Photos from India

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A quick summary of the last few weeks

Since I haven’t been very diligent about updating my journal while I was out on my latest excursion here in the Solomons, I figured that I would just offer a quick summary to tell you about our recent trip. Three weeks ago, we changed out crew in Ghizo where it rained non stop for three days. Very boring and miserable being couped up in the bottom of a boat with five and six other people. Our new crew consisted of a polish couple, Michal and Monica who are on their year long honeymoon and two Norwegian girls, Siv and Katrina. Siv actually spent the past six months backpacking around China and Tibet. Hopefully I will make it to that part of the world at some point on my journey.
After getting our new crew on board and attending a local guys birthday party, we set out to for a three week expedition to see more of the nearby islands. Our trip took us to some amazing spots and amazing islands. One stop was to a resort island called Lola. Lola sits inside what is known as the Vona Vona lagoon, an enormous area of protected clear water, dotted with multitudes of islands and coral reefs. The entire island was empty of tourists and we had the whole place to ourselves. Wonderful dinners at a restaurant with no other customers to get in the way. The island was covered in beautiful beaches and surrounded by clear waters. During the day, we would swim in, sit on the beach and just look out at the water and watch the fins of black tip reef sharks appear and thrash about as they caught their next meal. After spending a couple of nights there with amazing sunsets, and hanging out with the daughter of an x-patriate and Solomon woman, we ventured to the nearby Skulll island. There we saw a sacred burial site covered in the skulls of long since passed local chiefs and had the privellage of taking a tour of a beautiful little village nearby.
We departed the lagoon the day before my birthday. Yes, I finally turned twenty three! I guess I am getting old! Anyway, my birthday started as a rainy morning, clearing up around ten and then setting sail to pass through what is called the Diamond Narrows. It is a little channel that passes between two islands and is only around 150 feet wide. Since we had successfully made it through coming the other direction with the motor on, we decided that since the wind wasn’t too strong that we should just sail through. It was a pretty difficult task to sail through such a narrow spot, but we made it through with no problems at all. Upon emerging out of the narrows, we began to notice some black clouds on the horizon, separating us from our next anchorage. The sky became darker and the wind began blowing. As the rain began to fall, I gladly welcomed the fresh water shower on board the boat. This however shortly became the hardest I have seen it rain in years. After a couple of hours of tacking up into the wind, the sky cleared and we made it to a beautiful anchorage at sunset. My birthday dinner was hosted by our Polish crew and was something they love from back home, potato pancakes and a sauce made up with beans and meat. Actually was pretty good and definitely filling. After dinner, the girls on board presented me with a wonderful chocolate cake and their rendition of the traditional local cake dance. It was a great birthday party on the deck of Seawanhaka.
From their, we stopped by a place called Wilson Harbor where the locals caught fresh lobster for us every night, traded us their amazing wood carvings and brought us out fresh fruits and vegetables every day. We ventured into their village to help fix a generator and we brought a soccer ball to give to the local children. Katrina and I made an attempt to organize a soccer game, but it became more of a shoving match to see who could just kick the ball as hard as they could amongst the hundred or so children who were running about. Back at the boat, the snorkeling and diving in the harbor was probably the most diverse and pristine reef that I have seen in my life. The wall of coral that protects the harbor drops straight down from the surface to about 1000 feet deep. While not in the water, we spent our days just looking out at the water, watching pods of dolphin swim around the boat and marlin leaping out of the water. Not a bad spot to spend a few days, but after three nights of eating fresh lobster, we were ready to get underway and do some more fishing.
We left Wilson harbor, had a couple of other anchorages, one where we heard their was a good ship wreck to snorkel on, but we quickly changed our minds after seeing a crocodile swim by that was close to twenty feet long. From there, we crossed the channel out to an area known as the Choisel province. It was pretty remote, and with very few and limited charts existing of the area, we weren’t sure what to expect. The first anchorage we found was probably the most beautiful island I have ever been to in my life. Completely uninhabited, white sandy beaches and a coral reef dropping off into the deep. The sea floor was so steep that we were able to anchor within one hundred feet of the shore, making our expeditions inland even easier. At sunrise the next morning, I awoke and made my way into shore alone, hoping to get some great photographs of the island before everyone else tracked footprints across the sand. I am not sure how many rolls of film I took their, but I think every photo I took should turn out to be pretty incredible. From there, we visited several other uninhabited islands that were pretty similar. We had a couple of days of good fishing, but overall a bit less than we would like, forcing us to dig in to the canned meat supply on board. Throughout our time in the Choisel area, we went through a period of four days where we only say three other people, all who showed up in a little motor boat just to see who we were. For four straight nights, we didn’t see another light on land or on the water. As we sailed through the area, we occasionally saw signs of villages in the distance, but mostly just these enormous islands, covered in tropical forests.
From Choisel, we headed back toward Ghizo as it was time for the two Norwegian girls to head back home. Bill is heading out to Honiara for the week to visit the war memorial where his father was stationed during world war two and I am heading the island of Ranonga for the week to help Waldi, a local stone carver I have become friends with, rebuild his home that was destroyed by the Tsunami. The Polish couple are staying here in Ghizo to watch the boat, so I think they will be happy to have a few days alone and some time to start enjoying their honeymoon! The islands continue to get better and better as each day passes.

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