Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Gunung Sitoli to Teluk Dalam - The Hard Way!

On Tuesday Glen and I needed to travel from Gunung Sitoli in the NE of Nias, to Teluk Dalam in the south. Nias is approximately 75 miles long and 25 miles wide. There is a good road joining the two towns along the east coast. As part of our mission here we had agreed to visit a potential site for a repeater on top of the highest point on Nias called Lolomatua. This required us to take a road that crosses over the island from east to west and then travel down the west side to Teluk Dalam. The 'not good' way!

In 2005, a short three months after the major tsunami, Nias was rocked by a major earthquake that destroyed thousands of homes, killed hundreds of the islanders, and did severe damage to the roads and bridges in the interior. It did not take us long to find the damage.
As we drove up into the central highlands almost every bridge we had to cross was a one-lane temporary structure that required slow going. On many other sections the road bed had partially, or totally, collapsed and again the going was slow as we made our way through temporary lanes.

About two thirds of the way across the island we started our climb to Lolomatua. It was a one lane dirt road that led nowhere but up. Now, calling it a road is a stretch, the roadbed was severely eroded for almost the entire journey and basically varied between very bad to downright scary. I could not image trying to go up it in anything less that a Toyota Land Cruiser. Photos do not do the size of the ruts justice. It was a trip.

After checking out Lolomatua we descended back down the rutted road and rejoined tarmac – how smooth it felt. Going was good for a while until we hit the western side of the island where, for about 20 miles, the road was being repaired. It was not as bad as the trip up to Lolomatua but almost. For most of the way the road was torn up and the verges were being used to stack rocks, make bricks, pile gravel and sand, etc. More slow going.

We finally arrived in Teluk Dalam about mid-afternoon to begin our radio work.
Tuesday evening we checked in to the Sorake Beach Hotel which had, at one time, probably been a five star resort. At best it’s now a one star. I’ll write more about it in a future blog entry, it’s sad seeing such a beautiful resort fall into such disrepair. Of course the earthquake didn’t help!

There was no restaurant at the hotel so Glen and I walked down the road about a quarter mile to a restaurant overlooking the prime attraction of the area – a major surf break that attracts surfers from all over the world. Glen claims his pizza was one of the best he’s tasted. I claimed it was the company but he wasn’t having any of that! We had to walk back to the hotel down an unlit road in total darkness. Every single person we met, or passed by, shared a smile and a warm greeting.

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