Pedal to the Metal

What a month it’s been. We’ve had the pedal to the metal trying to get as much finished as possible before we head home in a couple of weeks. The last few weeks have thrown up some major challenges, and at times it seemed that just when we needed a concerted effort from our builders, the work slowed to a snail’s pace. It’s been a bit like trying to compete in the F1 with a horse and cart.

There are some entirely understandable reasons for the delays, such as the weather, the death of a family member in the case of one family team, and worst of all, injuries.  Unfortunately, a couple of weeks ago Debora (Hans’s wife) got badly burnt using petrol to light a fire.  Her burns were definitely severe and extensive enough to need hospitalisation, but for whatever reason the family didn’t want to take up that option, and hard as it is for us foreigners, we have to respect their wishes. So, Bruce and I ended up administering what first aid we could with the supplies we have on board, which were pretty limited for such extensive burns. Bruce is generally much better at this stuff than me but given the location of her burns it was more appropriate for me to do most of her dressings. I can honestly say it’s been very confronting and has given me new-found respect for all those wonderful paramedics, nurses, and doctors who do this stuff on a daily basis (Nick Amidy, Liz Crowe, Sarah Gleeson – you’re my heroes).  Eventually, my increasingly desperate pleas to the family to get professional help resulted in a visit by a local doctor – an elderly gentleman originally trained by the Dutch when they colonized this area, and he seemed pretty savvy.  He set up an IV drip, gave Debora antibiotics and more pain meds and intends to visit regularly, so I’m somewhat relieved. Sadly, her recovery will be very slow and painful, and I don’t think either she or the family fully understand the seriousness of her condition and the complications that can arise. It’s also another sobering reminder of how extensive our first aid kit will need to be when we live here – not just for us, but for our neighbours.

However, there are also inexplicable reasons for some of the slow building progress – Team Andreas, who were building the lounge/dining room are still AWOL, and the two other teams building the guesthouses disappeared with the houses only half-finished.  We’re not sure but we suspect the problem may lie in the fact that Hans paid his relatives upfront for the building work instead of withholding some of the payment until completion. Families, eh? 

Our guesthouses a couple of weeks ago were still nowhere near completion

So, where are we up to?  Well, the two most important buildings are now finished – our house and the workshop/kitchen, and we’re very happy with how they’ve turned out. We now have somewhere we can store our belongings securely until we come back.

Our house looking very homely – Mama even provided pot plants for us. How lovely!
And the house now comes with a lockable door and windows (yeah, we know – it’s open at the top so someone determined to rob us could still get in, but it’s more of a deterrent to curious passers-by)
The view from our house. It’s gonna be tough waking up to this every morning…
The workshop and kitchen also have solid doors and a walkway at the back
Bruce at the kitchen window. It’s got a certain ‘Hansel & Gretel’ feel to it don’t you think? Anyway, we love it!
The workshop/kitchen looking from the other end

 Also, as of last week, some of the building teams returned and the roofs are now finished on all the buildings, and floors are starting to go in.

Finally, a floor is done in one of the guesthouses
And beautifully cut and planed too
The finished roof on the beach cabana. The wooden beams on top are to keep the roof secure in strong winds
Bruce inspecting the floor joists of the beach cabana
And admiring the beautiful view over to Mansuar Island
And now both guesthouses have roofs

And the toilets are installed, albeit a little exposed!

To all our visitors, I promise there will be walls and doors (eventually!)

Courtesy of Hans’s mum, I even have the beginnings of a banana plantation.

The start of my fruit and veggie garden

We’ll just have to trust that the family can sort out the problems with their relatives and get the other buildings completed by the time we return in six months.

In the meantime, Bruce has been working like a demon, getting the solar panels installed and connected to the batteries, putting in power points and switches, and starting the plumbing and electrical installations.

Bruce and Hans erecting the frame for the solar panels, after making a clearing on the headland above the workshop
The panels going on
The ‘hub’ in the workshop, including batteries, solar controller and inverter
And not much different to the boat, Bruce still has to contort himself into small spaces to run the electrical cables

On our latest trip to Sorong we collected the 12-volt freezer we’d bought online (which we’ve just discovered isn’t working, so we’ll need to take it back to Sorong for repair. *sigh*).

Another load for Toucan the workhorse
And a cockpit full of water jugs and storage bins

We also bought a fridge, washing machine, and 20 containers of water to put in our water storage tank.  We’ve run out of time and money to buy a watermaker and install it, so when we return it’ll be the first thing on our ‘to-do’ list. The rest of the furniture, including beds, we’ll order while we’re away and hope to co-ordinate their arrival in Sorong with our return.  Then it’ll ‘just’ be a matter of organising transport to get them out to the island.  It’s something of a logistical nightmare (not to say stressful), and we wish we had more time to get everything finished. But the winds wait for no man, and we have to get Toucan home before the south-easterly trade winds kick in. 

In the meantime, our runabout ‘panga’-style speedboat is now finished and looking great.  

the boat nearing completion. She’s going to be fast!
And with the hardtop added. All we need now are the motors and steering gear

It’s been built in Waisai (the main town in Raja Ampat) by Hans’s brother, Renol. We were wondering how to get it to Sorong to have the motors and steering system installed, but Hans’s younger brother, Morales, has offered to put a spare outboard on it and drive it over on Wednesday, and then we’ll get Wick’s mechanic to install the two 40HP outboards and steering gear and hopefully have it ready for a sea trial by the end of the week. We may even do a day trip back to Dayan to drop off the freezer if we can get it fixed in time. All being well, it should take a couple of hours each way, so that’ll be a pretty good test of our new ‘wheels on the water’!

For the last week, we’ve been divesting Toucan of all the gear we want to leave on the island – dive equipment, kayaks, tools, bedding etc.  It’s amazing how much stuff you can collect on a boat! We could almost hear her breathing a sigh of relief as she floated higher in the water. Hopefully it will also help us have a faster trip home next month.

We’re on the final straight, and completely knackered.  We have to keep reminding ourselves how wonderful it’ll be when it’s all finished. We dream of relaxing in our hammock in the shade, or watching the sunset from our lounge. Now there’s something to look forward to!

15 Replies to “Pedal to the Metal”

  1. Looking forward to a dive trip😀

    It it going to be wonderful for you both!!!

    Well done and safe travels.


  2. You two are unbelievable you are doers not thinkers I admire you both. The world is your oyster & your living it.
    It all looks so unreal, how cleaver are the people there & Bruce whatever he puts his mind to he finds a way to do it.
    That poor lady you must feel so frustrated being in that position. Sending big hugs and much love. Chris & Maz xx

    1. Thanks guys! Yes, it has its challenges for sure, and we can’t wait until we can enjoy it properly but we’re getting there (I think). About to check out of Indo and head to Cairns, so we’ll be incommunicado for a couple of weeks. Look forward to catching up when we come back to Pittwater for a visit. Hope you’re settling into your new home OK? xx

  3. Di and Bruce,
    Wow. You two are phenomenal. Ash and I often talk about you around the table and wonder what your next adventure will be. I am very envious of the fall out of bed and dive, but also realize that there is a price to pay; which you document well. Your new home away from home yet at home looks wonderful! I am very sorry to hear about Debora, but it sounds like she received the care she needed. Thinking about you all from cold and windy Colorado. Stay well and keep up the posts!

    1. Hi Jim, thanks so much for your lovely comment. Debora is recovering OK I think, although it will be a long process. We’re just about to head home (hmmm…where is home now??!!) to Oz for a few months so the blog will probably take a rest until we return around September. Stay tuned…! All the best to you and Ash from us both 🙂

  4. Wow! Di and Bruce your backyard is a natural wonder! The house looks really special and the setting a watery playground and it reminds me of a wonderful holiday we had on a little island in Fiji that we didn’t want to leave!
    Look forward to catching up with you both.

    1. Thanks Rose. Yes, it’s going to be hard to leave our little patch of paradise, but looking forward to coming home too. xx

  5. Wow , you guys are totally amazing with everything you have accomplished!!! 👏👏👏👏
    The view looks serene , xxxxx🙏🙏

    1. Thanks Mia! Yes, it’s hard to leave our little bit of paradise, but it will be great to be home for a while and catch up with everyone. xxxx

  6. Wow! You and your teams have accomplished so much, and it’s looking wonderful! Hopefully, we will bring able to catch up when you’re back in Oz.
    Love Michael & Margaret

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