If you think that Honiara, the Solomon Islands’ capital is a sleepy little town, you obviously haven’t been to Gizo. That is not a spelling error: the island is called Ghizo, the “town” Gizo. It is the second largest settlement in the Solomon Islands and it has three, maybe even four streets. In any case, only one of them is (partially) paved. To be honest, we’ve seen more of the underwater environment so far than of the island itself. It is far too hot to walk up the hill.
Describing the Solomon Islands to someone who’s never been there is tricky, but here are some observations that might give you an idea.
First, think of some reggae-like music, because the Solomon Islands come with a soundtrack. There is always music somewhere around here, it’s never quiet. Church is one of the places with lots of music and singing, and there are many churches here. It was strange to hear the church bells this morning, the decor does not seem right. People, especially women, wear their best clothes to church. On weekdays, knee-length trousers and a t-shirt suffice, with flip-flops or bare feet. Holes, tears and stains are no problem. When you buy a fish on the market, you hold it by its tail while walking home. Food is expensive, accommodation is expensive, internet is expensive, fuel is expensive – it must be very hard on the population who make a maximum of a few hundred euros per month max, and that would be a good job. Most shops are run by Chinese. Taximeters don’t exist. Instead, the taxi driver sets his odometer to zero at the beginning of your trip and you pay ten dollars times distance travelled. Utterly brilliant in its simplicity. People have brown to almost black skin, sometimes with blond our reddish hair. That’s their natural colour, the owner of one of the WWII museums, ensured us.In and around the Solomon Islands, have fighting took place during WWII between Japan and the allied forces, especially around Guadalcanal. Unfortunately for the islanders, they happened to live in a very strategic location. Remnants of the war can be found on the island, there are many very rusty army vehicles left. And they are found in the water surrounding the islands. Between Honiara and the nearby Florida Islands there are so many planes and shipwrecks in the water, that they call the area Iron Bottom Sound.
For us, that means some great diving. Apart from the wrecks, there is a large variety of marine life and we have seen different types of sharks, a turtle, eagle rays, some large cuttlefish and even a manta ray. The dive shop, Dive Gizo, is really excellent. Fortunately for us, unfortunately for them, Erwin and I have been the only two customers diving with them except for the first day, when Ron joined us.The water around Ghizo is not super clear but it’s nice and warm. Between dives, we get to have lunch on one of the many uninhabited tiny islands. Today we even had a barbecue, on Kennedy island. The island is named after JFK, whose ship, the cruiser PT 109 was sunk nearby, by the Japanese. Thanks to message written on a coconut, brought to Henderson Airport by some locals, he and his crew were rescued. I never even knew he fought in WWII.
Anyway, we found out over dinner tonight that the two new tourists aren’t tourists at all, but a Spanish couple who worked here for nine months on a solar farm project. We haven’t seen Ron anywhere in these past few days…