Traveling has a little different dynamic when there are no roads to get you there. This is a page from my journal about our trip back to the bush in the land of the unexpected after a year’s absence!
Our day began soon after 4:30 am. Rick got up and did his last minute things to get ready for the first flight of the day. He was out the door by 5, and then I puttered around doing my last minute things like packing up the toiletry buckets to go into the shed, stripping the bed of linens, getting the kid’s breakfast, and then getting them up and dressed and ready to go. There are always last minute things like returning library books, taking out the garbage, and hauling last little bits out to the shed. The supply guy helped me haul our luggage over to Supply so he could figure out the loads (It had been weighed last Thursday, but now it needed to go with the rest of what it was flying with). Another veteran missionary helped me take care of last minute stuff. The supply man informed me that we had enough for a 4th flight, but the pilot might not be able to make a 4th flight today, so we quickly shuffled through things so that the necessary things made it on the 3rd flight load. Don’t want to be without toilet paper! Of course Rick had packed things and I didn’t always know what was in the wrapped boxes. And he was out of reach as well. The kids were troopers and good helpers.
And then about 7:30 the kids and I and the supply guy went down to the airport wait for the pilot of the 206 to return for the second run of the day. The kids were so excited about “going home.”
The helicopter beat us to the Mouk airstrip. In the meantime Rick had managed to talk to some Mouk elders, and get the first load(s) sorted out for the helicopter. We arrived around 8:30, shook some hands of people, hauled luggage from the airplane to the helicopter, and then the helicopter took off.
It was beautiful weather with barely a cloud in the sky. The flights went smoothly. As we flew toward our village we could see different timber roads like red scars through the green forests. There is a timber company operating in Mouk territory and another one in Lusi territory. In the one year since we’d been gone, the timber company cut a road near our village and on up the ridge, and lots of amseri trees had grown up around our house, we could barely see our house or the helicopter pad for the trees.
One of the first things we saw was the village grandma, Pudi, dancing and waving branches. Other people came out to welcome us, – hugs and handshakes, and new babies, and surprise of all surprises our dog, Stella, came and found Keane. We hung out with the people. Kevin told us that the radio had gone dead just on Thursday. The grass had recently been cut and as I had been forewarned of pigs around, didn’t look as bad as I had expected. After things settled down a bit, we went inside to see how things had gone. Rick started opening the tap on the tanks, turned on the water pump, and turned on gas bottles. I started on opening window shutters and sweeping a year’s worth of accumulated dust.
Welcome surprises: Pudi and Bwoas the village elders were still alive, our dog still alive, the walls were relatively clean and free of mold. I had also left the lid off of my twin-tub washing machine (which I knew I had done) and there appeared to be a lot of debris in there but no live animals.
Unwelcome surprises: A dead and dried gecko on my office chair, two dead geckos and a dead centipede in the shub. One live centipede curled up on the schoolroom wall.
Really unwelcome surprises: One c-60 charge controller was dead and so was half of our battery bank (3 out of 6 batteries).
Of course we didn’t figure out the battery part right away, but we were able to get the helicopter pilot to relay our message that we needed a new charge controller on the next flight if possible and that we were temporarily without a radio, so that people wouldn’t worry about us if they didn’t hear from us right away. We were also able to order a bag of dog food – we hadn’t brought any in as we didn’t know our dog was alive.
The good news was that the folks at the Islands Region center were able to find us a usable charge controller, the pilot was able to get a 4th flight in for us and the charge controller made it in to us, and we were able to install it that night. The bad news; that was when we found out 3 out of 6 batteries were completely dead. Oops!
Also discovered that the freezer wasn’t working, turned on fridge and packed it with freezer stuff, turned off freezer and left it closed, fortunately not much refrigerator stuff came in! God knows what he is doing!
Also got beds remade (good surprise, none leaking!). Most of shutters opened – lots of mud-dauber nests between screens and shutters.
Went out at 4 pm to hang out with Jerad’s family. They had a new addition to their family, a baby girl. Supper was chicken gravy over toast and beetroot eaten by the light of the kerosene lantern as our power is so low. Our cat, Tom, appeared on our porch this evening, so he made it through our absence as well! He was a little skittish, but quickly made up to us as we paid attention to him. The kids fell asleep before I got their pillows to them! Early to bed tonight!