10. Getting water to Busami and Mwamigongwa

I got up before 6am and headed to see Jodie to work out if I had time for breakfast. Aisha had been worried about how late we got back last night and when I told her that I’d been really hungry yesterday she absolutely pulled out all the stops to feed me up for the day, which was great. As I was drinking coffee at the breakfast bar I spotted a huge baboon strolling around in the garden and then when I was packing in my tent, two dogs chased a baboon right past my tent! It’s quite normal for Aisha so she finds it amusing how excited I get about the wildlife.
Today is a big day for the OffGridBox project at Busami Village in Busega district. The long day yesterday was to prepare everything so that today we can lay 1km of pipe to house a control fibre so that the pump will switch off when the tank gets full. Unfortunately the tank is in the village but the pump is a kilometre away. This is caused by another interesting challenge linked to different NGOs undertaking different tasks. The guys who dug (bored) the well just chose the site they felt would be easiest, instead of boring a well in the village. Technically, it would actually be easier for another well to be dug than to dig all these trenches and lay all the fibres, but because it was another organisation, it just isn’t going to happen. So the complexity of the OffGridBox work has just hugely increased and so has the time pressure.
A truck laden with huge cable reels
Today we also have a crane truck driving from Bunda (where we are staying at Tembea Mara) to Busami, where the Box needs to be moved to go onto the raised concrete foundations that we arranged yesterday. Nicola has been travelling with the truck but it’s really slow and so Jodie and I are going to collect him and let the crane turn up later on. We crossed paths with the truck as they had stopped to secure the cable reel so we left Nicola to deal with that and decided to head to the Busega district office to count all of the cables in a shipment just to make sure we are able to distribute the correct amount at each village. Then Jodie and I hit the road again to catch the truck.
A store room filled with OffGridBox inventory
We collected Nicola and then he and I went to buy some water and he took me to a little stall a little further on and we ordered 10 chapattis for today! So excited.
Jodie and Nicola on a conference call in a cafe with a wonky table leg

It’s funny how so many little errands end up adding so much time. We went to the district office to find an engineer to come with us. And then we collected someone else and then went to a fourth project site that is in the really early stages of planning. There is obviously a huge amount of pressure to get a large number of projects running in parallel but there are just too many different things to focus on, and they span such a wide area. Jodie is a real pro at organising everything, and her ability to switch between English and Swahili is such a powerful tool on this project.

A newly installed set of solar panels next to a well with a pump and water tower

Fast forward until 7:30pm. It was another tough day. More laughs but hard work too! I took a work party to cut 50m lengths of cable duct, running roughly along the trench to make it easier to lay them properly. Then I had to measure out the full distance of the trench, using a 50m tapemeasure! I had to explain to the guys that were helping me how I needed to measure out 50m then make a marker for the team at the other end to walk forward and find so we could go on to make the next marker.

It took quite a while because it was almost a kilometre of uneven ground to cover (trying not to fall into the trench) and we had to move around lots of obstacles. I counted out the markers three times because I really wanted to be certain. Once we had finalised the distance, we knew what length of the thinner and more delicate signal cable to unreel. The process is going to be really hard work when we finally get underway tomorrow. I had help from a group of young men for the first two measurements but as I got a different number on each go, I decided I needed a third count. I had a large group of children around me and I decided to put them to work! It was actually really effective and very fun! We certainly didn’t speak the same language but we absolutely nailed the hand gestures and I checked a couple of Swahili words on Google translate so I could tell them when to pull the tape and when to stop. I’m not really sure what happened but at one point they began chanting and dancing around so it was pretty crazy.

A local helper unfurling a reel of protective black pipe

As I was walking back with the kids after the third count, the heavens opened and within a few seconds I was soaked to the skin and was slipping and sliding all the way back (at a run) to the pump site. It even hailed and I was absolutely soaking wet and freezing cold for the rest of the afternoon. My feet are still soaking and I can’t wait to take my trainers off.Me with a group of children who were helping me measure out a large distance with a short tape measure

Next I had some help to create a guide wire for the signal cable – we are going to be drawing it through the whole cable duct, in 50m sections and we need to stiffen the cable to push through each 50m section so that the rest of the cable can be pulled through. I was busy setting up some guys to twist the cables together when a cow walked through the bush behind me bellowing and scared the life out of me, I even managed to jump over the cable without really thinking about it. The team saw my overreaction and couldn’t stop laughing, but people who know me know that I get chased by animals an unreasonable amount and so I’m not one for taking chances on this!
During the final stage of creating this guide wire tool, I managed to step on a line of big ants (even though I tried to avoid them) and I ended up with ants running up my leg and biting me badly. I ended up running into the store room to try and shake them out! Again, plenty of laughter from the crowd.
I spent some time with Nicola preparing the cables that connect the pump to the control box. The pump is going to be connected up and then lowered down 85m into the well to access the cleanest water ready to be filtered and purified in the OffGridBox. Because the connections are going to be underwater, in order to be safe and ensure the contacts can’t be damaged by the water, a potting compound is being used to set everything in a protective resin block. This takes three hours to set so we can’t finish it tonight.

I was pushing to get everything put away and tidy before sunset so that we could get back to Tembea Mara at a reasonable time.
The drive back was slippery on the tracks after the downpour but the best bit was seeing a herd of elephants!! One was just crossing the road to meet his herd on the side. And then I spotted the wildebeest again.
We got back to Bunda after 9pm and found that the rain had been pretty terrible there and so my tent had flooded quite badly. Yusuf had kindly moved my stuff to a hut, and thankfully, though my backpack itself was really wet, the things inside weren’t too bad. Except my warm jacket liner for Kilimanjaro which has soaked up the rain like a sponge.
It’s a shame I couldn’t spend longer in this room because it’s pretty cosy. The mosquito net had a few holes in but I wasn’t very concerned. I should probably have done something about it because I ended up being woken up three times in the night with mosquitoes in the net. It rained fairly constantly through the night so I am just hoping that the trenches aren’t full tomorrow for when we try to complete the job running the fibre along the pipe.

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