Coyote Pups, Pelicans and Two 50 km Rides

Yesterday, after our walk in Dinosaur Provincial Park, we drove into Brooks to buy gas. On the way I spied three puppies in a field. Mur braked, turned the SUV around and we had a closer look. They were coyote pups with no mom around. Cute fellas. Two didn’t like us so close so they headed into some bushes near a barbed wire fence, but the last one was more interested in eating something off the ground. He eventually noticed his litter mates gone and us watching him, so he also trotted into the bushes. What a treat!

Coyote Pup

Just outside of Brooks we saw our first solar field. Row upon row of solar panels. Basking in the sun working on their tan.

Today we both want to ride 50 km. We are traveling home so the plan is for Murray to ride from the campground, turn north on Hwy 876 and go until he reaches 50 km. After he leaves, I hang around for about 45 minutes, then hop in the SUV and chase him down. It took awhile as the wind was cooperating and blowing from the south-east, so was pushing him along. I then leapfrogged with him until he rode just over 50 km.

Then it was my turn. I take off as soon as Murray catches his breath. The wind is definitely a help. Pushing a large gear on those sections that are slightly downhill and with the wind. WHEEEEE! I say Hello to all the horses and cows I see in fields. I spot one little calf as I pass and I realize he is on my side of the barbed wire fence and his Mom is on the proper side of the fence. He did not look happy, and I am sure his Mom was not happy either. Poor guy.

Murray leap frogs me, but keeps a little closer to me as per my request. After one of the last leaps, he goes to start the SUV and it doesn’t start. OH-OH. Now what does he do! He flags down a friendly motorist driving a truck and pulling a trailer, explains that the starter might be shot and could they drive ahead and find me and ask me to turn around and ride back. The fellow suggests that they try boosting our vehicle’s battery first. BRAVO! That worked! So off they both go to find me. Meanwhile, I am approaching km 42 and I know Murray was supposed to meet me at km 40. Where is he? He zooms by, parks and as I pull up to him, the friendly motorist drives by and honks Good Bye. Dodged that one! We intersect Hwy 36, a much busier road at km 46.5 so I pull the plug on my ride. Close enough to 50 for me. A good ride today.

Pelicans Fishing

On our drive back we decide to drive through Hanna, where I lived for a period in the early 1980’s. Just entering the town, we spy a flock of white birds swimming in formation on a large pond. We go investigate and realize they are pelicans swimming in a U shape. The lead birds then paddle inwards to make an O and then all the birds dip their beaks and heads, in unison, into the water to fish. It looks like an exquisite ballet. Another great treat!

Pelicans Fishing

A great few days camping, enjoying the hot weather, spying critters we don’t normally see, checking out the dinosaurs and riding.

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Bugs

Campground cleared out today. By the time we got out of the tent at 7am 1/2 of last nights guests had packed and left. By noon we were the only ones in our end. Seems like Wednesday is the crossover day because tomorrow people will come so they don’t miss out on a spot for the weekend.

Big day for us. We hike all the trails this place has to offer before noon. It is possible to take a car and drive from trailhead to trailhead but we tough it out on foot. The temp is hot and we are in a canyon but it is still an OK walk, maybe 6 km in total. I’m glad it isn’t any farther because I am tagged by the time we get back to camp.

Each trail has it own theme. The topic of the first one we walk is the ecosystem of the river valley. How the predominant tree, the cottonwood, (I think they are poplar trees) takes root and lives on the flood plains near the river. The info boards tell how the vegetation changes the father from the river one gets and explains ‘the badlands’ that are prevalent before the land rises up and levels off into endless prairie.

The signs posted along the second trail tell stories of the expeditions that spent copious amounts of time traversing the Red Deer river valley in search of dinosaur bones. They seemed to be quite successful in their quest.

The final trail is into the badlands. A short trip around and few hummocks and hoo doos. Before we started I thought this would be the most interesting of the three but found it the least informative.

Hot, sweaty, and tired we returned to camp.

An addendum to yesterdays hypothesis’ regarding the comparison between the ocean and the forest. Bugs are a sequel to plankton. They float around in great numbers in aimless patterns, are attracted to light and are consumed by birds, similarly fish live off plankton. The numerous birds here are happy because there are a lot of trees to roost in and there are tons of bugs to live off.

When we travel to far flung places we are always warned of the how many bugs there are in the tropics. How malaria is present 12 months of the year and 24/7. When we arrive there are a few bugs and different bugs, like cockroaches, and we do get a few mosquito bites but there are never as many bugs as we have here in our temperate climate where the winters get cold enough no self respecting bug would survive but come spring and summer you can’t sit in the outdoors without being overwhelmed by persistent flies, or ear buzzing mosquitos. I am sitting right now cursing the little black things that fly right into my eyes. Why eyes???? After they drown and I try to rub them out they break into a hundred bits and it takes two days to get all the parts out.

It is still only mid June but this place sure is peaceful. Except for the bugs I think it is an excellent place to camp. We have done just about all there is to do here so would not come back for the ‘dinosaur experience’ but to spend a couple of chill days it would suit quite well.

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Local Camping Trip

When we can avoid Hwy 2 to get to where we want to go, we do. There are several roads that go south to Dinosaur Provincial Park, our destination for a few days. We have traversed Hwy 21 quite a few times going and coming from Lethbridge so to go to Dinosaur Park we thought Hwy 56 would be something different. As we go south there are recognizable land marks and we both realize we had been this way before. I always remember how straight it is and I draw the driving card for the straight part. There are a couple of bends just south of Stettler then it is dead arrow straight except for one “s” bend 60 km south all the way to Drumheller. 80 km of hwy with no movement of the steering wheel. I remember taking a group of Nova Scotians down this road and they could not believe it. At home, they told us, there is not a straight stretch of more than a kilometre.

Don’t expect to see much wildlife on a daytime trip across the prairies but yesterday we saw 5 deer. They didn’t seem to be in much of a rush to get anywhere. Guess it is not hunting season and humans do not institute much of a threat. They were quite pretty animals. Looked to be eating well. Their fur was shiny and a beautiful tawny colour. Always nice to see animals.

As far south as we were going and we have to head east for 70 or 80 kms. A short stint of 15 kms on Hwy 1 and then onto secondary hwys again. The fields are just turning green and the landscape rolls and dips as we go. Then, in the middle of the field are numerous boxes. Maybe 4 ft high, 10 ft long and 3 ft deep. They are all lined in rows and evenly spaced across the field. Then another field the same, and another, and another. Then a field with some kind of plastic dome structure 6ft in diameter and 5 ft high. All in a line and evenly spaced. We wondered what they were. Speculating UFO installations, deer shelters and really had no idea. I thought we should stop at one of the farm houses and ask. Further down the highway we blew by a shelter with a sign on it that said “Information”. It took a few seconds at 100 km/hr to process but I finally did and since the hwy was not busy I slammed on the brakes, put her into reverse and backed up to the pull off. Seems the folks around here are seriously into Alfalfa Cutter Bees and all those shelters are man made hives. I guess they can use the left over alfalfa for horse feed or beer making or whatever alfalfa is used for.

Arrived at the campground after the office closed last night. There is a self registration kiosk and we knew how to use that but there is a cryptic message about how to find a site and that it may be reserved and there is no way to know and show up at the office at 9am to find out if you have to move. We did. I think it was the only site that was reserved last night that the reservees had not be installed yet we managed to choose it. So this morning we move. Not hard, our tent is self supporting so the move is easy but we get quite a bit of sun mid day, the wind tempers the heat but the sun is still intense.

Moving delayed our ride. We are in Southern Alberta and the wind blows strong. The earlier in the day one can ride the better. 10am start and the flags are drooping. A 1/2 hour in and the wind is pushing us along at a real good clip. A few corners we alternate with the wind and agin her. It really wasn’t that hard to ride into but we sure road fast with the wind. With a little luck our next ride on the trip home will be all down wind.

Here we sit in the shade with poplar snow falling all around us. We note several other types of trees. And the birds, there are a plethora of them and many different types. We have often wondered how we can be so enamoured with the undersea world and there should be just a much to see and observe in the world we inhabit. The trees in some ways mirror the coral and the birds the fish. There are of course a few differences, we can hear the sounds birds make and if fish make noise it is inaudible to us. There are also some similarities. Birds use the fluid of the air to travel and fish use the water. The coloration of fish is what the rainbow has to offer, although some birds can be boring, the sequel to the big silver fish, there are many attractive and colourful varieties as well. Guess I have just gained a slightly better appreciation of ‘birding’, something I have never really understood. Maybe some day soon I will get train-spotting or airplane-spotting two more things that have to be explained to me.

Quiet place this Dinosaur Provincial Park. We have been to many campgrounds with parties at night and getto blasters all day but here we can hear the water in the creek, the birds talking to each other from tree to tree and the wind as it blows through. I think I can remember this type of camping when we were kids raising hell and were probably the noisiest thing in the campground. It is peaceful and it makes one want to do this again.

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Honolulu

The TSA decided to flex its muscles last night and pissed off a plane load of people. All in the name of keeping the USA safe of course. One can’t complain about such actions or we will get ourselves in some sort of hot water and even if innocent will be delayed indefinitely or maybe permanently. Having done the unusual for us and checked bags, we arrive at 1.30am and begin standing around the carousel with a crowd to wait for the bags to appear out of the little holes. We wait, and wait, and wait. One of the attendants with a radio approaches the group and announces the TSA has chosen to randomly check our plane’s bags and it should be shortly that the bags appear. A complete hour after we arrive, the bags start to appear, we’re talking 2:30 am. We are lucky our bags pop up in the first 10 so we can get out reasonably fast in comparison but I am still quite ticked. I will think twice about checking bags next time through the US.

Another day in Honolulu. And this time it is the Memorial Day weekend and the place embodies all that I abhor in a place to travel to. It is not even maxed out on vacationers and the place is way too crowded. We went to have breakfast yesterday and had to bypass the first two establishments we tried because there was a line up too long to wait in. We ended up ordering food at a McD’s computer because there was another line at the tills. The car traffic does not seem to be too bad but we do not have a car to test it out. The foot traffic on the promenade is bad, we have to weave our way in and out of slow folks and try to keep to the edge of the walk so the faster ones can get by. The beach is packed, you actually have to look for a spot to set down a towel. This beach is huge stretching for miles and in spots twenty yards deep. It is relatively expensive, caused by supply and demand of course. They will tell you it is because it is an island, which is partly true, it is an island and they have you captive so they can charge what they want, not the reason they imply that they have to import everything because they seem to get most of the stuff from one island or another. The character of the place is that of any large NA city excepting it does have very nice ocean front exposure. We are only here as stopover in our travels and it is ok for that. Everyone has different reason and wants for places to vacation but it is not some place I would come for my travels.

Today I see a better side of Honolulu. We cross the literal bridge and wander along the ‘locals’ beach. I am quite sure we are the only tourists in among thousands, well maybe a thousand Honoluluites, Honoluluians, maybe?. It’s Memorial Day. On this day every year there is tradition to do with lanterns. The people gather at this beach and build lanterns, they adorn the lanterns with the names of people that have died. Ones they miss I presume. At 6pm these lanterns are lit and sailed out into the ocean. Not sure of the entire ceremony but it has something to do with very large outrigger canoes paddling in formation as they are out practicing early in the afternoon while we watch. There is also a huge temporary stage set for the official proceedings of the evening. Hundreds of folding chairs are set and ready for the folks with the proper credentials and at noon when we walk by people have already staked out their viewing tarp just outside the fenced area.

This is real nice beach. It is long and wide and sandy. The water is calm, protected by a reef quite far from shore. It looks good for a distance swim, I think if one swam the whole length and return it would be at least 4 km.

When the locals show up for a day at the beach they come prepared. With 10′ X 10′ shade tents, beach chairs and mats, tables for a days worth of food, bbq’s, coolers and any other thing we might need for a week long car camping trip. There are hundreds of these encampments lining the edge of the beach and onto the grassy section on the other side of the promenade. Very few people have just a towel and a bottle of sunscreen like we might have when we go on our beach outing.

If we are passing through Honolulu again this is the beach I will head to. I think it would be our private playground on a regular weekday. Might have to share on a weekend thought. Maybe we would get feed by some local family feeling sorry for the unprepared tourists.

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Missed Items from the Solomons

As we sat on board the Dash 8 domestic flight from Munda back to Honiara I noted that all the signage on board was in two different languages. English and Greek. Must mean Solomon Airlines has purchase a used plane from Olympia Air. This is a little disconcerting as Greek things in general which would include the national Greek airlines is not know to be well maintained. So a used aircraft from them would probably not be in the greatest of shape. That coupled with the fact that an airlines from a country such as the Solomon Islands probably does not have the highest standards when it comes to maintains makes for a bit of angst when heading into the sky over open ocean.

The next thing is if I don’t have fish for dinner for the next year it will be too soon. We have eaten fish at least every second meal. I am OK with fish but not as a steady diet. We have often had choices, a vegetarian dish or lamb would be included but fish would the the best alternate. By the last week I was saying to Debbie NO MORE FISH and it would be the only thing on the menu I would eat. A hamburger will be high on the list of first dinners when we arrive home. So, just 2 hours after I wrote this Debbie informs me we are having sushi for dinner tomorrow. Fish again.

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Last Thoughts

Just wanted to bring up how much Debbie has changed over the years. So we sit down at a table to order dinner. Just as we sit Debbie starts brushing the top of her back as if a fly is buzzing around and tickling her. A second later a small gecko runs across her shoulder and down her arm and stops just below the elbow. She just sits and stares at it. Not freaking out at all. She didn’t want to hurt is so she just looked on. I reached over and brushed it away. It landed on the floor and scampered over to the wall and safety.

This is our 5th day at the Rekona Flourish and we have come to quite like it. I would rate this as a locals hotel but there is a good number of tourist guests here. When we first arrived and there was three dead bolts on each door Debbie had some misgivings. The place is spartan but super clean. It is basically exactly what you need and nothing more. We were assured by the lady running the place it was perfectly safe. We are a short walk from the main street and no more that a long walk from most of the attractions. Mavis, the owners’ daughter in law, gave us a ride to and from the beach yesterday for less than 1/2 the cost of a taxi would have been. This is not a 5 star resort but it does not isolate us from the country the way a resort would and I like that better. I would have to say the place would not be for everyone.

There appears to be no ‘new’ clothing stores. They all look to be second hand clothing stores. Everyone is wearing T shirts with odd, or unusual, sayings and logos on them for the islands. So picture this. We North Americans clean out our closets and give bag loads of little worn clothes to an company like Value Village (a for profit company) that sorts through the clothes, puts the high end stuff on the floor in their shops in Edmonton and crates the other stuff off. Someone out there buys all these crates and they end up in places like Honiara in used clothing shops that service the population here. It’s a whole country clothed on the cast offs from North America. That is why we are seeing guys wearing shirts that say “POG Master” and “Harley Father’s Day”.

The garbage here is, how do I say this politely, atrocious. It’s everywhere and most people here do not care enough to find a garbage can. I see a middle aged, well dressed, woman toss a bottle into the long grass. Bonegi Beach, where we were yesterday, has two huge piles of beer cans just off the beach. It saddens me to see this much garbage. There would have to be a major clean up and campaign to change things around here and I am not sure it will ever happen. Honiara will just disappear under the piles of rubbish.

Yesterday, at the beach, we meet a group of university aged fellows from the US. They are traveling on the Golden Bear, a naval academy training ship. Some are learning how to be engineers and work “below deck” in the engine room and some are “top deck” trainees learning how to be Third Mates, in order to eventually climb to Captain. We had a great visit with a couple of the guys and one suggested that if we stopped by the ship, we could get a tour.

So that is what we did this afternoon. A nice young man, named Parrott, toured us through the bridge, student quarters, classrooms, mess hall and then passed us to an engineer student who took us down to the engine room. The quarters ranged from one person one room for the Captain, First Mate and the Instructors to six to a room to 12 to a room for the first year students. Pretty cramped for a two month journey. Overall the ship was well laid out, with every spare corner filled with stores.

The ship’s journey started in California, on to Samoa, the Solomon Islands, then Saipan, Maui and back to California. All the learning and practicing takes place while they are at sea, and then they will pull into a port for shore leave for three days, giving the students at least two days of leave each. The students work shifts and through a rotation learning the necessary naval skills. 

We were impressed with the friendliness of all the students and crew that we met and walked away having enjoyed our tour.

Tomorrow we start our journey home to the prairies. It will take us a few days as we have planned a short stop in Honolulu again. See you on the other side.

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Heading East

East is where home is and home is where we are headed. Still we have a few more days planned as stopovers to break up the long flight.

Honiara is stop one. We only spent a day here on the last foray so we thought we should see a bit more. Arrived yesterday early afternoon as our flight was late. 2 extra hours in an airport terminal no bigger than our house at home. 30+C and no AC or fan. Wandered around town a bit. Very small place and oh so slow. Found some shade at the local market, also slow, and sat for a while on a concrete step. Friendly folks these Solomon Islanders. As soon as we sat, a fellow pulled up beside us and introduced himself. Nice chat but in the end he was on the hunt for buyers of his wares. Still very pleasant, not aggressive like many other countries we have visited and we had a nice talk.

An aside. When we got off the Bilikiki a few days ago there was a guy on the tug boat next to us with a tee shirt. The inscription read “I’m not a gynecologist, but I’ll have a look”.

The security at the remote airports in these counties is quite lax. Not too worried about much. Our bags are slightly over weight. No big deal. No fancy x-ray system, just put the bag on the trolley and load it when the plane arrives. No TSA type security, walk right out the back door onto the tarmac and to the plane. Take what you think you might need. I actually walked right out on the runway, while waiting for the plane, to take a picture of the ‘terminal building’. Asked if I could do so and was greeted with a puzzled look and ‘yea sure’.

As the time for the plane to arrive approaches an ambulance pulls up and parks at the side of the runway. This happened on our flight to Munda as well. It seems the regular Solomon Air flight to the west doubles as an air ambulance. The first passenger on the plane was a fellow on a stretcher. They wheeled him out to the plane stairs, he had to get off the gurney and walk to the back of the plane where they had a stretcher across the back set of seats and he did get to lay down for the trip. Wired up and all. The ambulance passed us on the way into town. Don’t want to get sick out there.

There is one main road in Honiara. It is the only road to cross the city. Everyone has to drive on it in order to get anywhere really. That means it is constantly busy. Bumper to bumper. The road dirt flies and glues to our sweaty body and clothes. We are filthy after walking around downtown. The traffic jams are like our city at rush hour, only all day long. The lady that manages our guest house said it was much worse a few years ago before the Japanese government spent some money and added a large traffic circle to funnel the traffic through a particularly busy intersection. Everyone wants to get a hand in on the resources, China builds this, Australia builds that, New Zealand builds the Munda airport, and soon payback time will come as they rape the country of anything the first world has used up on their own lands.

Yesterday we got caught in the rain. It rains here like many other tropical countrys. It pours for a short while and then stops. B remember Nassau?? The infrastructure is in place for paved roads and concrete sidewalks but they have neglected to allow for the downpours and the streets fill with water. It is warm rain and really it is not that bad to get wet. But if you stand or walk in this kind of rain you will get soaked. We just do as the locals do and stand under the ubiquitous building overhangs until the deluge abates.

We have been to the market a couple of times. It is quite a nice market. Well laid out in long rows and quite orderly. Each vendor has their way of displaying their goods in a way they think will sell them. The first day we were there it was around mid day and we could move about quite freely. Yesterday we arrive at 4pm. Everyone is on their way home to make dinner and we have to bump and grind our way down the aisles looking for bananas for Debbie to snack on for the next few days.

It is +30C here all day long. It might drop to 25C in the night and when it gets that low we are freezing. We have been in this weather for two months and our blood has thinned so much we have lost all sense of cold. A temperature at which we would sweat at home requires extra cover at night. It should make for an interesting summer.

There seems to be an awful lot of “do nothing” here. Tons of people on the street just sitting on railings or standing in the shade. Nobody seems too distraught about it, it is just what you do all day.

All the shop owners are Asian. We have been in many of the shops and in every single one of them the owner is at the till doing cash. We have had a couple of native born Solomon Islanders complain about it but I don’t think the islanders themselves are business people. The Asians move here, see an opportunity and jump on it. Just like the corner store owners that used to be in North America they seem to be able to do well running a shop so that is where they work.

We mentioned the habit before but the more time we spend here the more I am amazed at how many people chew betel nut. The street is coated in the red velvet resulting from the users chewing the nut and lime juice and spitting out the remnants. There are so many chewers. Women, men, a few teenage girls and a few more teenage boys. I am probably over estimating but I think maybe 25% of the people on the street chew.

It must be the ‘cool’ factor because a high percentage of the people smoke. Way more than in North America. Not so many young people this time and maybe more women then men but there sure are a lot of cigarette smokers standing around on the street.

We haven’t traveled to a place such as Honiara in a long time and although it isn’t hard to get about it has served to remind us how different a place can be from the cozy, familiar world we live in.

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Chill Time at the Zipolo Habu

The Zipolo Habu Resort is on an island and as far as I can figure there is nothing else on the island. It is not a small island it is just that there are no other in inhabitants. There is one other guest at the Zipolo so it is pretty slow. We get up, sit on the deck and eat a minimal breakfast the fixing for which we brought from Honiara. We then have to decide whether to move or not. It’s hot by then so it is a big decision. We can read or play computer games, there are kayaks we could jump on and go for a paddle, or we can go for a swim, we can hang at the bar but the action is slow as we are the only guests so we are the action. I’m not real good at doing nothing, and so it turns out, neither is Debbie but we get through day 1 unscathed.

Zipolo Habu

Our bure at the Zipolo Habu

We live with the mozzi’s. There aren’t that many but there are no screens on the abode and the wildlife flows in and out at will. We have a mosquito net over the bed so we don’t get eaten too badly. With the constant breeze there are few bugs. Although the blasted mini ants found their way into our SEALED jar of peanut butter. We don’t need the extra protein so I scrape off a layer of one of the basic needs of life and we now put even screw tightened jars in the fridge.

Sitting in the bar and over the radio comes ‘Four Strong Winds’ sung by Ian Tyson. Hearing a song about Alberta in such and isolated place on the other side of the globe is a bit weird.

There is only one restaurant on the island, the resort restaurant. So, we eat what they have and at the price they ask. We have managed to find something of interest at every meal so far. The prices are expensive but somewhat comparable to the other places we have eaten on the Solomon’s. We aren’t doing much so we share lunch and supper, which is perfect portion sizing.

In the city if you want to visit some place different to eat you jump in the car and drive to the restaurant. Here it seems you jump in your boat and traverse the waters to another island. Both Sunday and Monday, a holiday, people have come from the surrounding islands to spend the afternoon at the Zipolo’s Restaurant (at the bar really).

Zipolo Habu

Our breakfast view

Yesterday we decide that we are not likely to survive 3 entire days of loafing. There is a dive shop that is picking up the other resort guest and we decide we are going diving. We might as well as we have all our gear, the ocean is calling and we may not be back. Dive Munda picks us up at 8.30 and we are off to see what is underwater once more. The diving is worth the cost. The coral is abundant and is in excellent condition. Not sure we have ever seen so much hard coral. The highlight of the dive is seeing 3 different pygmy sea horses on one fan. I actually found one of them and used up a lot of air in my excitement.

Dive Munda seems like a good operation. The two people that run it are for sure people, people. They met our boat mate at the dock as we were loading to come to the Zipolo, gave him the lowdown on the next days agenda and talked to us about possibly joining their outing on the following day.

So we go out for a swim. We are sitting at the bar, it’s hot and we need to cool down. Get in the water I’m pretty sure the water is body temp. Not much of a cooling effect. We have not swum since Southport, so chose a couple of points on the beach and swim a few laps. It feels OK but we don’t swim too far. I get out of water and Debbie goes to swim to the dock floating 20 or so meters from the shore. I’m sitting on the land dock and spot a fin gliding by right where Debbie is about to go. I stand up to have a better look, it’s a shark, a black tip reef shark………Debbie exits the water. We see plenty of them when we are diving and they are not much interested in humans but splashing around on the surface is a different story. We later find out they are ‘pet’ sharks. There are several that frequent the dock in search of fish leftovers from the fishermen cleaning their catch near the dock. Unusual pets but none the less they have yet to attack a resort guest.

Zipolo Habu

May 22

We are the only guests now and it is not a holiday so things are real quiet. It has been a rather slow day. It took a lot of energy just to get down to the beach and go for a swim with the sharks. After lunch we take one of the plastic punts they refer to as kayaks and circumnavigate the island. This is not a sleek boat that is a kayak as we might know it but a short fat open plastic three passenger tug that is somewhat sluggish. Kinda glad the island is no bigger than it is. We are going to hurt tomorrow as is.

Next stop tomorrow, Honiara for a couple of days.

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Bilikiki – Part 2

May 16

The diving here is good, real good but not to our expectations. It is hard to come to a place like this with absolutely no preconceived notions, even though we try. I expected the stuff we see here to be very different from elsewhere we have been. Really it is quite similar. There are some differences, some different fish and different creatures.There is a lot of coral covering whole areas. The density is probably no more than Bonaire.

Solomon Islands

One can never have too many clown fish pictures!

Over all we are happy enough. Have seen several new types of nudi’s, just not the real fancy ones I have seen in the literature. Debbie found a fish today no one had seen before and there are several people on board with 1000+ dives. The two fellows that were really impressed have 5000+ dives each. They had to go to the book to find out what kind of fish it is. It is a yellow spotted scorpion fish.

We dive mostly walls here. A few ‘coral gardens’ where we float along and scour the garden directly below us but mostly we hang over the endless blue depth and kick slowly twisted to the left or the right seeing what is hanging on for dear life, with an occasional glance into the blue to see if some big fish is touring near by. The walls are hard on the body. We have to constantly twist left or right and kick one sided to avoid inadvertently wrecking some coral. Four dives a day for more than a week are taking their toll.

The reefs are in pretty damn good shape. The dive traffic here is very light. So, damage is minimal. The locals fish to eat and a lot of the reefs are owned by the nearby village. Some chiefs have declared no fishing zones at good dive sites and receive compensation from the dive operators. The villagers have to paddle to the next island to eat. OK with us and we didn’t hear any complaints from them.

Solomon Islands

Here money talks. Some of the chiefs are letting loggers take vast amounts of trees off the land and not requiring the loggers to replant. They don’t understand now but will soon be complaining when their village is washed into the ocean on a day when the rain pours down and the mud slides. As with any disaster I guess the rest of the world will pay at that point. The villagers may understand then and the loggers will get away with the money they made and not give two hoots about the village in the ocean.

There is a night dive offered almost every night. There must be 2 divers for it to become a reality. One fellow has done four dives every day and been on both night dives that have happened. One other fellow has done both night dives but taken a dive off in the day doing 4 dive days like the rest us. The other 18 divers call it quits after 4 dives hit the sack at on average 8.30pm and do not show their faces until 6am. I think we are all tired.

May 19

The crew is great. They work their tails off. Up at 4am and to bed around 8pm for some, everyone gets 8 hours downtime and works 16. There are a few times when the guys can chill but when it is time to move they do. They are all quiet and don’t say much but they will talk if we are the instigators. All of them are pretty good with our habits and preferences. Debbie had trouble propping her butt on the gunnel of the boat and reaching her legs over the bench so if she sat at the front of the ‘tinnie’ she could find a spot to back roll without the bench in the way. 90% of the transfers to the dive sites she is in the front seat.

WWII Japanese Seaplane

WWII Japanese Seaplane Mavis

A really good dive trip. Most of the dives are very good, some just good and only a couple of ho hum dives and a few excellent dives. The ones that surprised me most are the wreck dives. Most wreck dives look like boats under water to me, or maybe bits and pieces of stuff scattered across the bottom of the ocean. These WWII wrecks have been under water long enough for loads of things to grow on them and a lot of fish swimming about. The fact they were wrecks was neither here nor there to me but I liked the wild life.

 

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Solomon Island Villagers

During our cruise around the Solomon on Islands on the Bilikiki, we encounter many of the local people. Every time we moor in a quiet bay near an island, villagers paddle out in their hand made canoes to sell pineapples, papaya, bananas, eggplant, callaloo, sweet potato, limes, squash and onion. The villagers are very friendly and always have a “Hello” ready. I wonder what they think of us on the boat, spending time under the water looking at fish.

Solomon Islands

We stop at three villages on separate islands to shop. They gather just for the Bilikiki. The villagers are craftsmen who carve (mostly), weave and paint. All the sellers have set up tables or blankets to show their wares and the rest of the villagers stand back to watch the excitement. The sellers are shy but once we initiate a conversation, they are very happy to chat with us. One fellow tells me he was born in 1949 and has three girls, all in their teenage years. He is worried that his English is not good, but I assure him that it is just fine and he is pleased. We get interrupted by one of our fellow divers wanting to purchase a wooden carving. 

Our next village visit is to Karumolun to enjoy some local singing and dancing. Murray is not feeling well, so I abscond with his camera and join the group boating over to the small island. We are greeted by the chief, who shakes our hands and welcomes us. We are then given flower leis that the children have made and I end up with two, mine and Murray’s. 

Karumolun, Solomon Islands

We take a seat on benches and the men appear in loin cloths, white body paint, shields and spears (decorative only). They sing in their language, with harmonies and bass, and it is mesmerizing. I close my eyes briefly and loose myself in the music.

Next are the women, dressed in cloth dresses with grass skirts over top, some wearing beaded headdresses and necklaces. They are shy and do not make eye contact with the watchers. It is cute watching the children of the women on the sidelines wanting to go to Mom, but knowing that they cannot. They sing and dance as a group with repetitive steps and movements. It is also musical, but for my ears, not as mesmerizing as the men. The dancing involves a thump on the ground with the ball of the foot, which provides the “drumbeat”.

Karumolun, Solomon Islands

The next section is fascinating and I now wish Murray was here to hear. The villagers have made various pan pipe type instruments out of PVC pipe. The largest instrument has about 15 different lengths of pipe all in a row, which would play the lead. There are about 4 instruments that have 4 groups of 3 pipes tied together and all different lengths. These provide the “chords”, and include minor chords. All these instruments are played with cut down flip flops and make a hollow thup sound.

There are 3 fellows playing huge pipe instruments by blowing into them, that are the bass and a fellow playing a skin drum.  

The music they produce is fantastic with a unique sound. The women join in to sing along for a song, allowing the children to join in and dance and sway. 

We wander the village with the chief as our guide. This village is well kept with a central area housing a school and church. The houses surround the area and are built with two buildings, a kitchen and a sleeping house. They are tidy outside with well maintained exteriors. Oli, one of our dive directors, tells me that the chief and his commitment have a lot of say in how a village is run and this village is being run extremely well.

Solomon Islands

 

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