Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Do I run through or remove shoes?

I have now (finally!) moved to my "duty station" as they say in UN parlance. In other words, I am now in Buala on the isle of Santa Isabel. I had the good fortune of meeting up with one of the RAMSI guys who is from New Zealand (RAMSI = Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands). They have a Landrover and he informed me that the road I thought ended at Bualota village actually continues on and, in fact, goes out 12.5km. Yipee!! That is definitely as far as I'll ever need to run.

Thursday I went out to explore the road and discovered there was a mudslide across it at one point -- nice red, super sticky mud that doesn't come off your shoes. I had to stop about 5 times to scrape the mud off because it was weighing my shoes down so much I thought they might actually come off my feet. At the first river, right next to Bualota village, I was able to cross on the walking path because there is a log. Then I got to the 2nd river and could not see any way to cross. I knew there must be some way, because I had just seen three women on their way to market. They got across somehow. Then there was a man coming from the other side, so I decided to stop and watch what he did. Aha! he just walked right through -- there was a small wall of rocks at the top of the waterfall and it wasn't up to his knees. But I'd gone far enough for the day, so I turned around.

Saturday I was not feeling top notch. Friday night had been a big night in the village and I drank way too much (for me) and didn't get to bed until 11:30p. Regardless, I woke up at 5:30a with a headache and, though I laid in bed for another hour or more, I didn't get any more sleep. It seemed like it was still pretty cool when I went out around 7:30a, but it was much warmer than it usually is an hour earlier.

Nevertheless, I went back out towards Bualota to explore the road further. The mud was much reduced because it hadn't rained since Thursday. This I appreciated. But whoa! At the top of the first hill, before Bualota, there was one enormous boulder across the road. It left room to walk past, but definitely would block any vehicle that might want to pass. On it's side, it came up to my shoulders and it was easily twice the length of me.

I ran through Bualota instead of following the road and so avoided the mudslide area. Then up the very long, very steep hill and down to the 2nd river. I thought it would be bad to run in wet shoes (I'd get blisters, surely), so I took them off and walked across the river barefoot. Of course, my feet were still wet when I put my shoes and socks back on. . . Not to mention how tricky that was, standing on the soft banks of the river and trying to keep my feet off the ground so they would just bring dirt and stones into my shoes.

Beyond 2nd river, it was quite nice, though. Flat with pretty well-packed ground. I ran another mile to make it 3 miles out and was just thinking of turning around when I saw a small pack of pigs. I thought they were wild (they were just trotting around loose) and one was a mamma with 3 little piglets. Can pigs hurt you? I thought I shouldn't tempt fate (or a mamma pig), so I turned. Of course, right behind me were two more small bunches of pigs. Mamma and piglets were heading away from me, but Daddy turned and came straight towards me. Yikes. I slowed to a walk and he steered off the path, so I kept going. When I got to the second bunch, I shouted and clapped my hands and tried to shoo them off the path. Phew!

Later I asked someone who said they don't bite, but they will knock you with their snouts and poke you if they have tusks (none of the ones I saw did, thankfully). Apparently, even though they're small, they can knock you over. But the person said those pigs weren't wild. Someone's actually raising them. I'm not sure how much of a difference that makes when you meet them on the path, though. . .

When I got back to the river, I debated whether I should take my shoes off or not. Finally I decided, "hey it's only a couple of miles in wet shoes, that can't hurt that much. And it will get my shoes clean (they were filthy). Besides, it'll protect my feet going over the rocks." So, I ran through the river. I was quite pleased at just how clean my shoes were on the other side. Very nice. Then, of course, I spent the whole rest of the run trying to keep them clean!

I also splashed myself with water at the river because now I was quite hot and starting to feel dehydrated. when I got to the top of the big, big hill I stopped and stood there for a bit enjoying a lovely breeze and nice view. It was a bit hard to get going again because I knew I would lose the breeze. After Bualota, on the next hill which isn't so high, I found the breeze again and this time stopped for quite awhile just to enjoy it. The last mile of the run, after that, was hard. I was cooked and beat.

Note to self: bring water to the Friday night dance because beer really doesn't quench your thirst and you will really regret drinking too much of it the next morning. . .

The rest of Saturday was hot and sunny, which was great because my shoes dried right out. Me, I felt seriously depleted. So, I laid around, took a nap or two, read and drank a few litres of water and by late afternoon I was my usual chipper self.

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