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Published: January 3rd 2007
Andy grits his teeth and gets to work with the screwdriver.
I woke up early thinking about holes in tin roofs and wondering whether the Fisheries vehicle would ever turn up. 9am at the earliest I thought to myself as I wandered over for a casual breakfast. I could hardly believe it when, at 8.05, a pickup pulled into Njaya and a beaming Mr C strolled into the restaurant where I was just finishing my coffee. "Let's go!", he grinned - I hadn't seen him looking this pleased with himself since he appeared on the back of a bicycle taxi after finding a mechanic at 6am in Kasungu in September.
A well-briefed Njaya staff team rolled into action and the two wheel drive pickup was soon creaking under a 240kg load of batteries and a pile of solar panels and cables. How many people does it take to tie some batteries and panels onto a pickup ? Answer - at least 8, and all of them leaders with the best idea of how to do it ! Five minutes after heading out onto the rain rutted steep road batteries started sliding and tipping as the car swayed. Another 15 minutes of roping and nailing and we were finally heading
The long awaited moment as the vehicle finally arrives and several "leaders" spring into action
up the steepest part of the road, now carrying three more passengers and their very early morning shopping. The driver looked increasingly nervous.
With wheels spinning and tyres dropping into the miniature canyons now meandering across the steep dirt road, we sailed into Bwelero in a cloud of red dust, chased by dogs and kids shouting "Andy Solar" closely follwed by "Give me bottolo" (my 2 litre bottle of water had been spotted !).
The room was ready for us (still damp from rushed plastering and flooring, windows still jammed shut and the temperature rising rapidly), the battery box was almost ready for us and the door was almost lockable - a real transformation from the Friday before and a sight that filled me optimism that, with enough help, I could perhaps get the installation finished in a week. Mentally I have prepared myself for it to take two weeks - this is the rainy season after all.
By 10am the batteries were in their new dovetail jointed box and connected up again as they had been back in August only this time in the right building. By 11am, and with Taimon working furiously on the door
400m up the road and everything starts to slide - nothing Mr Chiumia, some nails, a hammer, a machete and 50m mof rope can't fix !
to the room - three huge locks, Most of the equipment was up on the wall and I had started connecting up as far as possible. It felt good to finally be doing some real hands-on work and actually installing a solar system rather than just planning how to do it.
The electrician failed to turn up again - the third time he has stood me up - and so cable pulling and connecting to the buildings still invisible distribution board will have to wait until we can track him down. By lunchtime and with all my water already finished, the equipment in the store room was wired. It was time to start tackling the hardwood and getting panels attached to their support frames. Finding good straight timbers wasn't easy as the contractor had got carried away while I was away and fitted twice as much support timber for the solar modules as he needed to inside the building. Nothing beats a bit of string and a hand drill and with careful measuring and Taimon's weight leaning over a tiny drill bit, the hardwood yielded our first solar support "plank". It fitted the modules perfectly and so tomorrow will
The twelve heavy batteries fit perfectly into the beautifully crafted battery box complete with perfect dovetail joints
see us making another 9.
Slightly dehydrated, I wandered back down the mountain as darkness started to fall, the tree frogs started to sing and Mozambique, 40 miles away on the other side of the lake, was stung and illuminated by the towering evening storms which patrol the lake during the rainy season sending lamp lit fisherman paddling furiously back to shore.
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