mean it hasn't always been a cake walk and sure I've got my down days but overall I’m grateful for each wonderful, blissful moment of my life.

Having said that, it’s still no excuse, eh. And here is why I’m writing this: I’m tired from hearing excuses from people who feel they can’t get what they want in life and would rather whine and sulk then get off their But. 

If you don't think you can change your life and think I'm an over privileged bad example, consider my friend D. My favorite inspiration person here in the Sollies, D., who walked away from an abusive marriage that started at AGE 13 to self fund her way through university to become an amazing advocate for education in the Sollies. Her life was surrounded by Buts: she had six kids, no money, no parental support. She had nothing but she did something, built herself up to HELP OTHERS.  She is my hero because she made her life HAPPEN. She got her BUTs.  She is a humbling example to me, when I am lazy or self indulgent (which is more often than I would care to admit), to pull up my socks and get back to work. 

If this woman, who had to deal with extreme abuse, poverty, and sexism could fight through and make stuff happen in her life, so can you.

I also got the "its the wrong time" thing too.  Guess what? There will never be a sign from the heavens telling you it is a good time.  Sometimes, you gotta jump,bad timing and all and hope for the best. Now, don't get me wrong. If you are happy and content with living your life cruising along, that's awesome for you.  My crazy life certainly isn't for everybody and everyone has the right to enjoy their life on their own terms.  I support anyone who is living life with joy and pride in what they do.  What I'm trying to say is to those people who are holding themselves back from what they really want in life is just get off you But and do it.

You think my life is cool? Awesome.  I think it’s pretty cool too, in fact I wouldn’t change anything about it.  Guess what? I know you can do better than me.  Well, maybe you won’t rock the ginger curls and red crocodile stilettos like I do, but whatever.  

So next time you hear your But start looking for another way, cause believe me, anything is possible with your life.    

Just sayin.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Visitor

“I think you need to pee on my face, Sara.”

These are words that one never really wants to hear especially sitting on a beach at 7 a.m.  But there we are, me and my best girl, H, sitting on Bonege Beach 2 at 7 a.m., her with a swollen mouth from a jelly fish sting and me with peeing anxiety.  Not the most ideal way to end a stay in the Solomons, but not unexpected either. 
As H (my best girl) learned here, anything and I mean ANYTHING can and does happen.

H arrived the Tuesday before, the last to leave the customs room, which is pretty much the size of the Nelson arrivals airport.  Its tiny and hilarious and hot.

As I see her emerge from the customs room, a wash of emotions sort of come flooding in.  H brings an unexpected element to stay here in Honiara.  She is the first and only guest I’ve had here and I was both excited and nervous to have her stay here.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s o for awesome having her come here but it also leaves me with a sense of slight dread.  H is the most supportive person I could have in my life and she walked side by side with me during some pretty dark times, from a sad, heart breaking separation to a city demolishing earthquake.  But she also reminds me of how far I’ve come and the zen, super adventurous life I’ve worked hard to achieve.
It’s hard not to love H; her enthusiasm and humour are infectious.  Her passion for her work (it has something to do with earthquakes and scientists) and her zestiness for a good adventure makes her the perfect companion.

It’s no rest for her as we zoom through the main streets of Honiara to Casa Turchese for gin and tonics and a good old fashioned catch up. Mackenzie, my local housemate, makes a fantastic local dish of fish in coconut milk with roasted papaya(!!!).  Awesome.  The neighbours come over for a nice visit and H begins her life in the Honiara social scene.

The next day, we drive along and she looks slightly nervously around.

“I still can’t believe you did this, Sara…I mean, it was really ballsy,” she says.

I guess I don’t know how to answer. I don’t feel particularly brave or ballsy.  I just felt like the universe aligned to help me out and carry me to this place, where I’ve found a really great life.  I feel like the luckiest girl alive and H comments about how much happier and together I seem.    

The next night, we celebrate the International Day of Peace at my friend Katherine’s house, with mediation, yoga and a violence free meal (vegan).   It’s all very peaceful and happy and when we leave the house, we feel too zenned out to really talk. 

H makes her way around Honiara the next day, much more confident than the day before.  She begins her process of getting use to the place.  I find it a bit challenging because Honiara is home now; everything seems normal and I don’t do the whole “hey isn’t that interesting” thought process anymore.  So for me, seeing Honiara through a visitor’s eyes is completely entertaining.    

We walk around the streets and sort out the weekend’s activities, though not without a bit of work.  EDITOR'S NOTE: when the Solomon Islands Visitor’s Bureau offers to book something for you, don’t do it! Just grab the number and do it yourself!  These guys are pretty useless!!!

Anyway, we go out to see my neighbor, Aidan, off.  I’m sad to see Aidan leaving; he is a very good neighbor, putting up with our antics and letting us play Band Hero till late.  Which H and I do, singing her favorite heavy metal toons until far too late. 

We can’t stay for as long as either of us would like due to an early morning appointment with the Sun Express to go across to Maravagi, my favorite resort, currently, in Central Province.

The ride over is totally unexpected for me. I’m used to bouncing around in banana boats, wondering half the time if we are going sink.  But the Sun Express cuts through the rough water quickly and I find myself slightly sea sick, a totally new experience in the Solomons. I guess I’m just a banana boat girl. 

Helen enjoys herself as we make our way to Mbike, a little island in the Galas.  It’s a beautiful stretch of white sandy surrounded by crystalline blue waters.  Three large houses tower of the white sand and it looks ideal but due to water issues, the resort has yet to open. I tell the Sun Express people that I’ll bring my own water, if they just let me stay there.  They say that I’m not the first person to offer…

Anyway, its off to Maravagi.  Now usually I jump off the boat just as we get close to the resort but the size of the Sun Express means I can’t.  We quickly unload and begin our holiday in earnest. 

In the afternoon, we snorkel around the home reef, spotting a nice sized black tipped reef shark.  Now that I’ve spotted a few of those guys, I understand a bit more how to respond other than swimming in the opposite direction as fast as possible.     

We eat, snorkel, beach, eat some more and generally have good chats.  Maravagi is a great place to just chill out and enjoy the best of the Solomons (although, this weekend I went to Nugu and that was freakin awesome).

Anyway, after our two days there, we make our way in a banana boat across the sea to Savo, the lone volcanic island hugging the northwest corner of Guadalcanal.

Savo is a totally different place to Maravagi.  Blessed or cursed with volcanic activity, it doesn’t have much of a reef to snorkel but it does have other things.  We hammock and enjoy the simpler, taster local food than offered at Maravagi.   

The next morning we wake up early to see a completely unique sight…the Megapodes.  Megapodes are little black birds that resemble small chickens, but with better posture.  There are several interesting things about megapodes, one being that their eggs are around thirty percent of the size of their torsos.  The yolk from the eggs are around 80 percent of the internal parts of the egg, making it yummy for omelets (I know, H and I tried some!). 

We walk up to an area where some Savo-ites are digging in the black sand.  The area is surrounded by a series of fences, covered with coconut fronds, giving privacy to the Megapodes.  A small group of Megapodes dig into the black sand.  The eggs are incubated in the warm volcanic sands of the islands.  After 31 days, the egg hatches and the bird digs its way out, never knowing its mother or father. 

Anyway, the locals have built up fences around their nesting area to protect them from dogs and to give them a bit of privacy.  As H and I pull the leaves of the fence apart, we watch these fascinating little birds chortle at each other.  Sometimes, it’s just holes in the ground with dirt flying up in small clumps.

The birds make a quiet exit once their eggs are safely laid in the holes.  The locals make the signal and it’s a mad dash of digging as they go for the eggs, sand flying everywhere.  The eggs are highly priced as a protein source but also sell for about 10 dollars Solomon an egg in Honiara.  After about 10 minutes, a good amount of the eggs have been dug out of their nests. 

The megapods have waddled their way back to their jungle homes, which one local points out to me as being a place that is taboo (sacred) to locals and no one is allowed to visit or disturb them. 

H and I make our way back to the Sunset Resort, to enjoy a meal of megapod eggs and pineapple. 
We needed to eat up cause our next adventure would require quite a bit of energy…