1 November 2013
We did our usual morning routine of brekkie at the Bamboo Café, including a little time with the tiny kitten. Then off to the market to buy some items for the boat trip to Tulagi. (#2 on the map posted two days ago)
We waited on the dock at
Auki, as boats were unloaded and cargo re-loaded onto trucks. Right on
the dock. And various dugout canoes paddled by, the rowers travelling
home from market, with various plastic bags and goods in the canoe.
we boarded our vessel, the Discovery 360, and settled in. And waited
while people got on, loaded their luggage, and then the front deck was
loaded with huge bags of coconuts and huge bundles of pineapples.
And then we left. The open
water crossing from Malaita to the channel between the Florida Islands
of the Central Province was a bit rougher today, with some strong
swells. We kept getting pushed a bit west and the captain had to keep
correcting our course, so we zigzagged our way across I don't know how
many miles of open ocean. As soon as we entered the channel between
islands, we headed to one of the small cement wharfs.
Richard went out to stretch
and smoke, and came back in with bad news. This was an unplanned stop.
Apparently one of the twin engines had conked out, and they were trying
to fix it. If it couldn't be repaired, we'd just head on our way, but
at a slower pace.
Of course, the engine could not be fixed.
So we limped our way along, single engine puttering, and going way behind schedule.
I spent some time up front with
the pineapples (which smell wonderful en masse like that) and talked to a
lady who was sitting on the coconuts (which had to be uncomfortable).
And spotted a small pod of dolphins swimming along, on their way home as
the sun was beginning to set.
Then a young lady who works on
the boat came and told us that they wouldn't be stopping at the wharf,
but would put us on a small boat and we'd go to Tulagi that way. So we
gathered our luggage (two backpacks, a beach bag, and a computer case)
and went to the rear section of the boat. Stood around waiting for the
tender to come in.
As it approached, we saw that this was the official police boat for the island! Just a little whaler with an outboard, full of people who were coming to board the ferry. And of course, there weren't any steps. The poor women were a bit freaked out, trying to balance on the edge of the police boat while keeping their skirts down as they stepped about 3 ft up onto the edge of the ferry. Children and luggage were just handed up. People gathered their items and went into the seating area.
Then it was our turn. We were the ONLY TWO who were going in to Tulagi. We handed over our stuff. I was shown how to walk along the outer edge of the ferry, holding on to the railing, and managed to sit down on the outer edge (explaining that I have an old knee injury so my knee doesn't bend as well as it should) - and the two men on the police boat helped me as I kind of dropped into the boat. Oh my.
Richard could reach the boat, he has longer legs, but we were bouncing
and bobbing and he wasn't much more graceful than I was. But at least
neither of us fell overboard, or even into the boat, so we were
perfectly happy with our entrance.
And we were off. Making our
grand entrance into Tulagi, waving goodbye to the crew of the ferry boat
and yelling thank you for the help, waving at passengers who were
watching this unexpected excitement. At the Tulagi end, we met
passengers waiting to board the police boat to go out to the ferry, and
some nice young men helped me climb out of our boat, through another
boat, and up a breakwater of rocks onto the sand. (Sometimes it helps
to look like a middle-aged woman, since I really needed two hands
helping me through this disembarking procedure!!! Walking through two
bobbing boats is hard enough - but after five hours on the ferry, my
ears had me internally riding the open seas in a totally different
rhythm of waves and swells, and my balance was essentially
The breakwater was right outside
our hotel, and the owner met us and brought us inside. We had some
welcome fruit and lemonade, and eventually settled into our room.
During dinner out on the patio, we met a nice young man from Seattle,
who works with an NGO (non-government organization - took me a bit to
get that) non-profit - they are building a school at Blue Beach, one of
the big WWII battlegrounds here in the Florida Islands. This project is
funded by the Marine Raiders, the group that first landed on Blue Beach
in WWII. Apparently the people of this island were so kind to the
American marines and various soldiers, the veterans wanted to give
something back to the island - and, although it has been a really long
time putting together the project, it is now happening and the school is
being built. Very cool!!!
Anyway, that was our entrance
into Tulagi. We've met two police officers, also, and a nice kitty who
shared our fish and chips dinner.
I hope the rest of this stay is equally adventurous, but maybe in a less dramatic way!!!