As we progress toward our goal of reaching 100 wells, the drilling locations have become more remote. During our first 50 wells it felt as though we canvassed as many “easy” communities as possible. Not that is wasn’t difficult, we are usually the only game in the village. But a daily commute on average was 90 minutes one way, and we could sleep at our own compound each night.
The last 20 wells stretched our teams, our equipment and our reach on La Gonave. Drilling Gros Mangles was an incredible achievement. It was nearly four hours away and required one day just to transfer and set up the equipment, when the salt flats were dry enough to support our rig. It had proven the extent of where we could reach and still sleep at home per se.
Since we only drill one month per year, each day is critical to keeping the drill bit in the ground. We can’t afford to have 50% of our days spent on travel time and set up. Since we will reach to the very west end of the island this summer, far from our compound, it was time to not only locate villages that we could access for drilling, but also find a few new places we could house our drilling teams. That would prove to be difficult but not impossible.
This year as we scouted, we visited many villages that were some of the most remote places on La Gonave. We touched the west end at Plain Trou Louis and the highest peak in the region of Lotorre, half mile above sea level, as well as the pebble covered southern coast at Pointe A Raquette.
We met villagers who hike a half day to fetch water for their families. As they explained, they don’t even drink water every day because the travel time would prohibit any other activities in life. Water is the foundation of physical human existence. In these places, the fragility of life is evident in every family. Being born into such a remote and harsh environment is a crap shoot for survival. Lives melt away in complete obscurity as people die without adequate water. Nobody knows them, and their stories go untold.
These families were gracious as always. Some shared from their fresh harvest of peanuts, mangos, or opened their churches to allow us a place to roll out the sleeping bags. They were curious and kind, always willing to give the nothing they had. It certainly endears you to Gonavians. This drives me to dream of doing that which seems so unconventional and risky while we search for water.
Some of the accommodations yielded tarantulas the size of my hand, which kept our media guru Erik Hansen from Webster Street Media up all night with his headlamp and my only spoon, hunting these fuzzy man eating beasts. It felt like we were living in a washing machine the half day we spent each day riding in the back of a 4×4 bouncing over rocks and ravines. We viewed the landscape as we slammed off each other and the gear we carried. The views over cliffs were majestic but hoped our “chauffer guide” would steer clear of. Had we rolled off a cliff there was no “life flight” to bring us to safety.
All in all we located 15 villages that may very well represent the last 30 locations we drill for water wells. These locations hold a mysterious unrelenting challenge as some must have felt waiting at their camp before ascending to the peak of Everest. Fortunately made new friends, and even found a remote “outpost” that will serve as our final base camp before we push forward to 100.
As we wound down the trip, my good friend Kent Harle and I found some old Honda XR400 motorcycles to go blow off some steam. We spent an afternoon traveling at a much higher rate of speed, which raised our fun factor to its zenith. It was an epic way to finish a grueling week.
There is plenty of prep to be completed over the next four months, but the route and locations are clarified, and obstacles defined. It’s time to put our heads down and complete the prep before looking up again at our goal sometime in late May.