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They’re just back from the islands and all I have heard is how absolutely amazing it was. I’m jealous and I have stayed there plenty of times and will stay plenty more times!

It was a guys week away before Ben’s wedding and so I graciously stayed away and took it while I had to listen to the daily updates on all their amazing adventures while there.

All I can say is it sounds like the perfect holiday in paradise. First off, they had perfect weather and slept outside on the beach under the stars every night. Next, at least one person caught one fish each day, usually more than one! I don’t care too much about fishing but when I heard they had been swimming for over an hour with dolphins I felt a strong tug of jealousy. Not to mention seeing turtles in the water and counting the shooting stars at night.

But then there are the usual tales of male bonding and testosterone like soccer matches on the beach, running aroung naked getting burnt like a piece of boerewors, drinking copious amounts of beer by lunchtime and teaching the staff obscene expressions and words in English. That I am glad I missed!

But I think it has been a good opportunity for Jack to reacquaint himself with the miracles of what he has and to remind him just how perfect it all is. Me, I am excited because I listen to all these stories knowing that by the middle of February I will be staying on the islands almost permanently while we set up the beginning phases of building.

While I think the islands are perfect as they are, there are, believe it or not, people out there who prefer to have running water, a bed, some comfort and a place to order something to eat. Actually, to be honest, so do I. So even though I enjoy the islands as is, I can’t wait for the day I can jump off the boat onto a jetty, order an ice cold cocktail at the bar while I wait for my luggage to be unloaded and taken to my villa. I can just imagine the feeling of waking up in the morning to a spectacular view, fresh food in the fridge and the sea ready to welcome me for my swim just meters away. Then being able to walk back up to my villa, have a hot shower, think about what I am going to order for lunch and wander over to the swimming pool.

Admittedly I have had quite a bit of time to perfect my vision, having spent hours on the islands running through scenarios of what we would like to build here.

Not cast in stone, or rather wood, yet, these are the basic plans for the Topuito Isles. 

Each island will have its own self contained central lodge. This will be the place where we would have the bar, the restaurant, the reading room, lounge and a huge deck overlooking the sea, perfect for sundowners and cocktails anytime.

Then there will be a separate sports centre for all the activity stuff such as diving lessons, scuba and snorkelling equipement, games and sports equipment, organised activities such as dhow trips and deep sea fishing expeditions will be arranged here. 

Next is the central swimming pool. Even though there is a beautiful sea all around a pool is for those times when you want to have a calm dip without any waves, or salt, when you want to get some exercise doing laps or just a place to chill. There will be a mini bar there of course, another good reason to hang out there.

Now, this is the special part. We don’t want the islands to become one huge tourist resort kind of place, you know, the type where there are rows of chalets cramped together along the beach and package tourists arriving by the boatload. We want it to be a place where people can enjoy it as much as we have. And that means privacy. So, on Caldeira island, there will be some beach houses which will operate like any hotel or lodge, you book a house and stay there, with use of all facilities. Plus there is also going to be some private villas, these are going to be a bit bigger but still discreet and private. This is what I am seeing when I picture myself in a few years. Nejovo Island will be exclusively private villas, making it a private island.

The lodge buildings and villas are all going to be built out or wood and natural materials so no concrete and gaudy colours. The design is simple and African cause we’re not trying to pretend we’re in Europe. But, seeing as Jack is such a perfectionist, everything in the buildings will be top range of course.

All this aside, I just can’t wait till the night I get to sleep with a roof over my head but the breeze blowing in and a view of the sea as I fall asleep… in comfort. Oh, and being able to go to the toilet, a proper flushing one, at night without a torch and stick to ward off anything that might want to jump out at me! 

While we start gathering all our resources together and prepare for the beginnings of a tough year of hard labour under the hot Mozambican sun we are busy putting together something of a different scale but with plenty of potential impact for the project: The brochure!

Now, we have already had one print run of this brochure so it is not entirely new but just before we get going with the second run we are getting all the glitches ironed out, or rather all the typos and other mistakes out and putting some new exciting graphics in. Cue in the map…

The first print was a success and we did get the feeling everyone was quite impressed so with improvements made we hope this print will lead to good things.

Here is just a sample to get a feeling of the thing. Don’t know about you, but makes me want to jump right in!!

ti1.jpg

Building on an island is a logistical challenge. Think about it. First, how do you get all the stuff you need over there? Next, with no fresh water and no electricity, how do you run the machinery and tools you have just shipped across? And these are the major issues. There is a multitude of smaller problems and obstacles which we will encounter and deal with along the way.

Getting stuff to the islands:

Our current rubber duck is too small to carry things like timber, cement, piping and heavy tools so we looked at the alternatives. Prize number one, we’ve decided, is a landing craft but that is just not in the budget right now so in the interim we have commissioned a large dhow to be made and bought a couple of engines to power it. The dhow is a sturdy boat that may be slower than any modern craft but it has been tested over many many years in the country and comes out as a safe bet. Right, so we can get some stuff over there. Tick

Getting Fresh Water:

This is perhaps the most exciting development at this time. We ordered desalination units to be made specifically for our needs and they have just arrived at our camp. These unit basically take water from the sea and purify or desalinate it, making pure fresh water that tastes like it has come from a spring. As we have an abundance of sea water, this is not a bad idea. Right now our units are designed to be able to cope with the load of water needed in construction. Once the lodges are operational we will be using bigger units to supply the entire island with all its water needs.

But, they require electricity to run…

Powering up:

With prawn fishing a big thing in this part of the world we won’t be able to lay electric cables on the sea bed and so we are stuck with no mainland power supply. The initial answer was generator power. But this is very expensive with the price of diesel going up and up. So we will start with generators but are seriously looking into solar and wind power. There are some great new technologies out there. Price is a factor but we believe that what is a high initial cost could save us in the long run, monetarily and environmentally.

So, we’re all set with these. This week will see the installation of the desal equipment, the purchase and collection of the dhow. Then once we have had a ground breaking ceremony with the village elders, we are all set to build build build! 

After loads of uncertainty and holding collective breath at the end of last year, this new year looks as if it is going to be the one for doing.

December was a crazy month of rushing to South Africa with the boat so it could get into the repair workshops before the holiday season closures. As it is two of our staff members, drivers Domingos and Mamvura had to spend not only Christmas but New Year’s in Joburg and Nelspruit. I think Domingos, who’s visit was his first time outside of Mozambique, must be the best English student of all of the staff after 3 weeks in SA. And he may even have gotten used to the size and scariness of Joburg by the time he left. Maybe not.

Now the car, the boat and the new desalination equipment is in Nampula, at last. Desal stuff means water on the islands which not only means a more pleasant stay and the imminence of flush toilets but also that building can begin. Yay! This is where the exciting stuff starts. I can’t wait to see the resort taking real life shape after the last year of paperwork and waiting. I’m not a very patient person, I like to see things get done.

So, I think I am going to dedicate the next few posts (and first few of this year) to explaining what needs to be done construction wise, as much as I can anyway. I am not so technical on the building side of things but I have picked up a term or two over the years…