Slices of Paradise
Several weeks ago now (I’ve been a bit slow on the updates…), we had Chae’s parents come and visit.
Life has been a little chaotic since just after they left so I will attempt to remember as best as I can the magical time that we had with them on board.
We met them at Honiara, at the Yacht Club, which one can only describe as desperately lacking in facilities for a Yacht Club, however they did provide a relatively clean and safe haven for us while we were there.
There were tears and hugs as they arrived, we had not seen them since May and were delighted to have them with us.
The timing was perfect, as at the same time of their arrival, our duty-free booze arrived too! Both events, obviously creating much happiness!
Chris helped me ferry the cartons back to the boat while Madhurii and the kids sat in the cool breeze and spent some time catching up.
We had dinner at the restaurant beside the Yacht Club, which made surprisingly great food, and headed back to the boat, to get a good night’s rest before an early start the next morning. We wanted out of Honiara as soon as possible and had a lot to explore before their time would be up.
Bright and early we up anchored and headed North to the Russel Islands. We found a stunner of a spot to hang out at for a few hours, anchoring in a shallow area just off a pristine island. Swims and snorkeling were had by all, apart from little Noah, with the staples in his head fresh from the day before, he was out of the water for a week.
Him and I walked the length of the beach, shell searching and exploring the tiny island while the others lay like whales in the warm, shallow water behind a little crest of spit. It was paradise.
The Russel Islands are notoriously deep anchorages so we struggled to find somewhere to spend the night, eventually settling on a rather deep, (28m is pretty deep for us) spot off a small island with a village poking out between the trees.
We were welcomed into the bay with many whoops and hollering from the locals on the shore and within moments we had canoes out to visit us. The people were kind and welcoming and friendly, inviting us ashore to meet the rest of the extended family living there and have a tour of their island village.
We did just that and enjoyed meeting with the one huge extended family that lived there, along with a good walk around the whole island being shown their life.
As the mosquitos started to come out in the approaching dusk, we made our way back to the safety of the boat, where they don’t seem to make it out to.
We spent a lovely and very calm and settled evening here, with several canoes of young girls coming out to visit. Emelia got one of our kayaks down and the lot of them ended up having races around and under Waterhorse, the local girls loved that they had someone to play with and Emelia enjoyed having some girls her own age to play with for a change.
Chae and I were up at 2am, pulling anchor and heading out of the island group, to start the long day passage to Morovo Lagoon. This is in the Western Province of the Solomon Islands and is the largest double barrier reef in the world. We had read so much of the place and wanted to spend as much time as we could here.
The trip was rainy and uncomfortable. We had an annoying swell, and there was no wind so it was motoring the entire way. We had a zephyr or two here and there where we put up the genoa, but in general the day passed slowly. Movies were watched and Madhurii spent most of the day in bed, unfortunately feeling unwell from the motion of the boat.
We did have a patch of excitement toward the end of the trip, a giant work up of Yellow Fin. In the pouring rain, we followed it around and drove through it, getting 2 hooked up again at the same time. Chris jumped on one line and I was on the other.
Chris landed his and I had mine at the boat, when the line snapped. We think it dived so deep at the last minute and must have gone under the boat and the line would have touched the keel, causing it to break. Pretty gutted as it was a huge fish and had given a giant battle.
Luckily, we had Chris’s one on board!
We entered the lagoon through the Mbili pass, a clear and open passage, going from irritating swell to calm water over a distance of less than 100m is always deeply satisfying. Especially if it has been a long day of it.
Anchoring was a delight in the calm milky blue water. The rain had stopped, the sunset was making itself seen and we were sitting down with a wee sundowner, ready for our tuna dinner!
We spent 2 days in this magical spot. Swimming, snorkeling and cleaning the bottom of the boat, that had 2 inches of growth in some places! Poor Noah was still not swimming and getting hot and irritated in the 30 degrees days. Since then, we have found out there are crocs here at this anchorage, so we were all very lucky to not come face to face (or arm to mouth with one!)
We went to a carving show at the local Dive Lodge and were blown away by the talent and skill of the men who were displaying their works.
Morovo Lagoon is well known for its skilled carvers and there was everything on show. Bowls, plates, ornamental animals, traditional war head figurines, manta rays, crocodiles, sharks…. the list goes on. It was stunning work and it was had to make a choice on what we wanted – and could fit on the boat!
We settled on a few pieces for Chris and Madhurii take home, we would meet more carvers we were sure and so waited for our time to purchase another day.
From our Mbili anchorage we headed back out of the reef and through another pas further up the lagoon, where we found what was to be our favourite spot of the whole lagoon. A wide-open bay, crystal clear with a consistent depth of around 5 m. It was a dream.
The water was delightful, the beach at the head of the bay was lovely, the snorkeling around the edges of the bay and on the few large bombies was beautiful and we could have stayed forever.
I paddle boarded around the edge of the bay on the next morning, amazed at the wonder below me, clear as glass through the millpond water. Watching fish and turtles dart about as the shadow of my board slowly passed over them. I saw a school of bait fish that was the size of a netball court, just sitting there, barley moving as I paddled through the middle of them. I could see nemo and his family darting in and out of the anemones and many other colorful reef creatures going about their daily business. Birds were calling from the lush jungle clad edges, tropical calls, echoing across the still water, while I watched them come alive in the morning light and swoop off to find their breakfasts.
We spent the day exploring the beach and snorkeling a reef just outside the bay. We did bombs and backflips off the boat, we ate, drank and were merry in our own private paradise.
Noah was finally allowed back in the water as his head had scabbed over and he celebrated with a back flip off the side of the boat!
After several days here we decided to explore some more, we had read about Uepi Passage and the amazing snorkeling and diving there so off we went again.
The pass was wide and clear and it took us into another world of blues, the different shading of the lagoon depending on the depth and bottom make up made for a stunning sight.
We picked our way carefully over the shallow patches, with Chris and I taking turns to jump in ahead of the boat to get an idea of depth and if forward passage was possible.
Eventually we settled on a spot, kind of in the middle of nowhere but with the exploding nature and beauty all around us. There were sandy beaches sparkling at us, and giant bombies waiting to be explored. We had been told there was the potential of crocodiles here so we swam with a lookout!
We spent several hours at one of the delightful little beaches, exploring the underwater world, giant bombies like fish tanks rose up from the shallow bottom, and held an incredible amount of marine life and creatures.
Here is also where I managed to make bread properly! I have been making bread on and off when we can’t buy it, but this is the first time that it was AMAZING! And if you have had to make your own bread before, you know what a feat this is!
It was soft and fluffy, and we ripped into it for lunch, warm bread out of the oven slathered with butter and jam! It was delicious!
The next day we moved to the other side of Uepi Passage, closer to the pass. Again, it was picking through the reef and going slowly to make sure the shapes and shadows were not going to eat our hulls!
Once anchored, in another stunner of a spot we headed to the pass to drift snorkel down. It was THE best marine life we have seen. All of us were completely blown away by the plethora of fish and coral that we were so lucky to see.
We ended up doing the drift several more times over the following days, seeing more and more critters and fish each time, fully appreciating the Solomon Islands pristine marine life! It is a dream.
We swam with sharks at the Welcome Jetty of the Eco Resort there. We couldn’t get the kids away from them, they were fascinated! Libby and Noah in particular!
After several days in the paradise that was Uepi, we decided to move on toward Munda. Chris and Madhurii were flying out in a few days from Munda airport and so we started the passage out of Morovo.
A night sail took us almost to Munda, we ended up stopping around midnight in a big open bay as there were large and powerful squalls and we were tired.
After an early morning visit from a drunk local guy, who soured our feeling on the bay, we un anchored and headed the last few hours to Munda. We have been so lucky in this country as of yet, everyone we have met have been more than friendly and welcoming, so it was a bit of a surprise to have this interaction, I guess there is always one village idiot ruining it for the rest, no matter where you are in the world!
We stopped at another deserted island, for swims and beach exploring. There are so many little spots like this dotted around the Western Province, waiting for us to explore them!
On arriving at Munda, we were delighted to find the Agnes Gateway Hotel, who serve delicious food on their large breezy deck! We headed in for lunch and had a lovely time, and meal. There is a small market next to the hotel so we re stocked with fruit and veggies and enjoyed the peace and calm of the protected inner lagoon.
As a last adventure, we headed over to another island called Lola Island, where there is a beautiful resort called Zipolo Habu. It is a tricky wee path to get in there, weaving through reefs and islands, with bombies ready to leap out and eat your keels at any mis turn or lack of concentration!
Here we went in and watched a bunch of black tip reef sharks being fed off the fish filleting station, coming right up in close to the kids and taking what was thrown to them. It was fascinating and incredible to watch.
We met a bunch of Ex Pats from NZ, including the NZ High Commissioner, which would turn out to be a most useful accidental meeting over the next few weeks. We jokingly said that now we knew him we would give him a call if we needed anything, well didn’t that just turn out to be the case, with Chae’s dad loosing his passport and then my accident…!
We had a stunning walk around their island through a bush track the next morning, and then up anchored to head back to Munda.
Chris and Madhurii’s plane was leaving first thing in the morning. We spent our last night together in Munda, reminiscing about all the wonderful things we had experienced and enjoying being together as a family, loving each other’s company and sharing a meal and drinks together for the last time until we don’t know when.
Things turned a little interesting in the morning as we were about to leave to go to the airport, with Chris realizing that his passport was nowhere to be found. Probably back in Honiara somewhere and with who knows by now…calls were made to try and urgently track it down, which came up with nothing.
We called our new High Commissioner friend, who said the only option was to head to Honiara and have a new one printed.
They left on the plane together from Munda, with Madhurii flying home to NZ that day, which Chris had to wait out the time until the passport was printed in NZ and sent over (the printer in Honiara was broken…) in a hotel in Honiara. We wonder if he secretly enjoyed the extra time, wandering to the market there daily for bananas and mangos, and reading, meeting the other yachties at the Yacht Club…!
It had been a wonderful, adventure packed, hot, sunny, family time together. It filled the cup again of family love and we were all sad to see them get on the plane and fly away, not knowing when they will be back to visit…