Hikes are one of the things that Honiara does best. So when I was invited to a hike at the “newly discovered” (by the expat community) Parasaia Cave, how could I resist? Unfortunately, the evening before the planned hike, a low pressure system was forecast and the organisers hastily cancelled. However, threats of a downpour and flash floods couldn’t stop me*, so I found two new friends to join me the following morning.
Parasaia Cave, also known as bat cave, has only recently come on the radar, so our small group had no real idea of what it entailed. Except we knew it had bats, in a cave. We’re intelligent like that.
It was an overcast morning, without a drop of the anticipated rain, when we drove East out of Honiara and up past Tenaru to Paraingiju Lodge. As our hike had been cancelled, we had to wait for the organiser to rustle up some new guides (ie. get them out of bed) and then we were on our way. Our guides were 10 year old Thomas – the only one who had actually been to the cave and who, bless the young chap, guessed my age as being 17. There was also Steven Jnr, Amanda and Rodney, who were coming along to learn the ropes.
Due to some radiator troubles, we decided not to drive to the starting point, and instead macheted our way through some thick jungle to the road below. This cut out about 1km or so. Once we reached the road, we were fortunate to have a car drive past that was able to drive us the other 3km to the bridge. This is where the hike really started.
The entire walk follows the Balaha (?) River, but when I say “follows” I mean it repeatedly zigzags across the sometimes chest-deep and rather strong-current river, interspersed by short stretches on land that was more akin to rock scrambling than hiking. There were a few hairy moments, where I almost got swept over some small falls, and other rock sliding moments that left me with bright blue splotchy souvenirs on my skin. The scenery, though, made up for it all. The water was a perfect aqua blue, cutting through a green leafy gorge, with waterfalls and cascades the whole length of the hike.
After 2 hours, we made it to the entrance to the cave, marked by a towering and stunning cascade. We spent a short while taking selfies with the scenery, before heading for the said cave. Yep, one of the unique features of this walk is that you can walk through the bat cave.
It may surprise you that feeling along the slimy bat-poo walls and boulders to avoid stumbling over the submerged and uneven rocks in pitch black is not as enticing as it sounds. Even less enticing is having to slide down a bat poo-covered tree trunk on your butt, because there was so much bat poo that it was too slippery to walk down it (and when I say bat poo, I’m not referring to the dry squishy guano that I’m used to – this stuff is seriously big, chunky and goopy).
It is quite the relief when you see the light at the end of the tunnel. That is, until you see the masses of bats flapping around the entrance like moths to a flame.
If you persevere, you will eventually find yourself upstream of the bats, where the water is poo-free, where there’s no danger or copping one in the eye if you look up, and where the waterfalls provide a much-needed head and back massage.
Here we sat for a bit, allowing our bodies to recover before making our way back through the cave, up and down the boulders, left and right across the river, and back to the main road.
We were only able to hitch a ride part of the way along the main road, so had to walk a good 2-3km back to the lodge. We arrived at 4:30pm, 7 hours after we started. We were covered in poop, and feeling pretty pooped, too. At least the lodge understood a hiker’s needs and quickly set us up with some SB.
Despite the exhaustion, and the attractive bruises, I am so glad I ignored the weather warning and did the walk. To anyone else with very little sense, I suggest you get out there and do it now. Batman awaits.
* Just kidding, Mum! I take all proper precautions.