Leaving the Solomons

Eight months.  Nearly eight months.  It’s the longest we have stayed in one country since we’ve been sailing.  If you’d have asked me when we started this trip which country we’d likely spend the most time in, Solomon Islands would not have even been on the list!  I don’t even know if I’d heard of it at all before we got further across the Pacific.  But our time here has flown by.

Today we need to do all the last minute provisioning and paperwork with Customs and Immigration.  Of course, government agencies are on their own time schedule, so when we climbed the stairs at 8:30 in the morning, all ready to check out, the office was closed.  There was, however, a sign which provided a phone number, so Mark dinghied back to the boat, dropped off the bread and garlic we’d bought, and called the number to see when they’d be open.  Meanwhile, the kids and I perused the fresh market to stock up on produce.  This would be our last chance for a while, but the market here in Noro is by far one of the dirtiest and sparse ones we’ve seen in all of our time across the Pacific.  If Beetelnut and coconuts were the only thing on our list, though, we’d be set!  I did a quick glance around the stalls, grabbing one lone pineapple (yippee!!), about 6 cucumbers, a small heap of cherry tomatoes, the last bundle of green beans, and a pumpkin.  Hmmm.  Anyone have any recipe ideas?  Looks like the next 7 weeks out in remote atolls will require some culinary creativity!  

As I walked around the market, I realized this would be our last Solomons market.  With sudden nostalgia, I felt the need to run back in and buy one last ‘pudding’.  For $5 SBD (less than one dollar), I bought a square piece of cassava pudding.  It is exactly the same as the ‘lap lap’ we’d had in Vanuatu, just called by a different name here.  The cassava (starchy root vegetable) is grated, mixed with coconut milk, spread out onto banana leaves, buried in an underground oven, and cooked for hours.  The result is a chewy sheet of carbohydrate goodness.  It’s not the most nutritional, but is a local staple that Michael and I have come to love.   

We plopped the produce in the dinghy and headed back up the stairs to the Immigration office.  This time the door was opened, and the official greeted us with a smile.  All the paperwork was stamped and signed as we chatted with the man about how wonderful our time in the Solomons was.  He mentioned how upset many people (local and foreigner alike) were with the recent rise in customs charges.  They have nearly doubled since we checked in - not a great way to encourage tourism.

Next, we hiked up a narrow bush path (the shortcut that the official recommended) to find the Customs building.  Elizabeth and Michael were quite bored by this point, so they stayed outside exploring while Mark and I finished the final step in our check out process.   Duplicate copies were required, so we sat side by side filling in all the boat information, passport numbers, and travel plans simultaneously until the 6 or so pages were completed.  We were officially no longer Solomon Island visitors.

On our way back to the boat, we had to stop for a few last necessities - ice cream and toilet paper!  Some items we probably won’t be able to find in the remote atolls we’ll be visiting for the next six weeks!  Better stock up now.  

And that was it - So long Solomon Islands...Papua New Guinea, here we come!

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