Saturday, 10 August 2013


We step out of the plane in Honiara to the usual heat and humidity you get so close to the equator and tropics and proceed through ‘customs’.   This consists of us sliding our bags across a wooden table, there are only 2 in the room, whilst a casual looking local in uniform asks us if we have anything we shouldn’t , in our bags!  Of course not sir….!  Haha, the honour system is alive and well in the Solomon’s.     I have organized transport through the hotel and although late, he finally turns up and we head to the hotel.

Now I may have forgotten to mention that Stenty and Lucas have never been out of the country before (what a place to start them off in!) and the look on their faces as we sit in the ‘taxi’ and drive through the small wooden hut villages with fires burning, coconut shells piled high as houses, kids and all manner of animals roaming wildly, rubbish everywhere, and then Honiara itself, is priceless.   

I’ve seen all this before, nothing like the town of Honiara itself though, that is an eye opener even for me!  Even though we are in the pacific, it is very similar to Asia, with basic village living on the outskirts of town,  much like what you would see anywhere in Indo or Thailand once you get way out into the countryside. 

 Now I have done some travelling and gone remote places but Honiara takes the cake for shitholes, sorry to anybody out there who takes offence at this but it really is.  Perhaps I should just call it ‘unique’!    I enjoyed it though mind you, it’s what I travel for now, to see places like that and as I said, the look on my mate’s faces is classic. 

I think the reality is sinking in and they are beginning to wonder if this was a good idea!  They are staring in wonderment out the windows and taking it all in, occasionally giving me the ‘where the fuck have you taken us’ look!   

We arrive at the hotel and it is ok, apparently the second best in town, not real flash for the money it costs but it serves it’s purpose.  The gear is dropped in the tiny room we are all sharing and we venture out into the street to get a real feel for the town.

  Considering we hardly see any other foreigners, we are surprisingly ignored by nearly everybody, usually in places like that people tend to stare or want to chat, but here is business as usual and everyone goes about us as if we weren’t there. 

 Breakfast the next morning provides some laughs, as we are sitting at our table digging into our food, there is a thud as a rat drops from the ceiling, landing right next to our table, then scampers off.  The boys are in stitches and although funny, sadly this is not my first experience with rats in restaurants.

All reports suggest Solomon Air are highly unreliable so I have organized to stay in Honiara for 2 nights (a move we will all later regret) before we head out to the islands and villages and really start the trip. 

I figured it would give the boys’ time to adjust and take it in.  Plus we were supposed to do a boat tour of the Florida Islands for a whole day, to get a better look around and also part of the ‘easing in’ process for the 2 other guys.  

Not to say that I’m immune to a bit of culture shock, Honiara has definitely caught me off guard!   Anyway, the boat that was supposed to take us out on the daytrip (with 4 mercury 250's on the back!) has a busted gearbox and we are now stuck in Honiara with 2 nights to kill.   Where’s the bar….?!

The local brewery makes 2 beers, so not a huge selection, but they are both good.   They are also responsible for the most vile, putrid liquid, passed off as whiskey and cola, I have ever been unfortunate enough to consume.   Now I’m not particularly fussy, as those that know me will attest, I can normally drink anything,  but this stuff was so horrible I couldn’t even finish it.   I came close, but not all.   So you have been warned – stay away from the Solbrew whiskey and cola.   Or try it if you dare?!  

 Solbrew does make 2 flavours of vodka UDL’s though and they are extremely tasty.  In fact after 3 nights (more on that to come) on the Johnny Arrow’s, as they were called,  they inspired the trip anthem,  ‘Johnny,  wont you come on home’.  This becomes a song that makes very regular impromptu karaoke appearances throughout the trip and still gets a laugh to this day.

Those astute readers will have noticed I said 3 nights in Honiara, not 2 as originally planned.  After a couple of days sampling local delicacies (the booze) we struggle with our huge collection of gear back to Honiara airport, amped and ready to begin the real adventure.   Long story short - ‘ sorry sir, that plane leave 3 hours ago’.   WTF?!   ‘no plane until tomorrow’.  

 Hmmmm, not a great start but I was warned about the airline service here and there is nothing to do but wait about an hour for a taxi to drag all our gear back to the hotel and hit the beer and Johnnys’ again until tomorrow.   The boys’ are really starting to doubt me now and I have to resurrect this trip,  I am feeling the pressure to provide a great experience for them as it’s their first time overseas and I have done all the planning.  Things do not improve the next morning….

We go through the motions again and are back at the airport, this time we have made the plane,  but due to the weight of all our gear (and a certain member of our trio), we have a choice to make. Being the most experienced traveller and knowing all the details, I fly ahead alone with all the gear and the 2 boy’s have to wait at Honiara airport for nearly 8 hours until the next plane.   A fate I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.  Our catchphrase later became ‘time spent in Honiara, is time you never get back’!