Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Some Days Travel is Just One Big Adventure

29 October 2013
There are the days when everything goes smoothly, travel is easy, and things just fall into place.

And then, there are the days when nothing seems to go right and the simplest thing takes an extraordinary amount of effort to accomplish.

Somehow, the farther OFF the beaten track, the more difficult those simple tasks are to accomplish.

Take the travel alarm clock.  Simple, efficient, folds up, easy to carry, set the alarm and be independent from wake up calls.  Easy.  Wonderful.  Everyone should have something similar.  Until it needs a new battery.  Then, the search for a new battery becomes a quest, an epic search for the, well, not exactly the Lost Ark or the Holy Grail, but well within that range.

The friendly little store across the street only carries alkaline batteries - they suggested a store in town.  We walked to that store.  They didn't have the battery.  They suggested another store.  And said that if that place didn't have the battery, a third store might - name of Pinoko.  At least, it sounded like Pinoko.  So we walked to the other store they recommended, keeping an eye out for Pinoko.  Nope, no battery.  They said definitely at Pinoko.  And they said Pinoko was near our bank.  We stopped at the bank, took forever due to a teller error which took longer to correct than the original transaction - and continued on our mission to Pinoko.  As we walked, I tried to decipher the name - maybe this was a mispronunciation of Pinochle?  Like the card game?  Or an Italian name with a Solomon Islander pronunciation - could it be Pinocchio?  We kept looking, and walked at least a block past the bank.  Finally asked in a store, a young woman said go back four stores, there it is.  We walked, counting, and there it was - Pinnacle!!!!!  Well of course it was!  My ears just couldn't spell the Solomon pronunciation!  As I said, it was a major quest, and of course we felt as gratified with finding that little battery as Jacques Cousteau felt when he found, well, maybe a giant squid or the Loch Ness monster.


Oh - yes, people here chew betel nuts.  There are bits of red debris all over sidewalks.  People have red-orange lips and teeth from this stuff.  I don't know if there's a natural high, or a buzz, or some caffeine, or what in betel nuts.  But the practice here, explained to me by some people hanging around a market lady who I asked about the betel nuts, is to chew the inside of the nut, take a squeeze of lime, and a little nibble of some herb that looks like a large pea pod.  Sort of the Solomon Islands version of tequila with lime and salt, I guess.

And the kitty family was living under a place we went to for lunch.  I shared my burger with them, since the two mama kitties were so skinny.  Although the dad cat(s?) came out and ate some burger as well.  The mamas were happy with the burger bun and the fries, too.  This is the scene just as we left our table and went inside to pay.  (How could I resist those adorable baby kitties???)  Even Richard was petting them - and he still maintains that he's a dog person.

We're heading out tomorrow for a few days across Iron Bottom Sound, to the Central Province.  We're stopping first at Auki, where the people still use shell money as well as what we think of as money.  Should be interesting to watch the market.  (As long as they aren't using dolphin teeth, it should be interesting.)  Then we'll go to Tulagi, the old capital.  There are a lot of WWII historical sites around Tulagi, so we'll explore some of that as well.

And of course, this is another example where the planning of a simple five-day trip takes waaaaaaaay more time and effort than seems reasonable.  Step 1 - check the tourism booklet for the ferry company name.  Step 2 - check with a few people to be sure this is the right company.  Step 3 - look up the ferry schedule online.  Step 4 - make tentative bookings for two hotels, online.  Step 5 - go to the ferry office and find out that the online schedule is wrong, so you have to go on totally different days.  Step 6 - cancel the hotels.  Step 7 - make new hotel reservations.  Step 8 - buy the ferry tickets.  Step 9 - finally get confirmation that the hotels have space, and take care of the financial transaction online.  Step 10 - get the confirmation that the hotel is paid, and receive the voucher.  Step 11 - download voucher onto flash drive.  Step 12 - take flash drive to office to print the vouchers.  Step 13 - find out the people with the computers attached to the printer have left early, and the one lady who is there has a virus in her computer so you don't want to put your flash drive in.  Step 14 - write down all the relevant info in a book, and also carry the flash drive so I can show the hotels tomorrow that we do indeed have the vouchers, just not on paper.  (Shall I continue?  It goes on like that for a while.  This took three days!!!)

We're still having fun, and are looking forward to getting to the smaller, less developed islands.  Should be interesting to see the more traditional part of the Solomons.  Or, as one friend said, get a more authentic experience.  Plus do some snorkeling and see the wonderful tropical fish around here.  (And I hope to miss the sharks.)

And yes, for you observant art people, this is a traditional Maori marae, or meeting house - the cultural village was used for a Pacific regional arts festival, and some Maori people from New Zealand came to perform, and built this house on site.  This was built last year, but it's a popular hang out spot.  A couple of the people sitting inside explained to me the history of it.  I told them I recognized that it was Maori, and of course they assumed I was from New Zealand - I'm willing to accept that!

Okay - next report from Auki and Tulagi!  (Pronounced "OW-key" and "too-LAH-ghee" with a hard G)



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