Guadalcanal Coastal Walk, Solomon Islands.
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Journey to the West: The Guadalcanal Coastal Walk

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December 6, 2017

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 one of the best guides 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).

Stanley, Guadalcanal Coastal Walk, Solomon Islands.

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.

Guadalcanal Coastal Walk, Solomon Islands.

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 you had two options.

  1. Walk around them (the ‘slip on slippery rocks and crack head’ option)
  2. Climb up and over them (the ‘hot and sweaty’ option).

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.

However, 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.

Guadalcanal Coastal Walk, Solomon Islands.

We reach our guesthouse after only three hours of walking, pleased with ourselves that it was still only 4 pm in the afternoon. High-fives all around. There are some benefits to catching the late bus.

Investigating our lodgings for the night we found a simple three-bedroom hut with eight mattresses and a couply mosquito nets, and two washroom facilities with two toilets and one shower.

Guadalcanal Coastal Walk, Solomon Islands.

Guadalcanal Coastal Walk, Solomon Islands.

Guadalcanal Coastal Walk, Solomon Islands.

Guadalcanal Coastal Walk, Solomon Islands.

A quick swim and rinse, then it’s naptime. The huts are sweltering and I feel like I’m breathing lava. I dream of sweating and wake up sweating (surprise suprise) and needing to peel myself off the sheets.

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. Dinner is gourmet Italian pasta sans parmesan, meat, olives, capers, herbs, or salt. Delicious.

Guadalcanal Coastal Walk, Solomon Islands.

Bedtime comes around pretty quickly having only one solar light and I decide to sleep outside to escape the heat of the huts ← best decision ever. I wake up with a sunrise piercing 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, my flatmate 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 weight 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 lodgings 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 40 m 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 had a few more hours of walking to go so we pack up and continued 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 mouth that Stanley tells us is famous for hungry crocodiles and it’s the fastest I’ve ever seen our hiking group move.

We finally reach Tangarare just after 1 pm. 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 1,000. 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, an appropriate finis for a weekend spent hiking.

This 2-day, overnight hike is definitely worth the effort and relatively easy with only one gnarly bit that you may need a helping hoist to get up and over. There are a heap of beautiful beaches and going through the villages make for a refreshing eye vacation from Honiara. Thanks to our friends who organised and the friends who kept us company along the way.


Organising

This 2-day, overnight walk is a combination of road, boat and foot.

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.

Contact Stanley on 774 29305.

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.

The lodge we stayed at only caters for eight but Stanley may have some other options if you have a larger group.

Cost

SBD 1,000 per person for a group of eight
The cost will go up incrementally with less people.

Take

  • Walking shoes (+duct tape)
  • Backpack
  • 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.
  • Headlamp/torch
  • Mosquito net
  • Sheet
  • Towel
  • Clothes (or not) for sleeping and next day
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Dan and Nid
Honiara, Solomon Islands

Kia ora. We are Dan and Nid. Exploring the Solomon Islands for the next two years.

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