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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Wild People



The world is full of all sorts. It's curiously viciously grotesquely beautiful.

For most of us, we walk around with our eyes half closed and try and maintain the status quo - trying to fit into our surroundings - be just beautiful enough, just successful enough, clean and groomed enough so that we fly by life with only the right kinds of attention. We long to fit in. And if we want to be noticed, it's normally for all the wrong reasons. You probably don't believe me, but look in the mirror and tell me who you really are!?


I didn't know much about the Solomons, in fact the only thing I'd read on the country said this:

"The Solomon Islands is a melting pot of various ethnicities, and they don't always get along. One group or another is always unhappy, and they don't mind expressing it with a protest, which often turns into a riot, which sparks looting and general lawlessness... Trouble brews quickly here.

Honiara is also the crime capital of The Solomons, and wealthy-looking visitors are often a target. Leave the expensive watches and expensive jewelry at home. Don't walk around the streets alone at night (best to go with a group or a guide), and give the early morning jog a miss.

If you do go out to a bar at night, be aware there'll always be a few locals who like to fight – there were active headhunters on these islands until the 1930's, so they probably know how to handle themselves.

During the day pick pocketing, bag snatching, mobile phone theft and general harassment is common.

Yachties Beware! Foreign governments also warn their yacht-based citizens to take care in Honiara harbour where there have been reports of criminals boarding yachts at night and stealing valuables. They are usually armed and are not deterred if confronted. It's best to let them take what they want and live to tell the tale.

...Swearing is a crime. It can lead to compensation claims or jail, or both.
Homosexual acts (by either sex) are illegal and penalties include jail sentences.

Bull, Hammerhead and Tiger sharks are present throughout Solomon Islands coastal waters. The timid Reef Shark is harmless, but, unless you know the difference, be wary of all sharks.

About 50 people are killed every year by saltwater crocodiles. These are locals, well-acquainted with the ever-present danger. Unsuspecting tourists are well advised to seek advice before entering unfamiliar waters and to be wary in any case.

In and around Honiara, uncontrolled dogs roam freely, often in packs. Tourists are advised to be cautious.

Solomon Islands is part of the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire', an area of volcanic activity over 40,000 kilometres long where 90% of the world's earthquakes occur. Four active volcanoes are listed. In April 2007, a magnitude 8.0 earthquake and tsunami struck the Solomon Islands killing at least 20 people and destroying villages. The most recent earthquake occurred in the Western Province on 4 January 2010. The resultant tsunami caused significant structural damage on the islands of Tetepare and Rendova. No lives were lost.

Cyclones bring heavy rain and cause local flooding. Roads are damaged and bridges often washed away. Travelers are advised to check local weather forecasts before traveling in unfamiliar areas."

-World Nomads. Solomon Islands : Everything you Need to Know Before you Go.
(Self-highlighted in bold for emphasis)

There was also mention of tropical beaches; but you tend to remember the negatives...

I suddenly remembered why I don't normally read up on countries before I visit them... At least I had a nice ten day sail up from Fiji to masticate this information and prepare myself for what [mis]adventures lay ahead. 
I'm sure the native crocs were going to love our inflatable kayak dinghy-tender.


Photo courtesy of Manuel Sturm; S/Y Gamine
The perfect setting to contemplate your fate.

We arrived at night. A phosphorescent crocodile swam over to pilot us in to Groscious Bay, Santa Cruz. 
The jungle buzzed around us as we celebrated our arrival with a bottle of red. 
In the still of the anchorage my heart raced: Pirates... Malaria... Are we safe?


The morning bought schools of visitors in dug-out canoes. Half naked. Red beetle nut toothed. Wild! Missionaries... Fishermen... Traders. 
You can trade for just about everything in the Solomons; one college we visited encourages their students to pay tuition in dried fruit or pigs. 
They no longer accept trees. 


As we jumped islands and bays we got sucked into the beauty of the wild. The bleach blond hair of the kids. We would paddle ashore to glares and unwelcoming machete yielding stances, but without fail our greeting the various onlookers would return a ferocious toothless smiles and friendships would be struck in minutes. 


Such was the love for the Hapi Isles, that one crew member opted to plant roots; and we said goodbye to Cocotino in a very moving, well attended burial ceremony.

Raphael bidding farewell to his trustee first mate.
In Santa Ana the people still challenge each other in warrior fights where spears are flung at neighbouring tribes to prove hero status. 
There's often casualties; but the heroes live on in legend and their bones are kept as sacred reminders for future generations. 
It's a wild world out here. A beautiful one.

House of the warriors.
Woman are not allowed to look upon the bones, but the boys were nice enough to get a picture for me.
Even the capital, Honiara, and it's dusty beetle stained streets has something genuine and raw about it. The dogs don't seem to bite, and neither do the people [yet].  
It also has WiFi and real coffee and that's a plus.

What did you see in the mirror? Who looked back at you?
If you look deep inside you will find that we are in fact wild things. 
We have flames of passion and lustre for life burning inside. An inextinguishable flame. 
We too are in fact wild people.

It's funny how the men all fight and get called "The Heroes"
...But the woman are the only ones brave enough to battle intruding snakes...

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