By Jo Anne Braithwaite
I am up at 5.30 and on the ocean bouncing across the waves in the one & half hour banana boat ride back to Honiara. Flying fish and squid fly lead the way and as the sun wakes to peer through the clouds and a new day unfolds, there is nowhere else I would rather be. It’s a trip I have done dozens of times now. I know where it’s going to get rough; where to sit in the canoe so I don’t get totally soaked or break my coccyx coming down too hard after a wave.
This time was slightly different though as we had Ngossi with us, our little four legged hair ball who couldn’t quite understand that it didn’t matter what she crawled under, between or on top of, it was still going to be bumpy. At one stage, as she crawled her way up my shoulder, I thought she was going to kamikaze herself off the side. Finally exhausted, she fell asleep in the shelter of a lap.
We have just spent a weekend at a new resort, Roderick Bay Hide Away, Nggela Sule Island, Florida Group. We are their first ever guests! As we arrived the whole village turned out to greet us. Small girls held flower garlands to put around our necks; coconuts with hollowed twig straws and swathed in red hibiscus were given to us for refreshments and after the welcome speech we all trooped up to our lodgings with the small kids dragging our bags…old men, and women chatting.
Two traditional bungalows stood on a small corner of the beach. Each was festooned with flowers and leaves; strips of coloured sarongs hung from the walls and blew in the breeze. It was only as we entered we realised that maybe the huts weren’t quite finished. What will one day be a beautiful balcony was only some planking lying haphazardly across the support beams and ending in a four meter drop to the beach; there was little furniture…a mattress lay on the floor in one room.
Later on in the day, two women carried up a huge piece of broken mirror and rested it precariously against the wall in the bedroom. Outside a hand sawn table and benches were covered in yet more flowers. Over the next two days small luxuries were to be added…a gas bottle and cook top for us to make breakfast; a barrel of drinking water brought from the fresh water stream; a floating esky, discarded by some yachtie, but a treat for us and our beer. There was no toilet near the bungalows but a large oil barrel had been filled with water and curtained off to serve as the shower.
As we settled in the entire village sat down on the sand in small groups, chatting and laughing in the local language and clearly anxious to see if we approved. And we did. The effort they had made was extraordinary and touching. Small gifts kept arriving…a plate of fruit…some freshly caught fish. We hadn’t organised for them to bring lunch and had brought our own picnic, but none the less a lunch of local yams and salted clams arrived.
And for dinner? More yams, this time baked in coconut, some taro, some cassava and some rice. I can only say that I am glad we bought our own supplies because local food just doesn’t do it for me, starch on starch on starch but others I was with really enjoyed experiencing local food.
I had bought a hammock with me which we erected on the beach under a tree and clearly they decided that was a good idea because by Sunday morning two other home- made hammocks had joined it.
Sunday was just glorious. We went for a village walk followed by our first swim of the day when we got back. While we were lazing in the water our friend was cooking up bacon and eggs. Then more swimming & snorkelling and I was pretty pleased with myself to see an octopus!
But the highlight of the day was crawling into a local dugout canoe with Miriam, the wife of the owner, who kept admonishing us not to wriggle: “We sink!” She rowed us around to the World Explorer, a large cruise liner that had sunk in 2003. The surrounding trees & water make for a lovely spot to hang, snorkel and wonder what the ship really looked like in all her glory. We believe that the 2 large oddly shaped mirrors that were carried to our rooms on the 1st afternoon must have been salvaged from this boat! There is just no other plausible explanation of where they could have come from.
On the walk back we sat and chatted with different families as we went. Each had a fresh coconut for us to drink or some ngali nuts and each wanted to tell us their story and show off their kids.
After Sunday dinner, the village came again; this time in culture dress for traditional dancing. Women wore their bridal price of shells around head and neck; small children twirled in skirts of leaves and straw. It wasn’t like a concert…more like being a part of a fun night that they have been doing for ages. Watching the tiny children following in the steps of their mum; the older people collapsing in laughter at their antics, we just felt that we were part of an ongoing story that had been told for centuries.
So, that’s Roderick Bay…the place is raw and the people are working every moment to try and please their new customer base.
Contact is firstname.lastname@example.org or phone Chris on 760 3472.