- Historic Sites
A Short Walk On Guadalcanal
J. L. O. Tedder missed the battle, but his peacetime pursuits are heroic enough
May/june 1993 | Volume 44, Issue 3
These expeditions too abound with cautionary advice. On Gold Ridge you must by no means pan for nuggets in the streams because it will upset the nearby villagers, who might retaliate by adding your head to their collection. The temperature on top of some of the higher mountains drops to fifty-five degrees at night. It is vital to hammer out a firm agreement with local guides (going rate, $1.20 per day); otherwise “it may be difficult to accomplish the journey.” Some walkers may think twice about camping on Vurakirapa, which translates as “the place of the stinging tree.” The site also has another problem: The nearest water is a “ten minutes clamber” down a steep ridge.
Tedder points out the bright spots too. At Tanggilanggila Village, for instance, there is piped water, which means “a shower could be taken in the main street.” There are airstrips on the southern side of the island that give the stung, blistered, thorned, bitten, dehydrated walker the opportunity to fly back to Honiara’s Henderson Field. But more determined types who want to explore the lowlands on this side face a hazard or two.
At Tiaro Bay the Variana River has to be crossed, and it is wise to “keep a good look-out for crocodiles.” This coast should not be walked from July to September, when it receives most of its fifteen hundred millimeters of annual rain. “The rivers flood and cannot be crossed so the traveller is trapped because of the seas which are usually too rough for canoes,” Tedder reports, sounding very much as if this had happened to him once. If one is wise enough not to venture that way during the rainy season, one can look forward to reaching the airstrip at Avu Avu. There stands a “resthouse,” which is “comfortable,” although it is not staffed and has no “soft furnishings or linen.”
Even those who want to walk the northern coast beyond the Bokokimbo River, where the road from Honiara ends, need their share of grit. There are five rivers to cross, and canoes are urgently advised because of frequent shark attacks. “It could take a whole day to go from Poposa to Marau if trouble is met in finding a canoe,” Tedder warns. Three kilometers beyond Totongo, the Bo’o and Singgilia rivers form deep channels, and “there is therefore little alternative but to swim them.” After all these heroics Tedder concludes that it is “not a very interesting walk compared with some on the island but it is different and can be quite rewarding.”
On that doleful note Tedder’s contribution to Walks on Guadalcanal trails off. There is a page of closing notes, obviously written by someone else. These inform the reader that there are many more I walks on Guadalcanal than have been described in this booklet and that the Department of Lands and Surveys has maps for sale. The writer of this appendage obviously did not read what Tedder had to say about these maps.
What happened to Tedder? I searched for him in vain in Guadalcanal. The genial Melanesians at the Tourist Office were reticent when I inquired for him. I was left to wonder if in the line of literary duty, he tried to get from Poposa to Marau without a canoe or somewhere between Mount Popomanaseu and the Sutakiki Valley he met a Guppy’s Viper that declined to move away before him. Or if, forgetting his own advice, while putting one foot after the other in a rain forest, he looked up to admire a bird or a bush without stopping first and one of those disastrous “slips or falls” into the devouring mud occurred.
Whatever Tedder’s fate, his work lives on.