Most Saturdays here at Ukarumpa are fairly quiet. You go for a walk or visit friends or just do some work around the house. Today that is what Susan and I had planned. We baked some cookies in the morning and were about to head out the door to go to a friend’s house for lunch when the phone rang. Now since I work in Industrial either my boss or I have to be on call and since he is gone on vacation this week the responsibility landed on me. Usually nothing big comes up. You check in on the generators and on the chance that someone calls you go and help. That is what happened today.
At noon the call came that an electrical power pole was smoking. Now since this isn’t normal I promptly put on my shoes and headed out the door. I hopped in my van (Industrial has a van that I take home at night when I am on call) and headed to the scene of the incident less than a block away. I guess an old wooden cross member on the power pole had rotted out and some ants had found themselves home in it, which caused one of the insulators to fall and let the line touch the wood, which caused the smoke (aka a small fire).
I proceeded to race down the hill to find our national electrician who lives here on center and the two of us raced back up for him to assess the problem. On my way to get him I shut the power off to about half the center in order to kill power to the line. Once he determined what he needed we raced back to the shop to get tools, parts and the cherry picker. Now the cherry picker has a bit of a story in and of itself. You see it is rather old (like many other things here) and had been in Lae getting repaired for some hydraulic problems and had arrived back about a month ago. We had been using it and a leak developed on one of the hydraulic cylinders, so I had taken it off and sent it back to get repaired. Well, the cylinder had just come back from being repaired yesterday (Friday) and thankfully I had installed it and tested it. If the cherry picker had still been down today, I am not sure what we would have done.
So after having cut a new timber for the wires to connect to, plus about five more trips up and down the hill for parts and gas (for the cherry picker that ran for three hours before running out) and five hours working in the hot sun we finally got the electricity back on. My electricians worked very hard and really did help to make my life a little easier. All I really had to do was run and get them things and answer the questions of all the people who would walk by and want to know why the power was out. It was a good day’s work for a Saturday afternoon and so now I have had another exciting adventure in PNG. You just never know what each day will bring and I think that is one of the best parts about living here. Being able to make a difference one adventure at a time.