There are several different options for cycling in North Malaita, depending on whether you fly or catch a boat to the start or from the end of a route, and also whether you wish to double back on sections of road. Two options are presented here - a long (and at times challenging) route, and a shorter (easier) route, both around the northern part of Malaita. Both trips were taken in 2005: by Dan Raymond and Alan McNeil respectively.
This loop route runs from Auki north to Dala, then takes the cross-island road (the "East Road") to Atori, canoe from there to the "head road" at Sulufo, and then ride the 120 km from there back to Auki. The total trip is around 200 km. This is a difficult ride at times with some advanced sections, big climbs and requirements to carry the bike. This route is for fit, reasonably advanced riders, and a mountain bike is essential. Note the times provided are actual riding times and will depend very much on the road conditions, which can vary hugely. I did the ride in 4 solid days and was very tired at the end. Four days was probably the quickest realistic timing for the trip. I ride regularly, I was used to Solomon's heat and I had a good quality bike.
Day two, riding across the island from Dala to Atori was again not a huge distance - about 50 km but was a lot harder. Sounds easy when put like that, but in reality there are three climbs and drops. The middle climb is the shortest, but is very steep and parts of it are at the limit of being rideable. I was carrying panniers and had to walk a kilometre or two of this section. At the time of riding the road condition was reasonable with only one small muddy section, however, without maintenance this road will quickly deteriorate. An update from recent people who have driven the road report that the condition of the road is OK but the underlying limestone base makes for a very uneven surface in many places. About 14 km along the road you cross the "High Bridge" crossing the Kware'a River. This is the highest bridge in Malaita and on the homeward journey from Malu'u to Auki we again crossed this river near its mouth and at this point it has the distinction of being the longest bridge in Malaita. If you want food etc there is nothing at the wharf, so get it at the village before you leave. You can purchase hard biscuits and canned fish but don't expect anything except the most basic of supplies.
At the wharf numerous boats usually wait to ferry passengers back and forth between the islands and coastal villages. I had a choice of about five to take me north. It is about a three hour trip to Sulafo with a 20hp engine in moderate seas. If the tide is up you can travel part of the way inside the lagoon which is very pleasant. It can be rough in the open ocean. We had to bail. Be warned, from the wharf you cannot tell what conditions are like in the open ocean as you are well protected. It is worth also going for a look out at the islands off Atori if you can (Kwai Island and its neighbour Ngongosila). It was a big day and I was hammered. I found accommodation in a part-built house. The turnoff onto "Manpower Road" is 12 km before you get to Atori and is actually well signposted. "Manpower Road" is a little muddy in places but is a good easy ride in comparison with the East Road. The OBM trip from Manu is about half the time of the trip from Atori but you might have to wait a little longer for an available hire.
This section is totally dependant on road conditions. At first I was able to ride at 10-15km/hr, but this soon dropped to 5-10km/hr. At points I was sinking to my knees in mud and loosing shoes. If you were towing one of the BOB trailers this section would be incredibly tough. I rode through to some friends about 10km past Malu'u and stayed there, but Malu'u is the obvious spot to overnight. This was the shortest distance day but was the longest in total travelling time with the bike. There is some talk of some maintenance being done soon but at the time of writing you still need to assume it will be hard going.
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