The Thin Red Line

I emerged soaking wet, exhausted, exhilarated. “This is the my greatest travel day.”

The morning prelude had taken me to WWII sites of Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, with a snorkeling stop at the wreck of Japanese freighter Bonegi II.

I was brought to a village and handed to a machete-wielding local clansman who would take me up in the hills of his lands.

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Barefoot, teeth stained with betel nut juice, he led the way.

We ascended Galloping Horse Ridge under the fierce midday sun.

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The Thin Red Line.

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We continued along the ridge, heading for Matakino Falls.

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Rain had fallen the prior days and the descent to the falls was slick. I was soon covered in mud. The jungle floor is littered with artillery shells and bullet cases.

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The tranquil falls belie their momentous past.

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The route back was not promising. Clambering up the muddy hills would have been a risky slog. The guide looked down the falls and proposed another route.

I rolled up my trousers and bundled my passport, wallet, camera and other items in my day pack. I had no waterproof pack.

Down the falls we went, under the slumbering watch of Japanese tunnels. We took turns treading water with our packs held overhead as we crossed the deep pools with little to grip on the steep cliffs. Holding a pack aloft while treading water is instantly exhausting. I felt a small echo of the soldiers wielding their packs and guns above their heads, their lives that could be snuffed out at any moment.

The pools turned to creeks as we descended over the course of an hour. Eventually we emerged to small streams, muscles trembling from the exertion, and utterly thrilled.

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A villager had piled flowers on his daily harvest. I selfishly thought it a laurel for my accomplishment on this peaceful day. Rather, it was, and could only be, a small tribute to the lives sacrificed on this hallowed ground.

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  • Sajer Guy

    Great post! Interesting to see a blogger who gets way off the beaten path and appreciates a piece of history that is likely quickly fading from American memories.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Sajer Guy – I have related plans in March that I have been hoping for a long time, stay tuned.

    I wish every visitor to Hawaii was required to visit Pearl Harbor and Punch Bowl. Great that many do tour Pearl Harbor. The cemetery at Punch Bowl is no less moving.

    The cemetery in the Philippines outside Manila is nearly identical in design. The day prior on the Corregidor boat I met a couple who had located her father’s grave after much research. I was alone walking the grounds when I saw a marker with fresh flowers. There he lay.

  • Jorge Escobar

    Reading your blog takes me back to my more hard core travel/backpacking days. I also like going to countries that are less traveled.

  • Wonderful photoreport and great writing!

  • Papa Smurf

    Looks like quite a trip.

  • Lively

    On this trip, I will live vicariously through you, lol. I don’t think I would want to get off that beaten path. 🙂
    Great report.

  • Awesome post. It sounds very interesting and moving. We just got back from touring the Normandy beaches and American Cemetery in France so I can related to some of your feelings.

  • Bryan

    Nice post.

    So refreshing to see this kind of content rather than the spoiled, entitled morns reviewing the gold-plated toilets in mega resorts sealed off from the real world. Kudos.

  • dale m

    What struck me in looking thru this post was how similar the general settings in your photos were to Malicks film The Thin Red Line, my only (sad to say) other impression of this historical event (tho a little sleuthing suggests much of that film was actually shot in Australia). Wonderful story of your adventure and photos.