2015-08-19 Over to the Club for 9 am and our tour bus with guide await. He’s a wizen old geezer and ex police commander, his sidekick, the driver is a large Fijian. The Nissan minibus looked pretty new and its air-conditioning could make ice cubes, great.
Our first port call is up to the hills at the back of the town, to the American war memorial. It’s the size of half a football field with enormous marble walls relating the story of the battle and each arranged to point in the direction of the various actions.
The view if stupendous looking out over “Iron Bottom” sound. It would have been an incredible sight for anyone watching the great slogging match, battling ships and aircraft of each side, contained between the Florida Islands, clearly visible some 30 miles away, and the island of Guadal Canal itself.
Next a 30 minute drive out of town on the only road on the island, which is surprisingly wide, tarmacked and relatively pothole free. The main perils are locally made “Sleeping Policemen” on the approach to the villages or the many roadside markets, and the washed out bridges which call for diversion across the rivers.
Turning off the road we follow a track through the elephant grass until we’re halted by a locked gate, the entrance to the Vilu open air museum. Even Shan, not a great fan of war museums, was impressed with the way the now silenced howitzers and canons were laid out in a garden of wonderful flowers and shrubs.
As we walked around, our guide and owner, Sylvia, a diminutive local lady, regaled us with her knowledge of the aircraft and bits of the same that lay around the place.
In amongst this veritable scrapyard of history were a row of memorials to the various countries that took part in repelling the Japanese.
We bid our farewells, escape the mosquitoes and climb back into our air-conditioned sanctuary. Back onto the main road and yet again a turn onto a track that would probably need a Sherman tank to do it justice. We head for the sea and the beach.
Sticking out of the water are the remains of Japanese supply ship that only managed to offload some 6000 bags of rice, enough for one day supply for the army before being bombed. Thousands of Japanese troops died of starvation as the Americans relentlessly pursued their supply ships.
We had brought our snorkel gear and in we went. The oddest snorkel I’ve been on as there was a layer of hot water on the surface making your view through an oily hazy. Then it would clear and the visibility was excellent. There’s not a lot left of the wreck as it was salvaged. The enormous engine block, stunted side ribs and keel, rise from the bottom to pierce the surface, the underwater sections are all now covered in multi-coloured corals.
It was a great trip and worth the money. We decide and we pick up the dinghy from the club and make our way up the coast to the “Kokonut Café”. Its split into two section, a bar and landing area from which kids are diving and the open sided Bar/café some yards away.
Under cover in the first building is a massive ornately decorated war canoe. Walking over to the main building there is a Pelican sitting preening on the side wall (Apparently its wing clipped) and in a fenced off section of the small harbour two dolphin, a very sad sight.
The enormous double, homemade hamburger ground us to a halt as we abandoned the bun and fought our way through the mountain of lettuce, tomatoes, beetroot (They love beetroot this end of the world) and at least half a pound of beef, not to mentions the chips. All washed down with a couple of beers.
After a snooze we returned to our Internet base at the hotel until we are turned out at 6ish. The plan was to eat ashore but were still stuffed. So after taking advantage of happy hour we return to Dawnbreaker, to have a little read and a G+T for dinner, before being thrashed at Uno by Shan.
Bob the Blog