From the Marovo Lagoon

Thu 30 Oct 2003 07:18
28th October 2003. From the sheltered turquoise waters of the Marovo

Dear All

The Marovo Lagoon has proved to be a really wonderful and beautiful place.
Uipi Island for Pete's birthday was perfect both in the amazing dive we did
and the wonderful food and drink we consumed. The only slight mar on the
place was that it turned out that K needs a huge number of weights (4) to
make her sink as she is not as dense and compact as hoped and so that Pete
and I now refer to my bottom as "The Float!"

From Uipi we went to find a place where we would be away from villages and
resorts for a bit. We skirted the outside of the lagoon and entered through
Kokoana Passage further west. Nothing could look more typically tropical
than our next anchorage. We were in perfect shelter behind a hook in the
end of an island, protected by shallow reef with a steady 7m of clear sand
(devoid of coral heads) to anchor in, in bright turquoise and excellent
holding. The snorkelling around the corner in the main channel was
fantastic with amazing fan corals on the vertical drop off. The only canoe
we saw was a carver who came over to tell us there was a market at his
village the next day and if we went he would show us carvings. Since we had
no fruit or veg left this was very helpful and when we said we liked fish he
went off and speared us 3 reef fish for our supper in exchange for 1 litre
of petrol to get him home!

We set of early the next day to get to the market in time. Unfortunately,
Cortral (the carver) was so keen to show us his carvings, he made us too
late for the market and we missed everything except 22 aubergines and over
60 tiny green peppers! We didn't stay in Mbatuna (the village with the
market) but instead headed for the "carvers village" on the tiny island of
Telina. This may be one of the best anchorages in the world. It is totally
protected by either land or reef, but the pass between mainland and island
makes sure that when there is a breeze the anchorages gets it. The village
itself was extremely pretty. A raised coral reef (with many people and not
much land) all the houses are on stilts, some of them right out over the
sea. The steep but short climb to the top leaves sharp coral ledges which
are perfect for planting so that the whole village has a beautiful and
colourful rockery as its backdrop. There seem to be huge orchids
everywhere, growing like weeds, and there is of course the ever present
hibiscus and frangipani. Their gardens for growing food are on the mainland
so with the exception of the compulsory palm trees and the occasional
pineapple, the carefully kept village was just for the sake of it looking

We really only meant to stay in Telina for one night, but we just kept
staying another day. When we arrived a whole host of miniatures canoes
arrived full of children and small baskets of different fruit and veg. As it
turned out it did not matter that we missed the market earlier as we have
left Telina with almost more fruit and veg than we can eat. It became a
morning ritual that, before we were really up someone would be there with
something to offer us, hanging off the top sides, waiting for us to stir.
Usually I get up earlier than Pete to make bread, and as soon as they saw me
moving around below, someone would be out. One morning it was children with
veg, the next it was carvers, once it was a Swiss ex-pat with sweet potato
mashed in coconut milk for us to try for breakfast and another it was the
start of Peter's surgery. Word got around that Peter may be able to mend
some electrical equipment and we had a stream of canoes with drills to mend
and even a seagull outboard engine. (Peter in heaven but the owner I think
wishing he had a fast Yamaha like everyone else!) We also had a man who had
tried to cut off his leg at the knee with his machete. Peter patched him up
with the help of some of our precious steri-strips, and we gave him some
pencils and books for a makeshift school he is starting up for his kids. He
was not in the least bit grateful and kept asking for "just one thing before
I go, my wife would like some shoes from you, or, can I have some batteries,
or, my wife has a watch but a broken strap!" He was called Nicely and we
were pretty sick of him by the end, especially as he took off his
steri-strips, despite being told not to, and came back saying it was not
looking very pretty and could he have some more!

The whole village, in-fact the whole Lagoon seems to be manically Seventh
Day Adventist. This week was some special "week of pray" as they had just
received some report from the "general committee" in the USA and they all
had to pray ferociously over it. All other SDA's in the world did this in
July, but as the Solomon Island Post is not all it might be, they have only
just received the report in the Marovo Lagoon. The Sabbath (Saturday) meant
that we were barely visited by any canoes all day as everybody was in
church. Even the carvers were not allowed to trade as no one can work. All
the food is prepared the day before and cooked in a custom oven (over hot
stones and wrapped in banana leaves) over night. The two carvers who really
thought they might sell us something brought us traditional pudding for us
to try for our breakfast. Either stodgy or mushy in the extreme, but
perfectly edible especially as we are in the season of the Ngalie Nut which
they harvest and roast and is delicious (best on their own, but they are a
massive improvement in tapioca pudding which on its own a little tasteless.)
We heard a great deal about their religion and John Wayne, (!) an elder of
the church, master carver and generally one of Marovo's great and good. He
told us in detail how some ancestor of his had acquired Christianity for the
community on one of his periodic missions to collect a store of human heads
from some unfortunate tribe. At one village, instead of putting up a fight,
they invited him to a party. He had a marvellous time and asked what the
party was, was told it was this new religion, changed his name to something
boring like John, and repented his past headhunting exploits. Now they are
all fervently religious and will tell you all about it at the drop of a hat.
We used the quiet of the Sabbath to get on with busy jobs in peace!

On one of our trips ashore we met Gideon from Tikopia, married to a local
girl who is due to give birth next week. We were able to show him our
video of the cyclone damage which he had not seen before and in return not
only is he going to call his new baby either Peter or Katharine (depending
on its sex) but he also took us spear fishing for Kingfish which was
brilliantly exciting. The current was very strong in the Lagoon and I had
trouble even swimming under the water against it. Peter who had borrowed a
spear also found the current just too strong to get close enough to a king
fish for the spear's rope to allow it to reach the fish. Gideon, on the
other hand, had no trouble diving to about 20m for what seemed like about 5
minutes. He was very disappointed that he only managed to spear 3 large
kingfish, 2 barracuda (both at the same time) and 4 reef fish. I was pretty
impressed and we had a delicious BBQ in the village later with kingfish,
sweet potatoes, rice and coconut water to drink!

We finally, after 5 days, left Telina, but not before we had had a walk up
and a wash in the beautiful river on the main island. Its banks were
totally cultivated by the villager's gardens. All extremely neat and full
of all the different fruits and vegs you can find here. My favourite is the
pineapple which is beautifully presented at the top of the spiky plant. We
did not buy any carvings in the end. But Pata, one of the carvers, was so
desperate to trade anything for a florescent light tube that we ended up
getting a special scraper for grating the tough meat out of the dried
coconut to make into the milk which is excellent cooked with rice and loads
of other things. He and his wife were both 'very happy for that.'

Anyway, we had better 'pen off here!' We are still loving the Solomon
Islands and are now heading slowly for the east end of the New Georgia Group
before setting off to PNG hopefully sometime in November. Hope this finds
you well and happy

All our love

Katharine and Peter

P.S if you would rather just read these emails on our website, instead of
getting them through by email, then please let Mary know. Each of the
emails are also sent to our web address which is and then you can look them up when
you are ready rather than getting it intruding into your email account. We
will not be at all offended if you would rather read it like this!