Adventure. The word is packed with curiosity, unforeseen circumstances, excitement and doing something that is not part of your regular routine. When you combine that word with, “Housebuilding” you get a Housebuilding Adventure and that is what I just got back from with Matt Dodd and Zach Cann.
This trip was the fourth housebuilding adventure we had the privilege of taking together and it will not be the last. We had two primary goals before we left: Frame the house and get the galvanized roofing on. With this in mind we planned three return flights back to Madang from Mareroro before we even left. This gave us options to come home after 16 days, 19 days or 22 days depending on the speed of the build! We were all praying for the 16 day option before and during the build!
The first order of business was transportation of final items. In the past we always used a ship to move supplies to the Bilau, then helicopter shuttle everything into Mareroro. Praise God this adventure allowed us to take two large trucks. With the drought still in effect the road (if you want to call it that) from Madang to Biliau was open. We were able to load two trucks one time and unload them one time.
We loaded and headed out Sunday night, November 8th. Stateside we would have immediately been on the road but this is PNG. The drivers had to pickup cell phones as well as smokes and beetle nut for the long haul. We also had a water tank that came loose before we left town so there was the need to get that re-strapped before we hit the rugged dirt roads.
Even with the drought there were still rivers that we needed to cross. Some were moving quickly, some were moving slowly and some were not moving at all. The deepest river was at least 4ft deep. When we crossed it Matt and I could not see the headlights on the semi truck! Praise God the trucks here have snorkels to drive through deep water.
We drove all night until we came to a river that was to deep and moving to quickly to cross. The locals said the water would be low enough by morning so we decided to spend the night in the trucks. Apart from trying to fall asleep while standing up in the middle of a room, that was a the worst night of sleep thus far in PNG. I think Zach and I slept a total of one hour. Matt however was able to get some sleep (not sure how he did it).
In the morning the river was crossable so we proceeded to Biliau. We navigated our way through a massive raw materials mine called RamuNico. Then drove down some nice logging roads, through a coconut tree obstacle course finally arriving at the Biliau soccer field around 9:00AM. It was an incredible drive and we could not stop praising our Heavenly Father for safety and speed in the trip. Once there, we started unloading as quickly as possible. SIL’s helicopter was in route to start shuttling loads.
The helicopter arrived after two hours of unloading but we only had a small amount left after they showed up. The trucks departed for Madang as we began to prepare loads for the helicopter. I was in the first trip along with a good amount of cargo. Our hope in me going first was the ability to start preparing for the house-build in whatever way I could. After I was in Mareroro we were able to get a few more loads in before the clouds made it impossible for the pilots to navigate. After that I got ready for bed and was sleeping by 6:00PM.
We started shuttling loads the next day around 7:00AM. Zach flew in with some of the last loads of the day. It was great to see him for two reasons: I missed him and he was going to be the one running the miter saw. After the loads were completed for the day I did saw training with Zach. When he was comfortable I started laying out the first wall and marking the wall positions on the floor. Zach did a great job with all the different cuts, straights, 14 deg angles, headers, and studs. We worked until 6:30. With the help of Mareroro guys we hammered nails and had the wall assembled by the close of the work day.
The next morning it was all hands on deck to standup the first wall. It was a momentous occasion! We had the wall up, plumb and secured before the first helicopter load arrived around 8:00am. Zach continued to coordinate the loads and cut. I did layout for the next walls on the house. When Matt arrived it was encouraging for him to see a wall already standing on the house. We were both thankful that Matt had done such a great job making and sending loads with the helicopter. After Matt arrived he worked on organization while Zach cut and I framed. When the day was done we headed back to our hut for dinner and bed.
One thing that is always adventurous about housebuilding is the “end of day showering routine”. Imagine finishing a 11-12 hours work day in the sun, clouds and rain. You are exhausted and dirty but the temperature is in the 70s. You grab your soap, put on your bathing suit and prepare your towel for immediate drying. As you walk towards the pipe in the middle of several houses you mentally start preparing for the event. The water is um… cold and you notice random people are just standing about to watch you. So, you start soaping up wash off then run back to the hut, dry off, change clothes and stand next to the fire to get warm. It’s a tough gig but worth the clean feeling at the end. There is just something about being clean before you go to bed that is priceless.
Over the next 5 days we worked 11-12 hours a day until the framing of the house was complete. We made two mistakes that took 2 hours total to correct but apart from that things came together very quickly. It was an encouragement to see how quickly the people of Mareroro wanted to help. One guy in particular was a Superman at hammering nails – Jeffery. I could have asked him to put a 4″ nail between two studs 1″ apart with an elf hammer and he would have got it done. That man swings and does not miss! When we were all exhausted Jeffery was still hammering. He loved it.
After the framing was completed we felt a sense of joy. We were all so thankful to God that he had given us such good weather and health to keep working so quickly. We were praying that we would be able to fly back home in the 16 day option but holding it loosely because it had only been one week. We still had a lot to complete and we didn’t even know if we had enough materials to complete the job let alone what the weather would do or how we would be feeling over the next week and two days.
The following Monday after the framing was complete we started setting posts on the veranda (porch). After the veranda posts were in place we moved to cross bracing the walls with metal and secured some of the walls to the lower girding beams and posts. The cross bracing took the remainder of the day for Matt. Zach was able to start cutting some of the rafters for the shorter side of the house and I started marking the tops of the walls for rafter placement.
The next day and successive 4 days following were committed to rafters and Galvanized roofing prep. We set the rafters in place, nailed in blocking for the rafters and installed facia board. Then we cut 1/2″ strips out of 2×3 boards to secure the galvanized roofing to. These strips would run perpendicular to the rafters giving us a secure substrate to fasten the galvanized roofing with screws. Before we knew it the roof was ready for a heat barrier and then the galvanized roofing.
Over the next three days I was on the roof with Jeffery while Matt and Zach put black plastic on the exterior of the house. We were strapped in with ropes just incase we fell down. I found that gave me an overwhelming sense of speed rather than timidly stepping from one panel to the next. The work started off slow but over time we had a good system for placing panels and it went quickly. After we completed the smaller side of the house we moved on to the larger section and nearly finished. We were short 4 panels from finishing the house. Regardless it was a huge accomplishment – the roof was on! We had met our goal and it had not even been two weeks!
Over the next two days we finished wrapping the house in black plastic. We also completed the railings on the veranda, moved all the Cann’s items into their home and I was able to build two door frames and get them installed. Tuesday morning at 8:00am we installed a deadbolt and locked the front door right before the helicopter arrived to take us back to Madang. It was November 24th and we were done! The arrival back home was amazing!
The trip was a completed answer to prayer. I had estimated that it would take us 2 weeks for the build, however that was completely dependent on decent weather and staying healthy. Praise God He allowed work to proceed so quickly in spite of mild sickness and some occasional rain. Now that the house structures are standing we are looking forward to a final housebuilding team arriving sometime in January of 2016. Thank you to all who prayed for this build and a special thank you to my wife Lorie. She diligently cared for our children and our home in my absence.