Marovo Lagoon

Alex Rust

26 October 2010 | Solomon Islands, Western Province

Most of the time spent in Honiara was business – repairing the boat, aquiring visas for Papua New Guinea, provisioning for more time at sea, and stocking up on trading goods. However there was time for fun and one night Isaac decided it was time for a face tattoo – Solomon island style. You see there arent any tattoo parlors in the Solomons, at least not what we consider by Western standards so we made Bubbles one. We brought in a local tattoo artist, some ink, a needle from a cd player, a hair clip, some wire, 5 D size batteries taped together and plenty of rum. We had visitors from other boats over throughout the night to witness the spectacle and by sunrise Isaac was letting out his best Solomon Islands war cry with his new face tattoo that covered both sides of his facade from temple to chin.

The tatooing was the grand finale for Isaac so we said our goodbyes and sailed away the next night. A few hours out I was on the bow staring up at the stars when I heard a familiar splash close by. With no moon and cloud cover it was so dark I couldnt see what made the splash but the bioluminescence was so bright I recognized immediately the zig zag side by side tracks that surrounded the bow – dolphins! I stood in awe at the trail of glowing embers they left in their wake with an occasional jump out of th water to let me know they were there and having a blast.

The night was calm except for two lightning squalls that each provided only a half hour of clocking wind each. We motored most of the way to the Russell Islands and the morning sunrise revealed a sea of glass. We stopped at boomerang shaped reef island. There was no shallow water to anchor in but the island was so remote and water so clear we had to have a look.. We finally found a shelf of 50 feet but right next to the reef. We had to take turns with one snorkeling the reef while the other keeping the boat off of it. Visibility must have been 100 feet and we saw colorful reef, huge schools of fish and even a couple sharks but because there was no good place to stay hooked for the night we continued on after a few hours of snorkeling.

The next morning brought us to outskirts of the famous Marovo Lagoon and we cleared the Kokoana passage just after daybreak. Once inside we dodged coral head after coral head (all uncharted) and finally reached Talina island where we were greeted by many a dug out canoe with some of the best wood carvings I have ever seen most of it made of ebony. We traded some tools and glue for two wooden war Mossi miosis and some fresh eggs.

We made our way to shore and had coffee with Hans an older Swiss man who decided many years ago to take up the simple life leaving the frills of western society behind. He had married a local women and has many children with a porch overlooking the lagoon that rivals any view a man could want. We also met a man named John Wayne who is one of the best wood carvers around. His son Wino took us around showing us his great grand father’s skull, which was in a coral box in the jungle, who was the last great headhunter of the area and first to convert the ‘heathens’ to christitanity.

The next day we went hiking through the bush up the highest point on the island and with us came two natives as guides. After passing the many gardens we got into the thicket and after about an hour were using machetes to blaze our own trail. We came across an old stone wall now covered in vines and barely visible amongst the jungle that had consumed it and we were told this is where an old village was only 100 years ago when the headhunters would take war canoes from island to island chopping off as many peoples heads as possible. Now everyone lives conveniently along the coast but for hundreds of years this was dangerous and so the natives lived deep in the bush to conceal there location of habitat. On two occasions we came across pythons and once while crossing a stream we stepped over a four foot eel as thick as my arm. What an eel that breeds in the ocean was doing 1000 feet above sea level deep in the bush still confuses me but I guess if the salmon in Alaska can do it why cant eels in the Solomons.

As we continued up, the trail we were making got steeper and steeper and we found ourselves using vines to swing around huge banyon trees that obstructed our path up the ridge we were following. I was so out of breath and the flora so thick that more than once I found myself nearly choking on the jungle and had to cough up leaves I had inhaled while trying to suck in air. After a while with the two native guides arguing a bit we were told that this was a way they had never taken before and might require some risky climbing ahead. We surged forward and within a few minutes came to a 50 foot vertical with a tree root system conveniently growing down the side of the rock face. Any slip or breakage of tree root would mean several hundred foot tumble. I had a flashback of watching my good friend Ross freefall through the air on a climb we did in the Marqueses where he was able to catch himself with one hand onto a tree that stuck out. Here there was nothing sticking out and my spiderman skills arent as in tune as his and so my grip was so tight I could see my fingers go white. We made it to the top and after climbing the lone tree to see over the foliage we were rewarded for our climbing with a view of the spectacular lagoon that surrounded the island speckled with islets and reefs creating several glowing shades of blues and greens. We sat in silence taking in the amazing view.

After a clean off session under a waterfall on the way down and back in the dingy on the way back to the boat we noticed a couple trees shaking on the adjacent island and decided to go investigate. As we approached we could hear shrieking and soon discovered the trees where full of pikininis – solomon islander kids. I immediately dove in and worked my way up the trees that hung over the water while a dozen flips were performed into the water just over my head. I did one myself and decided we must show the pikinis how we do flips off the boat. We invited all aboard and with the invitation brought on more noise and excitement than a fourth quarter touchdown (Later that evening we had several boats from different islands stop and ask about the commotion). We counted 23 aboard the dingy (a new record!) and letting them take turns driving we worked our way back to Bubbles where we brought them aboard for more flips and dives that lasted for a couple hours. The laughing and smiling was sky high and so intense the next day I was sore from it.

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