At a bit after 7:00 on Sunday 9 October my small, unfit, arthritic group joined about 20 others for Charis Travel’s walking tour to the bat cave, Parisaia, east of Honiara and up in the hills. We gathered at Henderson where those of us without 4WDs jumped in with others then we all headed out in convoy, up past the Parangiju turnoff and onto the logging tracks along the Lungga River. Great wild scenery, but that was just a foretaste.
After a half hour or so we all pulled into a huge natural basin beside a stream where our guides were waiting. And then we started walking. The first time we had to cross the stream some folks stopped to remove their shoes and socks; the second time noone bothered.
For an hour and a half we all splashed and scrambled up stream, ducking under or over the odd fallen tree, climbing (or being pushed and pulled if necessary) up and around the odd boulder, cooling our feet in the pools and cascades. When we stopped for water and shared snacks in the shade I appreciated the bird calls, the great trees and the different rocks without needing to know what they’re called: it was all just Mother Nature in one of Her more glorious guises.
But on, on we scrambled. The track wasn’t steep but a few passes were a bit of a worry for those of us with unreliable ankles, knees and hips. The ridiculously strong sure-footed guides saved this becoming a problem. I’m told that children can do the walk without too much trouble at all – I’d believe it. There were none in our group to show the rest of us up.
After an hour and a half we began straggling into an open area graced by cool pools and cold waterfalls. Relax, share a few more snacks, and soon the first group of about ten had slipped behind the main waterfall and begun the trek into the cavern. Here the water was knee deep and all would have been dark if we hadn’t been warned to bring torches. Shine a light to the roof – yep, there were bats, but they didn’t come down. Even without looking you knew they were there when you reached for a rock to steady yourself and your hand squelched in the thick silky layer of bat poo.
Goodness only knows how long it took to reach the end of the cave where the sky broke through – maybe 10 minutes? Irrelevant. It was great fun, as was the splash back in the dark to the waterfalls at the cave entrance. By this time the sun was high above so the cool pools and shade made for a great resting place.
But then we had to get back downstream. This took considerably longer than the walk in because many of us were tired, and going down can be harder. It was still lovely though, and there was no pressure to hurry. We had enough guides to spread out, with some people sprinting along and stopping to swim in the waterholes while others crept along more carefully with the guides’ help. By the time I made it back to the cars, most of the rest were already relaxing and chatting in the stream or their airconditioned cars. Some had a few scratches, a couple had lost the soles of their shoes, a few had got sunburnt, all seemed thoroughly pleased with the day.
Time to go. Again we travelled in convoy, this time up to Parangiju for a great lunch by 1:30ish. Afterwards we split for our separate runs back down to the coast. After stopping at Henderson to reclaim our whimpy car we made it home by 4:00ish with a few sore muscles, a renewed resolve to get fit, and a new favourite day out for Honiara visitors. All good.
• Plan walks to Parisaia through an agent, eg Garedd (pronounced Gareth) at Charis Travel, ph: 24193. Your agent takes care of the guides, custom land fees, lunch at Parangiju, and help with car sharing if necessary.
The next walk is scheduled for 30 October 2016
• Of course I think we did the walk at the perfect time: enough recent rain for the stream to be flowing strongly but not so much that the cave was scary. Ask about this when planning your outing.
• This would be a fine thing to do if you’re in Honiara on your own because you’ll meet people on the walk. Garedd is a sociable host, as are most others who work in the area.
Cost: We paid $365 each plus bought a couple of drinks at Parangiju.
• Loose or stretchy pants for climbing
• Footwear that will stand up to some rough wet walking. Some people in sandals found their feet slipping around. I was comfortable in tight-laced joggers and socks that will never look clean again.
• Don’t bother with swimmers – wet walking clothes work fine.
• Snacks – it’s a long way from Henderson to lunch
• Water – on the way up you’ll think the stream looks fresh and delicious but on the way back you’ll know what the bats have left in it.
• A waterproof torch
• A towel and dry clothes to leave in the car so that you can change at the end of the walk rather than making a mess in the car.
• There’s no mobile coverage on the walk but if you really want to carry your phone as a camera, pack it in a couple of ziplock plastic bags. Sooner or later you will slip in the water, intentionally or otherwise, and this should be just part of the fun.
By an anonymous walker
Photography by Chris Wilcox and Gerald Soworka