Andi Cross
Marla Tomorug
August 1, 2023
5 min read
Audio generated for accessibility using AI. Intonation does not express the true level of awe and stoke.

Waking up that morning, we knew it wasn’t going to be pretty. We were in store for a four hour boat transfer from one wild to the next. We’d first travel from Gizo to Munda, change boats, and then travel from Munda to Tetepare. All of these destinations were remote landmasses that make up the Western Province of the Solomon Islands.

Torrential rain during our week spent in Gizo made the time there even more extreme. The rain was so intense that leaving our base camp meant walking through calf-deep mud puddles. Our shoes would often get stuck, presenting the risk of falling face-first right into muck. We accepted our fate of being covered in mud as the new normal. And with that, the sea was anything but calm and peaceful. 

Strapping on the few pieces of waterproof gear we had and popping sea sickness tablets like our lives depended on it, we pushed off the Dive Gizo dock waving goodbye to our newfound friends. We had spent the week with Kerrie Kennedy, the owner and operator of the only accredited dive center on the island and her team of trusted guides. We also had the chance to work alongside the nonprofit, Positive Change for Marine Life, a group that showed us their waste management processes on the island. 

The look of sheer concern on the faces of those we were leaving said it all. 

Being that we had survived many rocky boat rides in the past, we thought, “how bad could this be?” It didn’t take us long to find out. There were two notable passages we needed to make it through. One on the way to Munda and then one on the way to Tetepare. They were notorious, even on good days, for being challenging voyages. 

With half the boat filled with our scuba diving and camera gear, and the other half occupied by us, this tiny floating vehicle (what the locals like to call the “banana boat”) felt like it was going to capsize, even when just pulling out of the dock. Feeling this uneasy barely off the shoreline, all we could do was laugh.

Yet again, we were in the middle of nowhere, with not a single boat in sight, charging 3 meter (10 foot) waves straight on and bracing massive drops that slammed our bodies into our seats. This seemed to be standard protocol when it comes to transport on expedition—another new normal for us on the edges of the earth. 

Even using a camping tarp as a body shield, nothing could be kept dry. Saltwater was flaring up onto us from the sides of the boat and freshwater rainfall was pouring down onto our faces. As we approached the first passage, we could see the waves changing from 3 meter (10 foot) bumps to thick water walls. With each approaching wall wave, a sense of deep dread swept over us, thinking at any moment this could be where it all ends.

In trying times, our team seems to resort to the one thing that puts our minds at ease: a good laugh. 

Since being on expedition, it’s become apparent that our collective coping mechanism is humor. A good laugh cuts the tension, taking our minds off the fact we are so deeply uncomfortable and wildly uncertain as to what cards the fates might deal us. Our methods of coping often include screaming at the top of our lungs with every wave drop, or even belting out songs from our childhood to pass the fear-filled time (with my personal favorite being the soundtrack from a Goofy Movie, from all the way back in 1995). 

When you voyage to the edges of earth, getting there isn’t often glamorous. It usually requires several modes of transport—from open truck beds that feel like you’re going to fall out at any moment to banana boats soaring through the air when coming off a giant swell. It’s a painful, wet and intrusive journey that leaves you wondering, “was this a good idea?” 

But, every time we arrive at our final destination, we’re happy we made the trek. And it’s also becoming a pattern that we reflect on the trek as one of the most memorable parts of the whole experience. We were beyond thrilled when we touched down on Munda island, as we thought the worst was over. 

Marla got the chance to roam a nearby seaweed garden, learning about the local aquaculture, which was her dream come true. Adam got a beautiful seaside lunch of freshly caught fish, coconut soup and stir-fried vegetables that left him the most satiated he’d been in weeks. And I got to collect 26 sand dollars, that tapped into my treasure seeking side that’s been firmly ingrained since childhood. 

However, these feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment stemming from three different (yet on-brand) sources for each of us were stripped away faster than we could’ve imagined. The voyage from Munda to Tetepare—known as The Solomon's “last wild island”—made the first seaway look serene. Our seasoned driver named Tumi had been navigating these waters his entire life. Being in good hands mattered more than ever before, as these waves were quintessentially colossal and the ocean looked like a witch's brew, churning and bubbling around us. 

Getting closer to the largest uninhabited island in the archipelago, the rain transitioned from small droplets to thick paintballs hitting our skin. The wind was raging to the point where it looked like the ancient primary rainforest could’ve been easily flattened. The tide was too low to fully pull us into the dock, so we carried bags over our heads in waist-deep, gnarly water in order to make it to shore. All in all, there are few words to fully describe what being out on the high seas was like in that tiny banana boat during these Solomon storms. 

The wilderness guides—soon to be considered family—welcomed us to their home away from home, letting us know we’d officially entered the genuine wild country. We were only a day away from learning exactly what that really meant. 

To be continued … 


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