Ten years ago I had planed a trip to the Solomon Islands, but civil unrest broke out. The main island got invaded by barefooted outer islanders armed with clubs and machetes due to the corrupt government. Peace has arrived, but they are still barefooted. So we were very excited about what these islands could offer.

With big religious appetite missionaries have descended on these savage people. So today even the smallest village is a follower of some obscure branch of Christianity.

From we landed in the run down capital of Honiara our expectation of a wild and foreign place was truly fulfilled. The main street was filled with barefooted black people with big wicked afros. The air was hot and unbearable humid, and there was a stench of old sweat with a scent of bitterness. I recognized the bitter smell right away, it was betel nut… or more correctly betel nut spit. The nut gives a mild high if chewed with the right ingredients, along with cascades of blood-red saliva. It is legal and everybody is on the nut… with marks of red spit everywhere.

A spitting box in Honiara.

This was something different compared to the polished capitals of the other Pacific countries. There were some kind of tourist facilities, here were none. Only aid workers and missionaries. We were really a long way from home.

Honiare isn’t going to win any beauty prizes, but the people are the friendliest.