With the purchase of our new car, Bluey, it was time to get exploring. First off the rank was Mataniko Falls – a popular hike, close to town, with a watery interlude. What’s not to love?
Like an excited, hike-starved hiker, I started preparing: Hiking boots, Mosquito/Ant/Stinging nettle-proof long pants, Sunscreen, Insect Repellent, Camera, Phone, Wallet, Mini First Aid Kit, Water, Snacks, Swimmers, Towel, Books etc.
Pretty soon, it became clear that I was a rookie in terms of Solomon Islands hiking. What I should have prepared was: Sandals, Shorts, Inflatable tube, and a Waterproof camera.
Just to get to the village where the hike starts we needed to cross a river….by foot. So, off came the hiking boots, up rolled the pants, across the river, hiking boots back on, pants rolled down, we were good to go!
We were hit with an initial steep ascent until we reached the ridge line. From there, it was up and down the ridge, taking in distant views of the ocean and islands on one side, and overlapping green mountains on the other side. Of course, what goes up must come down, so after an hour or so, we reached the point of steep descent. I don’t use the word “steep” lightly. In fact, if you didn’t end up sliding on your bum, clutching tenuously at barely-rooted blades of grass, you weren’t doing it right.
The muddy backsides were worth it as we reached the bottom and got our first glimpse of the mighty Mataniko Falls. Stunning at any time of the year, but even better after a recent dose of rain, the falls cascade down a number of rock ledges, before finding their way down a leafy, peaceful chasm. There is even a giant cave that one can explore by torchlight when the water level isn’t so high.
So once again, off came the hiking boots, up rolled the pants, but this time to no avail. The scramble over super-sharp rocks left imprints on the soles of my feet necessitating the wearing of hiking boots in the water. Meanwhile, crossing rocks left me wading through knee-deep water leading to unavoidably soaked pants. Never-the-less, it was beautiful to feel the cool, fresh, frothing water on my hot, sweaty, sticky skin.
If I thought wet hiking boots and soaked pants were uncomfortable, boy, was I totally unprepared for the second half of the hike. In fact, the word hike is a misnomer: The way back to the starting point is achieved by floating. Yes. Those that were prepared with inflatable tubes, got to float over the mini-rapids and gently down the river. The rest of us got to shunt over the mini-rapids and wade down the river with our cumbersome bags and inappropriate hiking gear.
Fearing for the safety of my beloved phone, wallet, camera and books, I was grateful to be able to put these in another hiking buddy’s dry-sac. The rest, well, it just had to get wet. The float back to the village took roughly 2 hours and although the water was so shallow that the floating/drowning had to be broken up by short bursts of walking/stumbling, it was divinely cool and tranquil.
Back at the village, it was time to check the damage. My backpack, which had been faithfully carried by the guide, was completely dry! My phone, wallet and books, which had been faithfully carried in a dry-sac, were completely wet! So, with around $1500 of damage, hiking boots filled with water and river stones, and more bruises than a Mayweather – Pacquiao fight, I headed home exhilarated and ready for more. Next time I’ll be much better prepared.