Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Moving along with the installation, halfway there!

The past three days marked great progress with our installation.  We packed up three stations and five crew members and headed east to Baucau, Los Palos, and Viqueque.  With sensitive equipment in tow, we had to travel slower than the breakneck pace I previously wrote about - something I am entirely fine with.  Our first day of travel was on Sunday, our goal to make it to the far east in Los Palos.  One of our crew members is from the town, so he was our local guide for the night.  There is a strong sense of pride for one's home here in Timor Leste, and I could sense that as we went from place to place.  Along the way, we were stopped by people who were along side the road.  It was worth the stop, a HUGE crocodile was resting on the opposite bank of the river:
This photo doesn't do it justice.  The croc's hind legs and back are in view.  I thought I saw big gators in Louisiana, but this is far bigger than any reptile I've seen!
We made it to Los Palos and arrived at the hotel.  It was more of a family home, and a good experience.  It was my first night here under mosquito net and without air conditioning...it finally felt like field work had began.
Los Palos hotel, sleeping in the elegant comfort of a mosquito net.
In the morning, it was sunny and hot.  We arrived at the Los Palos local Administrator's complex to install the station.  After three hours of work, we had the station completed.  A good start to the day.
The crew wrapping up the Los Palos station.
Our goal for the day was to install two stations, and we were on pace to make it.  Off to Baucau to get to the second site.  The view along the way was better than my previous trek through the area, the weather was clear.  Los Palos is perched up on a high plain, with steep canyons incised along it edges.  The road winds its way down through the topography through lush tropical foliage.
Coconut and palm trees along the road.  Cool and humid.

Baucau was in our sites by 3:00pm, we were lucky to avoid rainy weather in the afternoon.  The Baucau Administrator's complex was our destination, during our last visit they suggested they would find a location for us somewhere in town.  That did not happen since our last visit, so we suggested a location on site.  It was an imposing location - the Baucau Limestone formation outcrops close to the surface throughout the city and is certainly present on site.  There was very little soil in sight, and a lot of foliage including yams, squash and lots of weeds.  After clearing out the vegetation and stirring up millions of mosquitos, we progressed along.  The crew dug into the sparse soil and we constructed the station around the outcrops of limestone.  After two stations and a long day, we were all worn out, yet I seemed to be the only one that clearly displayed it.  We set up in a nearby 'hotel' that felt more like a dungeon to me. 

Eugenio contemplating how we managed to install a station in the Baucau Limestone.
Hotel room in Baucau.

I was happy to head out to dinner to have our third straight meal of Bakso, a staple meal of rice, salty broth, veggies, and a chunk of protein.  For $2 a piece, it isn't bad at all.  After finishing dinner, the entire restaurant seemed to light up a cigarette in unison, so I stepped outside to take in a spectacular full moon. 

We set out early the next morning to go south to Viqueque.  The trip toward the south side of the island took us over some higher topography in the interior, bringing on a welcome cool lot of air.  There is a terrific landscape throughout the island, with impressively steep cliffs rising to mountain tops shrouded by clouds. 
The landscape near the high crest of the interior, the roadway between Baucau and Viqueque.  The air is cool and breezy, a welcome change.

We arrived in Viqueque for the first time, meaning that we needed to meet with the Administration to ask for permission to install.  The building complex we arrived at ended up being the station location, which seems to be a recurring theme here, mostly owing to our need for long-term security for our equipment.  Presentation of the project was brief and successful, and we were beginning the install within 30 minutes.  By this time, the crew was running quite smoothly, and we had the station built in a little over two hours.  Kapow! Halfway done! 
The crew finishing the Viqueque station.  Armando on left, Marcal on the fence, Mr Alex behind fence, and Eugenio in supervisor mode.  This crew has come together nicely!

The ride back to Dili was a bit more frantic than the previous few days of travel, but nothing like the first day in the field.  We were all happy to make it back to town a little after 5pm.  The hotel I've been staying in for the past few weeks now feels like a five star luxury suite - what a difference a few days makes!  On to install two more stations in the next few days, I'll be heading home in a week, hopefully with all eight stations up and running...

Current installation map, the 4 red symbols are in, the two in the west are next.


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