I’ve had these images ready to blog for a few days now, waiting to post them in the hope that I’d come up with some accompanying words that would even begin to describe what an incredible few weeks I’ve had.
A month ago Steve and I celebrated us – us as a couple, us as a family and us as part of this beautiful Denmark community – by getting married.
The first week of our ‘honeymoon’ coincided with Christmas and was spent at home surrounded by family from near and far.
Our real honeymoon began with 64 hours of travel in planes, ferries, backs of trucks and boats with half a dozen strangers to a remote village in the Solomon Islands.
I haven’t found the words yet and I’m hoping my photographs will explain themselves to a great extent. However I will give a bit of background info.
We always try to get away to destinations where Steve can surf clean waves and I can take photographs of the place, its people and its culture. This time it was to the island of Malaita in the Solomons. Actually it was a small island off Malaita in the Lau Lagoon and the surf camp of Surf Solomons. The island, covering around 150sqm, is home to 6 local families where kids seem to outnumber adults by 10:1! The only electricity on the island was generated by a little solar panel and was just enough to run a couple of lights and to charge camera batteries. Fresh water ran constantly through a pipe from a spring on the mainland.
The locals were the most beautiful people who welcomed us into their village and into their lives. They had heard that I was a new bride and as we approached the island by boat for the first time, there was a welcoming party of 16 dug-out canoes with flags flying and women chanting. They dressed me in traditional ‘bride-price’ shell money beads and a dolphin-teeth headpiece, and paddled me the rest of the way to our island home. (Thanks to Steve for those couple of photos.) The wedding theme continued on the trip and on our last day on the island I was invited to photograph a traditional wedding in a nearby village across the lagoon, which was such a thrill. Steve and I had never seen anything like it with the negotiations and exchange of the bride-price shell money, and the absence of the groom who was waiting for his new wife to be brought to him in his own village upon completion of the payment.
But it wasn’t only was the experience of the Solomons people and culture, it was the people we were travelling with who made the adventure all the more remarkable.
We happened to be on the trip with pro surf photographer and documentary-maker Joel Coleman of Saltmotion. His photographs in the surf were amazing but what made this so special was that he had collected around 50 old surfboards which he’d had shipped to our village, along with school supplies and bibles (in this country of strong Christian beliefs), as his way of giving something back to the islanders. We were lucky enough to accompany Joel as he ventured into several remote villages along the coast to give away the boards and the books. Like Surf Solomons, Joel feels this is part of developing a sustainable surfing future and tourism-based industry for the locals, particularly the children. Joel…what you did was overwhelming and inspiring.
Also along for the ride was Aussie pro tour surfer Bec Woods who was there to do promo shots with Joel for The Perfect Wave. What can I say about Bec…again, lost for words but we fell in love with her and she really showed the boys how to surf!
Accompanying Bec and Joel was Bec’s manager, Kim, and Kev from Dee Why. Sometimes it’s not the destination but your travelling companions who really make the trip – I want to take these guys away with us on every holiday. (Although Steve’s friendship was pushed to its limits the morning that Kev broke the only coffee plunger in Malaita.) And finally South Australian, Frosty – an all-round good guy who spent an afternoon running a masterclass for the locals in splicing rope.
For the first time ever I’m having to do a blog in 3 parts as I couldn’t narrow the photos down any more than this. It was truly the trip of a lifetime with everything and everyone coming together as it did – we could never have planned it this way. I hope the photos speak the words that I couldn’t find…