Sunday 1 September 2013

Tasmat village, 14 27.37 S  168 01.17 E

For eight dads it was a Father’s Day to remember. The only sad and missing element was our families! It should have been a day of rest, but the revised plans said otherwise: clinic at Tasmat on the island of Merelava.

The original plans had been to arrive rested after a smooth (Friday) overnight sail, so that the medical team were refreshed and ready to run our first clinic on Saturday but the weather and seas had other ideas and the team were too exhausted to consider any form of work. (See previous post on our sail from Luganville.) The crew of Matt, David, Cathy, and Rob were amazing in getting us through the night and finding the anchorage safely.

Instead, we walked up to the village of Tasmat and found Silas and Johnwood and we ‘phoned George (the local health care nurse) to inform the surrounding villages of the revised schedule of a Sunday afternoon and all day Monday clinic.

Now when I say “phoned”it was not as easy as switching on a mobile. There is no mobile phone service on Merelava! To get a signal at all from the neighboring island of Maewo (15km away) Bob, Gibson, Johnwood and Graeme had to walk to the next village, climb above the village to the base of a large palm and point their mobile devices in the island’s direction. Still no signal. By plugging the USB cable into the base of his iPhone Graeme managed to get reception, phone George, and set “the jungle drums” in action to spread the word.

Now when I stated earlier that we “walked to the village of Tasmat it was not as easy as strolling across the park. The climb from shore to the village of Tasmat is an amazing idyllic but strenuous experience. As the island is a steep cone 1km high and only 12km or so in circumference there is only two ways to walk on this island – up or down. If you try to stop you simply roll down-hill. All the villages are situated on narrow terraces that are 200-300m above sea level.

Our doctors say it could be adopted as a new way of assessing cardiovascular health – if you make it up you are healthy, if you don’t make it up then you will roll down. Graeme claims he has climbed it four times in 3-days and it takes 650 steps. Nobody bothered to go back and check his count.

As a result of these endeavours there were 50 or more waiting for us at the first clinic. As I said it is no small effort getting to this village: load the dinghy with all the gear from the yacht, unload the boxes of gear onto the rocky outcrop – the beach that was here 3 years ago has been washed away in recent storms! – whilst the sea swell tosses the dinghy up and down, walk up “Heart Attack” Hill to the friendly charming village of Tasmat.

We were given access to two community huts so we could set up dental, medical, and eye clinics under cover and this required Ruth to direct patients in one or more directions, depending upon service required, if not all three directions: Doug and Graeme (the ‘body doctors’) providing general medical care; Nancy and Gibson (the ‘eye doctors’) ; and Barry and Bob (the tooth or ‘tut’ tooth doctors).

We all learnt some new lessons:
1.      Don’t climb Heart Attack Hill without willing local porters.
2.      Don’t check the patient’s blood pressure after seeing the ‘tut doctor’ – check it before!
3.      If you live on a steep island with no western food the likelihood of obesity, hypertension, and diabetes is low.
To finish the day Cathy produced a wonderful meal complete with chocolate cake and we presented Rob with  somes essential ‘Fathers Day Gifts: his new boat licence ID card (what the?!), a brass ship’s bell for Chimere, and a hand-held food blender for making tropical slurpees!

The wind has now calmed, the seas looking smoother, and we are looking forward to a good night’s sleep. Hooray!

Onboard Cub Reporter