Valevahalo was the main camp for our recent Solomon Islands’ expedition. Sited at about 800 m above sea level, it is deep in the jungle of the northern foothills of Guadalcanal’s Mount Popomanaseu. I was there for eight nights, with two additional nights at a satellite camp at the nearby Haviha River.
Valevahalo was a village of the landowning Uluna-Sutahuri tribe. It was abandoned in the 1970s, as people moved to the lowlands seeking opportunities from the ‘modern’ world. It was a poignant return for several of the elders in the expedition – they had grown up in Valevahalo, and not returned since.
Camp Valevahalo was quite something. Accommodating over 40 people, with an impressive range of facilities. The hard work of camp construction had been completed before the main science team arrived.
Te Papa blog post about fieldwork toileting in Antarctic conditions.
Our position in the tropics was offset by the elevation. I found the temperature mild, but the locals and Fijians were sometimes cold.
We were, however, all damp. Moisture hung in the air, when it wasn’t falling from it. In my perpetual dampness, I pondered what it must have been like to live here. Of course, the high rainfall is a significant factor behind the high diversity of plants and animals that had brought us to Valevahalo.
Rain meant mud. And the mud was a physical and mental drain. The hill above the camp earned the names “Heartbreak” and “A###break” for its respective ascent and descent. Fortunately, the weather cleared for our last few days.
Conditions were otherwise very comfortable, which was great because the work was hard and long. Good company, well fed, intriguing surrounds, serenaded to sleep by a chorus (verging on cacophony) of calling frogs, and few mosquitos (although I kept taking my anti-malaria antibiotics; last pill today). I saw only two leeches during the entire trip (with no bites), no stinging plants, and no snakes (except for those in captivity). I thoroughly recommend the Valevahalo eco-tourism experience!
Te Papa blog post: Expedition to the Solomon Islands, with background.
Te Papa blog post: Solomon Islands’ Expedition: the ferns.