We arrived Honiara on April 1st and I have to say I did think we were victims of a completely bizarre April Fool’s joke. Despite the lovely beach and the enticing yacht club posts on Facebook this town is a very challenging place so far.
The town itself is located along one long road between 2 bridges that are single file bridges – so the traffic is horrendous because only one way traffic can use the bridge at any time in either direction, and everyone is in a car. We were told this morning that another bridge is being built and will open in 2017! Also this morning we spent 45 mins in traffic to cover about 6 klms (we really could have walked it faster but it was so hot we would expire!). Thus we have made a decision that we need to live in the town centre and not far from Ron’s work so that we can walk around or catch cabs if necessary. Having said that, it was Easter Saturday today and there were a lot more people on the road than might be at any other time – so I am prepared to say ‘let’s wait and see’ – but we will live in town. That decision is going to cost us hugely financially as town accommodation is very expensive – more expensive than Sydney and Abu Dhabi for something that is nowhere near the standard you would expect in either. My focus is on getting something comfortable, secure and with a pool, airconditioning and reasonable furniture. We will only be able to afford one bedroom so I guess we won’t be able to have anyone come to stay, which makes me very unhappy! Maybe we can organize a fold out sofa, but I am not sure who would want to come and sleep on one L. There are a few hotels to stay at, the best one being the Heritage Park Hotel which is next door to the second best one which is the one we are staying in – and there is a significant difference between the two, although we are very comfortable here – it is just a bit old that’s all.
The weather has been dry, although we are at the end of the wet season and should expect to get more rain this month. It’s been dry since cyclone Pam made her way down to Vanuatu. The streets are just as you would expect in a developing country – worse than what they were in Vanuatu – the usual holes and ruts and footpaths that are pretty dodgy, but we will get used to walking with care and watching where we step.
The population in Honiara is much larger than in Port Vila and seems to be crammed into a very narrow plain along the seafront. There are ridges above the town that have housing and then there is quite high mountainous terrain above that and it is not inhabited. The roads that go to the housing on the ridge are OK but many are unsealed and I think could be a bit difficult in the wet weather. A 4 wheel drive is essential if you live up there. We are not sure we want to buy a car as there is not really anywhere much to drive to! The sealed roads run out just out of town and become impassable in rain. Most transport is by boat to areas beyond the sealed roads. I don’t think we will be investing in a boat. However there are cruises that can be arranged to the nearby islands for outings – snorkeling/diving and swimming. It’s not advisable to use the seafront for swimming as the town drains into the water from three rivers that flow into the sea – it’s a bit to icky for swimming.
The people have been very welcoming and Ron’s colleagues look like a great bunch of people to work with. He has had a pretty comprehensive briefing from a NZ Education Adviser from the Ministry who has great corporate knowledge and experience and will be working with him.
We will now be sending for our shipment from Abu Dhabi to get underway, with the extra bits that have been identified to come on to Honiara. As you know it was a really protracted process to exit Abu Dhabi and as a result we have resolved to live more simply and to not accumulate. We loved our home and the comfort of it in Sas Al Nakhl and have no regrets about how that happened as we enjoyed and appreciated every day of it and what we had there – often pinching ourselves and reminding each other of how blessed and grateful we were. However it was a huge task to make the move out, complicated by all the ADEC exit procedures that seemed to be never ending exercising in pushing and shoving, demanding and negotiating.
The thunder is rolling in, so I think we might be in for a wet evening here in Honiara. We met a man on the flight who sat next to Ron and they chatted a bit. He and his wife, Les and Jan, were in the café when we went for breakfast this morning and have invited us out to dinner with another couple. I am hoping this may be the beginning of some new friendships and will sweeten the adventure a little for us.
We have very limited access to very expensive internet so I will be reactivating the blog with this post and hope that you can log on to it from time to time to catch up with us. Of course I will also try to keep in touch by email but it will not be so easy as it has been up till now.