Island time…. It’s early now!!!
New holidays approaching, so it was time to decide where to next. Deciding factors: flight cost, diving quality, weather during Christmas and as much different culture as possible with Europe; who’s the winner? The Solomon Islands.
Then the next question arises: where in the Solomons? I decided to come to Munda, a remote settlement one hour away flying from the capital, following my gut feeling of not liking cities and trying to be on a place as close to local culture as possible. So… why not?
Three flights from Auckland to Munda, with layover in Nandi, in Fiji and Honiara in Solomon Islands. The first two flights went smoothly, no incidents, despite of being in island time (already loving it!). The flight to Honiara landed 10 minutes earlier than expected! That was a bonus, as I only had one hour to catch the domestic flight, that should be plenty of time anyway. Our surprise was when I arrived to the domestic terminal: The flight already left, one hour earlier!!! Apparently, it’s quite common that people don’t show up (really? On an already paid flight?) so the airline decided to leave. We were stuck, yes, in Honiara, for a day (yay!! and this is actually a happy yay!!! 🙂 ).
My advice for people taking internal flights in Solomons: always call the airline (Fly Solomons) the day before to confirm your intentions of catching the plane. On this we, you will make sure that they know your intentions of catching the plane, so they won’t sell your ticket to someone else. That’s such a random reason!
On the bright side, it turned out not that bad, with an in-town paid hotel and meals, I got to visit Honiara, which was the first culture shock. It is fair to say that Fly Solomons offered to pay for all of the expenses without me even asking, so that’s what I call an awesome customer service. And to be honest, people were extremely friendly, the Fly Solomons workers, the people waiting on the waiting room…. That actually made the experience so different!! They wanted to talk to us, learn more english, and show us their english as well! They were just hapi 🙂
First culture shock – walking around Honiara
When I booked this trip, I didn’t really know what to expect in general about the country and the people, and to be honest, not much either about the diving, but I just had some great comments about everything there from more than reliable people regarding travelling.
Just when you get off the plane in Honiara, the heat kicks you, combined with the humidity there, which obviously, drives the culture and people’s behaviour. On our drive to the hotel, we had a good look of half of Honiara, as the hotel was on the main street, which starts at the airport. I loved this place! To be honest, people were so friendly and you really get the feeling of what I called “living life on the streets”, which is so typical from warm countries. There is a huge difference between cold weather countries and warm, and is that people stay inside way more or way less respectively. Being a Spanish girl, to be honest, I’d rather be out socialising 🙂
After getting to the hotel, and going for a walk around Honiara, one of the first thoughts I got when I got there, was: what are all these red stains on the floor at the streets? I had no idea what was that, until my friend told me: it’s betel nut! A stimulant, the fruit of the areca palm, and has narcotic effects, similar to coffee and nicotine. People chew them, and leave their mouth complete red, as with a tint.
The hotel was close to the central market so we went to have a look at it the day after as well, before we had to leave again to the airport for our flight to Munda. Island breakfast, and here we go! We wondered around people getting groceries, divided into meat, fish, veggies and fruits…. The market was really colorful! And also a typical market as in South East Asia, very different from Europe, with barely sanity checks (if any), flies around the food, and not so clean environment.
People were discussing prices, getting bargains, on that loud and noisy environment characteristic from a food market. We found tunas, crays, lots of veggies and fruits… The fish is brought fresh every day from the fishing boats that left early in the morning. They don’t have to go far to fish, as they have sustainable fisheries, and not so many islands around that overfish the sea. As we would see on the next days, they have the most healthy corals I’ve ever seen before.
I like to sit back on these places and relax, while observing people, and their different behaviour, you can see all the personalities, no matter on which part of the world you are: the curious, the bargain hunter, the skeptical, the “everything is good”… Honiara, by being the capital and the biggest city in the Solomon Islands, concentrate all types of people, as every city.
The feeling that I had walking around was just “how friendly are these people!” I was impressed, that in the morning, everybody was saying good morning to us, which made us feel really welcome.
We went back to the hotel to catch a ride to the airport: Munda was waiting for us!!! And on the package, we got a flight to Gizo as well, as it was the first stop on our air taxi!! Scenic flight as well!! Check!!