I left Brisbane early on the 1st March, to say I was nervous was an understatement. I was going off the beaten track and into the unknown. I said to my family and boyfriend that I was going through security and I would let them know when I arrived safely. After meeting Betty, a Solomon Islander whilst waiting for my flight, my nerves settled slightly. She was coming home after 20 months of living in the UK as a missionary. We sat talking about everything and some of my concerns for what to come started to dwindle. But maybe I was jumping ahead of myself…
We landed to rain and after a queue, for immigration, I was let into the Solomon Islands. It was at this point things started going downhill. I had searched the internet, talked to my Airbnb host and was well assured that there was an ATM at the airport – even the visitors' map stated there was an ATM at the airport. Unfortunately, to my horror, there was none. Some people may wonder why I didn’t get Solomon dollars before I left Australia, there were 2 reasons. 1 – they are hard to come by, and 2 – if you do get some the exchange rate is awful. I was reassured that any taxi I took would take me to where I could get some Solomon Dollar (SBD), perfect. I then asked about sim cards, there were posters across the airport stated that if you handed your boarding pass in you would receive a free sim card. They had run out, something I am not surprised about seeing as they charge SBD$10 for them in town, why give them away for free to tourists?
I went outside to grab a taxi to promptly be told by all those waiting outside that there had been a flood and that no taxis were getting through. I was kindly lent a phone by an Australian lady who was also stranded, I was able to call my Airbnb host to ask whether she had any suggestions – sit tight and wait until the flood subsided. 3 Australians, 2 Spanish guys and I went to sit in the airport lounge, ready to wait out the flood.
It was only a matter of 20 minutes that a flat loading truck pulled up outside. Peter – who I owe a lot to – suggested we asked for a lift through the flood for SBD$50 each, they were the only vehicle high enough to get through the waters. We put our bags on the truck and climbed in after them, holding onto the roof as it moved. We queued from nearly the airport to the flood, about 2km, the road was blocked with cars too low to get through and locals who had come to watch those crazy enough or stupid enough to pass through. Our driver was nervous about going through, he lived on the airport side of the flood and even though he would have made a lot of money he moved us all onto a different, flat loader. This vehicle had a snorkel capable of getting us through the flood water. We drove through the flood behind a 4x4, the flood water was so high that the 4x4’s number plate was almost submerged. After reaching the other side the trucked pulled over, we each paid SBD$50 and we transferred to a taxi. This taxi dropped each of us off at the respective hotels, missionaries and Airbnb’s, again we paid SBD$50 for the privilege.
After landing at 2 pm, the 10km journey to the Airbnb took 3 and a half hours. I finally arrived at my Airbnb by 5:30 pm.
As everyone kept saying “Welcome to the Solomon Islands”
A huge thank you to Peter Toy whose many years of living and working in the Solomon Islands saved me. As he said, “you looked like a damsel in distress”. He also came to see me at my Airbnb to make sure I was okay and gave me some tips on Islands life.