I have been working up to the kolombangara write as I needed a bit of peace and quiet to do the story justice and in the chaos of finishing my time here in the Solomons such moments have been few and far between but let me begin the tale of Kolobangara…
We arrived on Kolombungara after transit by boat from Nusatuva, not to pristine forest as one might expect from a protected reserve but rather to the wharf of a rural logging camp. Should you ever get there don't let this worry you as regulated forestry is the main industry of the island, but, looking up from the scene of the wharf you will see where Kolombangara's true value lies, The jungle and cloud forests above 400 metres, with my neck stretch toward the mountains, the scene was both daunting and beckoning at once.
We took a rickety ute owned by the logging company to the areas base accommodation for climber's 'sunset lodge' with the guys fresh from Australia taking the chance to enjoy the lax rules of the Solomon's and travel in the open air of the ute tray. Meeting Moffat (our guide of years of experience in the climb and interesting enough aiding in botanical research and surveying of the area, the books out this year) we started on our journey.
It's interesting, the hills are not inhabited now but in the head hunting days people had settled there at times, to avoid raids and there was a sacred burial ground along our path. Of further interest was Moffat's need to ask and alert the spirits of these ancestors before we passed through the area which created an air of eeriness, as was slowly followed the sounds of the chants in his local tongue.
Along the trek on day one we also came across the famed Kolombangara stone which is believed to be carved into the shape of Kolombungara when viewed from Gizo on a faraway island. Kastom is strong in the West and we also learned of the lady of the mountains who's figure, face and breast can be seen outlined in silhouettes of the mountains but we never did catch her name, it is believed that saying her name out loud will cause her to appear while in the area but we were going to be told after the walk when we were safely out of the woods. Unfortunately as you will read we were a bit distracted concluding the climb so never did get the end of the story…
We made it to our camp for the night and the guys tried some betel nut that had been brought from Honiara and after a few scrunched faces from the taste and giggles from the effect we sat back to take in the view and cook up the sustenance for the night. Tinned tao and rice. We settled in to our accommodation, a single open palm hut where the six of us tussled for our space on the floor and awaited day two..