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?
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.
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.
And the toilets are installed, albeit a little exposed!
Courtesy of Hans’s mum, I even have the beginnings of a banana plantation.
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.
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*).
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.
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!