Peter Flahavin / Leo Groenendyk / Leigh McCann.

Saturday ,  January 10th 1998
Leo and I landed at Henderson Airport at 1.15 p.m. after a 3 hour Solomon Airlines flight from Brisbane . There is a brand new International Terminal Building across the road from the current terminal that is due to open in March 1998. It is being built by Kitano Constructions , so you can guess which country's flag was flying out front next to the Solomon's flag - (send back the Marines - they are at the airfield again!) . This terminal is built on the former camp area of 1st Battalion , 1st Marine Regiment before they were engaged in the Ilu river battle on August 21st 1942. As we left the Airport we noticed 2 minibuses full of Japanese tourists ; not veterans , but family members etc. here to visit battle sites.

We got to the King Solomon Hotel in Honiara (on the side of Hill 84) about 2.15 p.m. After checking in and unpacking we went for a walk down to the Kitano Mendana Hotel near Point Cruz and had a Coke (or 3) . Afterwards I showed Leo the Japanese 150mm gun next to the National Museum across the road (the Jap tractor that towed this particular gun is now at a village past Kokumbona) . Then we walked West down Mendana Avenue to a tennis club (the G-club) that had another 150mm gun on display in its grounds . It was extra hot and steamy when we arrived (they had just had rain) , so we walked down to the beach behind the club where a cool breeze was blowing .

On this beach Companies A,B and D of the 1st Battalion / 7th Marines landed on 27 September 1942.They moved 500 yards inland to the top of Hill 84 (where the King Solomon is now) , where they were trapped by the Japanese. Supported by naval gunfire they withdrew to the beach area between the tennis club and the Mendana Hotel (now the site of the National Gallery and Prime Ministers offices) ,where they were taken off by landing craft under heavy enemy fire from Point Cruz. Boat group leader Coast Guardsman Douglas Munro was killed here and awarded the Congressional Medal of Honour for his bravery . After looking we went back to the Hotel for a few hours swim in the pool and dinner .

Sunday, January 11th 1998
After breakfast we hailed a taxi and settled on S$30.00 (US$7.50) per hour to drive us about . We had the same driver , Timothy , for the week .  We showed him places he had not been and he told us things we didn't know about . First off we went 20 miles East to Tetere beach to look at the hulks of over 30 US Amtracs abandoned there 100 yards from the sea . We then walked down the beach 200 yards East to the mouth of Gavaga Creek , where the 7th Marines and US Army troops killed about 450 Japanese in November 1942 . There was a US Memorial marker on the beach in thick grass , but the plaque had been ripped off.

We then drove back towards Honiara and stopped at Red Beach . Since I was last here in 1995 there is a lot more houses and fences , so access to the beach is harder . We saw the American memorial plaque where the 5th and 1st Marines landed on August 7th 1942 . The perspex cover on the plaque has been bashed a bit and one screw was missing , so maybe next time this plaque will be missing too . A storm was whipping up , so we did not get down to the beach to revisit the Japanese 75mm AA gun I saw in 1995 , but did take a few comparison photos and video.

Arriving back at Henderson Field we drove to the original control tower and had a look at it , the Edsons Ridge memorial and the air raid shelter . The shelter was full of beer cans and filth , so we didn't go in . The view from the top of the tower was very good , and we could identify the dive bomber assembly area , area of the Pagoda hill (overgrown) and Fighter #1 strip and the New Zealand camp (likewise overgrown). Bloody Ridge loomed in a direct line south of the tower - very close indeed. After this it was back to the pool for a swim and a BBQ Dinner at the Mendana Hotel . The Japanese tour group was staying here (dining in the private dining room ) .

Monday , January 12th 1998
Got up at 7.00 a.m. and had breakfast . At 8.00 a.m. we  walked down to the Museum to have a chat to Lawrence the Director ( I met him in 1995/96), but he was not in until later. To fill in that time we drove down to the West and East bank of the Ilu river . However , due to a lot of recent rain the road to the beach on both sides was impassable - we would have got bogged for sure. So we decided to try again in a few days when it had dried out .

Back at the Museum we saw Lawrence and had a chat . I gave him some books and  videos on the Guadalcanal Campaign . He requested we give him a list of any items we wanted to remove by midday Thursday at the latest , as the Minister had to sign the permit . We promised to also get items for the museum as well.

Afterwards we drove out to have a look at Edsons Ridge . Up at the Ridge we walked the ground and I explained the battle to Leo and Timothy . The kids were there in a flash with relics of course and we got expended US and Japanese cartridge cases, including 2 Japanese Navy 25mm AA machine gun cases . I managed to impale myself recovering some US barbed wire, but not seriously (the flies loved it of course).

Up at the front of the Ridge I got a Japanese mess tin with internal and lid (marked "II/4" - 2nd Battalion of 4th Infantry Regiment spearheaded the assault down the spine of the ridge - 60 men broke through before they were mopped up in the rear) and Leo got a US Water bottle. As we drove back towards the airfield we paused to examine an overgrown American Nissen hut .

In the course of conversation with the villagers on the ridge we were told that the battlefield was sold in November-December 1997 for S$8000.00 (US$2000.00) for a housing estate . I had noticed a few new hut foundations going in . They said the Japanese Embassy had bought 3 acres of the site so that new houses would not encroach on their memorial (the people living on the front ridge take care of the memorial for the embassy) . We were shocked that a sale could have been allowed .

Thinking "what price history?" we drove to look at the display at Betikama 7th Day Adventist mission on the West bank of the Lunga . The storm of the previous week had brought down a lot of tree branches that they were cutting up when we got there . Unfortunately one branch had fallen on the left wing of the Dauntless dive-bomber they have and knocked it to the ground , exposing the internal fuel tank. The weather had also knocked the remains of their P400 from its frame .

The rest of the display was pretty much the same as I remembered from 1995 (shells ,helmets , equipment , aircraft relics , photos , machine guns etc) and they had a few good US Army photos of Henderson on the wall that I hadn't noticed before . They had the US Army archive numbers on the back , so I hope to get copies (245128 {3798} and 171863) . Back to the (you guessed it) pool and dinner . That night Leigh arrived from Brisbane and we showed him what we had found so far.

Tuesday , January 13th 1998.
At 9.30 a.m. we drove up Wright Road to the lookout on Mt. Austen where the Japanese artillery observers had their position . The weather was overcast and rainy so unfortunately when we got there the view towards Henderson was obscured by dark clouds . We then drove downhill to the site of the Japanese GIFU strongpoint that was the scene of a lot of fighting in December 1942 - January 1943 as elements of 5 US Army Battalions wiped out 500 Japanese defenders . There is a village on part of the battlefield now near Hill 27.

The road to the village was pretty muddy , so we left the taxi and walked the 500 yards in to the site . There were items to look at in the village but it was pretty deserted . I think a lot of the men were employed further up Mt. Austen doing some logging . We walked up to the Hill 27 battle area and , after looking at the Japanese monument , commenced looking for relics amongst the US foxholes as we walked towards the rear slope .

We found ration tins and lids, grenade handles, shrapnel , pieces of US Carlisle field dressing tins , mortar fins , Garand rifle clips, expended cases (.30 calibre and .45 calibre),grenade body segments , lids of grenade tins and other bits and pieces . One of the villagers came up the hill and talked to Leo and Leigh as I walked on down the reverse slope and looked at some overgrown foxholes .

On the crest of the hill in 1996 there was a rough wooden cross and shot up water bottle marking the grave of an unknown Japanese soldier . Now in 1998 that had been replaced by a proper white painted cross marked ; "TOSHIO KOJIMA , 2ND. LT., 228 INFANTRY ,  K.I.A. JAN 1943". The first night the American pulled back to the reverse slope and the Japanese reached the top here , but were forced back by US artillery fire . The whole hill is still covered in shrapnel fragments .

The Japanese had a 75mm mountain gun on this hill that was captured by the attacking American troops  we saw the wheels and an ammo tin in 1996 . Now as I walked down the path to the rear slope there was the rotted remains of another ammo tin on a rock . On the rear slope the foxholes were very overgrown with thick grass but we found more expended cartridge cases, grenade tin lids, radio batteries and the clover leaf lid of an American 37mm ammunition tin. As we walked back towards the Japanese memorial we found a piece of bone near a foxhole which Leigh identified as part of a leg bone . It was probably Japanese so we placed it in the bowl near the memorial.

After exploring here we went back to the village and had another look at the items there . Around a large tree were ; part of a Betty bomber wing (sadly deteriorating in the open since I first saw it in 1995), Zero drop tank , Jeep windscreen , 2 live US grenades, a live US 60mm mortar round, a live Japanese grenade , a burst US 81mm mortar round , two Japanese water bottles and a rotted out Japanese helmet . In 1996 there had been some Betty bomber controls but they were now gone.

On a table near the tree were helmets , water bottles , mess tins , a Japanese knee mortar round , the metalwork of an Arisaka rifle ,cases , canteen cups etc. . The villager we were talking to said we should come back on Thursday when everyone would be there , including the guy that owned this table full of relics . As we were about to leave we asked him if he had anything in his  hut and he produced 2 Japanese water bottles (one with 99% paint) and a US canteen cup , all of which we snapped up . Nearby was lying a 1941 dated US Jerrycan , which was good on one side but rotted on the other . Another villager showed us some Arisaka rifle metalwork he had found but it was pretty rusty .

As we drove down Mt. Austen we noticed a Police Minibus parked at the Japanese memorial half way to GIFU , so we stopped there for a look . It turned out that he had just missed the Japanese tour group we had seen on Saturday . They had laid out food on a table , burnt some in a ceremony and left the rest as an offering to the souls of their departed countrymen . The police were there to make sure the locals didn't take the food during the ceremony . That is didn't take it until after the Japanese had departed  - then the locals had what was left !  We were told that although the Japanese  fund a lot of projects in the Solomons a lot of people have little respect for them , as they said most don't speak much English or mix with the locals as American or Australian tourists do .

The view over Honiara , Lunga and Henderson was very good from this point . There is a carving here of a fisherman looking out to sea , which was done pre-war by a young Japanese sculptor who died as a soldier on Guadalcanal , so it is now set up here on Mt. Austen.

After descending Mt. Austen we crossed the Lunga bridge with the intention of driving up to Lunga Point . However  the road degenerated into a rain soaked muddy trail  that would no doubt have been familiar to Marines and after a while it wasn't worth trying to go any further and get bogged , so we called it a day and went back to the hotel .

After a swim Leigh and I walked down to Point Cruz and took some photos , then went to the Honiara Market in search of American wartime dated Coca-Cola bottles , which I knew one stall holder had . We got there 10 minutes before the market closed , found him and bought about a dozen bottles at S$10.00 (US$2.50) each . He also had a US 75mm shell case , plus some . 50 calibre cases and heads , so we got those has well . Looking through all the bottles caused an amused crowd to gather .
I said  "..well guys , you know it is only crazy white men who would come all this way to pay money for this stuff.." . Everyone laughed and nodded their heads in agreement

Wednesday , January 14th 1998
Today we went back again to Edsons Ridge to show Leigh the area and have a look at the area East of the  Ridge where the 7th Marines and Army troops fought in the October 1942 Battle for Henderson Field . As we drove past the back of the airfield we stopped and took a few photos . I dropped one of my cameras in the long grass and just couldn't find it . I was about to give it up for lost when Timothy found it , so I promised him a dozen cans of beer as a thank you .

As we arrived a Minibus pulled up with some tourists on a "battlefield tour" . This seemed to consist of them getting out of the bus and the operator pointing and saying "this is Bloody Ridge" and "that is Henderson Field" , then back in the bus and off again ($90.00 please tourists  no way !) . On the Ridge we walked over the ground again and went up to the first ridge , getting a few expended cartridge cases from kids along the way . One of the kids remembered me from when I was there in 1996 . I remembered him too - when I came across the live grenade lying in the dirt 20 feet from the final Marine line he picked it up and shoved it under my nose saying "you want to buy full one?"..oh yes , I remembered him all right !

We had a look at the Japanese memorial and walked down the front slope , where there is still US barbed wire in position and Leigh got a few pieces as souvenirs while Leo and Timothy had a chat to the locals . After some negotiating we got a  rusted Garand bayonet and a Medical Corps "Bolo" knife etc. . Leo got a fork marked "USMC" . I had been to the Ridge 3 times and that was the first article I had seen specifically marked to the Marines  instead of the usual "US" stamping .

While we were sitting there talking another Australian (Michael) doing his own battlefield explorations turned up and we compared notes . He has been walking along down near the Lunga . We all them went walking along the ridge to the East , past a 1944 Nissen hut where Leigh found a .30 cal cartridge case . Some of the area at the foot of the Ridge line was being thinned out due to logging , but some of the growth was still pretty dense .

We walked for a few hundred yards past recognisable US foxholes , along the area where C Company / 7th Marines fought and MG squad leader Sergeant John Basilone won his Medal of Honour . We turned up expended and unexpended cartridge cases , shrapnel , part of a Garand rifle (gas rod) , coins , belt clips , buttons etc. before heading back to the hotel .

That night at dinner we sat around the table with Michael and had a good talk about what we had seen / found . An Australian girl we had met  joined us and was quite interested to learn a bit about the wartime history of Guadalcanal . She worked for a Communications Company and had been sent over to help re-equip the newsroom of one of the 2 Guadalcanal radio stations with modern equipment . She revealed that the office furniture they had been using was still the original US WW2 issue and up until the end of 1997 they had been typing their news bulletins etc. on original US Army WW2 typewriters . Now that they were getting computers etc I hoped all that stuff wouldn't just to tossed out - I told Lawrence , so I hope he could salvage some of it .

Thursday , January 15th 1998
We were up bright and early to get up to GIFU by 9.00 a.m. to give us time to put together the list for Lawrence by midday . Today the road to the village had dried out a lot since Tuesday , so we were able to drive straight down instead of walk . They were expecting us , and it was not long before rice bags full of relics were produced and we were filming , photographing , examining , chatting and buying items for the museum and our personal collections . Leo was also getting some items for the Dubbo Military Museum  .

There were water bottles , mess tins, mess tin inserts , US and Japanese mess tins , rusted bayonets , pieces of scabbard , clips of Garand ammunition , empty US grenade bodies (and plenty of live grenades , some with just the fuses in them to ones complete with charges levers and pins intact - no thanks - The bomb disposal guys come around periodically to collect such things and blow them at Lunga Point) , Arisaka rifle oil bottles , even a US compass and an intact vial of morphine from a US medical kit . Some of the US and Japanese field equipment had soldiers names scratched on them . I got one US water bottle with 3 names scratched into it and 4 Japanese mess tin inserts / lids with names as well.

When we had stood on Hill 27 on Tuesday we could see that logging had thinned some of the growth in the GIFU ravines south-east of the hill. Some of the mess tins and water bottles had been damaged of flattened by falling trees of had fire damage from burning off the undergrowth , while others were still in near mint condition. One Japanese mess tin was so flat you could have slipped it under a door because "tree fall on him" . I guess that's progress - they are sure to find items as they clear the slopes but you wonder how much will be ruined....?

As we drove  out along the track from the GIFU one villager waved us down to offer us a Thompson sub-machine gun magazine . As we talked to him he had in his hand a Japanese Arisaka bayonet (not for sale) in good condition with what looked like the original wood grips still intact that he was cutting grass around his hut with (Hill 31) .

Back at the hotel we sorted out the items and did a list of relics for the museum and another of what we would like to take home . I saw Lawrence at midday and was told he had just learnt that the Minister who had to sign the permit was flying to Auckland that afternoon to participate in Bougainville Peace talks , so couldn't sign it . I saw him again at 1.30 p.m. and he said he would try and get the Permanent Secretary to sign it and that we should come back and check with him again at 1.00 p.m. on Friday .

Hoping this would turn out okay we then drove down to the Ilu river to try and get down to the sandbar . As we drove past the airfield there were two Royal Australian Air Force aircraft there to take to Solomons and Bougainville delegates to New Zealand . The terminal was sealed off and patrolled by armed police , including one on guard in the original control tower with an automatic rifle - no stopping for a Coke today .

The road to the beach was still bad for a car , so be walked down , Leo and Lee discovering the remains of a US Amphibious jeep (DUWK) in the bushes . On the West bank a white American memorial marker stands , but as at Tetere the metal plaque has been ripped off . Taking photos we walked along the shore West towards the Ilu Lagoon mouth . Prior to our trip we had talked to a Melbourne ex-Marine (Platoon Sergeant George Dennis - D Company , 1st Battalion , 1st Marine Regiment) who fought at Ilu . Afterwards he was in charge of 8 .30 calibre machine guns in coastal defence positions along this stretch of beach west towards the Lunga lagoon .

The area behind the beach of overgrown , although we did spot one rusted water tank , probably a remnant from the 1943-45 living area that was here . Timothy was talking to a local here , who informed us he was checking the state of the access road as this site too had just been sold to some Korean and European businessmen .More development I felt sick . So I wonder what buildings will spring up on this site now?

Walking across the sandbar we came to the marble Japanese memorial to the Ichiki Battalion on the East bank , in the area where D Company pushed through to the beach . (George's one word description of the scene confronting them was "terrible") Somebody had dumped a pile of smashed Phillips radio equipment in front of the memorial , but it least it was not defaced .

As we  walked back along the West bank track I pointed out the area in the brush where lots of aircraft remains were dumped . We all plunged into the sweaty , mosquito ridden undergrowth and looked at the pits full of various aircraft parts (engine mounts, propellers, undercarriage parts) and sundry pieces of unidentified metal . It was very humid and the sweat and insect repellent poured off us . After a while we emerged at the airfield road and walked back to the taxi. At this point we watched one of the two RAAF planes take off for Auckland . Near the current bridge across the river a sniper had shot at George before D Company crossed .

Driving back towards to Lunga river we turned  right off the road just past the original control tower . I wanted to confirm to myself that the overgrown hill that I thought the Pagoda flight control centre had stood on was in fact the right hill . When I got to the top and looked around the lay of the land told me that it was , even though the surrounding area was overgrown . Trees obscured the view across to the airfield and control tower but it lined up with wartime photos .

The Americans built a bunker system under the hill so flight operations could continue during air raids . Where were the entrances  I had no time to look . Definitely a place for more exploration ....which I would have done if my mates had not been in "we want to go back to the pool" mode , so I was outvoted . As we left the second RAAF plane took off for New Zealand.

As we drove back towards Honiara we went right up Kukum beach as far as we could to the shore at a lumber yard and took some photos looking North towards Lunga Point and West towards Point Cruz and Cape Esperance . The American coastal artillery was sited near here . There were a couple of derelict ships on the shore from the 1996 Typhoon . Just before we crossed the Matanikau River we stopped at the Honiara hospital car park and took some photos looking towards the Matanikau sandbar , where the turret of at least one of the eight Japanese tanks knocked out on 23rd October 1942 shows out of the water at low tide .

After that it was back to the hotel for a swim. Leo had to fly home and was able to take some of my clothes with him , which in turn gave me room for the relics , so in that way it worked out pretty well  , but it was a pity he couldn't stay . He left a pack and some water bottles as a gift for Timothy . This was very much appreciated by him  . His 2 kids at once claimed two of the bottles to take to school . Leigh and I stayed till Sunday .

Friday , January 16th 1998
At 10.00 a.m. Timothy , Leigh and I set off to drive West along the coast . We had until 1.00 p.m. when I had to see Lawrence about the permit . As we crossed over White River , about a mile West on Honiara , we noted that it looked like original American Bailey  bridge . Near the Matanikau there were some old US Nissen huts still being used and I had noticed piles of Bailey Bridge parts stacked nearby .

First stop was Fred Kona's War Museum at Vilu . I didn't take a lot of photos , as I had seen it all in 1995/96 and nothing had changed much . It was still interesting to look over the stuff again though . I hadn't noticed before that the Corsair fighter still had one .50 calibre machine gun in its left wing . The storm of the previous week had been through here too and there were a few branches lying across some of the Japanese 37mm anti-tank guns . There were wartime Coke bottles for sale here at only S$5.00 (US$1.25) ,but we already had more than enough !

From Vilu we travelled East back towards Honiara . Next stop was Doma Beach to look at the wreckage of the Japanese transport ship "Kyusyu Maru". It was beached here and sunk by American aircraft on October 15th 1942 . After the war scrap dealers blew up the bow section that was above the water and a pile of plating still remains on the beach . I was able to take comparison shots of 2 wartime photos here .

A few miles further down the coast there was the wreck of transport ship 'Kinugawa Maru" near the mouth of the Bonegi River . The bridge across the Bonegi is relatively new , being built by the Japanese in 1995 . Kinugawa Maru was one of the 11 Japanese transports sunk in November 1942 . Only 4 reached Guadalcanal. They beached themselves along the coast on November 15th 1942 and by midday were all destroyed by US planes , coastal artillery at Lunga Point and the destroyer "Meade" from Tulagi . Today this is a favourite site for scuba divers . the bow of the ship is only about 10-15 feet from the shore , while the stern rests in 100 feet of water .

Driving further we paused  past Lela beach , just before reaching Kokumbona . The bay here was a Japanese supply landing point and I was able to take a comparison photo near where a Japanese 75mm AA gun was once emplaced . (I Company , First Battalion , 5th Marine Regiment landed near here on 19.8.42 in one of the first Marine offensive actions of the Campaign ) . I have since learnt that the rusted barrel and the toppled mount of another 75mm AA gun lies in the surf at Kokumbona beach . As we reached the outskirts of Honiara we stopped at the Police Barracks to take a photo of the monument to Solomon Islands scout Sir Jacob Vouza .

At 1.30 p.m. I went and saw Lawrence again . The Minister would not be back until January 25th and he was having trouble locating the permanent secretary to get him to sign it . He asked me to come back at 3.00 p.m. After a session in the pool I did just that . Lawrence still hadn't been able to contact him , so he had signed the permit himself . That was a great relief to us  . We walked down to the Market again and bought a few more .50 calibre heads . The stall owner had a couple of American mess kits , but they were very beat up  .

Saturday , January 17th 1998
At 10.00 a.m. Timothy picked us up and brought his wife Margaret . She is a teacher at Honiara High School on the Matanikau and also at Betikama . She teaches the kids WW2 history . After hearing him tell of all the places we had been during the week she wanted to meet us and was interested in all the photocopies I gave her and all that Leigh and I could tell her .

First stop was the American memorial on Skyline ridge overlooking the Matanikau river , dedicated in 1992 . From here you get a great view , including the "Galloping Horse" hills position and Hill 27 at the GIFU . I had not realised you could see it from here . The lettering on the memorial blocks here needs to be touched up , as weathering is making it a bit hard to read in places . The brass plaque of the battle areas is also deteriorating a bit , sun and rain starting to eat into it . There was a young Japanese guy here reading the memorial information . This is the first time in 3 visits I had seen a Japanese tourist at a battle site .

from Skyline we drove down to the Ravine behind Honiara where Col. Chesty Puller's Battalion of 7th Marines surprised and almost wiped out a Japanese battalion camping here in October 1942 . Over 700 Japanese were killed by artillery, mortar and small arms fire and they tried to escape up the hillsides . After a brief stop overlooking Honiara we drove to the East bank of the Matanikau over what looked another Bailey bridge and Timothy said there were two more further up the river . I took some video of it , but was fast running low on still camera film.

Next stop was East Kola Ridge , where Sergeant Mitchell Paige won the Medal of Honour in October 1942 . There are houses everywhere now and no sign of any memorial (frustrating), so it was a bit hard to get oriented having no position map to go by . However I think we got to the right area (he says , not knowing for sure) . You could look across from Hill 64 here too and see Galloping Horse and Hill 27 . Access to Galloping Horse was not as difficult as we had thought , but we were fast running out of time , so it would have to wait for another trip . Michael had been for a walk there and reported there were relics to be still seen .

After we got back to the hotel I told Timothy now was the time to buy him those beers I had promised . He and Margaret then kindly invited us back to their place to and have lunch . So back we went across the Matanikau  . Timothy and Leigh polished off the beers , and we spent a very pleasant afternoon on the balcony talking about Guadalcanal in WW2 .

They had lived on Tulagi for 4 years (2 hours by boat or 15 minutes by plane) and said there was still a lot of relics to be seen there , including a couple of bombed Japanese ships in some mangrove swamps . Margaret said that recently Solomons Telecom was digging along the road near their school to put in cables and turned up sandbagged positions and ammunition and that some Japanese skulls were found near the mouth of the Matanikau river as well .

At dinner that night Michael related that while in the Red Beach area he had by chance met Jacob Vouza's son and grandson (some people have all the luck!) . Michael also said that on his flight to Guadalcanal he was seated next to an Australian Building Company Executive . When this guy observed him reading a WW2 related book on the Solomons he suggested he should try "lighter reading material" . He then proceeded to lecture him that one should forget the war  - history meant nothing and how "altruistic" it was of them to build housing estates in these places , so what if it was a battle site or historic ground  ? etc.....the march of progress and profit speaking...!

Sunday , January 18th 1998
After last minute packing etc. we checked out of the King Solomon Hotel at 10.00 a.m. and took the minibus to the Airport at 10.45 a.m. As we crossed the Lunga bridge we took note of the four concrete bunker entrances we could see in the hillside . Timothy had told us that there was a large complex under here and that local kids said there were American coins and other things in there . Exploring there will have to wait for another time (I later heard its great if you like mud and bats!!) .

The Solomon Airlines plane was delayed for a short time , and we learnt that they were expecting two more RAAF planes with Bougainville peace talks delegates . Armed police were again in evidence , including some high ranking officers and an Australian Army liaison officer . Obviously they wanted to get our plane away and then seal off the airport as they had on Thursday .

We took off to the East across the Ilu river and banked over Red Beach to come in south towards Point Cruz and the Matanikau . I took the last bit of video footage I could through a not too clear window and as Guadalcanal faded as we climbed into the clouds that was it for another year .

Copyright 2004. Peter Flahavin