Journey to the West: The Guadalcanal Coastal Walk
While Nid was in Auki last weekend for a week-long business trip, I spent the weekend with seven friends hiking the two-day Guadalcanal Coastal hike.
Starting from Lambi Bay (the furthest village you can drive to before the road runs out), the trail follows the coast all the way to Tangarare; the end of the Western point where it begins to turn into South Guadalcanal and the start of the Weather Coast.
To guide us on this journey, our group contracted the services of Stanley Mataniata; the island’s local Bear Grylls.
Stanley has mad bush skills. He can survive in the bush with nothing but a bush knife and his sense of smell, and finds his betel nut by following the stars and the shape of the moon. As the Coastal Walk traverses through Stanley’s wantok lands, Stanley is the best guide to take to avoid any trespassing issues (unlike this hike).
As a side note, Stanley is currently seeking an adventurous Māori wāhine, so all you sisters out there who like grizzled men with outside skills and tales of bold escapades, hit my Bro up on +677 774 29305 (the number is the same if you just want to go on a hike).
Come Saturday morning, we were off to a slow start. Meeting on Saturday at 6:45 am, due to road conditions, we were still waiting for a bus at 8:30 am because none were willing to take us all the way. As a word of advice to anyone interested in taking this hike, drive to Lambi if you can.
Almost two hours behind schedule we settled for a bus to Visale which is an hour’s boat ride before the usual starting point.
The eight of us, plus Stanley, plus two boatmen, crammed onto a banana boat not made for eleven people and, clearly overloaded, consequently ran out of fuel five minutes from the shores of Lambi Bay – close, but still so very far away from the shore. We made it to the shore only once our boatman started holding the fuel tank on a tilt above the motor, willing more fuel into the engine (definitely one of the most exciting five minutes of the weekend).
Lambi is the usual starting point for the Coastal Walk but because it was so late in the day, we purchased a second container of boat fuel to get us a little closer. This tank got us all the way to the little village of Tuvu; the unofficial starting point for people who miss the bus.
By 1pm, we were finally ready to do the walking thing. Bye bye Tuvu, and thanks for all the coconuts.
The trail follows along the coast and is a mix of bush and beach coast scenery. There is a well-marked track for most of the way that is predominantly flat with only a few climbs. The only real difficulty is navigating the coastal points where it was either walking around them on slippery rocks, or climbing up and over them which is hot and sweaty work.
The scenery was beautiful. As we walked, it occurred to me the beaches were getting better. I’ve always been a bit disenchanted by the beaches in Honiara but let me be clear – I refer only to a very particular part of the beach: the strip of beach that connects where you parked the car and the ocean.
In New Zealand, this strip of land is where you would expect a dreamy blanket of white (or black) sand upon which to picnic, sunbathe and frolic. In the Solomons on the other hand, this strip of land is never very wide, only a few metres at best, and is usually corally, rocky, and dotted with rubbish. Where is all your sand, Solomons? Just getting from the car to the water on Solomon Island beaches is like a Chinese reflexology obstacle course.
As we walked further and further south, the beaches got wider, the sand got sandier! Solomons does have nice beaches.
And where we found nice beaches we found nice villages, with nice villagers; wooden, leaf-thatched houses; grunting pigs roaming free; well-fed dogs; friendly waves and “hello’s” from villagers – some bearing coconuts; and only a few screaming kids who’d never seen white faces before.
Every few hours the landscape was disrupted by the empty spaces left by logging camps. Ugly.
Except for this toilet.
We reach our guesthouse after only three hours of walking, pleased with ourselves that it was still only 4 pm in the afternoon. There are some benefits to catching the late bus.
Investigating our lodgings for the night we found a cute three-bedroom hut with eight mattresses and a couply mosquito nets, and two washroom facilities with two toilets and one shower.
A quick swim and rinse, then it’s naptime for me. The huts are sweltering. I dream of sweating and wake up sweating and stuck to the mattress. I have to peel the sheets off me like a wetsuit and don’t know how I’m going survive when it comes to the actual sleeping tonight.
Going outside, it goes from the centre of the earth to balmy paradise cocktail hour, except without cocktails because no one thought to bring any. We settle for sucking the raisins in our scroggin and muesli bars hoping for a buzz. My flatmate makes dinner for all of us (I’m feeling pretty stoked I thought to bring him along) and we stori for a little while before making moves to go to bed.
Knowing what to expect by sleeping in the hut, two of us decide to sleep outside on the sitting bench.
This is possibly the best decision anyone ever makes during the hike second only to if someone had thought to bring that bottle of wine. There are no mosquitoes in this neck of the woods and we are roused only once when one of the dogs tips over the rubbish bin. I wake up with a sunrise piercing into my eyeballs at 5:30 am in the morning but there are worse ways to wake up.
Breakfast is muesli and I’m glad to get rid of the 1-litre bottle of long-life milk I’ve been hauling over the countryside. When we packed our bags the day before, Zorro and I had separated our packs into two: he got the ‘sheets and clothes’ pack and I got ‘snacks and water’. As we demolish the food and my pack gets lighter, his pack stays the same. I offer to wash our breakfast dishes to give the impression I’m pulling my weight (I’m not. #besthikingcompanionever).
Stanley mentally prepares us for about five hours of walking and we leave our lodging at around 7 am. The walking isn’t particularly strenuous, it’s all about not slipping and not overheating. Competing with the heat becomes harder after 9 am but there are lots of beaches that make excellent rest points along the way.
When we reach Twin Islands we stop for a swim. Twin Islands is a tiny island about 40m from the main island. There is a small local resort on it which can cater up to eight people who like diving, temperate swimming, fishies, abundant crays, and beach life attitudes. There is even a water tank and enough power generation for a chiller (for all that wiiiiine). If we’d ended the walk here that would’ve been fine by me. I mean, look at it.
Sadly, we have a few more hours of walking to go so we pack up and continue on our way to Tangarare.
The beaches by this time look like postcards and are a far cry from what we left behind in Honiara. We also cross a river that Stanley tells us is famous for hungry crocodiles and I don’t think I’ve seen our hiking group move so fast.
We finally reach Tangarare just after 1pm. We’ve passed so many small villages with populations in the tens or small hundreds, that arriving at Tangarare is a bit of a shock; Tangarare outnumbers all of the other villages we’ve passed with a population of about one thousand. It even has shops!
Our timing is auspicious because we’ve rocked up in the middle of their Sunday School Fundraiser. Pikinini are in costumes and there is singing and dancing and a man saying stuff on a loudspeaker.
I send my flatmate over with SBD 50 to see if he can find me a crisp can of soda water. Five minutes later I hear over the loudspeaker he’s donated the lot of it to the Sunday School Fundraiser – I said “soda water” not “charity”.
Chilli tuna and Honiara hot bread cheese buns for lunch, then we load ourselves onto a banana boat for the ride back to Visale. This time our boatman’s calculations don’t come short and we reach our destination without mishap. A bus brings us back to Honiara’s dust and betel-but spattered streets, and we celebrate our success with fried chicken from Mr. Grill. The perfect end to a pretty mint weekend.
Although it wasn’t the most beautiful walk I’ve ever done in the Sollies, there were a heap of beautiful beaches that are definitely well worth the effort and is overall an easy walk to boot. Thanks to our friends who organised and the friends who kept us company along the way.
The Dets in Less Words
This walk takes two days and can be easily completed in a weekend. It is a relatively easy walk for those of average fitness and follows the western coast. You need food, sheets, and water purifying tablets.
Contact Stanley on 774 29305.
The lodge we stayed at only caters for eight but Stanley may have some other options if you have a larger group.
SBD 1,000 per person for a group of eight
The cost will go up incrementally with less people.
The walk is a combination of road, boat and foot.
Drive to Lambi Bay if you can as it takes time to use the bus. However, if you do take the bus, the bus stop is outside the Point Cruz Bulkshop behind Honiara Hot Bread. Talk to Stanley about options – he can cater it to the length/days you want to spend hiking the West side.
Walking from Lambi to Tangarare, then back by boat takes two days. Expect around 5-6 hours of walking per day for groups of average fitness.
- Walking shoes (+duct tape)
- Dry Bag
- Drinking water for one day (there is water at the lodging but it needs to be purified. Otherwise, take water for two days).
- Water purifying tablets
- All of your food. No food is provided but villagers are prone to giving out coconuts if you look thirsty enough. Basic cooking equipment provided at village.
- Mosquito net
- Clothes (or not) for sleeping and next day