Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mobile Medevac

Why is it always Friday afternoon when you get the call for an urgent flight? Why can't people be sick on a Monday morning?! This time one of the mobile phone companies has a sick worker at a cell tower site, isolated on the top of one of the many mountains in PNG. It was too late to be able to collect him that day as, apart from anything else, the site was already shrouded in cloud. 

So, early Saturday morning I prepared to collect him. Despite the early start, the weather was already not looking too promising as I approached the site.

But thankfully appearances can be deceptive - the cloud was sitting in front of the hill, so the site itself was clear.

I was grateful to have recently completed my refresher mountain training, as the site was at just under 8000 ft - our company limit for normal mountain ops. And also because, whilst they clear sufficient space to land, it's not exactly generous.

The landing site is to the left of the tower

There's enough space for the skids, plus a bit to be able to squeeze from one side of the helicopter to the other - what more could I want?!

At least I don't have to worry about anyone walking into the tail rotor!
The rest of the flight was thankfully simple - load the passengers and head back to base. I believe the sick guy was fine.

I really take my hat off to the guys who re-supply these places with loads slung 200 ft or more under the helicopter - that's some tricky flying!

Friday, November 14, 2014


Papua New Guinea is an amazingly beautiful place. Every time I think I must have seen the most stunning part of it, a new sight mesmerises me.

We went to Tapini to move building materials for a classroom and aid post, provided by a charitable foundation, into a remote village.  Thankfully it wasn't all work and we got a chance to explore some of the surrounding sights.

Tapini sits on a small plateau, surrounded by mountains.

 We were mostly slinging various external loads: steel, timber, cement...

Lifting a timber load
 Between each load we re-fuelled from drums driven up by truck.

This video shows one of my colleagues taking-off after a re-fuel and lifting a load of cement and concrete flooring.

The destination is Kerau, a village at 7000' (4000' higher than Tapini). It is an interesting mix of old colonial housing and traditional bush buildings.

In this clip you can see the distinctly foreign constructions, the materials which have already been transported laid out and the open area we were dropping them off in.

Along the ridge from there are some homes made from more readily-available materials.

Part of Kerau village
 When we weren't moving materials, we had a chance to go on a couple of walks to investigate the village amenities and a waterfall we had seen from the helicopter on our flight in.

Waterfall, hydro plant and water source

The village has a reliable power supply from a small hydro-power turbine. It's amazing how thankful you can be for being able to easily do simple things like cook and wash after dark!

 Just outside the village, the stream is coarsely filtered, before part of it enters a pipe and flows down to this building.

The generator hut (and our guide)
 Inside are the turbine and generator

 Above the village is another area where a stream is coarsely filtered and piped - this time providing fresh drinking water to the houses.

The water source (with another guide)

But the highlight of the trip has to have been the waterfall!

The beautiful waterfall (with one of the SIL loaders who went to help rig the sling loads)
 Even the flight home afforded some great views:

All the classroom and aid post building materials ready to be put together

The valley leading up to a ridge we needed to cross at around 10,000'

Lake Wanum near Lae