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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Bilikiki – Part 1

First day full tilt diving on the Bilikiki. Similar routine as other boats. Get up eat, dive, snack, dive, lunch, dive, snack dive, dinner, dive if you want to night dive, do our log books and blog if not, sleep…

Diving is a bit different. There are 20 divers on board. Only one dive master leads each dive. Three ‘tinnie’ boat loads enter the water at intervals. The dive master enters from the first tinnie. Everyone does their own dive more or less. We have to pay attention to the dive briefing or we could head off in the wrong direction and cause a bit of a ruckus. The divers all progress at different speeds so we are spread out all along the reef, there is very little interfering of each others’ dives. Debbie and I are in our own space. We dive the depth we want and the speed we want. The first two dives have a limit on time, 60 minutes. At 59 we head to the blue and one of the tinnies picks us up and ferries us back to the mother ship. Pretty good system so far. The last two dives are as long as we want or our air lasts. We dive 70 minutes and I am coming up with huge air. 70 minutes and I still have ½ a tank????? The dive is shallow but hey I think I finally got this breathing thing down.

We do find a few interesting things, some different fish, a few nudi’s, a gigantic puffer fish and some really small endemic crabs that live in abandoned Christmas Tree holes.

Four dives today and it wasn’t really taxing. All we really have to do is dive, the rest is done for us but there are 9 days to go and I’m sure we’ll be tired.

Solomon Islands

A few days later.

Diverse group on board. A few Americans, a few Germans, an Austrian, an Argentinian, and a couple of Canucks. They are all good people. Debbie and I have 500 dives and again we are on a live a board with 19 others and I think there maybe 3 people have fewer dives than us. A couple of these folks have 5000 plus dives. The ratio of men to women is 12 to 8. Quite an even group compared to what we have been use to. When we started diving, 20 years ago, it was Debbie and all the guys, the last few years it has be Murray and all the ladies.

Almost every dive we do is with current. Not crazy current but strong enough to cause heavy breathing and shorter dives. When we can, we dive with the current and are picked up downstream by the ‘tinnies’. Tinnies are small aluminum dive boats that shuttle us from the mother ship, the Bilikiki, at the start of each dive site and pick us up to bring us home.

Food is pretty good. Not real fancy and but more than edible. Usually on a live a board if the meals are plated, we are served far too much and a lot of it goes to waste. On the Bilikiki it is served buffet style so I can control the intake and hopefully not put on weight.

Solomon Islands

May 14

Intrigue on the Solomon Express. I think it is a set up. A person crying out for attention. My first thoughts were this woman is an airhead but since then I have adjusted that idea to she is just plain stupid. After my last encounter with her I will not even acknowledge her presence. This woman is a novice diver and she cannot or more likely will not follow instructions. After having to sit out a day of diving for 24 hours because she went into deco. She claimed she was never told anything about decompression limits in her Advanced Open Water course. She has been instructed to stay with the diver master. A few minutes into every dive she conveniently looses her buddy and swims off on her own. Yesterday, Debbie and I were swimming in the same direction as her. She was ahead and stopped to take a video of a couple of clown fish. I waited and when Debbie and I were going to move I tapped her and motioned to follow. We swam through a very tight swim through and on the other side she had not followed. I swam back and caught her swimming off father away from the boat, alone. I motioned for her to buddy up and follow me. She scowled at me and swam away. I swam back to join Debbie and was royally pissed. I will not even speak to her now.

The intrigue started this morning, upon going to the ‘charging’ room she discovered the glass on her phone had been smashed. Presumably by accident. No one will admit to it. My cynical nature says it was her fault in an effort to make people feel sorry for her. As of this moment it is still a mystery but I have absolute no compassion for stupid people and she falls into that category. PS As of the end of the trip I do not think there was a resolution beyond the glass on the phone is broken.

I have had diarrhea twice this since we left home in April. Both times in places where the food should be non-toxic. The first time was the day we are leaving the Volivoli, an extremely high-class resort. The food was good but there was definitely something that disagreed with me. I actually didn’t feel that bad. Just stopped eating and went about getting to the next island to dive.

Last night on a long rolly transfer from the Marovo Lagoon to the Russel Island group. I started to feel quite sick. This is an expensive boat set up for gringos with weak stomachs. Three or four people have already been sick and taken a day off of diving and now it is my turn. This time however I am down for the count. It is 5.30pm and I have not been out of bed and eaten absolutely nothing. I am so sick. Don’t think I am about to expire but I am weak and useless. It is a costly time to get ill. Missed an entire day of diving and don’t know if tomorrow is on the agenda or not.

I am fine the next morning and a diving I will go. Other than a bit weak I am fine.

The day after I return Debbie bites the dust. Pretty much the same disease. Others have also fallen prey. Could be the food but it seems more likely this time it is some sort of flu bug. In the end we all survive and are diving by the last day.

Solomon Islands

May 16

Debbie reached dive number 500 yesterday. Good day of diving and worthy of the milestone. There was one dive we did twice. It is a really shallow hard coral garden with tons of fish. Easy diving and hardly used any air. Found quite a few of the small guys we like. Debbie also encountered a couple of sharks on the hunt for a big silver fish. First mister silver came around the corner swimming at speed. He blew by Debbie, two sharks in hot pursuit followed. Debbie saved the poor fellows life. The sharks saw this big black thing making bubbles and retreated right away, leaving big silver to live for a while longer. (Note from the proofer – I now think it was a bumphead grouper.)

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A Shift in Position

There has been a shift in position. When Murray and I first learned to scuba dive, we both used 80 cu ft tanks. Being new divers we used tons of air due to being overweighted, kicking too much and a lack of buoyancy control. Murray used way more air than me, so he swam about 7 to 10 feet above me as he would use less air at a shallower depth. As our dive skills improved, his air consumption decreased and we were a able to dive side by side.

Solomon islands

A few years ago, while diving with the Kona Dive Company, one of the dive masters asked me how much air I was coming up with after a long dive. Of course, I didn’t actually know as I never looked as I knew that I had lots of air left in my tank. After the next dive I mentioned to the fellow that I came up with 1,500 psi (a half tank) so he recommended that I use a 63 cu ft tank. A 63 cu ft tank still has 3,000 psi, same as an 80 cu ft tank, but it has less volume. So each breath uses more volume of air. Since I came up with 1,500 psi with an 80, I should be just fine using a 63. I did a couple of test dives with the small tank and my air consumption matched Murray’s almost perfectly. Sold! I have been using a 63, whenever they are available, since then.

We have come to realize that at depth I use more air than Murray. In the shallows I use less air than Murray. In current I use less air than Murray. On a good dive profile of going deep first and then working our way shallower and shallower, by the time we are finished the dive, we have the same amount of air left in our tanks.

Solomon Islands

When we arrive on the Bilikiki, we are assured they have small tanks. We are told they have small tanks and are 10 litres. We could not make the conversion to cu ft until we hit WIFI land.

Right away we notice that my air consumption is greater than Murray’s and, on some dives, limits our dive time. What is going on? Is the tank actually smaller than a 63 cu ft tank? Are we spending more time at depth where I use more air? Am I still overweighted? Has Murray’s breathing improved enough to cause that difference? What are we going to do about this?

I start to purposely stay a little above Murray when we are at depths below 60 ft. I drop one more pound of weight so I do not put as much air in my BCD at depth. We try not to spend too much time at depths below 60 ft, which suits me fine as I like the shallows better. I think about my breathing. Up until now I have never had to think about my breath, about how much air I take in and what part of my lungs I am breathing out of as I have always had more than enough air available. That is the hard skill to learn, but I practise and practise, and have to take gulps of air every so often.

We manage my air consumption and still enjoy dives that are from 45 minutes to 95 minutes, depending on the currents and depths. It is a good exercise for me and I improve my diving skills.

PS The calculation from a 10 litre tank to cu ft is more complicated than I have patience right now, so I will let you know what I find out once I get home.

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Diving by the Numbers

When we arrive in the Solomon’s, Murray has 13 more dives than me. Yeah, it’s not a competition, but geez, he’s ahead of me! He mostly got ahead doing night dives that I did not want to do and the occasional upset tummy.

There seems to be a bug going around the ship and Murray catches it on day 6. He is down for the day, sleeping in the bunk. I dive, first with S&G, and then with R. It feels odd not diving with Murray but the four dives are relaxing. I am up 4, making the difference 9.

Bump head Grouper

BumpheadGrouper

Day 7 has us diving the same reef twice and I am getting tired, so I decide to pass on the second dive on the reef. Murray dives with R. I am down 1, the difference is 10.

Day 9 has me sequestered in the bunk with the same 24 hour flu bug. Murray dives with R and gains 4 dives on me. I am now down 14! GRRRRRR! I cannot seem to make up lost dives and I keep Loosing ground.

Blacktip Shark

Blacktip Shark

I keep threatening Murray that I am going to go to Kona by myself so I can catch up to him, after all it is NOT a competition!

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Honiara, Solomon Islands

Honiara. Solomon Islands. It’s hot here. Boy, it’s hot! The heat hits me in the face as soon as I step out of the airplane and onto the tarmac. It’s intense.

The drive into town from the airport reminds me of India, or the Andaman Islands. Garbage, standing water, street market stalls, too much traffic, dusty roads. First Impressions, I am not so sure about Honiara and its surroundings. 

Our driver finds our lodgings, the Rekona Flourish Lodge, a guest house by definition. It is simple, plain but has a very nice lady greeting us. I am still not completely sold yet. Maybe I am just too hot.

We shed our travel clothes for shorts and shirts, find our hats, hide our valuables, ask a whole lot of questions and off we go for a quick explore to find Coke, ideas for supper and to scope out the town. We had been warned that Honiara is unsafe, but the Bilikikicruise staff said no worries and the lady here says no worries, so we are not worried. Off we go. We wander down the main street with no issues at all. We definitely stand out with our wide brimmed hats and white skin. I look around and notice right away how the women carry their purses or bags – around their necks or across their bodies with the again front. I quickly change my little pack to across my body hanging in front. Just like a local now!

There is velvety red betel nut juice splattering the sidewalks and pavement with every step we take. Many many men walking by have red mouths. Vendors are not allowed to sell it on the street, so they sit just off the roads, in a hut or stall, plying their trade. I wonder how much the betel nut affects productivity here.

The roads are in poor condition. Gravel and pavement create dust with every passing vehicle. There is road construction between the airport and the center of town. Large crews with half the crew working diligently and half seemingly supervising. It’s the same all around the world, even in Canada. Murray spots a fellow with a small trowel grouting between precast concrete block pieces to lay in the hole in the road.

Murray and I seem to be the only tourists out there. We run into one other white person on our walk. They are probably all hiding in the three or four luxury type hotel complexes afraid to step out of their resort. Right about now, I could go for a dip in the pool that they most likely have.

We have already noticed how friendly the people of the Solomon Islands are. They are rather shy also. Maybe it is because we are forcing them to use their English. We chatted with a guy from PNG (Puapa New Guinea) on the road in front of our lodge. Was impressed we came all the way from Canada and agreed with us it was very hot, as he is from the highlands of PNG. Meeting people such as the folks we have met In Fiji and here are what makes a trip so interesting.

I am now fed and am cooling off. My attitude is changing about Honiara and, although it is rougher than the places we have been to lately, it’s okay in my books.

Tomorrow we have some time to explore the area further and then onto our liveaboard for more luxury.

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Sliding into the Darkness

Tomorrow morning we are boarding a plane for the Solomon Islands. The internet will be sketchy at best. The next day we board the live a board boat and there is NO internet at all. So, those ten days we will not have any communication what-so-ever and the rest of the time it will be intermittent. For family this will mean no news is good news as far as our end. We’ll touch down when we can an will probably post a couple of posts a day when ever we have access.

Ciao for now

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