Thursday, 29 August 2013


THE END OF THE SOLOMON ISLANDS... FOR NOW...    and THE JOURNEY CONTINUES 


The fishing overall was kind of average by our standards at home,  but it didn’t matter,  we were somewhere new, exciting, remote, exotic,  amazingly beautiful, wild, full of culture and history.  I’m no expert in it, but tried to read a lot before I went and learn a few things from the villagers.  

 There are stories of tribal warfare that still exist in some parts, human sacrifice, cannibalism, strong spiritual beliefs and a connection and dependence on the natural environment, and ocean in particular, for everyday survival. 

We were there to fish for sport, for these guys it was a daily struggle to feed their families and we made sure that we brought enough home every day to feed as much of the village as we could.   It was the least we could do for a group of amazing people that had welcomed us into their home and life so warmly and so accepting of our different ways. 

The days had blended into each other and were spent casting lures at some of the most incredible places any of us have ever visited, with stunning backdrops everywhere and I don’t think I could ever get sick of it.  

We fished, island hopped, snorkelled,  visited small village shops for booze and gasoline, we swam, read books or just chilled out if we weren’t fishing.  We met new friends, bridged cultures, shared stories, drank moonshine, smoked Solomon chop chop, had lobster and oyster pizza’s that were bigger than I’d ever seen a pizza. 

 We dodged and weaved our way through the Solomon’s transport nightmare, met strange characters we still talk about and strengthened our friendship through such a unique experience. We explored islands, hiked through jungles, drank beer in trees, swam in caves, saw crocs, battled sharks and big fish, survived the elements and John’s boat driving, avoided malaria and crossed the length of the Marovo Lagoon in a dinghy!

  All of this with a spring in our step, a smile on our face and a gleam in our eye that all comes about from knowing fun and adventure are always around the next bend.

   We had journeyed to what felt like the ends of the earth with more than a few hiccups along the way and had seen the most incredible sights that still haven’t been surpassed.  I had the most amazing adventure of my then, 31 years on this planet and all in the company of my 2 best mates.  I came away from it a changed man, and I hope the other 2 guys got as much out of it as I did. 


 I could never rest again while there were still places like this, such adventures and experiences to be had in foreign lands and new cultures.  I had travelled plenty before, but never fully immersing myself like this, never gone to such extremes for the even the simplest of things and I loved every single minute of it.

FUCKEN SOLOMON AIR....
BUT WE MAKE IT HOME


A few cold ones later and our plane has arrived, things nearly turn sour here also as apparently, they aren’t going to let us on this flight, but luckily John has hung around with us and gives them a few stern words and somehow we are back on it.  We wish him well and thank him for our time together as we step onto the tiny plane bound for Honiara.   Or so we thought!! 

 They actually fly us north and the journey ends up being quite eventful, we have been told we will need to switch planes somewhere but as usual here, we are really in the dark still.  We have another heart pumping landing on a small island airstrip and get off the plane as we are told ‘ya ya, this your stop’.  

 It isn’t and is only through sheer luck that we manage to get back on the plane in time, as these things don’t waste time and are quickly turned around and taking off again.  Fucking Solomon Air….

One more hair raising landing see us get off at some idyllic little island and we are told we have a 2 hour stop here before our next plane arrives to take us back to Honiara, I  never thought I would actually be so keen to get back to that bloody joint!  I think we are in Gizo and with time to kill we go exploring, with some help from 1 local from our plane who spoke a little English, we catch a local ferry across to the mainland which has a small 'city'.  We figure, what the hell, may as well go find a cold Johnny. 

We do and also a pretty tasty little hamburger, both of which are enjoyed from an upstairs balcony looking out over the ocean, once again things are not so bad.   We actually decide it has been awesome missing the first plane and getting to see more of the Solomon’s and make a pact not to tell Stenty what he missed out on.  We actually stick to it for a while but eventually cave in and tell him what a great time we had that day!

Our mate who had helped us get over here finds us and it is time to head back across on the ferry.  Whilst waiting, we watch a couple of big Trevally smash schools of bait right at the pier where the ferry docks not more than 2 meters from a main road! 

 We make it just in time and once again it appears we are no certainty for this flight, there are way more people here than seats on that plane, but we are pro’s now and just elbow our way to the front and get on. 

 This flight finally takes us back to Honiara and eventually we are back at the same hotel and head up to our room.  Stenty is nowhere to be found, but there are no prizes in this competition, we just look at each other, laugh and say ‘He’ll be at the bar’!! and sure enough…     Aaahh, What the hell,  we’ve all earned one!


One last night ‘that we’ll never get back’ and we are on a plane back to Brisbane where we overnight and the boys have a much longed for steak, there has been no red meat on our trip, though I find I haven’t really missed it.  A couple of whiskey's and a few stories and we call it a night, with thoughts of the journey back to Perth and then up to our home town. 

 It will be hard going back to reality after being so far from it for so long, the dream of living on a tropical island quenched for the moment!



TIME TO LEAVE   AND THE DRAMA CONTINUES...


There is not as much fanfare as when we left Mavo Lodge, nothing really, shows the vast contrast between the 2 experiences, though I don’t in anyway regret our time at Wilderness.  It was just such a different atmosphere as opposed to where we had begun our journey and the reason we loved Mavo so much – our relationships and interaction with the people, not to say we hadn’t made a couple of good friends along the way at WL. 

 Ron was another of the staff members here that had come over on a few nights and was very keen to learn more about us and the outside world, though his English was limited.  He is the young guy I mentioned earlier who wanted to setup a catch and release style lodge, I will watch with keen eyes and be sure post about it, should his dream come to fruition.  I sincerely hope it does.

As with Mavo, we leave the boys, John, Paul and Ron a heap of gifts, diving and fishing gear, rods, lures, clothes and a few other bits and pieces which they are truly stoked with.  As before we also leave a bunch of supplies for the schools and the first aid hut they have set up in the village.  We also all have one last session on the deck, soaking up every last drop of this place and reflect on what a journey we have all shared.  There may or may not have been some more of Pauls home grown chop-chop present!!

The day of our departure arrives and so do the storm clouds, the 2 Austrian ladies and us all share a boat to the airstrip but due to previous rain damaging the Gatokae runway, we have to make the journey all the way back up to Seghe to fly out.   Never rely on your itinerary going to plan around here and always have a plan b and c! 

We get rained on and the journey is not pleasant for the first 45 minutes until we hit the inside of Marovo Lagoon, which is as usual, perfect!  It is actually great to get another trip through it and we take a route we haven’t ventured before and get to experience some more of the magic that abounds in this place. 

We arrive at Seghe, which is also a scenic little spot, with almost a proper ‘town’ I guess you would call it.  Things don’t get any smoother here and the flight home is typically not going to be straight forward!  They can only take 3 of us due to weight issues again and for some reason the Austrian ladies have lost their normally jovial demeanour and pretty much demand that they go first.  This normally wouldn’t be an issue for me in the slightest, but it means we once again have to split up our group. 

Not overly nice of the old dames as us 3 boys could have all gone together and it complicates our already ongoing travel dramas.  I think Stenty is starting to feel the strain of such a big journey that the last few weeks have been and we send him first with the 2 ladies, as Lucas and I get set to wait around for another couple of hours until the next flight. 

  Luckily we are trained professionals at sniffing out cold beer and soon enough we find ourselves sitting on this little wooden jetty over more amazing coral and lagoon, sucking cold beers with a few snacks and watching baby Mangrove Jack swim around the pylons.   Things could be worse!!

Oh, I nearly forgot to mention the near naked and sometimes fully exposed local lunatic that resides at this airfield, quite a unit, and although a little disturbing provided a little comic relief to break up the wait! 



Seghe Airport

Saturday, 24 August 2013


OUR LITTLE OASIS


Us 3 boys also spend a lot of our spare time down at ‘The Buniy..  Bunyi.. tree’?!  However you spell it, it was like our little oasis not too far from camp.   A quick walk along the jungle path overlooking the lagoon brought us to a large tree on the beach that provided a nice patch of shade at any time of the day.  The sandy bottom dropped away deeply only a couple of meters out and you could climb the tree and jump in from a dodgy pallet nailed there or simply off one of the limbs, it was awesome! 

 Then once you were finished, you could rinse off with pure, fresh, drinkable spring water that was pouring out of a rock onto the beach and into the ocean.  We even took a few Johnny’s and beer down there, I’m not sure there is anything that could make it more of a tropical paradise.  Something so simple, but yet another place I would go all the way back for.

We also did a couple of trips to see some shot down aircraft from WW2, something I had forgotten to mention, the battles that took place here and the remnants that still exist.  Nearly the whole island chain is littered with wrecks, planes and other assorted war relics that were either destroyed or merely left behind as the war continued. 

The series ‘The Pacific’ by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg is mainly based on the battles that happened in the remote wilderness of the Solomon Islands, a place that is still tough to survive now, let alone in those days and in the heat of battle.  It is a great series and a good history lesson.  I can’t even begin to imagine what those poor guys had to endure simply to survive against nature, not forgetting the enemy.

Yet another fascinating drawcard and natural wonder of the Solomon’s is Kavachi underwater volcano, some 20 nautical miles southwest of Wilderness Lodge and something we unfortunately missed out on due to the weather conditions.  To save me explaining it, I will post a link to the WL site and the info about the place, surely a phenomenal sight to those lucky enough to make it out there. 


Our time here is nearly at an end, we have all landed some nice fish, plenty of new species that we had either not caught before or not heard of, though it really mattered little about the fish count, this was such a unique, adventurous trip so far, we felt blessed just to be a part of it.  We came for the fishing but left with so much more and the whole experience, the good times, the people, the isolation and the sheer natural wonder of the place is something I will never forget, but hope to be a part of again.


Thursday, 22 August 2013


DANGEROUS DRIVING AND BIG TITTIES

I think it is the arvo session on that same day and the weather still hasn’t improved much, but at least the rain has stopped, I am up for a fish and Stenty, not impressed with the mornings’ effort, decides to have a casual afternoon.  

Can’t blame him, it is seriously the best and only place I have ever found, to just do nothing.  If you can’t relax here, you need help.  It is a great session and we catch heaps of fish, more red bass and some of these we even manage to release! 

The locals are getting spoilt anyway, they are all wondering how on earth we are catching all these Bass, when according to them, it’s not the right time.  We start to wonder if maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to teach John so much, but he only gets to use the gasoline when there are paying customers and he doesn’t have the right gear… until we leave him some at the end of the trip…   hmmm

The trip home is another classic John/Solomon’s tale.  It is now dark and pretty dam rough, we are heading home on some big seas, so big and choppy you can’t see more than 2 meters in front of the boat at any time, shows how well these boats are made.  

There are no lights on our boat and Lucas and I at the same time, obviously we had both been thinking about it for a while, look at each other and say ‘I wonder what would happen if there was another boat out here?’  

You wouldn’t believe it but not 5 seconds after we had said it, this other boat, complete with about 25 people on it and their luggage, goes past maybe 4 meters away!  We crack up laughing and look at John,  ‘you see that one coming John?’.    He replies ‘ya, ya,  no problem!’.  Bullshit!  Haha,  He even admits to it later that he had no idea it was there! 

 I reckon another 20 minutes have gone by since the other boat going past, when Lucas gives me a nudge ‘oi man, check out John’ he says.  I turn around and John is standing there turned around facing backwards, not even looking where we’re going and taking a leak out the back of the boat as we're hurtling along in this rough shit!!  

Unbelievable!  I mean on a flat ocean, during the day, yeah no worries.  But bloody hell, this is some gnarly weather, at night, no boat has any lights and he is still going flat out.  Legend!

He is such a funny bugger and is the inspirations for many a joke and catchphrase we came home with.  Trying to get a straight answer from him was like getting blood from a stone.  His usual answers to everything ; ‘ya’  ‘no’  ‘mmm   maybe’,  ‘not sure’ ,  ‘up to you’ , ‘err  Ya?!’.  It was classic, guess you had to be there. 

 One day he wants to take us for a trip up the river, so we ask him about chasing some Mangrove Jack again.   Me: ‘So John,  can we fish up this river?’   J: ‘err Ya?!’   ‘up to you’.  Me: ‘so we’re fishing there then?’.  J: ‘Ya, Ya’.  Me: ‘are there fish there?’   J: ‘mmm  maybe?!’  ‘Ya, I think so’.  Me: ‘is it good fishing up there?’  J: ‘err Ya?!’  ‘not sure’.   Me: ‘so are we going fishing then?’   J: ‘err  Ya?!’  ‘up to you’.   Me: ‘so are we likely to catch anything?’   J: ‘mmm maybe?!’  ‘not sure’.   Me: ‘so John, what you’re trying to say is, we can fish there but we’re gonna catch fuck all?!’   J:(big laugh and smile) ‘err  YA!’.  


  Unbelievable!  Why didn’t he just say that?!  Still makes us laugh.  With his funny voice and accent every time he would try and say ‘big GT’s’  it would sound like ‘big titties!’.  We would ask him what the plan was for the day, just to hear him say ‘ We’re chasing the big titties!’.  Always made us laugh, I guess when you haven’t had TV or internet for 3 weeks, it’s the little things that keep you amused.

JAKARTA, SNAKE BLOOD AND THE IMMIGRATION OFFICE FIASCO


Just another up to date post, sorry for the confusion but I figured it might be better to keep the story current once in a while until I get caught up, but will be doing full trip reports later.   I have been in Jakarta since Saturday and just relaxing, catching up with friends, some writing and other work and enjoying my first hot water shower for a while.  I am staying in the dodgy, naughty part of town apparently,  as all my Indo friends keep laughing about. 

  They keep asking why on earth I decided to stay in this part of town, I had no idea, just booked through Agoda as usual and this was the best place for the price.   I'd recommend it too, the Magnolia Boutique Hotel,  it's the best room I reckon I've ever had in Indo for the price range, less than $30 a night.  Very nice, large modern room and bathroom, free fast wifi, large fridge, kettle, free tea, coffee, water & noodles. 

They also have a media player hooked up to the large LED TV, with movies on there already  or you can plug in your hard drive.  Location is good also, nearby to the main street, plenty of Indomart, Alfamart, ATM's and food options nearby.
 
 I went for a game of pool on Sunday at a nearby hotel, got quite the shock when I walked in and there were around 100 prostitutes all sitting around in skimpy outfits giving me the eye as I was one of only a few people in there, and the only bule. (white, or foreigner)   Strangely though, i was not approached?!  WTF?!   Anyway, the beer was a bit too pricey for my liking and I bailed after only 1 and headed for Jalan Jaksa (jalan is street) which is pretty much the backpacker hub of Jakarta.  I had been here before, and there is a great pool hall there.

  The accommodation in this street is pretty crappy for the price, though I didn't mind Margot Hotel last time, small rooms but their food is pretty bloody good and cheap and there is free wifi in the restaurant.  Played quite a few games of pool with Randy, a yank who lives and works around the area, he was pretty dam good too and we battled it out for the next couple of hours, with me definitely coming up short on the scoreboard, even after whooping him off the break in the first game.  A few beers later we finished up and I went to meet a friend from last trip,  got some dinner and back to the hotel.
 
Jakarta has just been catching up with friends and computer stuff, with a trip to the immigration office today to extend my visa.  My god what a clusterf**k!  I have never seen such a ridiculous system and still have to go back tomorrow to collect my visa and passport.  Luckily I had an Indonesian friend with me or I possibly would have given up and walked out without her translation skills. 

 We were shuffled around this building from one floor to the next for stupid shit, like getting a bill from one guy on the 4th floor then having to go the cashier on the 2nd floor and back again to the same guy on the 4th with the receipt?!  For fucks sake, put the goddam cashier next to the guy,  its one tiny window, just a small example of the lunacy of the place. 

 Also avoid going there at 12pm, that is lunchtime and unlike everywhere else in the world, the place just comes to a grinding halt for an hour?!  You can't take lunch breaks like normal businesses and keep things moving?! I arrived at 11:51am and by the time we realized we were supposed to be on the 4th floor to start the whole process of being pinballed around the place, it was 12:04.....   Fcuk!
 
Last night we ventured up the street and I had a go at drinking fresh snake blood.  They have a cage full of them and this older lady just sticks her hand in there, wrangles one behind the head and drags it out without being bitten somehow.  It's head is removed in front of me and the blood drained into a cup.  Nothing is wasted though and it is quickly skinned and processed ready to go on the coals as snake satay sticks.  I would have eaten that too, but was already full from a huge feed a little earlier.

  The drink was quite tasty actually and not disgusting at all, I was almost disappointed.  This was all done by torchlight as the whole street was in darkness as a leaking gas pipe had exploded not long before, taking out a few cars and I believe some people were badly burned, let's hope they are ok.  I filmed this whole ritual thinking it was going to be really gross but it was fairly tame and something I would definitely drink again. (unlike the Solbrew whiskey & cola)   enjoy, but for anybody a little squeamish, snakes were harmed in the making....  

That is the snakes liver heart that she cuts with scissors before I drink it
  
 Sorry but I have reduced the video quality greatly to make uploading easier, this was filmed on my GoPro and the original copy was around half a gig...
 
 
 
 
 
 
video
 

CROC WRESTLING AND PAUL'S HOME GROWN CHOP-CHOP

Back on shore at the camp, it’s paradise.  Great food, beautiful surroundings and it’s nice to unwind a bit after the hectic pace of the trip so far.  We quickly fall into Solomon time and it’s quite possibly the most relaxed I have been in my life,  morning sessions out fishing, a few hours break and then an afternoon back out in the boat.  

The whole vibe here though is slightly different and I can only assume they are used to different clientele, who want to be left alone, as there is minimal interaction with the staff except John, but he is not really part of the lodge, just their fishing guide.  It’s a shame as that was what really made our stay at Mavo, the people and the way we were welcomed and integrated into their community.  We find out later that the staff were actually under instruction not to disturb us, but it didn’t take long for us to make a few new friends and get them over to the deck for laughs and drinks. 

Paul was the dive guide/instructor and a massive bloke, also another funny bugger who was really interested in getting to know more about us and the outside world.  They were all tough bastards too over there, Paul and John had broken legs in the past and what do you reckon is the solution when you’re on an island with no medical treatment.   Ah, you just massage it back into place!  Crazy.  

Paul also had a story about having to kill a croc one day, now they don’t get as big as an Australian saltwater croc, but I still wouldn’t mess with them.  Did I forget to mention that they get crocs over there also, we spotted them a couple of times, like there wasn’t enough things waiting to kill you already?!  Paul reckons ‘Crocs are ok, you can wrestle them, but sharks are scarier because they’re faster’!  haha   classic, you couldn’t make this stuff up!  Bear Grylls could take a lesson!

  He also wanted to show off his home grown chop chop, but the little cigarettes rolled in notepad paper turned out to not really be tobacco but some other form of home grown!  Hehe  nice one Paul,  that was certainly a fun night out on the deck with a few beers, Johnny’s and local chop chop! 

Not sure if it was Paul’s chop chop, the local moonshine or just a slightly harder night on the Johnny’s than usual, but I wake up a little rough one morning and look out the front, (it is almost like sleeping outdoors, but with a huge comfortable double bed, the view and ocean are so close).  It is raining and I just can’t be stuffed with an early fishing start in the cold and rain, I tell the boys to go without me, I’m sleeping in! 


 I choose wisely as the morning session produces only a wet ass and a couple of sharks on popper and some pretty disturbing treatment of one, according to Lucas and Stenty, something I’m glad I didn’t witness.  I however, loved my dry warm sleep in, even had time for a massage, does it get any better?! 

It did not look like this that morning....

Tuesday, 20 August 2013



‘Aaaryghh,  Meylboorggyn’,
 THE BLACK HOLE & THE BOOZE RUN


On another day we venture the furthest into the lagoon we have been, and take a packed lunch to have during the day, this also goes into the ‘Solomon’s Esky’.  A great morning of fishing and yes, more spectacular scenery that I’m really not going to try and describe this time, you simply have to see it for yourself, sees us pull ashore on a small island to have lunch. 

 It’s perfect as per usual and after lunch Lucas and Stenty go for a snorkel, it is just far too hot for my lily white skin to handle away from the safety of the tree shade and I give it a miss.  The island we are on is separated from the next one by a fairly narrow channel, maybe 2-300 meters across, but the depth goes from about 1.5 meters down to around 500, then back up again at the next island.  It’s phenomenal! 

 I have a quick walk out to near the drop off for a look before scampering back to the shade, the boys reckon snorkelling out over the edge of it was unbelievably freaky.  One minute you’re snorkelling in shallow water then the ground just disappears into a black hole!  Who knows what’s lurking in there!

We need to do a run for beer and Johnny’s mid way through the trip as this camp just isn’t prepared for 3 Western Australian country boy’s and the thirst we get whilst out fishing, especially in that heat, we wouldn’t normally need to keep our fluids up so much!  This trip in itself is another brilliant day on the water and into the heart of the lagoon, we fish our way towards the booze store and land some great species, before it’s time to head ashore on a small island, as usual it’s paradise. 

  There is an old white guy sitting under the shade of the stilted house, he owns the island, not sure where he was from but he visited about 30 years ago, fell in love with the place and a local girl and hasn’t left.  He has a great supply shop and we stock up on Johnny Arrow, Solbrew and some homemade Rum and Vodka that is sold in plastic bottles, a bit of Solomon moonshine!  Some more Pall Mall Blue’s for Stenty and I, the ONLY type of cigarette you can buy anywhere in the Solomon Islands (well aside from the chop chop!) and John tells us it’s time to make tracks back to camp before they realize what we are up to!! 

But first we have to contend with the village idiot, some local guy who although amusing at first, is now becoming a nuisance, as he is blind drunk and it’s only about 2 in the arvo.  I would go so far as to say he was ‘trashticated’ (yes, that is my word as far as I know, I’m waiting for Oxford to add it to their dictionaries). 

Yes it was funny for a while, but he kept wanting to shake our hands over and over, whilst singing and incoherently rambling some nonsense, and somebody from Australia had obviously taught him ‘Melbourne’ which he used every 2 minutes.   Nothing else, just ‘Aaaryghh,  Meylboorggyn’  or something similar.  He ran (sort of) down to the beach to wave us off and decided he was going to dance on some rocks for us while still singing, this nearly finished him as he almost fell and broke his neck. 


His friends were there to catch him and drag him back to wherever he had originally sprung from!   It really was good value and great entertainment!  Lucas seemed to be getting quite chummy with this loony, not sure if they still keep in touch!  All part of the experience.

Monday, 19 August 2013



AUSTRIAN BABES ARRIVE


The evenings are once again magical - beautiful skies, great food and a ‘couple’ of cold drinks to cap off another day in paradise, I really don’t ever want to go home.  At some point in our stay we are joined by 3 young ladies for a few days if I remember rightly, and also 2 older dames (im guessing at least late 70’s, possibly older) from Austria who are hardcore travellers for their age and actually pretty good fun, with some wild stories to tell. 

Very interesting ladies who had decided that they were getting a little long in the tooth and it was time to start spending their money and seeing the world, we all enjoyed their company and I take my hat off to them, there wasn’t anything they weren’t willing to have a crack at.  2 other young guys also arrive at some point to fish, but aside from meal times, we barely see the other people at the lodge. 

As we sit on the front deck gorging on proper 3 or 4 course meals, you can hear and see the coconuts dropping around us, it’s no wonder they reckon those things are dangerous.  They really fall with some force, if one of those fell on your head, you’d probably be a goner, or end up taking people on your ‘special tour’ of the Ramata airstrip!  We were on edge every time we walked near a coconut tree after that. 

Aside from the fishing really turning on, just being in the Marovo Lagoon is an experience of a lifetime, it really is nature at it’s finest work.  There are countless islands dotted throughout, some tiny, some large, all beautiful.  Coral reefs, sandy bays, jungle and palm trees, little villages, locals in canoes and some of the clearest water I’ve seen. 


Just writing about it now has me planning a return voyage!  As I said to Lucas and Stenty ‘take it all in’, we are very privileged to have seen it, especially when we did, as who knows what the future holds here.  Heaven forbid it becomes the new Bali or Phuket’.  As said previously, my words really can’t do justice to the magical beauty of this place, so I will leave it at that.








Sunday, 18 August 2013



CAPTAIN JOHN  & THE FISHING AT WILDERNESS LODGE BEGINS!   


After a great night’s sleep with fan ALL NIGHT and a huge comfy bed, it’s time for our first fishing trip at Wilderness, but the weather has turned a little nasty and there is a very large swell rolling through which apparently is unusual (maybe my bad juju is back?!) and pretty much hangs around most of our stay. 

 This island is at the bottom of the Western Province and is exposed to open ocean outside of the lagoon, but there are 2 smaller islands not far offshore that provide some shelter and we fish around those for the first day casting big poppers in search of some Giant Trevally. 

There is not much action on the first day, and the rough seas are making it hard to get into the places we need to be, but as usual the scenery is awesome, with some towering cliffs here that we hadn’t really seen at the northern end, and just being out there is enough.

Now it’s only our first day and John not only has us in stitches with his casual attitude and sense of humour, he also scares the crap out of us and makes us question his skippering abilities.  We are trolling around one of the islands and are quite close in when we suddenly find ourselves heading straight for land and a nasty looking reef ledge.  We figure it’s all part of his strategy and let it slide but we are all warily looking at each other. 

We can take it no more and all yell ‘JOHN’ simultaneously and he seems to jolt awake, looks up from his daydream and steers us out of disaster with a millisecond to spare, literally a foot away from hitting the reef.  He gives us this funny little grin, which barely leaves his face the whole time we fish with him and says in his uniquely squeaky voice ‘aaah,  it’s ok.  No problem’!  

 We’re all just thinking ‘fuck, this ocean is gnarly enough as it is, without some amateur, suicidal skipper at the helm’!  The next couple of days are basically the same, we cover similar areas with not much success, all keeping a watchful eye on John as he steers us right into some nasty surf for us to throw lures on the back of, one wrong move here and we’re all dead. 

We finally get a chance to venture further up into the lagoon to throw lures and we are not disappointed, John is fairly new to it all and we spend most of the week teaching our ‘guide’, it’s all good fun though. 

 We quickly start nailing some of the species we came for and the fishing and locations are as awesome as we had hoped.  Some of the places we fished, we were the first people to ever throw a popper at, which is rare these days and a great position to find yourself in as a fisherman. 


We all started getting into some big red bass, a real trophy fish and a hard fighter, especially when you’re hooking them right on the reef edges then trying to wrestle them away from disaster. 

 It is a real visual, exciting style of fishing if you have never tried it, your lure splashing across the surface while you watch on in anticipation, hardly daring to breathe, then ‘BOOF’ a big explosion of water, your lure is gone, the rod is bent over and the fight is on.  Nothing beats it.
Captain John

 
 
RAMADAN, IDUL FITRI, FIREWORKS AND BEER
 
Just an up to date report,  currently in Jakarta, arrived yesterday after some very cool road trips on the scooter around Malang and then Yogyakarta.  Will add these reports later.   In the meantime, here is some footage of us celebrating the end of Ramadan and Idul Fitri in Malang, with beer and fireworks obviously!  No worries about doing it right next to one of the main streets'.  We would get arrested for this back home, gotta love Asia!
 
 
  video
 
 
 
This was taken out the front of Roellies Guest House, not a bad place to stay, just outside the centre of town. I had to move there for one night as my other place, just around the corner was booked out on my last night in town.  By far your best option and a place I really loved and will stay again if i'm back that way is Armyn Guest House/Hotel. 
 
It is located on Jl Telemoyo and was a fantastic place with great staff, free breakfast, fast wifi and hot and cold drinking water available.   Nice location and the staff really were amazing, all for under $25 a night.  Plenty of local food and shops nearby, and the angkots pick up just near here.
 
Local angkot ...or sardine tin   cost about 2-3000 rupiah to get halfway across town, 30 cents.
my record stands at 15 people in the back of one of these!
 
 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, 17 August 2013

WILDERNESS LODGE, GATOKAE ISLAND

We finally make it to Wilderness Lodge and one guy is very confused at why this boat is pulling up on their private jetty.  There is a deep circular lagoon fringed all the way round with beautiful coral and you have to take the boat through a little gap in the reef.  The lodge itself looks perfect nestled in amongst the palm trees and right on the water, this place is much more upmarket and somewhere you could take your girlfriend. 

A big contrast to Mavo, which although beautiful and still my favourite, was a lot simpler.   It is all very confusing for a while as there doesn’t appear to be anybody here either.  Oh crap, here we go again!  We try to find somebody who knows what’s going on and I stumble across the Aussie owner/husband of owner? (although for legal reasons I’m guessing, he claims no part or knowledge in any of it ) who has just come in from diving and he is of no help whatsoever.  ‘Nothing to do with me mate, my wife runs it’…..  

We’re wandering around trying to work out what the hell is going on in a strange country, on a remote island and this guy won’t give us the time of day?! Did not help AT ALL?!  What bullshit!  Get your head out of your ass man, you want to live in paradise, on granted money from what we gathered, then at least be of some assistance, especially to your fellow Australians.  Offered no help whatsoever and I couldn’t care less if he reads this, you’re an absolute tool mate. 

 Glad we only had a few encounters with this guy during our stay.  Get’s better though, has paying customers coming to the place to catch GT’s and many other species, and they’re out there spearing them and killing billfish?!  But this shouldn’t reflect badly on the rest of the place and I would recommend Wilderness Lodge to anyone who dreams of a tropical island escape without roughing it.  Just another slice of paradise in the Solomon Islands.

 We finally talk to somebody who will help, they are not ready for us obviously as we are 4 days early, but they offer us a delicious, refreshing, cold, fresh fruit juice, just what we need after the trip getting here, and we wait around some more while our room is prepared.  They even bring out an awesome seafood pasta for lunch and it is well received as it is delicious and we are starving.

   We finally get a look at our room, one of the 2 ‘deluxe’ ones they have there, it would be quite romantic if not for the 2 other feral, hairy blokes I have to share it with.  We all get a double bed, the room has its own bathroom and 2 outdoor showers, one attached to a tree out the front and another beautifully crafted from stone out the back.  We have this amazing deck that extends over the clear water and coral and I can tell there will be much Solbrew and Johnny Arrow consumed out here!  The trip is saved again and things are looking up!

It is late afternoon and we just relax, the three of us are actually reading a lot on this trip and it’s a nice change, I usually find it hard to just relax and sit still, but the Solomon’s have a way of allowing it with ease.  Dinner time rolls around and as with Mavo, the food here is also fresh, healthy, abundant and delicious.  We also get to meet our skipper for the next 10 days, John, who turns out to be a real character and great fun. 


 This guy really knows the meaning of relaxed, not sure I’ve ever met a bloke so casual about everything.  We discuss our plans and targets and set a ‘schedule’ for the next day.  There is another guy staying at Wilderness already, an Australian living abroad in Singapore..  Hong Kong?  I can’t remember, but his name is Rob, over here to do some diving and a really great bloke, we find ourselves sitting up late into the evening with a few beers talking about travelling. 



The lagoon from G Earth, you can see the jetty that extends from the main hut, across beautiful coral and giant clam garden out into the deep drop off

The 2 outer islands that we fish around a few times over the trip

The jetty and main hut where we eat (also has the cold beer)



The 'honeymoon' suites, and our deck,  ours is on the left




The front deck


Not a bad view to wake up to,  it wasn't all roughing it!


Looking back in from the deck and our piss drinking table out front!