Published: November 18th 2010November 7th 2010
Serious Off Road Radials
Here's the Driver Ferdino as the tires get replaced on our gallant steed. Some may recognize this vehicle from last year's forays into the Big Bay Bush.
After weeks of wheeling and dealing I was hoping to begin the movement of supplies in the first week of November. One of the many arrangements had been for a Toyota Land Cruiser to be put at the project’s disposal for the construction of the clinic. When said like that, it seems a simple thing. But remember now, this is Vanuatu.
The Land Cruiser belongs to the North District Pharmacy and was donated by AusAid for pharmacy use. Rural Clinic Construction falls under the auspices of Samna Province Rural Health. It took some doing, but in the end the hospital agreed to trade their Land Cruiser for the Rural Health truck for the duration of 5 weeks.
When first approached, the pharmacy didn’t want to go for the trade. When they found out that Project MARC would buy new tires for the truck, they decided to acquiesce. You see, the Pharmacy is horribly under-funded (like most departments of the Ministry of Health) and they cannot afford to reasonably upkeep their truck and equipment. The tires on the truck were bald to the point of showing their steel radials.
I needed this truck to go through some serious jungle
The truck was so top heavy with the wind resistance that it felt like we were an ant giving a piggy-back ride to an elephant.
mud and didn’t feel like getting stuck. In the end, it was a mutually beneficial arrangement. It just took some time and some finagling.
When the time came for the truck to be handed over (Nov 1st) I was waiting patiently at the Ministry of Health office….for 8 hours. As they say in Vanuatu “Trak i kam, yumi go. Trak i no kam, yumi stap.” Delays, delays, delays.
It wasn’t until the 3rd that I got the truck. And by the time the new tires were placed on the vehicle we’d used up the whole day.
The first thing we’d need to get up to the site would be the water tank, followed by the steel rebar and then sand and cement. I wanted to start collecting water as soon as possible and then let the workers have the time they needed to bend the steel rod into foundation cages.
As prices started to rack up and funding failed to result from pledges made. I realized that if we did all the trips in small pick-up trucks, we wouldn't have enough money for fuel and supplies . We’d need some serious dump truck action to make
The jungle encroaches on the road so much that the truck can barely make it through. In order to get through with the tank we needed four men to hack the bush along the road while we were driving. It was slow going.
Luckily for us, a local plantation owner agreed to help us out with his all-terrain dump truck as long as we paid for fuel. They wouldn’t sacrifice the safety of the truck, but they’d get the goods in as far as possible. These guys are real heroes.
I had 10 contingency plans laid out for how far the dump truck could make it into the bush. I doubted that they could make it all the way to the job site (even with the monster 4 wheel drive), so I laid out a number of drop points that the goods could be left along the road. As the road got further from civilization it got rougher and rougher. When it got too rough, we would go back to the most recent drop point and unload the goods. From there we’d shuttle the items piecemeal with the smaller trucks.
This was Plan A.
Then reality hit. After some delays due to the need for a road survey, we took the first load of sand up to the site on the second weekend of the month. In the rough road conditions we nearly lost the truck off
Renovated Storage House
The community repaired the roof and cleared the bush. Made a huge difference.
the side of a hill and had to dump the goods on the road where we were stuck, just so that we could escape the situation. It wasn’t all bad though. We got the first load to within 100 meters of the job site. We wouldn’t try it again, but out of the 30km of road we'd driven, being off my 100 meters was pretty good!
The second trip stopped at the Butmas drop point. There’s a village here that will be serviced by the Clinic, so it was a safe place to leave the goods.
By the end of the second week of November, our little Land Cruiser had also chalked up some serious mileage. We’d moved 200 bricks, a 6000 Litre water tank, a ton of cement, and a thousand USD worth of steel rebar. Those tires were worth every penny.
We had sand, cement, rebar and and a tank. Now all we needed was water.
Moving 6000 litres of water is not as easy as it sounds, trust me...but that’s a story for next time.
There are more photos below