Buma EliEli beach 2

Lars Alfredson
Sun 9 Aug 2015 21:37

2015-08-07 07:30 Having just finished breakfast and preparing ourselves to visit the market, Raphael paddles out to tell us the Market has already started. Leaping into the dinghy were away and meeting us on shore, he guides us along well marked path past various huts until we spot the crowd.

The Market is held on the site of the old sawmills and appears to be have been the concrete slab of the main building which is littered with decomposing engines and part thereof. Here, sitting on the concrete, rows of women sit in front of their wares, mainly a few piles of vegetables or beetle nuts surrounded by people chewing the fat or more correctly beetle nuts.

We spy some Kumara (Sweet Potatoes) and swoop to purchase three of her four piles at $5 Solomon a bunch (40p). We had been told that Megapod eggs would be on sale but couldn’t see any, maybe just as well as we hadn’t worked out who would try them first!

Raphael now took us on tour, having already negotiated a one plank rotting bridge it was time to disappear into the elephant grass looking like Dr. Livingstone on a trek. He showed us the school and football pitch before advancing onto the Church (R.C.), a very impressive open sided building and a whole village reserved as guest accommodation for church events and festivals.

The colourful monuments was in recognition of 100 years since the missionaries landed and the church was established and included a plaque listing all the names of the residing priests since then.

Following the path around the coastline we passed the settlements we had seen from the sea. We met lots of people including Raphael’s family where one of his sons and grandsons were busy grinding a six foot long length of shell money, the price of a bride we understand.

Walking through the gardens planted with Kamara and Tarrow we come to a grave yards with a large entrance gate and a row of very neat identical graves belonging to the Church “Fathers” and behind them in a tangle of jungle the church elders. “I’ll be here one day” announces Raphael.

We finally come full circle to his son’s house on the beach opposite where we have anchored. Here Rose one of his daughters-in-law asks if we would like to join them on a trip to a beach on nearby island. “What a good idea,” says we. Oops! We load up the dinghy with our snorkel gear, Rose and a pile of kids and head off to the mangroves on the other side of the Lagoon.

On arrival, we see a narrow canal cutting through the mangroves and are told the beach and reefs are on the other side of the island and that we will be following the path through the mangroves to reach the beach. Some 10 metres in and the dinghy is grounded. Everybody jumps out, some more reluctant than others, remembering our previous experience with mud and mangroves, Oh, and didn’t somebody mention Crocodiles?

Luckily the bottom is lined with coral stones as this is well used track for collecting and cutting firewood, harvesting coconuts as well as trips to the beach. Soon we rise from the knee deep muddy water onto the squelchy part of the track that eventually dries as we now walk through a thinish jungle of an old abandoned coconut plantation.

Finally we break through into the sunlight and onto a rough sand coral beach with a dried out wide reef separating it from the sea. “How can we access the reef?” we enquire. “We’ll just follow the beach to the end of the island,” is the reply.

Trudging manly in the wake of many and early explorer one feels, we struggle over fallen trees, trample over the uneven coral and where it’s too impassable, pick up a path back into the undergrowth. Forty minutes later were there.

Access means wading through a sandy gap in the mangroves before putting ones fins on and then pulling oneself along scrapping your stomach on the bottom until you find deep enough water to make it onto the reef.

If one had any misgivings this would really have been to time to act accordingly. Shan opted out and gave her snorkelling gear to Bob, one off the young boys with us. Lars of course as intrepid as ever and myself dutifully following my leader advanced into the shallow water.

We hadn’t gone three metres before we came across a banded water snake lying in the water of our path. “This does not bode well,” says I to myself. The young boys chase it away and as chicken as ever I advance.

Finally we’re deep enough to get our fins on and start to swim in a channel along the edge of the mangroves. Reaching the reef we run into a large collection of translucent lantern type jellyfish with iridescent blue spots around their edges. “They don’t look like stingers,” says Lars. I agree having already cast care to the wind.

I spot a two metre long “Worm.” Their harmless (I think) ugly looking beasties with the feeding end full of creepy crawly tentacles, a most peculiar field full of stinging anemones all on perfectly circular bases of equal size (some have been turned over) and then a collection of black sea eggs protected by extremely long spines with small black fish swimming in their shelter, all clustered together on a square metre of bottom.

Lars calls me over, a Scorpion fish is creeping its way down a large brain coral, you don’t want to mess with these boys as their spines are extremely poisonous, but as stealth is the name of their game, they aren’t likely to rush to attack us.

It’s time to turn back and just one more sighting of a Scorpion fish, mid-stream on our route. Nobody else notices it but I did manage to get picture.

Back on the beach Shan and Rose have had a right good chinwag. On the trek to the beach the younger kids were naked and those that weren’t have now cast their clothes aside. They are play at firing rubber bands at a peg, the nearest being the winner. Others are cracking open coconuts on the spiky branch stump of a fallen tree and drinking the milk from them and the older (Clothed) youths are trying to light a fire by literally, rubbing two sticks together (Where are the Boy Scouts when you need them?)

Over to Shan….

I spent and enjoyable time, sitting on a fallen tree in the half shade from the overhead palms, listening to Rose and her two daughters, Mary 4 or 5 years old and Pricilla about 7/8, singing rhymes, complete with signing.  They sing like little angels and obviously enjoy this pass-time.  All the songs are in English, I think this is how they introduce the little ones to the language.

The cost of education seems trivial to us, $200 Solomon Dollars per year, approximately £20. But for a community that trades fish for vegetables and earn a little by making shell money, every dollar counts especially when you consider most families have between 5 and 8 children.  Rose is obviously a very level headed young woman and has told her husband that they cannot afford more than 3 children and that they must all have an education.  I promise her some stationery for them when we return to the boat.

On the long trudge back along the beach I am again astounded how even the smallest child can run along the sharp corals without even a squeak, I can feel their sharpness through my rubber soles trekking shoes!

Arriving back at the boat we’re inundated with young girls who want to trade shell and shell jewellery for tops, I think I may have to travel home in my bikini and sarong! Not a pretty sight, I must stop giving my stuff away but it is so difficult when you see they have so little.

Eventually we had to be firm and send them all home so that we could enjoy a peaceful dinner – fine chance.  No sooner had we settled down than a young boy called Francis scared the life out of me by creeping up onto the “sugarscoop” and into the cockpit.  A very persistent young boy who outstayed his welcome.  Finally, mild mannered, gentle Lars had to be very firm and repetitive, with a “Go home!”  Eventually he complied.

Back to Bob…

Young girls, no wonder Captain Bligh’s crew mutinied, I’m being pursued by two nubile, teenage, black eyed beauties, trying to join the crew. “Bob” they coo “we want to stay with you”. Some say I may be past it, but it does wonders for the ego! Fortunately? “ Her who must be obeyed” comes and  takes charge, so much for the ego.

They go to work on Shan and two dresses and other bits and pieces later they are repelled, though not without a “Bye Bye Bob” and a flutter of the eyelashes, Where do they learn this? they haven’t even got TV!

We’re knackered, it’s been a great day but the excesses of exploration aa well as boat full of kids has taken its toll so with a jump in the sea to cool off and once around the boat for good measure it’s time for a well deserved G&T, a read, some music (we’re reduced to a handful of CD’s now our computer has gone) and to cool out before dinner.

We have promised to go to Church in the morning, that’s a new one, as our young “sirens” tell us they are in the choir along with Raphael. We have heard some of the singing which is very harmonious such that they could do justice to any Welsh Chapel.

Bob the Blog