The Tractor Saga

Sep 09 2006
TravelingontheSepikRiver.jpg

The dust is settling back here once again in Samban. Although we won’t be officially wrapped up with the tractor until tommorrow with the ceremonial “bung kai” (community potluck dinner), but as far as the difficult part of the journey is concerned it is complete. It started last week on Thursday when I (Jesse) flew from Madang to Wewak where the tractor was due to arrive. It had been going through custums and immigration processes for the last month and a half. Karie and the kids remained in Madang until they knew when I would get back to Samban.

I stayed in the SIL Guesthouse in Wewak and checked on the tractor at the wharf on Friday morning. It had not been taken off the ship yet and was told to come back at 3:30 pm. Back at the guesthouse while I was waiting Maso, Alus, and Balamu arrived to help me take apart and load up the crates. When we checked back in we were told at first that yes they were off the ship, but wouldn’t be moved until Monday. Thanks to some quick talking by Sandy Nalela (SIL Shipping Agent), who was helping us with the moving of the crates in Wewak, we were able to have the smaller of the crates moved out and on the truck that I had hired our for moving the crates etc… to Angoram 120 kilometers away where the road ends at the Sepik River. Maso volunteered to ride back with the crate and unload it in Angoram and come back on Monday.

Alus, Balamu and I spent the weekend in Wewak getting a few more things ready for our loading process of the tractor crate. We were up Monday early to check on the crate, but they said that they wouldn’t get to moving it until to 11 am. So we waited again. Maso came back on the truck with a couple of extra guys to help with the dissassembly of the crate. Finally at noon they moved our crate off the wharf and into the yard. The crate had a few dings in it, but everything was in it that I had packed in it. We were uncrated and loaded up on the truck by three pm. I drove the tractor to the gas station, filled up and went up to the guesthouse to check out.
We left Wewak at 4pm and headed to Angoram. All I can say about the trip to Angoram was BUMPY. We made good time however and arrived at 10pm. All of the guys with me rode in the back of the big flat bed truck which followed me the whole way.

Next was the most risky part of the trip. We lashed two canoes together and put all the implements and rest of our stuff from the tractor crate ontu that double canoe. Then we lashed the two biggest canoes together and loaded up the tractor. We decided that since we had not opened up the smaller of the crates that we would save it for another trip. We left Angoram at 11 am and arrived in Samban at 6:30 pm. Because of the size and weight of our loads the canoes couldn’t exactly plane out on the rivers so we just took our times. God answered so many prayers in all our loading/unloading, and the water level, etc… We didn’t lose anything on the river on any of the trips. It was just amazing to see how well things worked out considering how many things went right.

There was a group doing a singsing when I got to Gem which is the closest to Samban where we normally unload all our stuff. We unloaded the tractor and all the rest of the gear, and unleashed the canoes from each other. Then I got a big surprise. Maso and Alus had used parts from the parts tractor on the old Kubota and got it running again. I had already switched engine blocks, but was waiting on pistons and connecting rods, but Maso mixed and matched what we had and got it running. Simply amazing. So they were able to take all the smaller stuff up to Samban.

After a good nights sleep I straightened up what we had brought back and waited for the rest of the family to fly in to Samban. Karie and the kids got in around noon and it was good to be re-united. Then we walked down to Gem for the big celebration/processional/sing-sing escort from Gem to Samban. That took about 2 hours, but was really neat to see the people so excited.

The next day we went back to Angoram in my big canoe to get the small crate. We arrived there at 9 am and started taking it apart. By 10:45 we had it apart and started loading up. Just to let everyone know that crate total weighed 1 metric ton. We fit the entire contents and the crate itself into the canoe. The bush hog/rotary cutter we just balanced across both sides and ratchet strapped it to the canoe. We arrived back in Samban at 3:30pm and loaded everything up to the house.

So even though I’m tired and worn out, I’m happy to announce that both crates are now safely in Samban. After 149 days since it left Indiana our 1533 Massey-Ferguson tractor has arrived at it’s permanent address here in Samban Village, East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea.

Other Entries