Solomon Islands : Scrambling around the WW2 wreckage on Guadalcanal

The Solomon Islands are apparently amazing for diving….. shame I don’t like fish!  However, for a raw look at Melanesian culture, and to check out some interesting Guadalcanal history, Honiara is definitely worth a (short) visit.

What to do in Honiara!

Vilu museum

Visit the WW2 relics

The easiest place to do this is to go to the Vilu museum on the North Coast of Guadalcanal.  It isn’t signposted from the road so it is probably easier to take a taxi (I rented one for a few hours).    Created by the current owner’s father, and by the current guide – Talia’s grandfather, when he collected all the best examples of old aircraft and relics from around the island, it is a fun place to visit and Talia is as passionate about the planes as her granddad.  (S$100).  My other favourite location was the Sherman tank just across the road from Ruaniu, which was interesting to see but probably not worth the S$30 entry fee

Tens of thousands of young men who fell in battle sleep here.  May the tragic events that occurred on this island during WW2 be forever inscribed in our memories.  War brings all sides nothing but deep grief and distress. To the souls of these departed youth our only words of tribute are the renunciation of war.  May the blue sea, the great expanse of sky, and this green island be a testimony of eternal peace.  Sleep peacefully, fallen friends.    – Words on a monument erected by a Japanese soldier

Philip the taxi driver couldn’t resist climbing on the tank – I actually got in it too

Practice you pidgeon

I was delighted to learn that I actually speak the local language, well I can understand it.  My favourite signs in Honiara were no torowem rubbish hia and hem half past four nao? – a sign for the beer company.  I also conquered the basics of ‘mi laek go long…’=I want to go to, and ‘hao long nao bae hemi tekem fo wakabout go….’= ‘how long does it take to walk to…’.   I had quite a lot of fun practising and the locals were surprised how much I understood.

The sunk Japanese ship

Go snorkelling at Bonegi/Ruaniu

The remains of a 6500 tonne Japanese transport ship was sunk here in 1942 and it is a great location to check out the fish or have a swim

Go swim in a waterfall

Both Mataniko and Tenaru were easy to reach but not hugely spectacular

Stroll around Honiara

None of the sights are amazing but you can check out the National Parliament building (where long shirts and cover your shoulders if  you want to go inside), the National Museum (not scintillating), and the catholic and melanesian anglican churches.   Go to church on Sunday if you are there, the singing is pretty good!

Go shopping

Ok, so there isn’t anything to buy, but checking out the pretty grim supermarkets with their out of date products and limited variety will make you feel pretty good about how good your supermarkets are at home.  The exception to this is the central market, which is worth a visit for some decent fresh veg and fruit

Plane ruins at Vilu

Check out the drunks/betel nut chewers

I have never seen such a high proportion of bottle stores to food shops!  On the road from Honiara to Vilu there were 27 bottle shops on the outside of town and probably two food shops!   I also saw more stalls selling betel nut than vegetables.  Hmmmm.   Perhaps that explains why there were numerous signs around town banning chewing, spitting and alcohol.  I did have a run in with a gang of drunks near the market who started yelling ‘what ya want white man’, but I wasn’t too bothered as was entirely confident I could outrun them if they made a move.

Additional notes

  • I stayed at the Chester Resthouse, which at S$330 per night ($45) is the cheapest in Honiara – sadly expats and aid workers have inflated the prices of the few western hotel rooms to egregious levels, and I wasn’t prepared to pay $300 per night.   The Resthouse was clean and safe and $45 for a small room sharing a bathroom with the 9 other rooms.  Unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of soundproofing, and there were a lot of kids and babies, so I didn’t get much sleep.  I probably would still stay there again in spite of the noise, given the lack of alternatives, but can’t really recommend it
  • I ate mostly from the market and the ‘bulk store’, but can recommend the Lime Lounge which was the only wifi I got in Honiara – decent coffee and a small but perfectly formed burger with fries.  I also recommend the Frangipani ice for a cone and the Honiara hot bread kitchen for a nutritionally void donut.
  • Taxis from the airport cost S$100, and then about $100 per hour if you want them to take you around the Island.  My driver was the helpful Philip, who can be reached on 7833203.
  • Note that while NZ/AU phone companies roam in the Solomons, EE in the UK definitely did not

Jezebel the Sherman tank

The rest house takes shell art to a whole new level

One of many bottle shops

Honiara, march 3, 2017

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