Transportation is a huge challenge throughout the Church of Melanesia. Priests and bishops spend a lot of time and money getting to parishes around the islands, especially in the Diocese of Ysabel, the biggest geographically. Our team had a taste of this experience through these vehicles:
1. The Isabella
We were aboard the Isabella for 10 hours from Honiara to Santa Isabel. It was very much a public transport ship—big, creaky, oily and packed with people (and cockroaches). At 200 Solomon dollars one way ($30 Canadian) it’s the most affordable way to travel. We were among the privileged few to have a simple berth at the top of the ship.
There are hardly any roads and just a couple of cars on all of Isabel. Most people get around by hiring a motorboat to zip along the shoreline. You usually wade out to the boat in water that feels like a warm bath.
To get to the farm at Garanga we travelled for 30 minutes by tractor. It was bumpy and hot but Bishop Naramana gave us each a hat to shield us from the sun. At one point we passed through a Malaysian logging camp and watched them haul enormous trunks of hardwood out to the Solomon Sea.
Just before we got to the farm there was a river to cross. We took off our shoes and grabbed the shoulders of our guides so we could make it over the slippery rocks. Hilda Naramana, the bishop’s wife, gave me her sturdy plastic sandals for the journey.
We flew back to Honiara on a noisy nine-seater plane. It took only 40 minutes and we could watch the little islands and turquoise reefs from above.
The only surprise on this last leg was that we had to wait for five hours before the plane arrived. There was no terminal so we were forced to sit outside and admire this view from our departure lounge. Not too bad.