Guadalcanal Diary, Days 3 and 4

Honiara is just not that interesting a place. Nobody ever said it was, but you usually think there is something to do.

Thursday we went to the US War Memorial, a small park atop a little hill with a good view of Honiara and the adjacent islands (if it’s not too cloudy). Several granite walls detailed the various battles in the Guadalcanal Campaign. One wall listed the names of the US ships sunk or damaged, and the number of Japanese ships sunk or damaged. The taxi driver pointed to a little white spot atop a nearby hill, and said that was the Japanese memorial. We had him take us there, and saw that it was basically the remains of a monument which had been destroyed about ten years earlier in an ethnic conflict in Honiara; not much to see except the local style of graffiti.

We proceeded to the central marketplace, drank some coconut water, bought a starfruit and a doughnut, looked at 100 identical stands selling variations on the same few vegetables, including the vast multiplicity of bananas we never see in America, and talked to a few folks about life in the Solomon Islands. Since the ethnic tension, the cruise ships stopped coming, and very few other tourists come, which is too bad; things seem fairly peaceful now, and tourism is something that could bring in a lot of extra revenue for the islands. Even though conflict is gone, corruption remains, and no one expects that the government can make effective use of what money it gets. The conflict is kept in check by a police force from Australia.

There was a one room museum with a few WWII relics, some skulls and pictures of fauna, and various carvings and illustrations of traditional life on the islands. We had to find the lady and get her to open it for us. In front of the museum, a political rally of some kind was taking place, the kind the State Department tells American tourists to avoid. It was quite formal and British, however, candidates stepping up to the microphone to answer questions from the audience. Really much more genuine than the American process of dueling trash TV campaigns; American corruption happens so far behind closed doors that we forget it even exists since we don’t have the opportunity to pay policemen to fix tickets; and Transparency International has been heavily bribed not to include political campaign contributions in their definition of a democracy debased beyond recognition. We tiptoed around the back of the rally to get to the museum. After we were done there, there really wasn’t anything else to do besides go back to our hotel, which we got to early enough that we were able to convince them to cook us a late lunch / early dinner so we didn’t have to go back out.

On Friday, we tried to visit another little war museum the tourist office told us about on our way to the airport for our flight to Fiji. It was located inside a lumberyard and was closed: they said “give us twenty minutes and we’ll open it up” but we didn’t want to miss our flight. We could have probably taken them up on their offer, because our flight turned out to be three hours delayed, getting us into Fiji at 9 pm instead of 6 pm.