The Solomon Islands don’t get a ton of tourists and quite frankly, there isn’t much to do. However, I guess that’s part of the charm as I’ve been quite content here the past few days just relaxing and taking in the culture and people on Guadalcanal Island, which is the home of the capital Honiara, some cool World War II relics and the main airport, Henderson Field. If any of the names I’ve just thrown out there sound familiar it’s because Guadalcanal is one of the most famous and the first Allied victory against the Japanese in World War II. Also, Henderson Field is the same guy who the airfield on Midway Island is named for as he was the first pilot shot down during that battle.
If you’ve been watching the pacific show on HBO, Guadalcanal was the first place they went to in the Pacific War. This was because it was seen as the most strategic place to intercept the Japanese progression through the Pacific and onto Australia and New Zealand. The US thinking was that if the Japanese seized Guadalcanal with its strategic position, the Pacific would fall to them and they needed to be stopped.
To summarize, the battle that was fought in stages for over 6 months, the US Marines landed in 1942 and had never heard of the place, had no idea about the terrain, the tropical diseases, the enemy strength or the people. With these disadvantages in some of the most deplorable conditions imaginable, extreme heat and rampant disease, the Americans and the Allies defeated the Japanese and retook Henderson Field which was the strategic point of the island-own the airstrip and own the island. Thousands lost their lives and there are memorials everywhere on Guadalcanal to honor their legacy and to show they did not die in vain. One plaque directed at a specific Marine squadron read, “Because of you, we are free”. It gives me chills down my spine thinking about it and being on this humble ground.
The strangest thing about Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands in general to me is that none of the younger locals know what happened here-well very few and none of the younger generations. My guide told me that they are not taught about the war or what happened on Guadalcanal in schools and it’s not really discussed. I found this very strange and slightly upsetting. You would think that it’s a huge part of their islands history and they have a right and duty to know about the events that went on here. It still kind of bothers me.
The rest of Guadalcanal is very tropical and dense jungle. It is hotter than hell here and the people are very nice. The only bad thing I will say about them is they are obsessed betel nut chewers and spitters like much of Micronesia so you have to watch where you walk and who’s spitting at any given time!
The Solomons are not a beach vacation, there aren’t really any gorgeous beaches here, maybe on some distant island but that’s not why you come here, you come for the raw adventure, the jungle, the WWII relics and the relaxed atmosphere. You don’t come for Honiara, the capital!
Honiara is nothing more than a big street with a few hotels and shopping centers with betel nut and fruit markets lining the main drag. There are actually some banks and ATM’s as it’s pretty expensive here in the Solomons. Not expensive like Papua New Guinea but pretty expensive. I am staying at a place called the Raintree Café and B&B. It is very nice and very chill about 3km outside of the center of town. It is right on the water as you can see and very relaxed with a decent café serving marginal pizzas and excellent banana pancakes which I absolutely crushed this morning. For a room without AC and no shower I am paying nearly $50 which is obviously a shakedown but the options are limited. The best place to stay is the Heritage Park Hotel in town which charges about $250 per night. Again, a shakedown but it’s actually really nice.
Honestly, that is pretty much it for Honiara, except there is a cool little coffee shop in town that everyone hangs out at called the Lime Lounge. Also, a good place for sundowners called the Point Cruz Yacht Club where the beers are cold and cheap. Oh yeah, the beer here is called Solbrew and it is the best beer I’ve had in the Pacific-perhaps better than Fiji Bitter! If you do come here, get a tour of the WWII relics and the US Memorial because it’s really cool and then definitely listen to the guide tell you about the history of the war, especially from the islander perspective.
I am now back on Fiji for just tonight as I leave for Tuvalu in the morning. I flew on Our Airline last night via both Nauru and Kiribati and I have to say, I had my doubts but the airline was fantastic. The best part for me was I met a guy who recognized me from my blog from Singapore named Wee Cheng (I hope I spelled it right). He caught me off guard saying he was on my mailing list as he soon proved to know a lot about me and be a very experienced and knowledgeable traveler and very nice guy. I will see him again on the plane to Wallis and Futuna next week.
I had about an hour and a half on each island (I did manage to get through immigration on both islands which I was happy about although not thrilled about the short time on land) and while I landed on Nauru at 5am and wasn’t able to gauge too much, landing on Tarawa, Kiribati was a real spectacle. The windswept islands are gorgeous and look like slithering earthworms sticking out of the ocean out of nowhere. I’d imagine it’s be pretty boring to spend a week there which is the other option, as it is on Nauru, so I opted for a short stay. More from Tuvalu and then Fiji in a few days. Stay tuned…