Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Serah’s Place

I am still trying to catch up on last month’s events amidst the power cuts, and as promised, this entry is devoted to the two-and-a-bit blissful days we (Steve, MD&A and myself) spent down at Langalanga Lagoon. The Langalanga region is only about twenty-ish kilometres from Auki, but feels a million miles away, and is home to an ever-increasing number of artificial islands. [I think I have made a brief note on the origin of artificial islands to accompany a previous entry, so please see that for background.]

It is close to an hour from town in a little banana boat to get to Serah’s. There are many leaf hut villages to gaze at on the way, seasoned fishermen paddling dugout canoes, a few other artificial islands, and if you are lucky, flying fish that race over the water with you. We also saw a stingray (who perhaps thought he was a flying fish) fling himself jubilantly out of the water as we passed.

My bottom and I were pleased to feel the boat slow down and coast in towards the little blue pier that perches daintily over the sea. A carefully hand-painted sign and Serah herself welcome guests to the island, and everything is only a few steps away: the bungalow over the water with its wrap-around balcony, two shelters to sit, eat, drink and relax, the separate bathroom, and Serah’s own house. Standing on the balcony can easily while away an hour, as a parade of marine life marches and swims by as you watch: a reef shark in the shallows, a fist-sized hermit crab, some moray eels and of course endless schools of tropical fish.

Not having electricity on the island immediately slows the pace of life from laid-back Solomon time in town, to impossibly long afternoons and evenings that seem to each last for whole days. We watched and learned about the making of the traditional shell money, but “ran out of time” for the other activity options: there are many aspects of Langalanga life that we could have learned about, but the lure of the water, the dugout canoe and time on the couch or bed with our respective novels was too great for us.

Unfortunately, dynamite fishing was a popular hunting method in the Langalanga region, which has put an end to much of the spectacular coral. There is, however, a good-sized area directly in front of Serah’s island that is perfect for snorkelling, and we gleefully explored just about every inch of it. The snorkelling was a good way to cool down after paddling practice in the dugout canoe – we proved that it is really much better to grow up using that sort of thing rather than try to master such a skill in one’s adulthood.

Hours of paddling, bobbing and floating around on the sea made for tired bodies, and it was with grateful sighs that we sunk into our crisply white-sheeted beds. Although we did try to stay up past 8.30pm with card games by lamplight and stargazing until our necks were stiff (spectacular, by the way), we just couldn’t.
I suppose there are some other important things I should mention: we were very well-fed (delicious burgers, scrambled eggs for breakfast, lots of yellowfin tuna), very comfortable in the bungalow (it is a leaf hut, but not grubby or dingy as that may sound to some), and Serah and her husband Gustav are wonderful hosts. Steve and I are glad to have the chance to go back again (and again) while we are in the Solomons. There are not a lot of tourist activities re-established in Malaita after the ethnic tensions several years back, but this is definitely one we recommend.

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