Thursday, April 30, 2009
Back in the solomons...
After being back from a voyage through the pack-ice of Antarctica, a plane trip from Hobart takes one back to the 31C, equatorial stuffy climate of Marovo lagoon. The weekly plane was greeting by the welcoming committee and as usual I was the only whitie getting off at this stop.
There is no place to anchor a yacht at the Hele Bar so this filming trip required using the banana boat from the University of Queensland, carefully planning the fuel consumption for this 100 nm return excursion. Even the double kayak fitted in the canoe!
But unfortunately, there are no places to camp without a sworm of mosquitos and even a huge fire would not deter them. Couldn't even eat dinner in peace and ended up trying to retreat on the paddling the canoe out to sea. But for once, even being anchored 1km off the coast did not save anyone from the mosquitoes: the buggers followed!! This abbreviated the camping trip to a couple of days as hundreds of bites on the legs was unbearable !!
The Hele bar is a line of small low limestone islands outlaying from Marovo lagoon and marking the entrance into the Blanche Channel, a protected body of water between the islands of Tetepare, Rendova to the South and New Georgia to the North. The light marking the island furthest south of course is not working, so, with a yacht, careful night navigation is required to get around these islands due to the few shallow reefs. It is apparently the best camping spot. The Hele passage is shallow (4-5m) but safe when the swells are small.
The Hele islands are not inhabited and kept as a reserve managed by a ranger, who needed to be interviewed for the Conservation DVD. To arrange any meeting or interview in the Solomons, one has to come and meet the interviewee in person, because a message sent by HF radio is never guaranteed to reach its goal. So it may take 3 to 4 days, or more: weeks, to organize anything, Solomon time… Indeed, to access these islands, it was necessary to obtain prior official authorization from three different land owners, all living at various places through Marovo lagoon, and that also took months.
The wreck of a tuna boat just sticks out a meter or so at the edge of the reef on island. In the night, 8 years ago, the deckie was at the wheel on the maiden voyage while the rest of the crew was celebrating the launch and missed the Hele passage altogether, aiming straight for the reef!!! It is a nice dive now, when the water is clear. Wait for the westerlies to have stopped for a few days.
From the diet of a Russian icebreaker back to Solomon bush diet of ‘burnt fish and potato’, there is a big gap! Fruit were rare that time around but luckily the guide Stewart is a keen spear fisherman.
The fish with the thickest skin (like sweetlips) always ended up on the fire. His young assistant Malakai gave lessons in smoking fish, another local delicacies. All meals accompanied of sweet potato, the lowest GI food you can find. It’s got to be healthy!