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The Climate Challenger Voyage: Bobo, Buka and the Solomon Islands

The Climate Challenger Voyage is a community initiative inspired by The Nature Conservancy’s Manuai Matawai, who dreamed of building a traditional long voyage canoe and sailing around the Pacific to connect communities grappling with climate change through culture and conservation

Two years later, Manuai and nine other crew members—members of the Titan tribe of Papua New Guinea—are manning the Pere outrigger canoe that they built to travel more than 10,000 kilometers. Follow their journey on ClimateChallengerVoyage.net and on NationalGeographic.com.

Bobo, Babase and Buka
September 28, 2012

We are now on Buka Island, well and in good health. It has been a risky, challenging and adventurous trip so far after completing almost 300 nautical miles from Manus to Buka before we leave home ground (water!) and head into international waters for the first time on this voyage.

New Crew Member

We left Lihir with an extra crew member – Bobo from Kavieng, whose parents are from Manus and Kavieng and who joined us for the Lihir to Buka leg of our journey. Sadly, he will be leaving us shortly to fly back to Lihir but wished to take up the challenge and travel with us on this adventurous voyage across the Pacific. You will find many of our photographs and videos were taken by Bobo.

Young Bobo getting some hands-on experience taking video. Photo: Manuai Matawai

Anir Island (Babase Island)

The journey to Anir (Babase) Island was rough, and we lost a box full of supplies containing axes and all cooking equipment overboard.

Molean Polin preparing sago for breakfast, a meal for a long journey to give us energy before setting sail from Tanga to Anir island. Photo by Manuai Matawai (taken before we lost all cooking equipment).

We spent two nights at Anir (Babase) Island, and during that time, we played climate change awareness films, shared Mbuke Island’s climate change adaptation experience and of course performed our Manus dancing. Over 100 people came to watch and listen and villagers told us they have observed climate change impacts in their gardens.

anir
Entertaining on Anir showing the Manus Way. Photo: Bobo.

The community of Babase had never seen a canoe as large as the Climate Challenger before, and several people wanted to buy it.  Manuai has promised to return at some stage after the trip and help them build their own.

Matsungan Island, Buka Island, Bougainville

We arrived Matsungan island on Buka Island at 9 am on Tuesday. The team was greeted by the chief of Matsungan and welcomed to the island with the traditional practice of feet washing. Culturally, the washing of feet is supposed to bring luck to first time visitors to the island (and maybe wash away bad luck!). We had a short program in the evening where we gave awareness on climate change and showed off the Manus garamut dance.

A Matsungan woman washes the Climate Challenger crew’s feet as part of welcome initiation. Photo: Manuai Matawai.
Crew welcomed by the Matsungan community. Photo: Manuai Matawai.

Buka Town, Bougainville

We arrived Buka town at 11 am yesterday with a rousing welcome by the Manus community and Bougainvilleans. A refreshment was hosted by the Manus Community followed by a dinner hosted by Mrs. Josephine Manuai Nakin and family, a Manus long-time businesswoman on Buka Island.

Young Bobo on Climate Challenger. Manus/Buka boat escorts Challenger to port. Background; vandalised Starship vessels. Photo: Manuai Matawai.
Bobo and Joseph testing out Buka’s giant sized betel nut. Photo: Manuai Matawai.

We have been filming all of our adventures and encounters. It is really amazing to see the crew having no fear. Every day we strategise, reach consensus and act… The journey so far has made us more resilient, adaptive and innovative. It is a great experience for us. Sometimes, we give up hope when our prayers are not answered and we encounter rough seas, but then we have come to realise that it is all about testing our faith.

The challenge ahead is, ‘are we able to complete the voyage????’ Only the WIND will tell.

Buka and Beyond
October 3, 2012

Buka Island

On Buka Island, we connected with many friends from Manus, and also said goodbye to our friend Bobo who joined us on the Kavieng to Buka leg of the journey.

Before departing Buka we needed to arrange our travel documents since we are leaving Papua New Guinea waters and heading to the Solomon Islands. John Kiu from Manus island but based on Buka, has been very helpful in helping with that. Thanks John!

The Manus community held a farewell barbecue for us before we left.

Giant trevally steak on barbeque.

Numanuma, Bougainville

We entered Numanuma first, where my cousin is based, before Taperoi. Over 100 people gathered at Numanuma and over 120 people gathered at Taperoi to see the Manus dance and listen to awareness on climate change. Some issues raised by these two communities are – shore line erosion, coral bleaching, they have already lost one of their islands, and fruit trees such as mango and rambutan are not bearing fruit. They also commented that it was their first time to see the Manus canoe and Manus dance and that we were the first group to come to their community to explain what climate change is and the threats to the environment, culture and livelihood. At the end of the awareness, both communities donated garden vegetables and K150.00 to climate challenger crews. We left Taperoi at 4 pm to Kieta.

Kieta, Bougainville

The Climate Challenger is in Kieta now. We visited Arawa town yesterday to do some shopping and have a look around. Arawa was my home from 1983 to 1986 when I did my grade 7 to 10 at Arawa High School before going to college from 1987 to 88.  In 1989, I returned to Arawa and spent 3 months with Arovo Resort operating their ferry. I had to leave because of the crisis. Now Arawa town is not the same as before. Most shops were burned down including the hospital and government building. It really is a nightmare. Now, land owners are taking ownership of the businesses here which I for one appreciate the fact that we must run our own affairs/business etc. They have a rule here that they do not want to see foreigners (esp Chinese) doing business here.

Now it is very peaceful here. I encourage everyone to come and visit Arawa and hope to sail back to Arawa next year.

Taro, Choiseul Island, Solomon Islands

We have decided to head straight to Taro on Choiseul Island, Solomon Islands from Kieta as the Shortland Islands are quite far out. We hope to spend a week in Taro doing minor repairs to the canoe. We need to replace some of the heavy timbers on the canoe’s platform and also to extend the canoe deck by 200mm to cater for rough seas. The crew have gained so much weight on the voyage so far (it must be from all the generous welcome ceremonies) so we need to raise the canoe draft for when we encounter big swell. We also need to replace the outrigger and cut a new one in Taro. We expect to depart Kieta tonight and are expected to arrive in Taro on Thursday 10 am.

Jimmy Kereseka from Taro has informed me that there will be a welcome lunch for us tomorrow with the Premier, PS and the executive members, chiefs and church leaders from and from around Taro. The Premier has expressed to his executives that this is a “historic moment for Choiseul Province because the Climate Challenger will first land here in Choiseul when they arrive in the Solomon Islands”. So we are all looking forward to this historic ceremony… Let the Wind take us through to Taro peacefully!

Arrival in Solomon Islands
October 8, 2012

We set sail from Kieta, Bougainville in the late afternoon on our course to Taro, the main centre of Choiseul Island in the Solomon islands. With the moon giving us plenty of light, we sailed at an average speed of 6 knots and used the eastern star to guide us towards Taro. We had to sail through the night to hide from possible trouble coming from Buin which is reputed to be a ‘danger zone’. Morning came and we were now 4 miles from our destination. We sailed past the western side of Taro putting our trawl lines to the test along the reef but unfortunately we didn’t catch anything. Jimmy Kereseka, the environment co-ordinator from the Lauru Land Conference of Tribal Communities (LLCTC) spotted us from a distance, and came out to meet us with his son Philemon before escorting us to Supizae Island, where he and his family live.

Young Philemon Kereseka, son of Jimmy Kereseka piloting Climate Challenger into Taro, the main town of Choiseul Province, Solomon Island.

We quickly had our breakfast then dressed in our traditional attire ready for the historic welcome. We sailed into Taro Market beach front dancing to beat of the garamut where on the beach, Premier Jackson Kiloe and his executive members, invited guests and Lauru warriors were waiting for us. Many people gathered to see the Manus canoe arriving on their shores for the first time in the history of Choiseul Province.

The Lauru warriors welcoming the Climate Challenger to Choiseul. Photo: Jimmy Kereseka.

We are now residing with Jimmy and his family on Supizae Island about a 5 minute boat ride to Taro. The canoe has been in the water for a month now so we have hauled it out of the water to dry it, will replace some of the heavy timbers and outrigger and do some maintenance and repair work. This week we will be conducting a drystone wall workshop on Taro and probably spreading climate change and environment awareness around Choiseul. We hope to disembark Taro for Wagina soon.