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.