Under New Management

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Matt Fletcher

Heading To The Solomons

PNG is now behind us. The neat, coral lined gardens of Karkar Island, the amazing collapsed volcano crater that's Garove Island and lagoon at Keravang I'll not forget in a hurry. Now we are sailing painfully slowly into the Solomon Islands. As I type we are bobbing around on a very tranquil Solomon Sea agonizingly close to the beautiful, protected lagoons of the Treasury Islands. We've had no wind to speak of for 3 days and what we have had has been against the head. But on the plus side the skies are clear, it's not rained for days and we've been treated the greatest display of stars yet on this trip.

Smoke and ash from a volcano, viewed from the sea
The Volcano at Rabaul


Rabaul's volcano was a different sort of spectacle. It has been kicking off for a little while now, blowing ash and smoke over the town and periodically closing the airport, but over the last few weeks it has been really going for it. We passed through the ash and smoke cloud on the way into the harbour, watching the eruptions from about 2km away.

Jeep in front of an erupting volcano in the distance
Smoke and ash from a volcano

We thought it was all pretty cool, but for the locals it's a nightmare. Still, it didn't stop a few nice folks driving up close one night after a few beers to see the volcano spit out molten boulders the size of small cars every 20 seconds or so. It roared like thunder. It was an amazing show, not diminished by an enterprising local turning up in an attempt to charge us for looking at it. At this particular spot a sign had been erected saying 'Under New Management. K5 per person. Cash Only'.

Village with erupting volcano in the distance
Smoke and ash from a volcano

That people are still living so close to the brute is quite something. The plantations are devastated and villages have been destroyed, but some folks just don't want to leave. Amazing. If the wind blows the wrong direction everything is covered in ash. Then when it rains the ash dropped in the hills is washed down into the town and villages covering everything in thick, black mud. People are constantly digging, trying to get the stuff off roads, drives, yards and drainage ditches. Then as soon as you are close to getting things straight, the wind changes or it rains, or both and the whole thing starts again. If you are good with a shovel you can make money in Rabaul.

- Matt Fletcher