A DAY AT THE SEASIDE
11th February 2009
We packed our cossies, towels and the camera, couldn't find our bucket and spade sadly!The weather was fine and we were off to the seaside!To Madang - a holiday resort by the sea!An 8-10 hour drive on the Saturday, a rest day on the Sunday, a VSO conference on the Monday and back again on the Tuesday.
As luck would have it, one of the VSO officers (a national), was up in Simbu and returning to Madang on the Saturday and offered us a ride (she was travelling in a 4 X 4 with a VSO driver, Alphonso). The decision whether to take her offer or ride in a PMV was not difficult to make, so we arranged for her to pick us up at 8am.This seemed a good arrangement, as VSO volunteers are not allowed to travel on the highway after dark, so we reckoned that gave us plenty of time, even if road conditions were bad.At 8am we got a text - pick up time changed to 9am.At 9am another text - pick up time changed to 9.30.Around 11am we had another text from Jake, our project manager, who was travelling with us, pick up time now 12noon!We spoke to him, pointing out that there was now no way we would reach Madang before dark, so he arranged for the Madang Provincial Administrator to send a vehicle to accompany us after dark, so we agreed to go, our original high spirits being somewhat dampened, having spent half a day waiting.
At 12.45 the car arrived!!! Steam was issuing forth from you know where!Jake came to the door and warned us that we had a screaming baby on board, plus an extra passenger, which meant three of us had to squeeze into the back seat!We weren't happy bunnies, though I have to say the baby was as good as gold once we got underway - thank goodness!
We made good time, but then, after 5 hours with no stops, the news came through from the VSO office that because of continuous rain over the past few days, a section of the road about 2 hours from Madang was very dangerous.We stopped for 10 mins for a comfort break and were joined by the Administrators car as escort, it was getting dark.We ploughed on and the road got extremely bumpy and we assumed this was the difficult part and knew we could hack it.Half an hour later the driver announced that we were approaching a range of mountains. The road was dangerous, it was dark and pouring with rain and to add to our delight, he announced that fuel was low!!
We continued our journey by which time we were getting somewhat peckish, having only had a small bowl of porridge around 7.30am (no electricity for toast).We found a motorway service station, which consisted of a table on which sat some plastic bottles, allegedly containing diesel.One of a little group of sodden men, plus one naked little boy, poured diesel into the tank (while one of their number held a banana leaf overhead, to shield him from the rain).John's request for a cappuccino was received with polite smiles and nods, but no coffee!I had a packet of 4 crackers in my bag (similar to cream crackers but much, much harder) for use in case of emergencies, these we shared between us.
On we drove through the rain and encountered fog as well.The road was lethal, as the clay was wet and like ice.We suddenly found ourselves behind a few stationery vehicles on the brow of a steep hill.A bus, coming up the other way, had got stuck in the mud and was blocking the whole road.We thought we were going to have to spend the night in the car, but after a wait of half to three quarters of an hour, willing hands had dragged and pushed the bus up the hill, so we were able to resume our journey, very slowly, as parts of the road were washed away, revealing a sheer drop.
However, 9 hours after leaving Kundiawa, we arrived in Madang, well and truly shaken up.The driver, Alphonso, had done a sterling job of driving and he breathed a sigh of relief when we got onto the tarmaced roads on the outskirts of Madang. Volunteers rallied round and produced some pizzas for us plus egg sandwiches and cookies, they had been watching a film (it was Saturday night after all) and guzzling food!Life in Madang is far removed from that of the poor relations in the highlands, as we frequently told them, but got little sympathy!!
However, once we had had a sleep, a shower, (cold - but it's so hot in Madang, who cares!) a swim in the pool, a gin and tonic (or two) in the bar and a sighting of dolphins during breakfast, all seemed right with the world once again.We were dreading the trip back and determined not to even attempt it if the road conditions hadn't improved.They had (the clay dries out very quickly in the heat) and not only did we do the trip back in 7 hours, but we had a break in Goroka, where we were able to stock up on cheese, porridge, cleaning materials and other luxurious items, including some mince, which didn't resemble dog food!No chocolate though - boo hiss.
At Christmas, Ric and Jo introduced us to toastabags.You can make toasted sandwiches without the toaster getting clogged up with cheese etc.So we decided upon cheese and pickle toasted sandwiches for breakfast, to try the bags out.We prepared them and as we were about to pop them in the toaster, the electricity went off!!The sandwiches were nice anyway.Talking of cooking, the other night, I was stir frying some vegetables when out went the lights (thank goodness for a gas stove).I was given a head torch for Christmas too, so on it went and it was absolutely brilliant for cooking.I laughed to myself though, that if any of the neighbours looked through the window to see this shadowy figure with a Cyclops eye on its head it would scare the bejeezus out of them!They'd think the spirit world had arisen!!
The wet season is well and truly with us.We brought back some DVD's kindly donated by our thoughtful children and on two nights now we've sat down to view, only to find that the rain was making such a noise we couldn't hear a thing.Still, it's a lot cooler I'm glad to say.
On Friday, John and I walked round the school at 11am.8 out of the sixteen classes had no teacher in them!On Wednesday - teachers' pay day - there was no teacher at all in school after lunchtime, as they'd all gone into town to draw out their money!It beggars belief.We kind of hoped that as it was the beginning of term, things might start off well - Nogat!!Hey Ho!
Off for a meeting in the coffee shop now - it's the centre of our universe these days and the coffee is good.
Love to you all - hope you've enjoyed the snow and it hasn't impeded your activities.
Oh, I nearly forgot - Happy Valentine's Day!