Leaving Lola Island behind us, we zoomed and flat-bottomed back through the blue to the Gazellebank in time for Tina’s 4 o’clock watch. But John and I had further adventures in mind. We clambered out of the launch shoreside, and set out to investigate the little town. Not one but two banks (ANZ and South Pacific), a miniscule police station, a tiny post-office, a handful of tiny shops and what I’m sure was a tiny bar, a little doctor’s rooms, and a little market where the main thing on offer seemed to be limes. An essential, of course, as an accompaniment to betel chewing. John spent his last local money on half a dozen tiny cans of locally canned tuna in the tiny general store. A decidedly practical souvenir.
Noro is in my eyes the proof of the maxim small is beautiful. It is a delightful place, and its people are delightful as well…
We stopped to speak with one very pretty young dark lady and her blond shock-headed son. Baby Timothy shook hands with me, but John was too much for him and he buried his tignasse of blond curls in mother’s shoulder, and declined to be photographed by such a massive white man
We walked on for an hour or more through the suburbs (can you have suburbs without an urbs?) of Noro, greeted all along the way by the children. I tempted one football-playing lad to kick the ball to me, and, wonder of wonders, I trapped it correctly and sent it perfectly back, just as I’ve seen Andre Guesdon and his like do on the field and the telly. Another lot, with a coloured umbrella, seemed to have been schooled especially to be photographed
I’d been sure that somewhere along our road there was a dilapidated hotel, which it might be fun to investigate, but as the afternoon drew on, and all we found was a concrete motel (motel? but there aren’t any cars!), and we decided to turn round. It was at that stage that we got ourselves a guide. His name is Alfred, his uncle runs a general store, and he apparently goes to school and also works there. We think that is right, for, as John remarked later, the agreeable and well-spoken lad simply said ‘yes’ to every question! Anyway, Alfred said he had spotted us from afar and run to meet us, because he liked people ‘like us’. Once again, we aren’t quite sure what he meant, but I think the nitty gritty of it was that he was hoping to be allowed aboard the ship.
He took it in good spirits when we reached the dock gate and we told him ‘no can do’. Thanks Alfred, you were a merry young (anywhere between 12 and 16, I imagine) companion, and we enjoyed you a lot.
We negotiated the Jacob’s ladder efficaciously if unenthusiastically, and within 15 minutes I was double-showered and flat on my back on my bunk…
I awoke to find I was late for dinner and hurtled downstairs to be greeted by ‘So you and John went to a motel for the afternoon, did you?’. It’s not that I mind the insinuation, but it’s a bit rough when you haven’t even earned it!
I staggered through dinner, then outside where it was now raining with tropical fervour, to look at a pair of frolicking dolphins and our Captain cheerfully pulling schnapper and unpronounceable local fish from the ocean ..
But it was no good. By 7.15pm, I was back on that bunk and there until morning I snored.
Another grand, grand day.
So, yes, the Solomon Islands are not just Honiara. Beyond that struggling, scowling town there is a megatonne of Pacific beauty and a plenitude of Pacific pleasures to be found.
I’m so very glad I did. Sigh. Maybe next year I shall even have to give Honiara a try.