The Elephant Returns

The last time we tried to eat an elephant was 2014 when we were in Annapolis commissioning Toucan for long-distance cruising.  That was definitely a mission, but this new enterprise – exciting as it is – comes with a whole other level of complexity and challenges. Mainly because of the language barrier, the geographical isolation, and the time constraints…

Time is not on our side.  We’re nearing the 3-year limit for Toucan to stay in Indonesia, and weatherwise our window to return to Australia is late April/early May after cyclone season ends and before the south-easterlies kick in.  There’s still so much to do, and we’re just a little bit under the pump!

The construction site is abuzz with activity. Two more teams have arrived – Uncle Yeheskiel and his sons are building the second guesthouse, and Uncle Niko and his family are starting on the beach cabana on the north side.  Team Yeheskiel have come well-prepared – they bring their own portable generator and an electric plane, which speeds up the prep work for removing the knots on the supporting poles. Very enterprising!

Team Niko erecting the beach cabana supports
Team Yehezkiel bring a whole new dimension with their electric plane
The guesthouses under way
Time for lunch – fresh caught fish on the BBQ
It seems you’re never too young to learn to use a machete
well, maybe this is a little too young…

Meanwhile the roof is going on our house – Hans’s father, Haja, is meticulous and obviously very skilled in construction, so it’s a delight to watch the beautiful job they’re doing.  They tell us a well-built roof should last five years, and I think ours will easily exceed that.

All hands on deck to prepare the roofing materials
Haja and Fenchay working on the roof of our house

And in between acting as site foreman, Hans is now in the process of digging out what will be the septic system for the toilets.  This topic probably deserves a whole blog on its own, but I’ll spare you the sordid details.  Suffice to say, we’ve never had to think about bush septic systems and how they work.  We do a lot of research on the internet, trying to understand the principle.  We toy with the idea of buying a ready-made plastic septic tank as frankly we’re a bit skeptical about how Hans’s idea will work, but we also don’t want to offend him by appearing not to trust him – after all, they’ve built many of these in their villages over the years.  OK then Hans, as long as you can guarantee that there’ll be no nasty odours emanating from the ground, then let’s give it a go.  Fingers crossed!

Fenchay starting the excavation for the septic tank

It turns out that in true ‘Block’ style, there’s a little drama emerging.  Team Andreas, who made such an impressive start on the lounge/dining room have disappeared.  The roof is done, but the flooring and walls are yet to be completed.  Where have they gone? Why have they walked off the job?  It remains a mystery for quite a while and no-one seems to want to talk about it.  Finally, we pry the information out of Hans – it seems Team Andreas think that Hans is holding out on giving them the full payment for the building (he isn’t), and so there’s a stand-off.  We write a receipt that Hans can show them and hope this solves the problem.  The last thing we want is a family feud, particularly when it involves our new neighbours.

Meanwhile, we have to get back to Sorong for our latest visa extension and to collect the batteries and solar panels we’ve ordered, plus try to find all the electrical cabling and fittings we need, a generator, two water storage tanks, two toilets, two doors, water hose, shower fittings…and a partridge in a pear tree.  It’s a massive week of running around from one end of Sorong to the other.  Iki, our driver, is a great help and often acts as translator for us.  I have also stayed in touch with my local Indonesian friend, Mam Nana, who we first met over two years ago when Carol and Murray were still cruising here. Nana works as a volunteer English teacher at a local orphanage school and was kind enough to invite Carol and I to the school to meet the students.  It was a great outing (pre-Covid days!) and she was very generous with her time. This time around she’s also been invaluable – sourcing many items for me, for which I’m eternally gratefully. She offers to take me shopping, with her brother Yudhi as driver and her two delightful daughters in tow. Our excursion bears great fruit – plenty of gardening implements, two solid wooden doors, hinges and hardware, and a gas cooktop!  I’m sure it’s not a very exciting excursion for the kids, but they get a buzz out of the visit to Toucan at the end of the day.

Nana and her daughters, with brother Yudhi
the trampoline is always a hit
Nana, Yudhi, and Bruce

Meanwhile, Bruce and Iki have another logistic challenge – how to get the two 1100 L water tanks onto Toucan’s front decks. 

OK, this should be interesting…
First attempt at heaving them over the bow….
Oops…not quite part of the plan….

It’s a great spectator sport and I can hardly hold the camera still for laughing. From the dinghy, they try heaving them over the front of Toucan and onto the trampoline but each time they roll or bounce off into the water and have to be retrieved like naughty fat orange puppies.  

The retrieval team in action – go get ’em cowboys!
Finally, they make it onto the deck…..

Eventually they’re corralled with a halyard round the neck and they’re safely on board, together with all the other paraphernalia, including five 40 kg bags of cement.  Poor Toucan’s waterline has all but disappeared!

Loaded to the gunnels
three solar panels, two 50 kg doors, plastic sewage piping, water tank…guess there’s no sailing on this trip back to the island!
Every spare inch of space is taken up with gear, including the 4 deep cycle batteries inside the saloon.

There’s just one more important task to accomplish before we leave Sorong. The formal signing of our lease with the family. The lawyers we’ve engaged, Alex and Romi, have left no stone unturned in making sure there are enough signatories to the lease so there can be no disputes at a later date. The family members undertake the 2-hour trip from the island in Niko’s speedboat and we meet up at the local Marina Star restaurant for the formalities. There’s a slight hitch when Romi realises he forgot his inking pad – several of the older generation can’t sign their name, so they’re allowed to provide a thumbprint instead. Then finally, after many, many photos, we’re done!

The gathering of elders and family members for the lease signing
Bapa Tua putting his mark on the page
And it’s official! We are now lessees of a small part of Dayan Island.

It’s been a huge few weeks and the elephant is still massive – anyone got any Alka-Seltzers???

13 Replies to “The Elephant Returns”

  1. Love your enterprise, Di & Bruce! Sounds like it’s slowly coming together. How are your language skills coming on?
    Keep up the good work, and the blogs!

  2. What you’re doing is amazing*. I’m absolutely glued to it.
    Good luck with the next ten thousand obstacles you have to overcome ๐Ÿ™‚

    *completely bonkers as well, mind.

  3. Hi Di and Bruce
    Was a bit concerned about the elephant eating until David put me right!!
    What an amazingly exciting and brave project you have embarked on.. and wonderful to see all the photos of the progression of your new abode and lovely workforce!
    Hope all gets finished in time for you! Sending lots love xx

    1. Thanks Gerry – brave is one word, stupid might be another! Our favourite phrase at the moment is ‘What were we thinking..???!!’ xx

  4. I wish I could have witnessed the water-tank-loading event – should be an Olympic sport! Massive effort all round, & congratulations also on pinning down the legals. Another massive effort, team toucan!! You rock ๐Ÿ™‚

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