I have just returned from a trip to the island of Simbo here in the Solomon islands. Simbo is supposed to be the island that was the most devastated by the tsunami that hit here earlier in the year. We had a slow start on our journey out due to a small mechanical problem, but our captain quickly made repairs and he, Johann, and myself were off sailing to the island of Simbo. The winds weren’t very strong and our destination was further than we could travel in the daylight so we decided to take a different anchorage off the norhtern point of the island. Our cruising guide told us that the anchorage was not protected but would be suitable as a temporary spot. It’s location was described in the book as follows: After coming around the point, you will pass a beautiful village and a beach where you will find the anchorage. We came around the point, saw a beach, but there was not a village. It was completely gone. Only one building remained to let you know that a village had ever existed there. The locals tell us that before the tsunami, there were 500 people living there, and now they are scattered throughout the hills in tents. It was a sad site to see, but we decided that the tsunami relief supplies we were carrying on board would be well deserved by the islanders here.
The next morning, we awoke to rolling seas, pulled up the anchor and headed for the harbor. After navigating through the reefs, we pulled into a beautiful harbor. In the harbor, we were the only boat around, excluding a few locals in their dugout canoes. The harbor was partially shadowed by a beautiful mountain covered in tropical foliage and there was a small village along the eatern shore that managed to escape the wrath of the tsunami. Immediately upon arriving we were swamped by overcrowded dugout canoes coming out to greet us. As soon as we were settled, we began distributing clothes, rice and miscellaneous other things that would help everyone out. It is amazing to see the smile on someone’s face when you hand them a new pair of clothes, or the look of excitement in the eyes of an old man when you provide him with a pair of reading glasses so that for the first time in years he can see again. In response, the people began bringing us multitudes of fruit, nuts and vegetables. We were swamped with excess vitamin C, but couldn’t refuse their generosity. Fruit salads and fresh lemonade haven’t stopped flowing ever since.
We spent a day giving out our gifts and a second day exploring the island. Some locals took us up to the active volcano on the lake where they take the large eggs of a local bird to be cooked in the surrounding hot springs and natural vents on the volcano. The hike up was relatively easy, but with the equatorial heat and steam vents everywhere on an already humid day, it took a lot out of us. On the hike up, we heard a large splash nearby and saw something fleeing in the water of the lagoon we were following. Our local guide told us that it was a crocodile, but I never saw anything but the ripples in the water. As far as volcanoes go, this one was just a baby. Not too tall and not to wide, but still a smoldering pile of selfhood covered rock without vegetation growing upon it and steam smoldering out of miscellaneous places all over. Considering the small size of the island, it was an amazing feature to have nearby. These people not only have to worry about a volcano on their small island, but earthquakes and tsunamis too. Even with the amazing beauty of the island, I think that I may have chosen a bit safer place to live!