Finally, we’re home after 5 months in Australia seeing family and friends and getting my much-needed knee replacement surgery. It was great to see everyone, and thankfully my surgery was successful – although I needed every bit of those 5 months to feel confident about travelling and living back on the island with my new knee. It was a slow and painful recovery but I can now walk without pain so it was definitely worth it. There’s still a way to go, but I’m hoping the hydrotherapy of the beautiful warm water of Raja Ampat will speed the process along.
We arrived back in Sorong with more baggage than an Indian princess (thanks to Garuda’s generous sporting goods allowance) and then spent three days in the by-now-familiar exercise of organising fuel, LPG, food, plumbing and electrical parts to take back to the island. My new (replacement) kitchen cupboards were also finished, so we managed to find the same fishing boat that we’d used previously to transport them to the island together with our new washing machine and freezer.
Our little boat was waiting for us at Wick’s boatyard up the river, where it had been stored on the hard while we were away. We’d also organised for electric starts to be fitted to both motors, as they’re impossible for me to start with the pull cords. It’s an important safety issue that means I can now start the engines in an emergency.
We headed out of Sorong on Sunday morning 3rd September after the strong SE winds had abated a little. The start of the trip was quite pleasant with flat seas, but as we got into open water it quickly deteriorated into large swells and lots of spray. Uh oh, the fantasy of arriving home to sunny skies and clear blue water was not to be, and it was another wet ride home!
However, it was fantastic to see so many of the Saleo family waiting for us on the beach when we arrived. What a lovely warm welcome from Hans, his parents, aunt, cousins, sisters and their families. Such a great homecoming!
Since then, it’s been a busy first week back with many successes and only a few disappointments. Hans and his family have done a magnificent job of finishing the building work while we’ve been away. We now have a brand-new kitchen and workshop building, and a new roof on the living room (the original roof had been very poorly made by other members of the extended family who ended up walking off the job, and it has been leaking ever since). I think this new one will last us many years.
The grounds, as always, had been meticulously raked and cleared, despite the strong SE winds that the family says have been blowing for several months. These same winds have given us overcast and surprisingly cool conditions, so my plan to instantly jump in the water was put on hold for the time being.
I was also dismayed to find that none of the plants that Hans’s mum and I had planted had survived – the ground was completely bare and covered in a thick layer of sand. Hans told me that the strong winds and big tides had caused the sea to come over the top of the sandbanks, destroying all the vegetation. Indeed, we’ve never seen such low tides here before.
Luckily the buildings are raised on stilts, so they weren’t damaged, but I may have to re-think my planting strategy and use planter boxes or pots instead. How disappointing. On the plus side, the papaya trees are slowly growing, and it looks like Mama has planted another banana palm for me – hopefully, this one will survive!
We’ve also been puzzled by the lack of lizards and hermit crabs that previously scurried everywhere. Where did they go? Were they carried off by the water or is there something else to blame? It’s a mystery.
Just to add to the challenges, Bruce came down with a tummy bug in Sorong and I developed a cold so neither of us has been 100%. Still, the show must go on – the fishing boat arrived the day after us with our kitchen cupboards and white goods, and then on Wednesday we had to collect Ridho and his assistant from Waisai so they could come and install the kitchen. It’s a four-hour round trip, and often pretty rough. Bruce gallantly volunteered to go with Hans on Wednesday to do the pick-up, but by the time they got back they were all soaked and looking pretty grey after all the bouncing and slamming through the waves. However, the guys worked fast, and in about 5 hours the kitchen was installed and looking just like the previous one. Huzzah!
And then we had to do the return trip back to Waisai the next morning to deliver the guys to the ferry to Sorong. This time I braved the trip with Hans, his mum, sister and her bub, and if anything it was even more bouncy and wet than the day before.
Just before we got to Waisai the steering arm for the motors broke, so we then had to find a mechanic who could do a temporary weld to get us back in business. There’s always something! However, on a more fortunate note, “Insouciant”, the Aussie catamaran who was bringing our watermaker, filters, and most importantly, Vegemite (!!) had arrived in Waisai the day before, so while I was there I was able to go and meet Matt and Syd and relieve them of our goods. We’re so grateful to them -what a godsend they’ve been. I hope they can make it out to the island so we can show them some hospitality before they continue their journey west.
Meanwhile, Bruce and Hans have been finishing the plumbing and electrical work in the workshop and kitchen, and I’m happy to say we now have running water at the sink and a functioning washing machine. Yay!
Things are looking up, and once the weather settles and I can shake off this cold, we’ll get back to doing what we love – getting in the water for some snorkelling and diving.