Smith was persuaded that if he built a homestay, tourists would visit his island. Twelve years later and Kevin Rushby is first to sign the guestbook
I’m sitting on a grassy slope at night with a man called Smith who is wearing warpaint. There’s a warm breeze blowing in from the Solomon Sea and starlight reflects from the waters of the fjord below. There is no artificial light at all. Even Smith’s mobile phone is dead since he can only charge it when he makes a four-hour paddle in his dugout canoe around the coast to Tufi, the nearest place with electricity and a town connected to the rest of Papua New Guinea only by the occasional visit of a light aircraft. A few fruit bats flap overhead, heading for Smith’s banana trees in the jungle.
“Your guests must think this is paradise,” I say to Smith, who is also wearing the ceremonial grass skirt he put on when he saw my kayak slowly progressing up the fjord from the sea.