The Solomon Islands is a small Melanesian state about 3000km northeast of Australia in the Pacific Ocean. The country is probably most famous for its main island’s pivotal role in World War II, as well as shipwreck diving. I wasn’t there for the diving though. I was about to gain some knowledge about surly spirits and storms on the Solomon Islands.
Where’s the WiFi?
Upon landing in the capital Honiara on a flight from Papua New Guinea, I had hoped to find some WiFi to reinitialise my phone after it had been wiped in Port Moresby. Unfortunately, there was no WiFi to be found so I figured I’d have to try my luck in town.
I was informed that I could catch a bus from the road outside the airport. What I realised when I got out to the road, was that there was no bus stop. The opposite side of the road was lined with many small stalls, selling various items. As I was about to cross the road to ask a seller about the bus, I noticed a group of people standing around like they were waiting for something. I joined the crowd and someone started chatting with me. The bus, which was actually a minivan, pulled up a short while later.
A young boy on board who collected fares from everyone. It was only 5 Solomon Island dollars, SB$5, which is roughly AU$0.90. Bargain! As an added bonus, the value of the currency was almost on par with my home currency, so I didn’t have to waste time calculating! Someone on the bus had suggested that I could get WiFi at the Tourist Centre in town, so that’s where I got dropped off.
Upon entering, I was greeted by a lovely gentleman named Nelson. I explained my predicament and need for internet to reinitialise my phone. He said I could stay and use the WiFi until the centre closed. How wonderful! Internet on the Solomon Islands is slow. It was 2 hours before I realised that closing time had come and gone. Nelson was working late and had decided to leave me to it for a while.
Luckily I had almost everything I needed for the phone to function reinstalled by the time he was done. He then made some calls to find me the cheapest hotel, using his industry discount. His kindness didn’t stop there either. As the hotel wasn’t too far from the centre, he graciously offered to walk me over. Not only are the Solomon Islands lusciously green, but the people are pretty awesome too!
Spirits and Storms on the Solomon Islands – Walking Around Town
I realised after checking into my room that I hadn’t eaten for a while, so it was time to go hunting! It took me an hour to find food. Not because I got lost, but because almost everyone wanted to chat with me. After dinner, as I was trying to cross the road, a man named Manu started talking to me. He offered to walk me back to my hotel. Seems like that’s a thing in Honiara!
Manu then decided to stay and have a chat in the hotel bar. He inquired about my plans in Honiara, so of course, I told him that I wanted to go to the Tenaru Falls! I realised I was pretty tired by that point and as we parted ways, Manu said that he would get his friend to drive me to the waterfalls the next day. At this point, I was wondering if the whole town had received a memo telling them to look after me.
Spirits and Storms on the Solomon Islands – Adventures Beyond Honiara
Just as he said they would, Manu and his friends arrived to pick me up at around 8:30am. The drive was long, mainly because the road was terrible. It was still passable without a 4WD though. It seems Manu’s friend, Joei, was a taxi driver. I later found out that he’d had taken the day off work to use his taxi to drive me around. Wow.
I presumed the other person in the car, Joylee, was Joei’s friend. She told me later that she had never met Joei before. It turns out that he had picked her up on the way because he felt bad that I was going to be the only female in the car. Not that it’s something that would worry me, but it’s a nice thought, I guess.
Surly Spirits and a Man of Mystery
We passed a gate that a local came out to open for us. Then a mysterious old man approached us and said that he could take us to the falls. As no one else in the car was exactly sure how to get to the falls, we indicated for him to get in the car. He directed us to the start point of the trail, which didn’t really look like much of a trail at all.
We followed this man for about 20 minutes, by which time I’d started to get the feeling that he didn’t really know where he was going. He had us zig-zagging across a small river. It was at this point that he mumbled something about bad spirits and disappeared into the forest. We decided our best course of action was to head back to the car and try to find another way to the falls.
We drove to Paringiju Lodge, which is run by Manu’s cousin Freida and her husband. By the time we got there, Joylee was passed out in the back of the car from drinking too much. So we left her there and went into the lodge. Freida gave us some cold water and offered to take me to the falls. She knew a more direct path.
Tenaru Falls – Take Two
I followed Freida down a trail which started off nicely enough. Until it started getting exponentially more difficult. This was partly because it got steep and partly because it was muddy and slippery. I was struggling with hiking shoes, but Freida, who’d left her flip flops at the beginning of the trail, was just flying along with bare feet. My feet slid out from underneath me on a few occasions, but I managed to grab hold of nearby trees before I ended up on the ground. Unfortunately, there were no trees around on my last slip and I landed flat on my back. I limped back, but I was glad that I’d somehow avoided getting a muddy butt in the process.
To add insult to injury, my camera had decided to be temperamental while on the trail, so I wasn’t even able to take any pictures of the view I’d worked so hard to see. Back at the lodge, everyone except Joei seemed to have drunk themselves into oblivion. This made it a mission to get them to the car. We were finally loaded and ready to go about 30 minutes later.
I was a bit worried that Joei had been drinking while I was hiking, but his car was my only option for getting back to civilisation. He drove a little faster on the way down than he had on the way up, but then he drove like a maniac once we hit the sealed road again. All I could do was hope to get back to town in one piece.
Spirits and Storms on the Solomon Islands – Back In Honiara
Manu said that he’d organised a hotel room for me for free through his company. I was surprised, as I had not asked for that. I had made it clear that I was capable of getting my own room and I would not be ‘trading’ anything for it. He was still very insistent that I take it. Later, after we’d eaten, he professed his love for me. It may have been the alcohol he’d imbibed talking, but it was getting a little too awkward for me. So I swapped to another room.
Earlier that day, I had arranged to meet Nelson, the man from the Tourist Centre. Being the kind man that he is, he had offered to drive me around to show me some of the town. It really helps to get to know a place when the person driving you around works at the tourist centre! I’m sure I now know more about Honiara than most of the locals do. What a nice way to end a day.
Discovering Honiara’s Past
After all that had happened, I’d decided that I was just going to walk around by myself for a bit. The island of Guadalcanal had played a huge part in World War II, so of course there is a huge memorial in Honiara. It also happens to be on top of a hill and I do love walking up hills.
Passionate Caretaker for the Solomon Islands Peace Park Memorial
The place was kept in perfect condition by the caretaker. He invited me into his little booth when I got stuck in the very open memorial area as a huge storm came in. Once I was inside, he told me that the storm would take a while to pass. I think it was actually over an hour. It seemed like only 10 minutes because of the great company.
He told me that he has been the caretaker there for over 20 years. In that time, he’d tended to the gardens and kept them looking beautiful and fresh. He’d also made sure that the grounds were always clean. Clearly he’s done a great job, because the place was immaculate. He’s done this for years because he believes that the people that lost their lives in the war deserve it. What a lovely man.
Once the storm finally passed, I headed back out onto the road to continue my walk. I ended up finding the Mataniku River, which essentially separates the city into 2 areas. The only access point between the two was a not-so-stable looking bridge. I can’t say it was the prettiest river I’d ever seen. In fact, there seemed to be a lot of rubbish in an around it. The part of the Tenaru River I’d seen a few days earlier was much nicer.
Time For a SolBrew After Spirits and Storms on the Solomon Islands
After all my adventures, I’d figured a quiet drink or two was in order. My first mistake was thinking that would be possible in Honiara! It seemed that everywhere I went, locals were insistent on buying me drinks. I mean, they would ask if they could buy me a drink, but the drink would be in front of me before I finished answering. The good thing was that the happily tipsy men and women in the pub were happy to tell me their fascinating stories about life on the islands.
I ended up back at the Tourist Centre later, where I met and chatted with Nelson and more of the crew that works there. One of them, I’m ashamed at this point that I can’t remember his name, told me that I must join them at the yacht club later. Who was I to refuse? I made my way there a little after the agreed time, because I was on island time. When I first arrived, I couldn’t find any of crew. A well-known local was worried that I had no one to talk to and insisted that I sit with him and his friends. I must’ve been talking to them for hours before I finally met the people that I’d originally gone there to meet!
We might’ve stayed there until near closing time, although I have no idea when that was. No one was ready to call it a night, so we all sat around chatting at the Tourist Centre. Clearly I got very little sleep, but it was probably the best way to spend my last night in the Solomon islands.
🇸🇧Solomon Islands Summary🇸🇧
In a few words – beautiful people
Language – English and Solomon Pijin
Currency – Solomon Island Dollar (SBD)
WiFi availability – 📶📶📶📶
Wifi was available at hotels and some cafes, but the cafes had very short opening hours. It wasn’t the fastest, but probably better than some places
Transport – 🚗🚗🚗🚗
🚐 Buses, or more accurately, minivans run regularly around town and cost SB$3 to go anywhere in town and about SB$8 to and from the airport
🚘 Taxis are available from the airport to the town for around SB$100
Roads – 🛣🛣🛣
Main roads were mostly smooth and sealed, except for several kilometres where roadworks were taking place. Roads in more remote places weren’t sealed, but still drivable without a 4WD
Scenery – 🌳⛰🏞🏖🌳
The Solomons have a diverse range of scenery, with mountains, waterfalls, rivers, forests and beaches
Prices – 💰💰💰
As seems to be the case in a few places where tourism isn’t a huge industry, accommodation is quite expensive. Everything else in the Solomons is quite cheap though
Border efficiency – 🛃🛃🛃🛃
The international airport is tiny, which means entering and exiting can be pretty quick. There’s almost no chance of another plane arriving/departing at the same time as yours!
Overall – 👍👍👍👍👍