WE arrived in sunny and hot Honiara to a warm welcome from the bamboo pipe band and Miss Solomon Islands.
All seven vaka plus the Vaka Motu Okeanos and Evohe berthed at the yacht club and were made welcome by the commodore of the club. All facilities, including the shower and toilet, have been made available to the crew.
After Customs and Immigration clearance and the welcome, some of us decided to head off to town for a stroll. From the yacht club, past the market and back we went, a huge and tiring effort given we haven't had much strolling in our confined space on the Uto ni Yalo.
Some members of the Fijian community, including Paula Uluinaceva, Save Banuve, Tamana and Mereani Kativerata, Eroni Nukutaumaki from Datec and his beautiful wife and others hosted us to dinner at a Chinese restaurant. The menu included spring rolls, soup, chicken, duck, three different species of crabs including the Fiji rare coconut crab (ugavule), a red snapper, roast pork, stir-fried beef, fried rice and the veggies. This was one hearty meal I tell you.
By the time the ugavule came out all we could do was stare at it. To our friends and family here in Honiara, vinaka vakalevu na vei nanumi kei na veikawaitaki.
After dinner we were taken on a tour of the arts village. No superlative can describe what we saw, so we will settle with amazing and brilliant. Yes friends, our Melanesian brothers and sisters of the Solomon Islands have done an awesome job.
Within the village is a lake with turtles in them, our adopted Uto ni Yalo totem. Lights like we've never seen before light up the village in an amazing aura of raindrop style visuals, most forming into lantern type balls of lights.
Bure and other traditional huts line the village fringe and these will house the delegations display, carving, weaving and other traditional and cultural crafts.
The performances will happen on stage. This we are particularly looking forward to. We saw the diversity of the Pacific right before our eyes at the official opening march to Lawson Tama Stadium. From the Australian Aborigine and Torres Strait Islanders, Guam, Nauru, Easter Island or Rapa Nui, Tokelau, Niue, American Samoa, Samoa, Hawaii, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and the many diverse cultures of the Solomon Islands were on show. We are excited. How can we not be?
At 3.30am we were awoken by skipper to put up the sails and head to another beach for the official welcoming of the Pacific Voyagers. Firework displays began at 4am and went right through until 5.30am.
From our vantage point in the harbour at that time of the morning, the display was fantastic. As we got closer to the beach at sunrise we saw the huge crowd that had gathered to welcome us, including our very own delegation from our Pacific Island countries. For us, the women put on a cere.
The Rotuman delegation welcomed us in style with a traditional tiap hi from Itumuta, normally reserved for high ranking people.
This was reciprocated by Master Mausio who acknowledged them by dancing and yelling out moreye maka (spelling may be wrong but it was heard this way).
Mausio thanked Master Kafoa Pene, the head of the Rotuman delegation for bestowing us this honour.
We are honoured!
Later the men and women joined in song and dance on the beach. The other Pacific Voyagers are always in awe of the depth of the traditional and cultural connectedness of Fijians the world over.
The merrymaking is second to none. To all of you at home, we must maintain this as we develop. It is our identity; it is your identity. Do all you can, NOW, to know and understand this identity from your elders, while they are still with us.
OK, like our, Alisi and I's Professor (Randy Thaman) always says after a longer than allocated lecture, "END OF SERMON"!
You all have a lovely day and until the next blog, here's your very own Uto ni Yalo crew sending a big loloma levu to our family, friends, loved ones and to you, our fellow Fijians.
Moce mada vakalailai, Uto ni Yalo standing by.