You Can Go Back
Over the following days, Diana and I traded for rough carvings, more out of politeness than need. One day, however, a man paddled out to Roger Henry in a truly elegant canoe, and I told Diana that anyone who could sculpt such a boat with only an adze must also have a sure hand at carving. Sure enough, bright-faced Boniface proved to have real talent, and Diana's lockers now bulge with his beautiful work.
As the days rolled by, we came to feel quite relaxed with the Swallow Islands people. But we were reminded of Father Nathanial's warning when we went for a hike with Douglas' lovely wife, Dorothy, and a boisterous group of naked children. When we were only 20 minutes down the trail, an old man came running out of his thatched hut. He told us that we must immediately return to our boat. It wasn't safe left unattended, he said.
The next morning, the GRIB files we downloaded predicted strong northwesterly wind. I told Diana that these predictions were averages for a wide area and were often wrong. She wasn't convinced. She turned to her own witch doctor, South Pacific weather expert Bob McDavitt. He warned conditions were such that any vessels near the South Pacific convergence zone, where Roger Henry now lay, should exercise great caution in the week to follow. When the latitude and longitude of a cyclone forming to our west were announced, Diana got up and started to take down the sun tarp.
As the Swallow Islands slipped beneath the southern horizon, we agreed that our adventure in Temotu Province had been rushed but rich. We'd each accomplished our focused objective. Diana sought out, found, and reveled in the ancient weaving traditions of the Santa Cruz Islands. I turned over my last stone in the Solomons to find a vibrant people in the Swallow Islands, men dedicated to the sea and anything that floats upon it.
After spending much of last winter in Montana, Alvah and Diana Simon are now back aboard Roger Henry in Alaska.
Solomon Islands Facts:
Location: South Pacific Ocean, southeast of Papua New Guinea, northeast of Australia, northwest of Vanuatu
Time Zone: UTC plus11 hours
Geography: 900 islands, mostly high and forested; several atolls
Population: 560,000-93 percent Melanesian, 4 percent Polynesian, 1.5 percent Micronesian, 1.5 percent Asian and "other"
Language: Officially, English; pidgin is the lingua franca; there are 74 local languages
Currency: SBD (the Solomon Islands dollar); seven SBD equal approximately one USD
Ports of Entry: Honiara, Gizo, Noro, and Yandina
Fees: clearance-50 SBD, lights-100 SBD, quarantine-50 SBD; individual villages may impose anchorage fees
Visa: three months (upon entry) for U.S. citizens; a 90-day extension is available for a fee
Pets: No animals are permitted to land in the Solomons
Climate: Tropical monsoon
Seasons: April-November feature southeast trade winds and the dry season; December-March features cyclones and the wet season
Health: Malaria is endemic, so prophylactic medicine recommended. Apply ample insect repellant, use mosquito screens, and avoid villages near sunset. Tropical ulcers are problematic. Dress all cuts and scrapes, especially from coral, immediately. Tap water is not potable.
Custom: Modest dress is important, especially from the waist down for women. When you're near Seventh Day Adventist villages, avoid swimming, loud music, and other such activities on Saturday; ditto on Sunday when in the vicinity of other Christian denominations.
Attractions: spectacular scuba diving and snorkeling throughout the nation; picturesque villages; exquisite carvings from Morovo Lagoon, New Georgia; the artificial islands of Langa Langa Lagoon, Malaita.
Advisories: At present, there are no U.S. State Department Advisories. Local advisories regarding inland travel on Malaita Island are now in effect.