Guadalcanal Diary, Day 2

We decided to stay at Raintree Cafe, despite its problems.  They offered to do our laundry, the primary thing we needed lots of water for.  They found a way to turn on the hot water, though it takes the duration of a shower to show evidence of heat, and it’s still just a trickle.  However, we are at 10 degrees south of the equator.  Mostly, who wants to spend precious vacation hours negotiating a new hotel which is not known to be better, and crappy businesses live on that laziness.  Lonely Planet writes that this is the best in its price range.  Gee, what if they are right?

We were introduced to the interesting walking tour guy.  We decided to go on an easy 3-hour walk to a small limestone cave instead of a difficult 5-hour walk to a larger cave filled with flying foxes and guano.  We were accompanied by three additional people from his village, which is about a mile down the road; a friend who seemed to be a little more familiar with the species of flora and fauna on the island; a young man who fetched a machete from his garden to clear the last half-kilometer to the cave, which hadn’t been visited recently, and another kid just along for the walk.  And eventually, and even littler kid, of an age for drawing on himself with a ball point pen in imitation of the elders.  Even the youngest of these fellas speak more languages than we do and can survive in the bush for much longer than anyone reading this could.

The cave was kind of hokey.  Nobody was prepared to go far into it.  We had only a headlamp and a small flashlight given away as part of a swag bag at the Gay Film Festival by the Steamworks Baths in Oakland, which provides just enough light to guide yourself into the correct hole but not really to do serious spelunking.  The guides hadn’t brought any lights at all.  There’s a great variety of professionalism in guides in the world, from the Archaeology PhD who took us around Benares, to the kids who accost you at the temples of Siem Reap.  And ruling all, Pilatwe Manga of Okavango Wilderness Safaris in Maun, Botswana.

But I digress.  The journey (about 5 km each way) was the fascinating thing, seeing the vines and spiders and the little manioc gardens out in the middle of the jungle, checking out what Christopher was playing on his mp3 player, watching Francis wield his machete against the encroaching wild ginger and vines.  Watch out for the Wild Taro: some kinds sting like a nettle.

The walk wore me out, but I bounced back quickly enough to make it to the Telecom building to clarify the username and password which will grant me access to the Internet I still haven’t connected to yet.  Some PhD students from the University of Texas at Austin were there, finding out that non-AT&T SIM cards just don’t work in iPhones.  We asked them if they were there surfing (one wore a surfing t-shirt) but they said that they’d been in Vanuatu for a couple weeks and were here for a couple more to visit caves (and coral reefs) to collect samples which could be used to derive the rainfall history for the last several millennia — apparently some complicated scheme can be applied to a stalagmite from a cave which involves differentials in the decay of various isotopes of uranium and thorium, which yields the rainfall information.

Afterwards a woman running a junk shop in a mall told us where two good Chinese restaurants were close by but we couldn’t find them.

There are almost zero restaurants on the main drag of Honiara.  That’s just weird.  We walked down it for a long time and ended up eating in the Chinese restaurant of the same “Honiara Hotel” that we ate at the French restaurant of last night.  It was very good, as was last night’s meal.  We had sizzling squid which was not sizzled at the table in the American custom, and salted fish and chicken fried rice, and began with a preserved vegetable and julienned pork soup in a very nice stock.  Salt and water are what you need after a day in the humid sun.

That’s today’s update.  Now I’ll type in the username and password which have been written down by someone in large enough lettering for me to read, and I’ll see if I can actually connect to the Internet.