The First Week of A New Life – following the dream…

Oravae Solomon Islands

Ten days into my new life on this dollop of sand and coral in the South Pacific and I already feel like I’ve been here a month. I eat, write, swim, eat, sleep in a hammock, write, swim, eat, gin & tonic, sleep. Every day is the same. It’s Groundhog Day, but in the best possible way.

My mind is still clinging on to the old life a little and I find myself referring to my old workplace as though I still belong there.   I guess that’s to be expected after 10 years with the company.  But now my life is following my intuition and heart, wherever that takes me.  At the moment it is Oravae Cottage in Gizo, Solomon Islands.  If you ever want to have your own island complete with chefs, but can’t afford Richard Branson’s Necker Island, this is the place to do it!  (AUD$120pppn will see you through…)  For three months I will write and ‘sing for my supper’, doing whatever I can to help the resort.

Living the Dream

Every day I commit to making progress on my book on hiking the Te Araroa Trail. Some days the words flow, others it’s like trying to get juice out of a hard unripe lime. I’m giving it a go though and it feels good to do that. I’ve let go of the old world, the ‘safe’ normal world that never made me happy.   I’m following my heart.

A work in progress - writing my Te Araroa Trail memoir

A work in progress – writing my Te Araroa Trail memoir

This truly is one small island though, and if I was used to walking 15km a day in the city, I’d now literally be lucky to walk a few hundred metres. My only exercise is swimming and it’s become a necessary part of the day.

Underwater Heaven

As a diver with hundreds of underwater hours on the clock I am absolutely thrilled with the amazing snorkeling right offshore. Inquisitive reef sharks, delicate lionfish, giant iridescent clams, clownfish hiding in pockets of anemones quivering in the gentle current, and hundreds of others too numerous to mention. I could float for hours above it all. And I did on Day Two, burning my poor pale city-girl back in a way that I wont forget in a hurry.

Great fish life is often easier to come by than great corals but in this regard we are again blessed.   The front side of the island, exposed to nutrient rich open waters, is filled with stunning blue staghorn corals, pink mushroom corals, lime green and purple corals and huge round plate corals the size of a double beanbag. Such a tasty feature has unfortunately not gone unnoticed by the Crown of Thorns Starfish and it blooms here feasting on the coral polyps, sucking the life out of their limestone skeleton before leaving them bleached white and dead.

“Pieter” says our island keeper Patson, standing on the balcony of our overwater bungalow one evening. He’s pointing down at a patch of bleached coral below us, clearly visible in the clear water. “See that? The crown of thorns starfish is doing that. If you see one can you kill it for me please?” The next morning a wooden spear appears on our verandah.

Removing the pesky crown of thorns starfish from the reef

Removing the pesky crown of thorns starfish from the reef

A brief snorkel that afternoon yielded a kill of six, carried to shore two at a time on the head of the spear but it was clear “we’re gonna need a bigger boat”. The next day we ventured out again, this time trailing a leaking wooden dugout canoe behind us on a rope. I was uncomfortable at first, taking the life of one of God’s creatures, but after seeing the devastation they have wrought it was clear these guys have to go. In areas the coral has been completely wiped out, leaving white and brown skeletons furry with algal growth where they were once bright and brimming with fish life. One after another we hunted them down, hiding under plate corals or wedged between rocks. Lifting them up on the spear we dumped them in the dugout at the surface. Total kill rate: 46.

Creepy Crawlies

So far I have managed to avoid any major arachnid encounters that I was so fearing. My first evening here was a jumpy affair, nervously reading more into the flutters of the shadows than I needed to. Once lying in bed though with the warm glow of a kerosene lamp bouncing off the pale thatched walls around us, and listening to the gentle lapping of water underneath our floor, it was impossible to feel anything other than bliss.

A few days later though whilst lazing in bed in the morning I gazed up to see a spider stuck to the thatched ceiling directly above me. Eyes wide in horror, I leapt up and ran outside cursing. Pieter gave it a prod, sending it scuttering into the folds of the thatch, which of course didn’t remove it but simply removed it from sight. That seems to be the best we can aim for here. The place is wide open. Geckos and bugs and other small critters come and go through screen-less windows and doors at their leisure.

A few hours after my arachnid encounter I sat with laptop in lap, legs propped up on the bed. Something dark fell from the ceiling and plopped onto my leg sending me into leaping conniptions.   Tentatively poking through the folds of bedding my spider wrangler discovered a small gecko. Thank God for that…

Until next time…


Happy days...

Happy days…