Ups and Downs

They say it takes six weeks to learn a new habit. But there are so many new habits to learn here in our tropical island home and our first six weeks are just about up. So how are we doing?

The first habit is remembering to look up.  We’ve got approximately 20 coconut palms scattered throughout the property, most of them heavily laden with coconuts. Beautiful but deadly, particularly if you unsuspectingly walk underneath a palm when it decides to release its payload.  Having heard some tragic tales coming across the Pacific, we’ve learnt this one pretty well, and give them a wide berth.

I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts….until they fall on your head

The other, trickier one, is looking down as well as up.  When the land was originally cleared, we were left with many, many, tree stumps of varying sizes. The large ones are easy to avoid, but the small ones are another matter altogether.  We’ve dug many of them out, but there’s still the sneaky odd ones here and there that we haven’t removed yet, and they’ll rip your feet apart if you’re not careful.  And for some reason, Bruce has a knack of finding each and every one of them.  I swear we should take out shares in Betadene. The next option is to buy him some of those ‘used-to-be-daggy-but-now-apparently-cool’ Crocs to protect his oversized feet and toes.  This habit is proving to be a bit more of a challenge to master…

These ones are fine…..
But these will rip your feet apart if you’re not watching where you’re going

We’re also learning that you can’t leave any used cups, bowls, food, wrappers, etc. anywhere for more than two minutes before they’re swarming with ants.  I’m torn between being in awe of these incredible tiny insects that appear the instant there’s any food around, and being overtaken by homicidal (anticidal?) urges.  At least the ground-dwelling varieties are harmless, hedonistic types, only interested in seeking out food, not like their tree-dwelling, Viking-like cousins – wild, ferocious, and willing to attack at the least provocation.  Luckily, we don’t need to be in contact with the latter unless we’re pruning trees, and then we’ve learnt to bang the branch vigorously on the ground or dunk it in the sea before hauling it to the bonfire. See – we are learning some things.

We’re also learning to improve our planning and organisation skills. Because the buildings are some distance apart, it’s important to try and remember to take everything you need from one building to the other, otherwise you end up doing a LOT of walking backwards and forwards.  Yes, well, I suspect that one’s going to be an ongoing challenge…!

Not a bad view when you’re doing the washing-up, but it’s a bit of a trek if you forget to bring the plates and mugs with you

And then there’s the daily routines – emptying and refilling the bowls of water at the entrance to each house so you can dunk your feet to remove the sand, putting insect repellant on first thing in the morning, raking the leaves that seem to continuously drop from the trees (Why? Why? I don’t get it – we’re on the equator, there’s no deciduous trees here!) and the only bit of housework is sweeping sand off the wooden floors and steps.  It’s really not too arduous.

Our foot-washing bowls at the entrance to each building
My favourite broom donated by the family. Much better than the store-bought ones

Generally, we’re settling in pretty well.  On the upside, we now have flushing toilets, lights, and an operational shower. Huzzah! I don’t think we’ve ever been so excited to have a cold shower before.

Hans installing the lights in the shower block
Our fancy new shower
complete with sink and mirror
And flushing toilets!

We were also fortunate to have a visit from an Aussie cruising catamaran, Sartori 2, owned by Rusty and Tibby.  Not only are they lovely people, but Tibby just happens to be a doctor, and offered to look at Bruce’s skingraft wound, which has been taking FOREVER to heal.  We’ve been less than impressed with the email advice he’s been getting from the skin specialist in Cairns, and she confirmed that it should be treated differently. So, she got to work and did a great job cleaning it up and advising us on wound care.  It’s now just over a week and it’s healed already. Thank you, Tibby, you’re our saviour!  All he has to do now is stop injuring himself on tree stumps and he’ll be good to go snorkelling and diving…  I’m looking forward to having some company on my snorkelling trips. Obviously no diving yet without my buddy, but that will come soon I hope.

The snorkelling on our doorstep is pretty special
A resident (almost albino) tasseled scorpionfish just hangin’ out on top of a bommie
And a local mantis shrimp, out for his daily constitutional
And I’m reliably informed by my brilliant marine biologist daughter-in-law that this rather scary-looking beast is a bobbit worm – not often seen during the day
A cute little Orange Anemonefish

On the downside, we’re having to make many more trips to Sorong than we’d like, mainly due to the dratted watermaker, which is still not operational.  It deserves a blog all to itself, which is coming soon courtesy of Bruce.

Another trip, another boat load
This time it’s mostly piping for the watermaker
When provisioning in Sorong, you end up with all sorts of strange things in your hotel room. Like two chainsaws…

The other downside is the increase in tourism.  It’s great for the locals, but I guess we were spoilt during Covid by having the place to ourselves. Now we have almost daily visits by at least one, if not two, liveaboard phinisi charter boats, seeking out the manta rays that are often here.  They look picturesque, but at any one time there could be 20 or 30 people in the water, either snorkelling or diving, and we worry that its not regulated enough. More than likely, all the activity and boats zooming around will drive the mantas away…

pretty as a picture, but without some kind of regulation it’s going to get out of hand

More problematic, there are two ‘homestays” (like airbnb’s I guess) to the west of us on our little island and on more than one occasion we’ve been surprised by (mostly) German tourists wandering through our property. It’s our fault as we haven’t put signs up yet, and there’s nothing we can do to stop them snorkelling out the front (on OUR reef for goodness sake!!!) but it is a little offputting when you’re sitting having breakfast and a snaggle of snorkellers comes thrashing by (is there a proper collective term for them? If so, do enlighten me.  I hope it’s derogatory).

Not exactly the secluded hideaway we thought it was

Ah well, apart from being a bit snarky about the invasion of our privacy, we’re doing OK and continuing to enjoy our island home.  Now, if we can just get the watermaker working, stop Bruce breaking his toes on tree stumps, and go diving, life will be almost perfect.

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