Saturday, April 2, 2016

Boats and the Island of Orealla [Bruce Westfall]

OK, so it isn't technically an island, but it might as well be.

The ONLY way to get to Orealla is by boat. I suppose you could carve your way thru the jungle on a motorcycle, but for all practical purposes the only way in or out is boat. When a boat does arrive, it is a major event. There are about 10 or so little shops selling snacks, drinks, cell phone refills, more drinks and shampoo. Only 2 or 3 of these places have a regular schedule and the others are very hit and miss. But when a boat comes in or is loading, the whole place lights up.

If you think about islands, what are the key images that pop up?

Palm trees
Laid back atmosphere
Sandy walks
Homes on stilts
Limited area of travel
and boats. Lots of boats.

Here is an image to supplement our premise that there are, in fact, boats.

Except for the tiny little detail of being attached to a major continent, Orealla is an island.

This weekend there is a circuit assembly on the coast, so plans were made for getting there. Plans for travel mean : Find a boat. A few left earlier in the week so they could do shopping, visit friends and family, etc. Another family left last night (Thursday) but the majority of the congregation is still here.

Janet, the woman who helped get the location for the Memorial in Siparuta has a husband named Mike who has the boat that Joshua would ride when he first arrived. That's called “Neil's Boat”. Neil bought a larger boat and is the only one that runs a schedule for trips up to the coast.

What is nice this time is that Mike is going to the assembly with Janet and taking the boat with room for 20+ people. So instead of the mad rush with a random pile of people jostling for a place to hang their hammocks, it would just be people from the congregation here along with Mike and his family.


This morning we find out that he might not make it. Something happened with his tractor that would be loading wood onto the boat, which is one of the other main reasons the trip would be happening. This area is rich in quality timber which is carefully harvested and the main source of income for the community.

So late in the morning we found out that a boat docked pretty much next door to where we are could be available. Also, there is another referred to as the “Farmer Boat” which we may also be able to rent.

Come 1pm, it is discovered that the boat next door is already hired out.

Finally around 3pm the deal is made to take the farmer boat tonight leaving at 2am and getting to the coast around 6am. A mad rush is made by phone, text and in true Orealla fashion on foot to individual houses to spread the word.

Of course that is not the end of the story.

Mike is coming after all.

It will be a real relief when we pull away from the dock.

(When I keep saying 'we' it's actually Josh who did all the logistics. The 2 elders both left already and the other ministerial servant went out last night. The boy did good.)

Update: Mike's boat made it and we are ready for the assembly in the morning!

This is probably a picture from while we rode the boat, but honestly I don't know if it is.

Editor's note: At this point in the writing, my father (this is Josh writing again, as is supposed to be the case) handed the laptop back to me and said "I'm going to bed. Finish writing something". He also gave me two photos to include, so I'm going to try to reconstruct what he may have been intending.

The first picture is this, along with the enclosed caption...

"Joshua hanging off the edge of Mike's boat taking down our hammocks as we approach the boat docks near Skeldon.  Pretty sure this would be illegal in the US".

I believe a more accurate way to relate this would be more like... here is a photo of Joshua (me) climbing on the side of the boat to take down the hammocks we had been sleeping in. Of course, these must be taken down as we approach our destination so that it will free up space for unloading of the boat. And of course, the hammocks are usually tied on the outside of the boat.

The second picture I was asked to include is this, titled simply "Skeldon Baggage Claim Area".

This is where the boat unloaded us, so there was a mad scramble to get the luggage off the boat. Which left it getting piled on the lumber (we docked at a lumber camp. Because why not?)

Also before concluding, I would like to briefly add something to my father's account of the mad scramble to find a boat out of Orealla. I'm hoping there was a level of confidence in my abilities to handle it, because here's how my father spent the day.

This is a man who knows how to use his time in the best way.

Once again, perhaps I'll post something of my own. Accounts of the Memorial, the trip up Takuri creek (and flipping over a dugout canoe in the river), and the impending Assembly tomorrow. I'll get to it soon. Ish.


  1. Lovely photos. Warm greetings from Montreal, Canada.

  2. Hi Josh, Did your father Bruce write for The Columbian out of Vancouver, WA? If so I would like to speak to him about a story he reported on extensively in 1997. Can you pass along my contact email and him reach out? Thanks Nicki